Notes of Meetings Between His Excellency the Governor (Lord Ranfurly), The Rt. Hon. R. J. Seddon, Premier and Native Minister, and the Hon. James Carroll, Member of the Executive Council Representing the Native Race, and the Native Chiefs and People at Each Place, Assembled in Respect of the Proposed Native Land Legislation and Native Affairs Generally, During 1898 and 1899.
The Premier (the Rt. Hon. R. J. Seddon), with the Hon. Mr. Carroll, met the Maoris at Waitangi, with a view of discussing certain matters with them. On landing on the beach, the visitors were received by Mr. Hone Heke, M. H. R., and a large number of Natives, and, headed by the Kaikohe Native band, proceeded to the church and the Waitangi obelisk.
Mr. Hone Heke, M.H.R.: I have been deputed to-day to submit various subjects on behalf of the people to Premier. We know that your time is limited here this morning, and I will therefore be as brief as possible. Firstly, we have to thank you for being so considerate as to stay, even for this day, to give us an opportunity of meeting you on business matters. On behalf of the people I have to thank you and your colleagues for the advice tendered to His Excellency to exercise the right of clemency in the matter of those unfortunate ones of our race who were incarcerated for their misdeeds. Sufficient on that point. As the result of our deliberations last night we decided that we should proceed at our meeting to put in proper order, and table, any grievances of a material nature, and also what we may arrive at after a fair and just discussion in regard to the proposals submitted to Parliament by the Government last session, as embodied in your Bill for establishing a system of Boards for the administration of Native lands. The result of our proceedings will be submitted in due course to the Government. There are, however, several grievances which we would like you to touch upon to-day in your address, such as, for instance, the surplus lands in the North of Auckland—lands which were formerly sold to early residents in undefined areas, and subsequently taken over by the Government. The Government enforced limitations as to area in regard to such purchases, the residue thereof being declared surplus lands, which the Crown has appropriated. It may be in the recollection of yourself and your ministry that, in connection with every petition we presented to Parliament on this subject, in almost every case the reports of the Native Affairs Committee went in the direction of recommending the appointment of a Commission to inquire into such grievance. We would like very much if you would deal with that question to-day. With regard to other matters which we think assume the proportions of local grievances, affecting our districts severally and collectively—such as the dog-tax question, and the one affecting our lands still uninvestigated—we do not wish to trouble you on this occasion. We will deliberate ourselves during the next few days in regard to them, and will acquaint the Government with what we arrive at. This embraces our programme, and we will now listen patiently to your utterances on the question touched upon.
The Hon. Mr. Carroll spoke at some length in Maori.
Mr. Hone heke: Having in view the fact that your time is limited, I refrain from going more into details; but I quite appreciate the suggestion that the position should be further explained. Now, with regard to our land still uninvestigated, the desire of the people is that they should remain as they are for the present, because if they are to be investigated by the Native Land Court, the people are note unanimous in their approval of the laws which operate at the present time. For instance, as soon as the title is issued to Natives for a block of land it gives the unthinking a status, which enables him to dispose of his means for his maintenance and the maintenance of all those immediately connected with him, and the old people are therefore very apprehensive. They would rather that the papatupu lands should remain as they are until some better lows can be brought into operation, with a view of lessening the expense which is at present incurred in the investigation of titles, and of preserving intact their inheritance, and also of supplying a method for the better utilisation of their land, which is to them life. With regard to the question of surplus lands, I may state that certain areas of such land have already been disposed of by the Government to Europeans. Notwithstanding that, however, there are still large areas in the hands of the Crown. This being so, we desire that a Commissioner should be appointed for the purpose of investigating into the equity of the cases. The Natives claim that the land is theirs, have advanced grounds in support of that claim. The Crown claims that it is Crown page 73land; and therefore it is a claim between two, which should be investigated and settled. With regard to the dog-tax, I beg to state that there are several parts of the districts in which sheep-farming is not carried on at all; and although the County Council have made roads within the territories, including special Native districts, such roads do not tap the Native settlements. It is our desire that the Government should relieve us of the imposition of that tax, if it has the power so to do, which I believe it has. Under the provisions of the Dog Registration Act, the Governor, by the advice of his Responsible advisers, can set apart special districts as being exempt from the operation of the Dog Act. Of course, I am aware that the County Councils in collecting this tax do not collect it so much for revenue as a possible preventative against Native dogs worrying sheep. There is therefore a justification for our appeal. In all districts where there are no sheep the tax should certainly be abolished.
