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Speeches on Māori land tenure and land legislation

Mr Rees at Tologa Bay

Mr Rees at Tologa Bay.

(From the Poverty Bay Standard, Feb. 11th, 1879.)

On Saturday last Mr Rees addressed a large gathering of natives at Uawa, who had requested him to give them an exposition of his policy with regard to future dealing with native lands.

After several speeches of welcome,—

Mr Rees said that in addressing the chiefs and people of Tetanga, Hauiti, and others, he would speak to them as they had asked him to do so that day. He would ask them to be patient while he spoke about matters of importance to them, their children, and those to come after them. He had seen their beautiful country. He had seen in this place, Turanga, Napier, and other places, lands of the Maoris which had gone for ever. It was, no doubt, right that the white people should have land to settle on. He, however, always thought that Maoris had parted with their lands for that which was worse than nothing. Sometimes for money spent at once, to pay a debt, or for grog, which was worse again. In some instances Europeans had purchased or leased the land fairly, so that neither Europeans nor Maoris had any right to complain. Instances again had arisen where the Maoris had been cheated out of their land, for which they should have redress, and the Europeans punished. It was his duty, speaking for the Maoris, to see what had been done wrong in the past, and prevent it for the future. He was struck by a remark that had dropped from Wi Pere that morning, that we should have patience. When one went a journey, he could not expect to get to the end at once: so in building a whare, it was necessary first to collect the material, and erect it before one could see it and enjoy it. They had further been told that morning that, although the Europeans were descended from the younger branch of Noah's family, they had more knowledge than that possessed by the Maoris, who were the descendants of the elder branch. If this was so, it was because the Europeans had more patience, and would work on to the end; the Maoris would need some patience; and a great deal would be done in a very short time. There was a time in New Zealand, after the pakehas came, when there was no Native Lands Court; and a time again which brought that Court into existence. No person could buy native lands except the Queen and her representatives. In those days the people were gathered together as they were that day; and if the question of the sale was agreed to, it was done, so that, when the land was sold, everybody had a say, and could agree, or differ, as to the sale of his land. Parliament then made a law, and appointed Judges to give Crown grants. Under the first law only ten persons could go in a grant; whilst, probably, a hundred persons had the right to the land included in it. This was very bad, as the ten could sell or lease without giving any of the proceeds to the remaining ninety. Something more than this could happen, because, if the whole of the ten did not agree, one of their number, who wanted a buggy, or grog, or was in debt, any European could get at him, and so gradually at the others, and eventually get the whole of the land to himself. When we had to fight the Maoris, we found they could take their own part; but when it came to planning, scheming, lying, or cheating, they were as children, and were no match for the European. So in Turanga and Napier, for grog and debt the land passed from the native people. Had the ten collected their people together, and sold in broad daylight, it would have been fair; but that the Europeans should have been enriched in the way he mentioned, is a matter of shame. In preparing the deeds the Maoris were promised that large reserves would be made for them; but to his (Mr Rees's) knowledge this had not been done in many cases. Had these Europeans treated other Europeans in the same way, they would have been put in prison; but the Maoris knew no better; were ignorant how to seek redress; and page 10these Europeans became rich. In some places, as at Ahuriri and Turanga, these things have been felt, but not so much at Tologa Bay. He did not come to Tologa Bay to say these words in such an out of the way place, or because there were but few Europeans present. He had said these things in Parliament, and to those who had done it. He challenged these people to come out to the light, and show what they had done. Nor would he stop in his course as long as life existed. It is said that the present Government did not like Maoris, nor wished to do more than the other Governments had done. They (the Natives) must remember that the old Governments did these things (evils) themselves, and allowed them to be done by others. It is members of the old Government and their friends who are stopping the present Government from doing what is right for the Maori people. He would advise them not to lose faith, but to believe that the present Government were doing their best for them. He would now tell them the way he came to take charge of Maori matters. Mr Sheehan was managing Maori affairs in Napier, and so hated was he in consequence by the white people, that his own friends were afraid to speak to him in daylight, for fear they would be ruined; and would only do so at night. Sir George Grey became Premier, and Mr Sheehan Native Minister. There was then no one to take up Mr Sheehan's work for the Natives; and Sir George Grey told him (Mr Rees) to go to Napier, as there must be some one to look after Maori matters. Sir George would do anything to give justice to the Maoris, and have the wrongdoers punished. He went to Napier and took up Mr Sheehan's work, and soon found that the Maoris in the different districts looked to that office as their only hope to save them. He had been invited by Ngapuhi chiefs at the Bay of Islands to visit them. Kepa