The Great War for New Zealand

The Great War for New Zealand

Waikato 1800–2000

No te taenga ki te kohuru i Rangiaohia, katahi au ka mohio he tino pakanga nui tenei, no Niu Tireni

When it came to the (time of the) murder at Rangiaohia, then I knew, for the first time, that this was a great war for New Zealand

Wiremu Tamihana (1865)

A monumental new account of the defining conflict in New Zealand history. It was war in the Waikato in 1863–64 that shaped the nation in all kinds of ways: setting back Māori and Pākehā relations by several generations and allowing the government to begin to assert the kind of real control over the country that had eluded it since 1840.

Spanning nearly two centuries from first contact through to settlement and apology, ​Vincent ​O’Malley focuses on the human impact of the war, its origins and aftermath. Based on many years of research and illustrated throughout, The Great War for New Zealand is a groundbreaking book written in the conviction that a nation needs to own its history.

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Vincent O’Malley’s work in regard to the Waikato Wars brings to life the ancestors of New Zealand history. He shines a spotlight on a dark period of our collective past and brings it into a modern conversation for the consideration of New Zealand’s future. Rahui Papa, Chairman, Te Arataura, Waikato-Tainui

Across this nation, there are defining moments in our history. The Waikato Wars changed the face of Aotearoa New Zealand and most significantly the lives and wellbeing of Waikato-Tainui through the confiscation of lands. It is a story that must be told, must not be forgotten and must be shared in the living rooms of all New Zealanders for our future generations. This rich account by Vincent O’Malley strikes out to do that – E te rangatira, teenei te whakaaro nui ki a koe. Parekawhia McLean, Ngaati Mahanga, Waikato-Tainui, Ngaati Maniapoto

As a descendant of the survivors of Rangiaowhia, this book’s title and its source resonate with me. In this essential work Vincent O’Malley asks Aotearoa New Zealand to confront the ‘Great War’ fought on our own back door step – a conflict that has, until now, largely been ignored. Kia puta ki te whai-ao, ki te ao-mārama! Tom Roa, Waikato-Maniapoto; Senior Lecturer, School of Māori and Pacific Development, University of Waikato

The Waikato War was the most decisive in New Zealand’s history, but has long been overshadowed by bigger wars overseas. Now, in a fine new book, Vincent O’Malley gives the traumatic conflict its due. James Belich, Beit Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History, University of Oxford

Vincent O’Malley has produced a hugely impressive work of history and a powerful story that should be read by all who care about New Zealand. Jock Phillips, former General Editor of Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Print publication:
Ebook publication: Oct 2016
Pages: 690
RRP: $79.99
ISBN: 9781927277577
ISTC: A022014000005574
DOI: 10.7810/9781927277577

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The New Zealand Herald 2016 Book of the Year!

Finalist in the 2018 CLNZ Education Awards (Best Tertiary Resource).



The Great War for New Zealand was launched at the Waahi Poukai on 8 October 2016.

See some images from the event at Te Papa's Rongomaraeroa Marae on 19 October.


Follow author Vincent O'Malley on Facebook.


'Tamihana, a NZ great', Tamahere Forum, 28 May 2019.

'Q&A: Historian Vincent O’Malley', Vaughan Rapatahana, Scoop Review of Books, 21 November 2018.

'NZ Wars research opens door to healing', Waatea, 9 November 2018.

'New Zealand Land Wars should be taught in high school, says Waikato history teacher', Stuff, 6 April 2018.

'Our Great War', Vaughan Rapatahana, Scoop Review of Books, 30 November 2017.

'The Great War for New Zealand', NZ History Podcast, 1 November 2017.

Watch the 'NZ WARS - The Stories of Ruapekapeka' documentary.

Shortlisted for the Non-fiction category of the NZ Heritage Book Awards 2017!

Terry Toner, Book Review: The Great War for New Zealand, The Book Show, Radio Southland, 20 September 2017. (at 25:18)

Maritn Johnston, '154 years since Governor George Grey's troops invaded Waikato', New Zealand Herald, 12 July 2017.