The premier: In going through the districts, one thing that has been brought under my notice was the question of paying rates on Native lands. As I know that this is in your mind, it is as well that we should bring it out into the light of day. I therefore ask you to speak your mind upon this.
Mr. Hone Heke: With regard to the question of rating Native lands, the wish of our hearts—i.e., the Maori mind—is that we should be free from rates; and, although efforts in the direction of repudiating our obligations on that question have been made, we realise that it is inevitable, and the best we can do on the question is to trust and hope that the Government in its wisdom might make the rates on Native lands as light as possible, which would be justified under the difficulties and impositions of our many laws now in operation affecting Native lands. That is about as much as we can hope for. The Natives naturally revolt at the idea of paying rates. I can quite understand that is a matter which interests the natives largely indeed, and that in the course of your journeying in other districts the Native chiefs have spoken to you about it, and have put it in the position of a grievance. The question has to be viewed in its practical from, and it must be accepted as an inevitable proceeding. Our efforts therefore should be in the direction of making it as light as possible. We will leave the matter in the hands of the Government, hoping that they will do what they consider is fair and just. If they can relieve the Native people of the harshness and the burden of that tax, we shall be very glad indeed, and our hearts would rejoice. We do yet hope that the Government will soften the effect of the law with regard to the Natives.
The Premier: In respect to the question of dealing with the native lands which are note at present occupied by the Natives, but about which they are anxious something should be done, I should like to know their mind upon this. I desire to have the opinion of the Natives in this part, and in other parts of the colony, as to dealing with the vast tracts of unoccupied Native lands in the North Island.
Mr. Hone Heke; With regard to the land uninvestigated, the ownership of which has not been ascertained, the older generations of Natives desire that these lands should be left as they are at present, for the reasons that they are afraid of the tremendous expense the natives are put to in ascertaining the titles, and in surveys; and, moreover, they fear that the existing laws will not lighten their burdens. All the old people are unanimous upon this question. Now, in regard to unoccupied lands which have been through the Native Land Court, and the titles to which have been ascertained, the Natives desire that these should be preserved for them for their maintenance. The difficulty which at the present prevents the utilisation of these land is the heavy expense they would have to bear in the performance of all dealings for the completion of required contracts affecting the lands. The desire, therefore, is that simpler and less expensive methods of treatment be brought into operation. In dealing with these lands under the present laws, it may be necessary to have a subdivision or individualisation of the shares or interests. The survey in this case is absolutely necessary. This performance is exceedingly expensive. Then comes the investigation by the Court; in fact, every move, every act which brings the present machinery into force is attended with disaster. So much so is this the case, that were all the land sold that has been dealt with, the proceeds would be swallowed up in the preliminary expenses and otherwise attachable to such performances. All the old people are therefore of one mind on this question. I would here point out the difference between the older old the younger generations. The younger generations are actuated solely by a desire to realise. They have no reverence for the soil which has fed them, and brought them into existence. The older generations, however, have an affection and reverence for the land of their forefathers; they like to see it preserved and made useful to them. I think I have explained to you, as far as I possibly can, the feeling of the old people throughout this district. There is one more question which I wish to touch upon; it is as to rating on papatupu lands. It is the desire of the old people to know whether the local bodies can rate such land. I have told them that I do not think the local bodies have the power to do so. However, they want an answer from you on the subject.
Hone peti: I rise in response to your asking for further particulars in regard to the question of surplus lands, just touched upon by Mr. Hone Heke. I desire to say that when the Premier was page 74at Waima, some few years ago, I gave him the history of the surplus lands question from its inception down to the present time, and how we have suffered over it.
The Premier: I still keep that in my memory.
