Early in 1833 occurred one of the most famous battles in Taranaki's (and possibly New Zealand's) history-the battle of Te Namu Pa. For a number of years the Nga puhi and Waikato tribes had been sending war parties down to Taranaki. These war parties armed with muskets had inflicted heavy casualties on the Taranaki tribes which were armed only with traditional weapons, apart from the odd musket captured from the enemy.
The great majority of the surviving members of the Taranaki tribes had fled south, but Wiremu Kingi Matakatea and 80 warriors and their families decided to make a last stand at Te Namu.
The Pa at Te Narnu was situated on a headland on the north bank of the Otahi Stream less than a mile from the present township of Opunake. The headland provided an excellent natural site for a fortification with steep drops on all three sides. To make things even harder for any invaders, breastworks 3-4 feet high were constructed on the river and land sides, and palisades added, some inclined outwards.
The Taranaki tribe then stored great quantities of food in storage pits, and laid in enormous quantities of stones to be used as missiles. They posted a sentry in a high tower and awaited the arrival of the Waikato tribe. The Waikato war party, over 800 strong, took up positions on the landward side of the Pa and opened fire..After a barrage, the enemy rushed the pa but the defenders repulsed the attack by means of spears and stones, and the deadly fire of Wirernu Kingi Matakatea who had the only musket.
For a month the Waikato tribe laid seige to Te Namu Pa and six major assaults were made, all unsuccessful. Finally as food was running short (much had been hidden by Taranaki slaves in the Waikato party!) the Waikato tribe decided on one final assault and their leader Kaihau called out, "When the moon is full, expect me." Just before dawn on the night of the full moon, the Waikato tribe launched a fierce attack.
Under cover of musket fire some managed to get right up to the palisades, but were again turned back by the spears and rocks hurled by the defenders, and the unerring musket of Wiremu Kingi. Finally the Waikato began to retreat. Kaihau shouted out, "I am retreating! I am returning to my own land! This land remains yours!".
The retreat became a rout, for the Taranaki tribe came streaming out once they were sure they were not being led into a trap. Overall 68 Waikato were killed, 16 by Wiremu Kingi Matakatea with his musket, while only one Taranaki was lost. It was because of his accurate aim with the musket that the name "Matakatea" (meaning "clear-eyed") was conferred upon Wiremu Kingi after this battle.