Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
Prelude to Confiscation of Lands—Worst Characters Removed to Chatham Islands—No Trial, No Fixed Sentence—Seizure of Schooner and Return.
The legality of the Stafford Government's action in deporting to the Chatham Islands, without trial, rebels taken prisoner in the Bay of Plenty, on the East Coast, in Poverty Bay and in Hawke's Bay was not questioned in Parliament in 1866, when the matter was reported by Colonel A. H. Russell (Minister for Native Affairs). He said, inter alia: “It was felt that, in addition to the protection which the courts afforded against the more open, violent and bloodthirsty of the natives in rebellion, it was necessary to have recourse to some prompt measure which would serve to check the progress of the rebellion and remove for a time from their sphere of action the restless and troublesome spirits who persisted in disturbing the peace of the colony …” However, in August, 1868—following upon the fighting at Paparatu, Te Koneke and Ruakituri—the Government's action in exiling the rebels without trial was challenged in Parliament by some members. In reply Colonel Russell said that the prisoners were taken in actual rebellion; that they were already in confinement, and that it was necessary to dispose of them. He added: “No great violence was done, although the action taken was, I know, somewhat beyond the law.”
According to W. L. Williams, Colonel Haultain (Defence Minister) dropped a hint at Poverty Bay on 20 February, 1866, that Cabinet considered it desirable that the prisoners should be placed out of the way whilst the lands confiscation policy was being settled. On 3 March, 1866, Governor Grey reached Poverty Bay on H.M.S. Esk, bringing with him Horopapera Te Ua (the originator of Hauhauism), whom he was taking to various points along the coasts of the North Island to show the natives that, far from being a great man, he was, in fact, a mental weakling. Mr. McLean arrived on the same day in s.s. St. Kilda, by which vessel the prisoners were to be conveyed to the Chatham Islands. Captain Thomas (the magistrate at the islands) was also on board. The loyal chiefs assented to the plan, and Mr. McLean selected the rebels who were to be deported. He chose only rebels who had taken up arms against the Crown. Some of the others took the oath of allegiance and were released.
The first party to be exiled consisted of 45 men, but women and children to the number of 25 were allowed to accompany page 229 them. A guard, comprising 13 Europeans and 12 Maoris, with Lieutenant A. Tuke in command, accompanied the exiles. Three other batches were sent away—the second of 88, which was landed on 27 April; a third of 116 (including some rebels taken in the Bay of Plenty and also Te Kooti), which was disembarked on 10 June; and a fourth of 56 (including some prisoners captured at Omarunui, Hawke's Bay), which got to the island prison on 26 November—making a grand total of 328 men, women and children.
Captain Thomas was instructed to supply the prisoners with adequate rations “until they are able to raise food for themselves.” He was also advised that probably half an acre to each person would be sufficient for a cultivation, and he was required to furnish them with tools, seed potatoes, wheat, etc. A further direction to him was that the arms and ammunition should always be kept within the stockade, where a large proportion of the guard was always to be on the alert. He was authorised to afford prisoners, in return for work, small indulgences, such as an allowance of tobacco, permission to fish, etc., and to promise them earlier release.
“It is the Government's wish,” Colonel Russell added, “that the prisoners shall be treated with all possible kindness consistent with safe-keeping; nor is it desired to detain them longer than may be necessary. They should be informed, therefore, that their return will depend upon their own good conduct and the termination of the rebellion; that, periodically, a few of the best behaved will be allowed to return; and that it is hoped that none of them need be kept prisoner for any lengthened period.”
Some of the Poverty Bay chiefs did not approve of the exiling of the rebels. Lazarus made it known that he would not consent to one inch of his land being given up to the Queen. Captain Harris, in a letter to Mr. McLean (25/8/1866), said: “I would not be surprised if we were to have an incursion by Hauhaus, if they thought that they could manage it, and 24 hours would see every homestead in Turanga wiped out.”