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He petihona na Ngaitahu ki te Paremata o Nu Tireni [Petition seeking redress for the injustices of South Island land transactions]

A Petition for Redress of Grievances from The Ngaitahu to the Parliament of New Zealand

page 9

A Petition for Redress of Grievances from The Ngaitahu to the Parliament of New Zealand.

Presented by the Member of the Middle Island—John Grey Taiaroa

To the Speakers and Honourable Members of the Houses of Parliament, of the Colony of New Zealand, assembled in Wellington;

A Petition from the Natives assembled at Kaiapoi (Middle Island), on the 25th. of March, 1874, and others:—

Friends, — Salutations! — May God extend His mercies to you. We are here spreading before you the causes of that thorough discontent agitating the natives of the Middle Island.

1.The Land Purchase Transactions of C. Wakefield in 1844. — We insisted that a fair return be made us for our land; amongst the returns granted by C. Wakefield he said — "You shall also receive, you natives, returned to you, one acre out of every ten acres; out of all the towns springing up on the land you are coding to me, one section out of every ten sections, one block out of every ten blocks." All the land that was ceded to Wakefield, and his friends Kemp and Mantell, exceeds twenty millions of acres.
2.The Land Purchase Transactions of Kemp in 1848. — When Kemp landed at Akaroa, and demanded the cession of the land from Kaiapoi to Otago, the natives held out for a fair return for that vast extent of territory. When Kemp got tired of the delay, he said — "If you do not consent to this £2000, I shall hand over the money to Ngatitoa (Rauparaha's tribe), and if you still delay to consent then soldiers will be sent to clear the land for the pakehas."
3.Intimidated by this threat, the native chiefs entered with Kemp to define the boundaries—namely, the seaboard, breadth limited by a chain of hills— ceded to Kemp: the inland to remain ours. This was the then settlement of boundaries. Recently, when we got a copy of the Deed drawn out by Kemp of that transaction, we find that what he put down in that paper differed from what we said above; our impression was that when the land is surveyed our reserve will be handed to us.page 10
4.The Promises made by the hon. Mr. Mantell to Matiaha Tiramorehu, our chief.—After Kemp, Mr. Mantell came. He said to Matiaha—" I shall include the inland also in the purchase money agreed by Kemp" (that large tract not ceded to Kemp). Matiaha put the question to Mantell: "What are we to get for this vast tract that it may be yours?" Mantell answered: "I - shall ask the Governor to pay you natives for it. I shall ask her Majesty's Minister also. In future you will receive the large outstanding balance."

We still hold in our hands Mantell's letter (panui) to Matiaha Tiramorehu, saying—"London, 8th August, 1856. Listen: I am continuously exerting myself to obtain her Majesty's chief Minister's consent to rectify my say to you formerly, when you consented to cede your land to me." After this the letter passes to speak about schools and hospitals; but when were schools and hospitals ever made an equivalent for land purchases? It is coin that Mantell promised to Matiaha as the outstanding balance for us, that he exerted himself about in London, but exerted himself fruitlessly about.

It is not our wish to enlarge upon all the promises which were made to us by the Land Purchase Commissioners, such as—The Governor will apportion you land for your children, besides your abodes and your cultivations; your eelpas shall remain yours also; the large rivers shall remain yours also; your fishing ground on the coast shall remain yours also, &c., &c. Little of all this has been fulfilled to us by the Government—much of it is wholly forgotten. If your mind is at all doubtful about the reasons which are painfully agitating our breasts, there are still twelve of the old land-sellers alive, ready each of them to confirm what came under his thorough knowledge— now extended in this our Petition.

You may perhaps say to us—If all you say is true, how is it that you remained silent till now? Why, you well know that, we are not like you—quick in the race of mental attainments; we are lagging far behind in these things. When these land transactions took place our chiefs were scarcely able to read written language; they were often too ready to consent their names to be signed under writings the contents of which were either in part or totally absent from their minds. Judge yourselves, the hon. members of Parliament, who listen to our complaints in this Petition: Had the eyes of these our chiefs been open in those days would they have consented to part with all the heritage that God has given them and their future offspring and descondants— all this vast territory—for the crumbs that fell from the white man's table, for this £2000 odd?