Kymberlee Fernandes, 'Waikato War remembered as Aucklanders march from Otahuhu to Pokeno', Manukau Courier, 9 July 2017.

'NZ Wars', Te Puni Kokiri, 9 July 2017.

Philippa Mein Smith (2017), 'The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000', Australian Historical Studies, 48:2, 303-304.

'Book Review: The Great War for New Zealand Waikato 1800-2000, by Vincent O’Malley', Lincoln Gould, The Reader: The Booksellers New Zealand Blog, 1 May 2017.

'Inglorious Dastards: Rangiaowhia raid and the 'great war for New Zealand'', Vincent O'Malley, Noted (NZ Listener), 20 February, 2017

'Alumnus Vincent O'Malley Discuses His New Book', Intercom, 13 February 2017

'The Waikato Wars', Graeme Hill speaks with Vincent O'Malley, Radio Live, 5 February 2017

'The Great War for New Zealand: Why political power and business interests shouldn't mix', Buddy Mikaere, The Spinoff, 19 January 2017

Vincent O'Malley on Bookenz, Plains FM, 7 December 2016 

'"The Great War for New Zealand broke out less than 50 km from Queens Street": Vincent O'Malley on the Waikato War and the making of Auckland' Vincent O'Malley, The Spinoff, 6 December 2016 

The Great War for New Zealand on The Hui, TV3, 4 December 2016

'The Seige Talks Turanga Gisborne 2016', Tairawhiti Production House Ltd, Youtube, 3 December 2016 

'Te Waonui for week ending Friday 2 December 2016', Te Manu Korihi, Radio New Zealand, 2 December 2016

'"The Great War for New Zealand": A landmark study of the NZ Wars and important contribution to change' Nigel Prickett, The Listener, 30 November 2016 

'Great South Road's "critical" role in the New Zealand Wars' Tom Carnegie,, 23 November 2016 

'Observing regions' own "battle days" part of New Zealand Wars commemorations' Mark Peters, The Gisborne Herald, 23 November 2016 

'Maori history "neglected"', Wynsley Wrigley, The Gisborne Herald, 23 November 2016 

'War profiteer: the story of Thomas Russell', Black Sheep, Radio New Zealand, 20 November 2016

'New Zealand Wars have not been well studied, writes author Vincent O'Malley' Vincent O'Malley, New Zealand Herald, 11 November 2016 

Vincent O'Malley with Wallace Chapman, Sunday Morning, Radio New Zealand, 30 October 2016

Vincent O'Malley with Andrew Dickens, Newstalk ZB, 30 October 2016

Listen to Vincent O'Malley on Radio Rhema, 25 October 2016 

'Māori prison rates at record levels', Tony Wright, Newshub, 23 October 2016 

'Account of war comprehensive and insightful', Alister Browne, Manawatu Standard, 20 October 2016 

'Tribunal research prompts new book' Caitlin Moorby, Piako Post, 19 October 2016 

'What a nation chooses to remember and forget: the war for New Zealand's history', Vincent O'Malley, The Guardian, 18 October 2016

'Editorial: How we should remember our civil war', Vincent O'Malley, Dominion Post, 17 October 2016

'Too many Pākehā don’t know our history', Dale Husband, E-Tangata, 16 October 2016

'The Waikato War, not Gallipoli, was our defining conflict', Vincent O'Malley, E-Tangata, 16 October 2016

'This week's Hot Five', Rotorua Daily Post, 15 October 2016

'Waikato War "a profound influence" in shaping NZ', Anthony Hubbard, Stuff, 15 October 2016

'Recognising NZ Wars "so important for our cultural identity"', Eleanor Wenman for Te Manu Korihi, Radio New Zealand, 14 October 2016

'Contest for New Zealand played out in Waikato War', Waatea News, 13 October 2016

'Book on Waikato War illuminates dark period of New Zealand history', Caitlin Moorby, Stuff, 10 October 2016

'Royal reception for Waikato War history', Waatea News, 10 October 2016

'Now for the open engagement', Wally Te Ua, Gisborne Herald, 10 October 2016

'New subdivision planned for site of historic eviction reignites anger of the land wars', David Herkt, Sunday Star Times, 9 October 2016

