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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 52. — The Chief Commissioner to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary

No. 52.
The Chief Commissioner to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary.

Respecting the Purchase of Native Lands.


Land Purchase Department, Auckland, 30th August, 1855.

Before the close of the present session of the General Assembly of New Zealand. I conceive it to be my duty to bring under the consideration of His Excellency the Officer Administering the Government the necessity that exists for providing a sum, either by loan or otherwise, of not less than £50,000 a year, which might be from time to time raised, to enable the Government to carry on arrangements for extinguishing the Native title to lands in these Islands.

The necessity for such a loan is so generally apparent to the colonists at large that my adducing any reasons in support of it may appear almost superfluous. I shall, however, briefly allude to a few which may not be out of place in making this application. First, the successful colonization of this Northern Island of New Zealand has been greatly retarded, chiefly in consequence of the unsettled state of the Native land question, involving many of the early settlers in ruin, besides entailing a debt of £268,000 on the colony. Secondly, the difficulties arising out of the unsettled state of the land question have been within the last few years gradually removed by the acquisition of territory from the Natives; but owing to the increased demand for land arising from the numerous arrivals of immigrants (many of them possessed of wealth and energy) from Great Britain and the neighbouring colonies, a sufficiency of land has not yet been acquired, more especially, in the Auckland Province, to meet this demand. Any check, therefore, to the acquisition of land, when it can be obtained from the Natives, must-be highly injurious to the present and prospective prosperity not only of any particular province, but of the colony at large, as the influence that those purchases produce, is not confined to provincial limits, but extends throughout the different tribes in both Islands. In illustration of this, I may remark that the presence of some chiefs from the Wellington Province, who have sold and are still desirous of selling more land to the Government, has recently encouraged several of the chiefs in this province hitherto averse to the sale of land to come forward and offer some valuable tracts to the Government. The Natives regard the transfer of their land as an act of great national importance, and their pride is easily injured if advantage is not taken of their offer to dispose of it, more especially as they conceive, notwithstanding the many advantages they derive from doing so, that they have not till then entirely yielded their own independence, laws, and customs in exchange, for the restraints which their elder men, with the jealousy natural to them, apprehend they must submit to by the introduction amongst them of English law and authority, which is generally as much respected in districts acquired from them as it is disregarded in many of the unpurchased portions of the country.

Within the last few weeks a great number of Natives have visited me from different parts of this province, many of them chiefs of great influence, who are particularly anxious to enter into arrangements for the cession of some very valuable tracts of land. Should these chiefs be disappointed by not effecting their purpose, there is every probability, from their fluctuating disposition, that they might hereafter decline to sell their land, even at a greatly advanced price. Instances of this kind have been of such frequent occurrence in New Zealand that every care should be taken to guard against a recurrence of them, as well as of the complications and difficulties that arise from inability to conclude purchases with sufficient promptness.

Regarding the measure in a pecuniary point of view, it is better to use some exertion to provide funds without delay, while the land can be obtained on moderate terms, than to run the risk of not obtaining it at all; or, if eventually obtained, to be compelled to pay an enormously high price for it.

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In Auckland within the last eighteen months about 600,000 acres of land in different parts of the province have been negotiated for. Of this extent about 300.000 acres have been partially surveyed, so as to prevent future disputes in reference to boundaries with the Natives. The various details connected with the purchases have also been so far adjusted that on the payment of a few instalments still due to the Natives the negotiations will be completed. From two of these purchases alone—the one in the vicinity of the town, near Orakei, and that at the Waiuku—it may be estimated that for an outlay of about £6,000 a revenue will be realized of not less than £50,000 or £60,000, independent of the more permanent revenue that would accrue from the occupation of the land by European colonists. As an investment, therefore, independent of the political importance of the question, I think there can be no doubt as to the expediency of providing funds for this service.

I have &c;

Donald McLean,
Principal Commissioner
The Hon. the Colonial Secretary.