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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885


Poor Captain Hobson was a very worried man when he landed in New Zealand. Britain had been forced into taking over responsibility for these far-away, very-little-known islands by the precipitate action of the New Zealand Company in sending out colonists to Wellington. Hobson was dispatched hot haste to assert British sovereignty, for it would never have done to allow a band of British people to force themselves into the home of the Maori, and "purchase" land by the square mile. The company officials, from the masterful Wakefield downwards, wanted to carry things with a high hand right from the start. They considered Hobson should not have hesitated a moment, but should have located himself and his Government House on the shores of Port Nicholson. On paper, of course, there was no question about it, for out of the 4000-and-odd whites then in New Zealand, over half of them were living on the shores of Cook Straits—Wellington alone accounting for 1600. In the Bay of Islands, where Hobson assumed possession of the islands, there were only about 600 whites altogether.

There was latent hostility between the British Government and the New Zealand Company. The methods of the company in dealing with the natives were not altogether approved, and the promoters were looked upon as nothing much better than a lot of land sharks. Under the circumstances, it was not surprising that Hobson held himself aloof from the Port Nicholson people and all their works, and sought to establish his capital and the centre of government in the north, away from these trouble-makers, who had money and friends (and also the ear of the Press) in the Old Country.

Hobson first picked upon a spot between the present Russell and Kawakawa. At that time Kororareka, on the pretty little curving beach which to-day practically makes up Russell, was the centre of what population existed in the Bay of Islands. Seeing that the site was not large enough for a capital, Hobson went further up the bay, and bought a tract of land from Captain Clendon. Hobson was quick enough to realise that he had made a mistake, and he immediately set out to seek a site elsewhere. He went across to Hokianga, where he indicated a spot suitable for a township, but not a capital, and then made for the isthmus between the Waitemata and the Manukau, which had been strongly recommended to him by Henry Williams, the missionary.

Hobson fell in love with the isthmus at once, and decided to make it the seat of government. He arrived in the Waitemata on February 21, 1840, from which day we must begin the story of the page 31 birth of Auckland. It was no wonder that Hobson was captivated. Readers of that delightful book, "Poenamo," by Sir John Logan Campbell, will remember how all the people he used to meet in his Thames and Coromandel days had the same thing to tell him: "Ah, but wait until you have seen the Waitemata." Sir John did eventually make his way to the Waitemata, and it was while he and his companion were living on Motukorea (Brown's Island) that they one day saw a little schooner come in from the north, and anchor off Kohimarama. That schooner contained emissaries Hobson had sent down to negotiate with the Maoris for the purchase of the isthmus. It seems only the other day that Sir John passed away, and the fact that he saw, during his lifetime, Auckland rise from the fern to a big modern town brings home to one how rapid her growth has been.

But to go back a little. When Hobson gazed over the ferny wastes that stretched from Waitemata to Manukau, the fertile, often-fought-for isthmus was deserted except for a few Maoris down at Orakei, where there has always been a few of them living, even up to to-day. In the eighteenth century the isthmus was the scene of a bloody struggle between the Waiohua, the "tangata whenua," or people who lived on the land, and a hostile tribe from the Kaipara. The Waiohua were wiped out, but in after years the same fate befell the conquerors. When, in the early part of the nineteenth century, the Ngapuhi came raiding south with their newly-acquired firearms, the Tamaki isthmus was again devastated, and so it happened that when Hobson arrived in 1840 he found the place practically deserted, the Orakei natives and a few others on the Manukau side being all that remained.

There was not much difficulty in getting the natives to part with as much land as the white men wanted, but Hobson saw to it that the transaction was conducted on more regular lines than those of some of the transactions down Port Nicholson way. Captain William Cornwallis Symonds was appointed by the Governor to carry out the negotiations with the chief Kawau, of Orakei, who was then the leading personage on the isthmus. Symonds carried out the purchase satisfactorily, paying for the land partly in goods and partly in gold. Sir John Logan Campbell, in his book, tells of an amusing incident concerning some of this very money. He had gone over to Onehunga to buy pigs, and there he found the natives with some of the gold they had got as their share of the land sale. They had not the slightest idea what to do with the stuff, and sadly wanted the pakehas to take it.

When Hobson got back to the Bay of Islands after deciding upon Auckland, he wrote to the British Government, telling what he had done, and then set about laying out his capital. The barque Anna Watson (Captain Stewart) was dispatched to the Waitemata, having on board Captain Symonds, Mr. Felton Matthew (Surveyor-General), the harbourmaster, the superintendent of public works, and other officers, with instructions to lay out the town and start putting up the necessary buildings. The Anna Watson arrived in the Waitemata on September 16, 1840, but Symonds and his friends page 32 found another vessel there already—the barque Platina, which had arrived from London, via Wellington, three days before.

As explained in the account of the founding of Wellington, the British Government sent out, in sections, a Government House for Hobson, "per favour" of the New Zealand Company, with instructions that it was to be forwarded to the place Hobson should decide upon for his capital.

When the Platina sailed in through the Motuihi Channel, there were only two white men on these shores—Sir John Logan Campbell (then Dr. Campbell) and his partner, Mr. William Brown, who were then living on Motukorea, as explained.