The daylight was slow in dawning upon us. It's only after one of our race entered Parliament that we became acquainted, little by little, with the ways by which the white man's land purchasers beguiled the whole Island from us. What these land purchasers said to our Elders who ceded the land is indelibly written in their and their children's minds, but this writing does not correspond to those of Mr. Kemp in his Deed. C. Wakefield said—"One out of every ten acres shall revert to the natives." Has this condition of sale over been fulfilled during these thirty years which have rolled past since our Elders made this contract with C. Wakefield? Those threats with which Kemp intimidated us: is it not the white man's law that intimidation will anull the validity of a contract?

Those promises of Mr. Mantell: He will ask her Majesty's Minister to pay for that vast territory which we never ceded to Kemp (a territory amounting to more than 13 millions of acres). The fault is not his that these promises were never made good to us.

These promises are a condition attached to the land. If the condition is not fulfilled, the land is not redeemed. Nevertheless we are dispossessed of all the land: is it because we are so few and powerless? no doubt, had Naboth been page 11the stronger Jezabel would not have gloried over his vineyard.

Some may perhaps suppose that all these arguments have been settled in the Land Court, at its sitting in Christchurch land Dunedin, in the year 1868. It is not so. We never expected that Court to be invested with power to settle complaints of such vast interest to us. We were therefore not prepared to submit our case to that Court. Our estimation of that Land Court was completely confirmed when it stumbled over the Crown Grant by which the Princes-street Reserve was made over to the Province of Otago. If that Reserve was ours by right, could a Crown Grant have the effect to turn right into wrong?

Could such a Court investigate our declaration that Kemp's Land Purchase Deed is null and void?—1st. Because it was extracted from us through intimidation. 2nd Because the consent of cession was obtained at sea, on board of a man-of-war; our Elders could not know but that a continued refusal on their part would transform that man-of-war into a prison, or something still worse to them. 3rd. Because the boundaries mentioned in that Deed are not the boundaries which were settled verbally between Kemp and our Elders, the land-sellers.

It is often said in the North Island— The natives of the Middle Island are well off; they are living by the rent of their lands. This is not so. If the land given us by the Government is individualized, the proportion to each native is as follows:—

At the Heads, Otago, about 50 acres each.
Waikouaiti, about 20
Moeraki, about
Waitaki, about
Waikawa, about 10
Tauhina, about 3
Arewhenua, Waipopo,
Te Waiateruati, Timaru, and Taumutu,
taken all together 6
Rapaki and Port Levy 14
Kaiapoi 16

The condition of the natives of the Middle Island is bad. As long as we have strength to work as servants to the Europeans—as long as the market is accepting that servitude—we are keeping ourselves and families above want. Should this strength and the market fail— and the time will come that it will—then we natives will be little better than a mass of paupers thrown upon the present lords of the land.

The burden of our Petition is that the white man has grasped at our 50 millions of acres in the Middle Island without any equitable return or provision for the natives. That such transactions as C. Wakefield's, and his friends Kemp and Mantell, are unintelligible and unjust without the condition of one acre out of every ten for the natives; for instance, Kemp extorts the consent of the cession of about seven million acres, at Akaroa, for £2000, and not content with that, worded his Deed so loosely as to convey the idea of having agreed for twenty millions of acres (namely, nearly all the land included in the Otago and Canterbury Provinces). Is this equitable without the condition of one in ten acres out of the cession for the natives?

The proof of this condition has lately been required from us. Why, if this condition is not expressed in the Deed, the fault is not ours. If it is, why has it never been fulfilled to us?

Governor Sir G. Grey says that the Otepoti acre (Princes-street Reserve) was a tardy act of justice to the native sellers of the Otago Block, who were entitled by the terms of the original scheme of the Company to have reserved for their benefit one acre to every ten of the allotments sold in the town of Dunedin, &c. But this condition embodies a sufficient provision for the natives of the Middle Island if applied in its true spirit to all the land ceded to the Company— the Otepoti acre is a mere mockery. Loud and universal was the cry formerly against private traders buying landed estates for fish-hooks and scissors in New Zealand, but without that condition of one out of every ten acres over the whole cession, Wakefield's Kemp's and page 12Mantell's transactions would leave the worst of private land sharking far behind.

We are delating before you, the hon. members of Parliament, the wrongs we suffer, relying firmly upon your honour and love of fair-play for you to redress them, and take under your protection the semi-paupers and orphans of the Middle Island.

This is all.

From the natives assembled at Kaiapoi, this 25th March, 1874, and others.

[Here fellow the Signatures.]