His Honour I. E. Featherston to the Hon. J. C. Richmond.
Adverting to my letter of the 23rd March last, I have now to report, for the information of the Government, that during my recent visit to Manawatu and Rangitikei I held several meetings with the Ngatiapa and Ngatiraukawa at their respective pas, with a view to a final settlement of the outstanding questions of back rents and Native reserves.
1. Back Rents.—The back rents (amounting now to nearly £3,000) due by the runholders under the old Native leases were required to be paid up, and it was necessary, in the first place, to ascertain to what particular Natives, and in what proportions, these arrears of rent should be paid to the tribes who lately claimed the block. It will be in your recollection that the payment of the rents was one of the proximate causes of the tribal quarrel which led to my interference on behalf of the General Government in 1863. As I reported at the time, an arrangement was entered into with the runholders, with the mutual concurrence of the tribes interested, for the non-payment of rents, pending some adjustment of the dispute; one condition of such arrangement being that I made myself responsible for the ultimate recovery of all the rents so impounded. At the recent meetings to which I have alluded, the representatives of the three tribes principally concerned, the Ngatiapa, Ngatiraukawa, and Rangitane, united in a request that, before proceeding to any division or distribution of this money, I should on their behalf receive the rents from the runholders, and that, when the whole amount had been paid up, I should call a general meeting of the tribes to determine its disposal. As the request was unanimous, and as the course recommended by the Natives seemed likely to prevent a further complication of an already difficult question, I readily assented to the proposal, and in that position the matter now rests.
2. Reserves.—In my report of the 23rd March I described the position and extent of the reserve at Puketotara which I had set apart for the Rangitane, and I furnished with that report copy of a memorandum of agreement entered into with Kawana Hunia (the representative chief of the Ngatiapa), whereby I guaranteed to him and his tribe 1,000 acres at Papakatea, 500 acres at Tawhirihoe, and 10 acres at Te Awahou.
It will be seen by a reference to my notes of the Parewanui meeting in December last that Ihakara, the Ngatiraukawa chief, in the interests of peace and in order to conciliate the Ngatiapa, voluntarily surrendered to Kawana Hunia the right which he had to a reserve at Tawhirihoe, in terms of my pledge that I would not disturb the Ngatiraukawa in any of their existing settlements. While fully appreciating the motive which had actuated Ihakara in making this large concession to a rival tribe, I regretted that he had done so, and I promised his hapu, who evidently felt the humiliation very keenly, that I would do my utmost to recover possession of Tawhirihoe, and to grant them a reserve there, explaining, however, that this could only be accomplished with the concurrence of the Ngatiapa. I am glad to be able to report that I have made an arrangement with Kawana Hunia which places Tauwhirihoe again at my disposal. I attach a copy of a memorandum of agreement on the subject (Enclosure 1).
The reserves for the Ngatiraukawa Tribe have not yet been defined. I have, however, promised the chiefs that they shall not be required to relinquish any of their permanent settlements, that their burial-places shall be held sacred, and that ample reserves shall be set apart for all the resident hapus.
The non-sellers in that tribe having declined to accept of a reserve to the extent of their claims as admitted by the sellers, I have signified my willingness to refer the question to two arbitrators, in order that the extent and position of their actual claims may be determined, and excluded from the purchase; and, failing arbitration, I have stated my readiness to leave the settlement of this question to any two Judges of the Native Land Court who may be selected by the Government for that duty. I append (Enclosure 2) a copy of my memorandum in English and Maori, setting forth the conditions of the proposed arbitration. I have not yet received from the non-sellers any definite reply to this proposal. There would be no difficulty in furnishing an approximate assessment of the claims of the non-sellers, as required in your letter of the 10th November last; but, as I have agreed to go to arbitration on the question, it is obviously unnecessary for me to go further in to the subject at present.
For the information of the Government I beg to forward herewith (Enclosure 3) a list of Natives of the Ngatiraukawa Tribe, who allege claims to the Rangitikei-Mauawatu Block, and who have not signed the deed of cession. I beg to furnish also (Enclosure 4) a brief sketch, by Mr. Buller, of the migration and conquest upon which the Ngatiraukawa claims chiefly rest.
In conclusion, I have the honour to recommend that, if the non-sellers should reject the proposals I have made to them, His Excellency the Governor should be advised to appoint a special Commission to inquire into the claims of the dissentients, and to determine their extent, in order that they may be excluded from the Government purchase.