No. 72.—Petition of Aperahama Te Kume and 8 Others.
Petitioners complain that their land called Maungaiti, part of the Whakamaru Block, had after two hearings by the Land Court been awarded to others. Judge Symonds adjudicated upon it in 1880. A rehearing was granted and came on this year at Cambridge. They say that the Patetere Land Company agreed to give them 6,000 acres of the land named if they would not go on with the case. They say that the Court refused to allow the case to be withdrawn, and finally decided against them. They ask for a rehearing.
I am directed to report as follows:—
That this is a case of rehearing. The land referred to consists of about 17,000 to 20,000 acres. From the evidence adduced it seems that the interests of the Natives to whom had been made the original order had been pretty well exhausted by European purchasers. In order to facilitate the passing of the land through the Court, and thus enable it to be quickly transferred, these purchasers and the Natives from whom they had bought offered concessions to the petitioners—land to the extent of 6,000 acres and a sum of money was offered to them. The petitioners accepted this offer, page 28and a private meeting of all parties concerned was held, at which the Chief Judge attended by request. The question resolved itself into this: should the grant of land (6,000 acres) be cut off in open Court after adjudication, or should the petitioners withdraw their appeal, allow the land to go to their opponents, and receive a conveyance for their share. One lawyer maintained that his clients could only be safe by having their names inserted by the Court, and then have the land awarded to them on subdivision; the other contended that this would advertise his rival as the winner of the great Whakamaru case. This rivalry of these legal gentlemen seems to have prevented an amicable settlement. These facts could not be considered by the Court, for it had been agreed that the negotiations, if they failed, should be without prejudice. Both Judges state that there would have been considerable risk had the petitioners withdrawn their claims from the cognizance of the Court. The Judges State distinctly that their final decision, which was adverse to the petitioners' claims, was given upon the merits, and was arrived at unanimously, the Native Assessor agreeing in the judgment. The Committee is at a loss to understand why 6,000 acres out of a block of 17,000 to 20,000 should have been offered to the petitioners if they had no claim. The land promised is said to have been the best in the block, and it seems remarkably queer that such an amount should be offered merely to facilitate the passing of the remainder to Europeans. It had been arranged that 2,000 acres should be conveyed, with restrictions, so that the petitioners could have dealt with only 4,000 by way of sale. The claimants and counter-claimants, though belonging to three different hapus, are related, all being of the Ngatiraukawa, all claiming by conquest and continuous occupation. The common rights from conquest were admitted, but continuous occupation was disputed. It would be impossible for the Committee to review the case in minute particulars, but there seems to be a case made out that the petitioners have been hardly treated. The Committee assumes that the Court pronounced according to the evidence openly adduced, but, with the evidence regarding the private conference before it, the Committee considers that the arrangement should be carried out by which the petitioners should receive a substantial interest in the land. The Committee recommends the Government to apply to Parliament to give power to grant a rehearing in this case.