'Tainui has never forgotten the atrocities against their women and children', Aaron Smale, Radio New Zealand, 7 October 2016

'New Zealand Wars should be core history subject', Morning Report, Radio New Zealand, 4 October 2016

'Our War', Native Affairs, Māori Television, 4 October 2016

'Book on the invasion of Waikato by British being released', Checkpoint, Radio New Zealand, 3 October 2016

'Calls for Waikato Land Wars to have as much prominence as ANZAC', One News, TVNZ, 2 October 2016

'Is it time for a public holiday to mark the Waikato Wars?', Q+A, TVNZ, 2 October 2016

'Waikato-Tainui endorses new book on Waikato Wars', Te Karere, TVNZ, 2 October 2016

'Student fights for Gisborne schools to teach land war history', Talisa Kupenga, Māori Television, 23 September 2016

'Kiingitanga, Series 1, Episode 2', Māori Television, 19 July 2016 (see Vincent O'Malley around 8 mins in)


'The publication is beautifully produced by Bridget Williams Books with superb illustrations, maps and photographs. ... It is an important historical work in a research area that has not received much critical appraisal in recent years.' Seán McMahon, Archifacts Journal, May 2019.

'Overall, it is a beautifully produced, important, thought-provoking and soul-searching book that deserves a wide readership.' Katie Pickles, 'A Brutal and Disturbing History', Landfall, 234 (2017), pp.189-191.

'O'Malley's Great War for New Zealand is a timely and necessary book that brings into the open what was arguably one of the most important events in New Zealand's history'. Martin Fisher, 'Book Review: Vincent O'Malley, The Great War for New Zealand', New Zealand Journal of History, 51, 1 (2017), pp.214-216.

'The in-depth coverage the book provides is both timely and illuminating, and adds significantly to our knowledge of the Waikato Wars.' 'This book is a must have for anyone interested in New Zealand history.' Basil Keane, 'Book Review: Vincent O'Malley, The Great War for New Zealand', Journal of New Zealand Studies, NZ24 (2017), pp.93-95.

'Thanks to this latest book, the Waikato War will finally be remembered for its significance to Aotearoa New Zealand...Abundantly illustrated throughout – and with a chiefly huia feather, a symbol of leadership and mana – on the cover, this volume is a landmark in making the story of the Waikato War and its aftermath of injustice accessible and comprehensible to diverse audiences. The outcome of research as part of the Treaty claims process, it succeeds in publishing history that might not otherwise have reached the public eye.' Philippa Mein Smith (2017), 'The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800–2000', Australian Historical Studies, 48:2, 303-304.

'Definitive, meticulously researched, and highly readable.' Vaughn Yarwood, New Zealand Geographic, January-February 2017

'The book contains much original source material and includes extensive endnotes to corroborate the text. The comprehensive bibliography is, in itself, a work of art: a scarily vast repository of sources on the land wars. The many illustrations provide an alternative visual narrative of their own.' Beth Ringer, Heritage et al, 15 December 2016

'Amid the scramble of books on that other "great war", O'Malley delivers the first history of the Waikato War since 1879. A vital part of our story told informatively and lucidly.' 'The Best 100 Books of 2016', The Listener, 19 November 2016

'O'Malley urges knowledge and understanding as a way forward. "None of this requires feelings of guilt and shame, but simply a willingness to hear, read and embrace the difficult aspects of our past." His book is a landmark study of the New Zealand Wars and an important contribution to change.' Nigel Prickett, The Listener, 12 November 2016

'O'Malley is a vivid writer of scenes of conflict. Political issues are clearly described. He is an engaged historian; judgements are made and there will be those who disagree with them ... The 600-page book, with its fine huia feather cover, is copiously illustrated with contemporary visual depictions from sketchbooks, magazines, diaries, government proclamations, and paintings, largely in colour. It is a fine object and an essential book of New Zealand history.' David Herkt, Stuff, 16 October 2016

'If you're into New Zealand history make sure you pick this book up today.' Rotorua Daily Post, 15 October 2016