of Wanganui had also wished him to go there. Whatahou could tell them how he had been flooded with letters from the Wairarapa to go there; but he was sorry to say he had not been able to go as yet. In like manner he had received invitations from Waikato, Otaki, Tauranga, and other places. It was impossible for one pair of hands, and one pair of feet to carry out the whole of the work. They must not think it was want of will that he had not been to Uawa before. He was so pressed that he had to work night and day. Now that he had come he would be able to initiate measures which they themselves could carry out. He was glad to see Maori chiefs like Wi Pere willing to take upon themselves the burden of carrying out these measures. They must not be impatient; it is sufficient that they should fence, break up, harrow, sow the seed; and then wait for the harvest. Land was the life of the Maori people. Europeans could depend upon other means of existence. They were tradesmen, mechanics, laborers; doctors, and lawyers, and have many modes of obtaining a livelihood; but the Maoris could depend upon their land only. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary they should have good rules, and manage their lands as Europeans were doing. Let them look at the mode in which Maoris were managing their lands; a little patch of cultivation here, a piece of flat, or bush land land, there, with, perhaps, a small pa overrun with weeds; while the bulk of the land is unproductive. If they, the Maoris, cannot manage large areas of land properly, they should get some one that can. How this could be done he would now explain. Hitherto they had sold or let their lands to Europeans. When a European had land to to sell, or let, he advertised it, and so get the highest price. The Maoris adopt a different course. A European living amongst them, comes and says, "I will give so much for your land;" and they foolishly give it to him; the result is that the European is able to realise a fortune, whilst the Maori has little or nothing. The European may come as a beggar, and go away a rich man. There were two or three instances he knew of. There was the Heretaunga block, for which the Natives got £12,000 or 15,000; that land is supposed to be worth some £400,000 or £500,000. It is often worse in the case of leases. He would take Pouawa, and Kaiti, as instances. The Maoris leased for £250 a a year, and the European sold his lease for £15,000. He would not say that the Maoris should get everything; but that they should get a fair share. He believed that the land could be so well dealt with that both the European and the Maori could do very well out of it. With respect to Whataupoko, it was leased to the late Capt. Read; then some of the owners wanted a plough, or other things, and some 30 out of 46 owners sold to him, and, eventually, he bought out 38 or 39 of the owners at a price of about £4000. Wi Harongo, Riperatr, Wi Pere, and a few others, did not sell. When he (Mr Rees) came to Turanganui, the matter was talked over with Wi Pere, and eventually the block was bought out from Mr Barker for £47,500; and there would remain after paying him, some £50,000 or £60,000 for the natives. This would show how, by a little management, much money could be made out of the land. He would now instance Paremata and Mangaheia No. 1 and No. 2, in all about 28,000 acres. Mr Murphy got the lease—the Maoris receiving £300 or £400 a-year; In this case, the deeds were properly made, and the Maoris had themselves to blame for not receiving as much as they ought. He had talked to some of the chiefs, now present, page 11and they have come to the conclusion to buy Mr Murphy out, so that the land will bring in £3,000 or £4,000 a-year. He alluded to these blocks to illustrate what could be done. In Read's estate the land was got in this fashion. He (Mr Rees) had commenced an action in the Supreme Court against the trustees, and put notices in the papers, that if persons bought, they would do so with Maori claims hanging over them. Some persons were afraid to buy, as others did, and now came, day after day, to his office, to endeavour to arrange by giving up a portion of the land to have a clear title for the rest. He would be able to get back a good deal of the land for the Maoris. Had not his office been started, lands would all have slipped away from the natives. — [Mr Rees then lucidly explained the system proposed for the election of Trustees and Committees, together with their power and responsibilities, and continued.] — He had now explained the proposed plan for dealing with Maori lands. It only remained for the Natives to approve or disapprove. As to dealings in the past, where the Europeans have dealt justly, the transaction must stand; there could be no going back, even if mistakes had been made. Where the consideration for the land had been grog, or fraud had been used, he was prepared to get the land back, money or no money. But the Maoris themselves should assist. Where reserves had been promised, and not given, he would compel the granting of these reserves, or break the lease. He expected the chiefs now to discuss these questions. Mr Rees then went on to impress his hearers with the necessity of supplying a better class of education for their children. Without an advanced education, and a knowledge of the English language, it would be impossible for them to keep pace with the Europeans. He thought that lands should be set aside by them for the support of such schools. After some further remarks. Mr Rees—whose address had been ably translated to them by Mr Jury — sat down amid the hearty acclamations of his hearers.

The meeting then proceeded to discuss the questions enunciated by Mr Rees, and agreed that the lands should be vested in Messrs Rees and Wi Pere, as Trustees, with a Committee of seven to assist them, in negotiating the several blocks of land in the district.