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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80a

Auckland. — The Opuatia Affair


The Opuatia Affair.

As a matter of fact, the people who got up the agitation here and pulled up the survey-pegs were not the owners of the land at all, but were merely living there on sufferance, as the following interview between Hori Kukutai, the real owner, and the Premier will show. This chief came all the way to Auckland with the Premier for the purpose of thoroughly setting the matter at rest once and for all.

Hori Kukutai said,—Sir, I will not delay you by going right away back to the origin of this particular matter

The Premier: Before hearing you at all, I want to know from you whether what this man Kerei Kaihau has been doing was done with your sanction and consent.

Hori Kukutai: That doing was his own; I tried to stop him. I have nothing whatever to do with it.

The Premier: I am very much pleased to hear you say that.

Hori Kukutai: At the commencement of this Kerei Kaihau trouble at Opuatia, it arose through some Native cattle mixing with some European cattle. Then some of my people were allowed to act under the orders of Kerei Kaihau. This led to a large meeting. I then stood forth to prevent Kerei Kaihau from carrying the matter any further, as it began to become serious. I succeeded in restraining Kerei Kaihau and turning him away, and that trouble ended. The next trouble that occurred was in reference to the road through the land we handed over at Opuatia for Tawhiao and his people to live upon. That was when Tawhiao came over from the lands of Rewi and Wahanui. Rewi and Wahanui had their lands surveyed and leased, and there was no land upon which Tawhiao could remain. That was the reason why we gave that land to Tawhiao to live upon,—because he had no land at all, he and his people; and that is how it came about that Tawhiao's name became identified with Opuatia: but any authority that might be attached to the fact of Tawhiao locating there was since put aside by our putting that land through the Court and bringing it under survey. Tawhiao's decree that there should be no surveys or land-laws was not given effect to. Now, when the Government applied to me for permission to take the road though the ground, I consented. What is there wrong in a road? It is beneficial both to Natives and Europeans. Now, this is my application to you, the Premier, and it is for you to say whether you will give effect to my application or not: that is a matter for your heart. I want this road formed; let the Government take this road through. I do not want the Government to pay compensation for it; all I ask is that they fence it on both sides of Sections 10 and 11. Sections 10 and 11 belong to me. I want the Government to keep authority over that road, and not to hand it over to the Road Board. Let the Road Board be here or there on either side of Sections 10 and 11. There are seventeen owners in No. 11, and twenty in No. 10. Some of those who have been arrested are owners in No. 11. This is my big word to you. That is the main point of my application, that the Government will make the road as surveyed. It is eight miles altogether.

The Premier: It is the Government that makes the road, but it is the law made by the Parliament that vests the roads in the local bodies. Parliament will not sit for many months; and what this man Kerei Kaihau has done now—whatever Parliament might have been prepared to do before—by his breaking the law and going on like this, will damage any good intentions they may have had. By the law of the Counties Act, and by the general law, power is given to the Government to go through any Native lands to make roads—in fact, your forefathers agreed to that when the Treaty of Waitangi was made. Now, if they wanted any special favours in respect to it, any chance of special favours has been destroyed by the way the Natives have been going on, obstructing the Government. For instance, these people who own page 18 this Section 11—if it is fenced they will say, "Oh! that is because we got up a row. If we had not got up this row the Government would never have fenced it." These people have destroyed your request. If there had been no trouble, and the Natives wanted any special favour from the Government, whatever the Government had been prepared to do before, these people have cut their own throats by breaking the law.

Hori Kukutai: That is true. Six times I attempted to keep them back.

The Premier: I feel for you very much, because I know you have behaved very well. These other people have done so much wrong that you suffer through their wrong-doing.

Hori Kukutai: Yes, I am the sufferer. This trouble has been heaped on to my head by these refractory people. Not only that, my possessions—my land is also troubled with their actions. My father is dead; he was a great upholder of the authority of the Crown in this country. I have succeeded him, and have done everything in my power to follow in his footprints, but I am considerably handicapped.

The Premier: I will not forget that. We will go on and finish the road straight off. Then, when they see the benefits to be derived from having a road to their kaingas, and recognise that the law is not to be violated, then I will take you into my thoughts.

Hori Kukutai: That road is absolutely necessary.

The Premier: I will not forget the services of your father, neither will I forget your services, but I will punish these others. When this road is finished I shall be best able to see how I can serve you, but the others I will not serve in any way. You can rely upon my word and the word of the Government, and we will support you even if you are in trouble with your own people. We will see you through it and uphold your mana. You are quite right to get your land through the Court. You are not getting any younger, you are getting up in years, and you are quite right to get your affairs settled and have the land that belongs to you. I see a way of helping you under the law of last session. You will see for yourself you have been for years kept back by other people, and deprived from having what belonged to you. You have been rich in the enjoyment of land that belonged to your forefathers, but poor because of other people. It is now about time you got the full benefit of what belongs to you, and the Government are going to help you to do that. Other people study their children, and you should study yourself and your children. Now, yesterday Tawhiao sent word that he wanted to see me, and meet me at Hukanui. At great inconvenience and loss to the colony I stopped to see him. The first day he excused himself by saying one of the Maori men was sick. I have now got a telegram saying his daughter is sick, and that was the cause of my not seeing him last night. The demands upon my time are such that I could not trouble any further about him. He wants me to go back and see him, but I am better engaged talking business with you. I am talking now with the owner of the land; Tawhiao was simply a lodger. It is you who should have the benefit of that land; it will be to the benefit of both yourself and the Government to have the thing settled once and for all.

Hori Kukutai: It will be a great benefit both to Maoris and Europeans if that road is made, and it will be the means of their being able to carry their produce to the railway, and so to a better market.

The Premier: When we have made the road we will keep it in repair. There is a prejudice in the Native mind against local Road Boards. It would be as well if they kept away from them until the feeling died out The rate will be struck and levied all the same as if there was no road at all. The road does not make the rate. I think the limit is five miles. They are exempt from special rates, and their rating is only one-half. Any way we will get the thing settled and opened up, and all will go well. There will be an advantage in making the road, for there will be work for some of the Natives.

Hori Kukutai: All the Natives on my section want to be employed.

The Premier: Those who have broken the law will not get employment, but those who stand by and help the Government will get employment. Those that you recommend to the Assistant Surveyor for work—their claims will be considered. Any that follow Kerei Kaihau and have teen breaking the law against your wishes need not send in their names, because they will not get employment. I intend to uphold your mana, and discountenance Kerei Kaihau. That is my last word. We part good friends.

Hori Kukutai: I am satisfied you have met my approach to you in this matter in a light very favourable indeed. It is far more than I expected.

The Premier: I will give instructions to Mr. Mueller to get the plans ready at once, so as to make the road in the good weather. You cannot make roads well in winter. The next thing you will find is the men working on the road; and that will end the trouble. Pulling out pegs will not help them much when the road is made. Kerei Kaihau saw me on the railway platform to-day and wanted to shake hands with me, but I would not do so. I said his hands were soiled, and I did not wish to have anything to say to him, because he had broken the law. Kerei Kaihau and his friends will be making a road for nothing, but you and your friends will be making roads and will be paid for it.

Hori Kukutai: Yes; ours will be a special contract.