Copy of a Despatch from
Governor Sir G. I. Boweist, G.C.M.G,, to the Eight Hon. Earl Granville, E.G.
I have the honour to enclose herewith, for your Lordship's information, a copy of the final judgment of the Native Land Court, recently delivered at Wellington, in the case of the Eangitikei-Manawatu land claims, which (as will be remembered at the Colonial Office) have caused much angry; discussion during several years past in the southern part of this Island, and have sometimes threatened to lead to opeu warfare.
About seven years ago the fertile block of land lying between the Eangitikei and Manawatu Rivers, on the west coast of the Province of Wellington, and containing nearly a quarter of a million of acres, was purchased for the sum of £25,000, from the Ngatiapa Tribe, by Dr. Peatherston, the Superintendent of the province, acting on behalf of the Crown. The scene presented at-the payment of this money was witnessed by, Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, and is very graphically described in his recently published book "Greater Britain." The sale was, however, objected to-by certain members of the Ngatiraukawa Tribe, who grounded their title chiefly on conquest, alleging that the land in question was, about fifty years ago, conquered from the Ngatiapas, the original possessors, by the Ngatitoa Tribe, under their celebrated chief Te Rauparaha, who subsequently granted much of it to his allies, the Ngatiraukawa. Considering the very serious consequences which have followed the attempt, made in 1S60, to carry out, in spite of the protest of a dissentient minority of the Native claimants," the provisions of the sale of the small-block of land" (only 800; acres in all) on the Eiver Waitara, near Taranaki, the Colonial. Government wisely abstained from pushing matters to an extremity in this new case. Unfortunately, however (as it now seems to, be generally agreed), the Manawatu-Eangitikei claims were, in the, first instance, excepted from the jurisdiction of the Native Land Court, instituted for the purpose of investigating and determining 'Maori titles, and composed of English Judges with Native Assessors. This error was, however, afterwards repaired by an Act of the New Zealand Legislature; and the petitions and protests of the conflicting parties, presented to me soon after my arrival in this colony in 1868, were referred; in due course of law, to the Native Land Court, sitting, at Wellington under the presidency of the Chief Judge, his Honour P. D. Fenton. The trial occupiod no less than forty-five days, during which eighty-four Maori witnesses were examined. The Attorney-General appeared for the Crown, and Mr. Travers (one of the leading counsel at the New Zealand Bar) for the dissentients. The able and experienced ChieYv Judge-has informed me "that the case was very well got up; that the assiduity and intelligence of counsel, on both sides were very remarkable; that the evidence was conclusive and: that there, remained no doubt; in the mind of any of the members of the Court as to the judgments."
|3.||Mr. Maning, the Judge who, delivered the final decision, is the well-known author of "Old "New Zealand," a book which is generally held by all competent critics to contain a very graphic and correct picture of the customs and character of the Maoris in the times preceding British colonization. The judgment delivered by him will in itself bei found an interesting page of Maori history. The evidence, taken was chiefly respecting the intertribal wars of the last generation, and the territorial page 203rights acquired and lost by the hostile clans, according to the Maori usage, by victory and defeat. One of the principal witnesses on the part of the Crown was Tamihana te Rauparaha, the only son of the conquering chief, and the last survivor of his name and race.|
|4.||The effect of the judgment of the Court is to confirm, in the main, what had previously been done by Dr. Featherston. Specific awards to the amount of 6,200 acres have been made (as shown in the schedules annexed to the order of the Court) to the dissentient claimants who had refused to concur in the sale. Subject to this reservation, the Rangitikei-Manawatu block of land has now passed to the Crown, has become a valuable part of the provincial estate, and is thrown open for European settlement. Nothing can be affirmed with certainty as to the future conduct of so impulsive a people as the Maoris; but I am assured that no further disturbance need, in all probability, be apprehended regarding this matter, which has been so long a source of grave embarrassment. Indeed, the Chief Judge (Mr. Fenton) has written to me in the following terms: "The Court has dealt with, and settled cases of much greater intrinsic difficulty, and possessing far more powerful extrinsic obstacles, than the Manawatu claim; and has never yet, even at Taupo, had a decision disputed, or even obedience delayed." I should observe that the Native Land Court sat at Taupo, a few months back, in the centre of this Island, in the middle of the Native population, and, at a great distance from the European settlements; and that the Judges had no force beyond a few Maori policemen wherewith to carry out their decrees. These facts seem to speak volumes for the confidence with which this Court is generally regarded by the Maori owners of the soil. By its aid the old tribal or communistic tenure, the source of so much internecine strife, is gradually converted into fee-simple; on the production of sufficient proof, certificates of title are given to individual landholders, and on these certificates Crown grants are issued. The Maoris, like the Europeans, are thus brought to look upon the Queen and the law as the protectors of their territorial rights.|
I have, &c.,
The Right Hon. Earl Granville, K.G.