Hone peti: Your reply on that occasion was that I should frame a petition and give it is Mr. Hone Heke, our representative here, to present to Parliament, where it would be considered. I would like to know what has been the result of that petition. We are extremely anxious to know whether the Government has taken any steps in connection with the matter, and, if so, what it proposes to do. You will find all the particulars contained in the various petitions sent to Parliament. At the time I refer to, it was suggested that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into the matter, and Mr. Hone Heke informed me that a recommendation had been submitted to the Government, and that the Government was considering the advisability of setting up such a Commission. This is all with regard to that subject. Another matter I desire to touch upon is with respect to the rates levied on our lands. Now, certain of our lands are subject to rates. These we paid on a certain valuation; but this year we are notified that the rates have been increased by some 11s., and we view this with alarm, and ask ourselves what kind of work is this. One day we know what our responsibilities and liabilities are, and the next day they are increased: and they keep on increasing. We really do not know where the end will be. I think it is only right the Government should give attention to our position in respect to this matter. We do not fail to pay our rates; we are not deaf to the calls made upon us for rates, but what we are disturbed about is the fear that these rates will keep increasing year after year, and it is only on account of the alarm we feel in consequence of what I have said that we are apprehensive for the future. Therefore I pray the Premier to look carefully into these matters, and if there is any possible way of lightening the load on us unfortunates I hope he will assist in doing so. We do not refuse to pay. We respond to the call for rates, but we are apprehensive.
The Premier: To the Chiefs of the Ngapuhi, and to the several chiefs from the tribes in other parts of the colony here present, Salutations, good wishes, good health, and every blessing to you all. This meeting to-day brings to me great joy. As you know, being Native Minister, I am the ministerial father of the Natives by virtue of the position I hold. As a father is pleased to me his children, so it gives me very great pleasure to meet you on this occasion. With me to-day a one of your own race, who represents you in the Cabinet. That representative, my worthy friend and colleague, Mr. Carroll, with myself and the other members of the Government, desire to do that which is for the lasting benefit of the native race. At great inconvenience, therefore, we came here to meet you and to ascertain your feelings and your aspirations. If there are grievances existing you should now lay them before us. We desire to meet the Native race in the same way that Europeans are met. Ministers go from place to place to hear what Europeans have to say them. They then submit these matters to Cabinet, and, if redress is fond necessary, measures are submitted to Parliament with this object. I again repeat, that we desire to give both races the same treatment. So it is the case with Europeans that once they have the opportunity of allowing the tongue to give vent to their feelings it gives relief to their mind. So it is with the Natives. Let them have the opportunity of making known their wants and grievances, if any exist, and I feel sure that good will result, both in the direction of having the grievances remedied and in relieving their minds. As in the past your ancestors had their meeting together to exchange thoughts and to clear up subjects which perplexed them, so to-day it is as well that you should meet together to discuss and arrive at conclusions upon matters which should be for your good, and, in fact, for the good of both races. I therefore view with pleasure the federal gathering which you have with you hear. You have the chiefs and the repesentatives of the Natives from the different parts of the colony. The conditions vary in different parts; what is suitable for one locality may not be so for another. The Natives in other parts may therefore hold different views, and it is only by meeting together that you can arrive at conclusions which will enable the Government and Parliament to deal with these matters on lines beneficial to the natives in all parts of the colony. Now, when His Excellency the Governor was here yesterday you exercised a consideration for the Europeans that reflected very much credit upon you. The consideration to which I refer is when you and your chiefs refrained from placing various matters before the representative of the Queen. I know that in your hearts you desired to do so; but as you had given your word that you would not detain him long, so as to enable the Europeans to have an opportunity of paying their respects to him, you by that action did full justice to the chiefs and the Native race generally. I will now give you the mind of His Excellency, the representative sentative of your Mother, our good and beloved Queen. He would have liked to have heard more from you, but as you had made arrangements with the Europeans that pleasure was denied him. Again this morning, owing to the limited time which I can give to you, you have been very considerate by putting your views before me through Mr. Hone Heke, after having discussed the various matters fully amongst yourselves last evening, though without giving me full information respecting them, although I took the earliest opportunity of relieving you from that situation by asking that you should give me fuller information respecting the several matters which I know page 75have engaged your attention. I am very glad that I did this, because it places me in a better position to deal with them later on. It is more important for you to place before me fully the several maters of importance to you than for me to give you the mind of the Government upon subjects which had only been briefly touched upon. If a person is sick in body he goes to a doctor. The doctor naturally asks him where the pain lies, and what has caused it. It is only after he has got these particulars that he is able to apply the remedy. Hence my reason for asking what your difficulties are. As the head of the Government and Minister of the Native race I ask you to let me know where your pains lie, so that I may be able to remove them.