Along the Whanganui River, which flows through the North Island of New Zealand, lies a contested piece of land that indigenous Māori call Pakaitore. The government calls this same land Moutoa Gardens, a public park they created in memorial to those who died in the Battle of Moutoa Island in 1864.
During World War I, the New Zealand government seized burial grounds and traditionally valuable land from the Tainui Awhiro people to build an air base and bunker. Ten years after the end of the war, in 1928, the Public Works Act codified the government’s justification for keeping the land.
The Taranaki region of present day New Zealand spreads from the central plateau of the North Island to the western coast. The Maori people, indigenous to the region, once inhabited it and the surrounding areas. By 1860, New Zealand had been a colony of Britain for nearly 20 years and land conflicts were common as growing European settlements encroached onto Maori land; British representatives were determined to assert their authority over the whole country.