The Waimapihi pa was built by Ngati Ira after they arrived in the Porirua region some time around 1650. It was one of the few fully defensive pa in Porirua at that time. The nearby iwi of Mua-Upoki contested Ngati Ira's establishment in the Porirua region and a Mua-Upoki hapu, Ngati Rangi, made plans for a surprise attack on the pa from the rare. However, this plan was discovered by Ngati Ira and they ambushed Ngati Rangi in the lower part of the Horokiwi valley, not far from Pauatahanui. After this fight Ngati Ira's position at Waimapihi was secured and Ngati Rangi remained at Paripari (Carkeek, W.C. 1966).
In 1819 a Ngati Whatua taua, which included Te Rauparaha, attacked Waimapihi. Ngati Ira lost and the survivors fled the region to the Wairarapa and the South Island. Elsdon Best, an early English historian who lived some years with Maori, described the battle as follows:
"This fort commanded the only trail by which an enemy coming from the West Coast would enter the Ngati Ira country, and was therefore the key of the district. The people of Ira knew this full well, and hastily summoning their clanmen of the Pukerua, Porirua and Pauatahanui districts of Waimapihi, they strove to beat back the northern war party. The assault on the pa was commanded by Tuwhare, who after a fierce struggle, succeeded in taking the place. Te Pua was killed by Tuwhare, but most of their followers escaped by the Waimapihi Creek into the ranges."
After the migration of Toa Rangatira from the Kawhia Harbour in the 1820s another battle is thought to have occurred at Waimapihi pa (or Pukerua Pa) against a remnant of Mua-Upoko. After Toa Rangatira had overwhelmed the defenders they were suddenly attacked by a Ngati Kahungunu group from Whanganuiatara.
In 1830 the pa was occupied by Te Pehi and Te Hiko of Toa Rangatira and the area (along with the Wairaka settlement) was important for cultivation. Waimapihi was also situated at the north end of the Taua-tapu track, which linked it with Taupo Pa (now Plimmerton). Many early Pakeha travellers visited Waimapihi pa after the 1830s. Thomas Bevin recalls his visit to the pa in 1845 (Bevin, T. 1907).
He states: "We emerged at Pukerua hill at Waimapihi Pa which was one of the strongholds of Ngati Toa. Te Pirihana resided there until recently. His father Tungia was one of the chiefs of Ngati-Toa when they took the pa. Built on a hill top, the fortified village contained many hundreds of inhabitants. The outer sotckade consisting of huge tree trunks set side by side in the ground was called Pekerangi. Inside this defence were to line of palisades with deep ditches between and underground ways for the defenders to retreat through if driven back from the Pekerangi".
After being welcomes at Waimapihi, Bevin adds: "We were conducted through lanes and between long rows of whares, over numberous low fences which divided the allotments of the several families."
The beach below Waimapihi (Brendan beach) was an important Tauranga waka until the 1860s. In 1880 Percy Smith (1880) observed the remains of the pa which included heavy stumps of the totara palisading, ovens and middens.
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