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

No. 58. — Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen, G.C.M.G., to the Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley

No. 58.
Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen, G.C.M.G., to the Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley.

Rangitikei.Visit of His Excellency Governor Bowen. Government House, Wellington, N.Z., 6th December, 1872.

My Lord,—

I have the honour to report that I have recently returned from an official visit to the Rangitikei and Manawatu Districts, situated on the west coast of this Island, between Wellington and Whanganui.

2.Large purchases of land have of late years been made from the Maoris in this quarter, and colonization is steadily advancing in a very satisfactory manner. A settlement of Swedes and Norwegians, as practised woodsmen, has been planted near the township of Palmerston, in the midst of the vast primaeval forest which overspreads that part of the country. To facilitate the export of the valuable timber, a tramway has been laid down from Palmerston to Foxton, the township near the Manawatu. Roads and bridle-tracks are being pushed forward in several other directious, partly with the help of Maori labour.
3.A very important work has been undertaken, and is already nearly completed by the Colonial Government, in the connection of the East and West Coasts by means of the formation of a good carriage road from Foxton to Napier (the chief town of the Province of Hawke's Bay) through the gorge of the Manawatu River. This remarkable pass is the only opening in the cordillera or dividing watershed, which to the north of it is called the Ruahine, and to the south of it the Tararua Range. These mountains vary from four thousand to nearly seven thousand feet in height, and their summits are covered with snow during the greater part of the year. The narrowest part of the pass is about four miles in length; and the road has been skilfully carried at a short distance above the wide and rapid river. The precipitous slopes of the mountains on either side are clothed with the magnificent foliage of the New Zealand forests. In many respects, the Gorge, of the Manawatu, dividing the ridges of Ruahine and Tararua, resembles the Vale of Tempe, which is the gorgeof the Peneus, dividing the ridges of Olympus and Ossa.
4.For some time past a coach has been running regularly between Wellington and Whanganui, through Foxton. It is expected that within afew months from the present date a coach will be able to run from Foxton to Napier, which latter town will thus be brought into easy communication with the seat of Government. Already coaches run from Napier to the central Lake of Taupo, and from Auckland to Cambridge in the Waikato, which is only about seventy miles north of Taupo. The Maoris are at work on this part of the line, and it is confidently believed that in 1874 public conveyances will carry mails and passengers between Wellington and Auckland through the very heart of the Native and lately hostile districts. This is a result of the conciliatory policy of the Colonial Government, which would have appeared absolutely incredible if foretold only three years ago.page 209
5.In addition to their strategical and civilizing importance, these roads wall have the effect of throwing open for settlement broad areas of rich pastoral and agricultural land, hitherto not only uninhabited, but almost unknown.
6.But the most interesting feature of my recent tour was my conference at Foxton with the assembled chiefs and clans of the southern portion of this Island.
7.There has been for more than one generation a fiercely-debated quarrel between several Maori tribes for the ownership of valuable lands near Otaki and the beautiful Lake of Horowhenua. Before the arrival of the English an internecine warfare had been carried on for many years; and it has required the constant efforts of the successive Governors to prevent these blood-feuds from breaking out afresh. At last the several disputants have been persuaded to submit their claims to the decision of the Native Land Court, a tribunal composed (as your Lordship is aware of English Judges and Maori Assessors. This Court is now sitting at Foxton, in the District of Manawatu; and on my arrival there I found the little township encircled by the camps of the contending tribes, which presented a most striking appearance, with the flags and streamers of the several clans, flying over their tents. The news of my promotion to the Government of Victoria, and of my approaching departure from New Zealand consequent thereon, had become known to the Maoris, and the leading chiefs came forward to express their regret, and their assurance that if I would visit Foxton on my return from the Gorge of the Manawatu they and their respective clansmen would forget their mutual animosities and gladly hold an united meeting to bid me farewell. I was amply rewarded for my ready consent to this invitation by the enthusiastic greeting which I received from the assembled clans, and by the speeches of the principal chiefs, all full of loyalty to the Queen and of good-will to myself.

I have, &c.,

G. F. Bowen.

The Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley.