Speeches on Māori land tenure and land legislation
The Kaiparo Block
The Kaiparo Block.
(From the Poverty Bay Standard, Feb. 20th, 1879.)
In our last issue we notified that the Deeds of the Kaiparo Block had been concluded on Monday last by Mr. Rees and Wi Pere, the Trustees for the Grantees in the said block. We are forcibly reminded of the old adage, "that "straws show how the winds blow." To our readers who are not intimately acquainted with the topography and native nomenclature of the district, we would state that the above block consists of four hundred and thirty-one acres of excellent land, situated on the town side of the Ferry Hotel, and on the southeast of the paddocks where the last races were held. We refer to the negotiations in the above block mainly to convey some idea to the general public of the complications surrounding many of the Native titles in this district; and, also, to illustrate, that by judicious management, a speedy and amicable settlement of Native titles can be arrived at. For that reason we propose giving a brief sketch of the ordeal through which the Kaiparo Block has passed, since it became Crown granted.
Originally, there were thirty-three Grantees, but of that number several are now dead. In 1869 the late Captain Read obtained a lease over the whole block, at a rental of three shillings an acre. Shortly after, six hundred pounds were paid to a few of the owners, on behalf of the whole of the Grantees, by way of mortgage on the block. The interest charged on the six hundred pounds almost completely swallowed up the whole of the annual rental for the remainder of the lease. Many of the Grantees who did not participate in the mortgage were, nevertheless, debarred from drawing their portion of the rent. We will leave it to the members of the long robe to judge of the legality, or otherwise, of the mortgage. To add to the complications, the Natives got into debt, and the purchase of shares began in the usual way. Some of the sales were admitted; others denied. A few of those who had not sold took possession of portions of the land, and erected houses thereon. In this confusion as to ownership the interests of the late Captain Read in the block were recently sold. He claimed two hundred and eight out of the four hundred and thirty one acres, as freehold, with a lease over the remainder of the block, terminable in 1884. According to that, not until five years hence, and until the mortgage was redeemed, could the Natives do anything in regard to the land without appealing to costly litigation in the Supreme Court. It is hardly, therefore, to be looked upon as a matter of surprise that no layman could be found sufficiently venturesome to purchase such a network of intricacy. Mr Brassey, solicitor, of Gisborne, purchased the interest of the late Captain Read; and we are glad to be able to state, that, now the whole of the difficulties in connection with the Kaiparo Block are finally adjusted, by the original lease and mortgage being extinguished. Of the two hundred and eight acres claimed by Captain Read's Trustees, forty-eight have been returned to the Natives; also the two hundred and twenty-three acres being the residue of the block, and held under a disputed lease. The Natives who took possession of what they deemed their portion of the block, have their proportionate shares, amounting in the aggregate to about fifty acres, awarded them. After giving Mr. Brassey an absolute title to one hundred and sixty acres of the best part of the block, the remainder of the area returned has been leased to that gentleman for ten years at an amount in value of over one pound an acre per annum, reckoning improvements. The balance of the block—one hundred and thirty-one acres —other Europeans have been anxiously negotiating for on similar terms, at the same time equally advantageous to all parties; and all arrangements are now concluded. The Native Grantees obtain a clear annual rental of about two hundred and seventy-five pounds, besides a page 15reserve of one-eighth of the block, and the disputed mortgage and lease are wiped out. In this small transaction alone, the Native owners are placed in a very good position; at the same time the Europeans have nothing to complain of. Liberal arrangements have, we believe, been made with them. They have absolutely a clear and distinct title to their land, such as many a person here, and in Hawke's Bay and elsewhere would be glad to have. To the district at large, the general benefit accruing is this:— That a valuable block of land within four miles of town, second to none in quality of any to be found in Poverty Bay, which, for the past nine years, has been in the hands of Europeans without a single acre being improved, or a chain of fencing erected, will at once be made to bring forth benefits to all concerned. Costly residences, and other improvements, will forthwith be commenced; and an outlet will be found for the expenditure of capital that cannot fail, in its beneficial effects, to be for the good of the district. It seems, indeed, as if the day had at length dawned for bringing about a settlement of the heart-burnings and jealousies that have too long been felt in this district in matters between Europeans and Natives in respect to Native land titles; and for the consummation of which we look confidently towards Mr. W. L. Rees, through whose instrumentality, alone, those interested in the Kaiparo Block are indebted for their success.