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Settlers and Pioneers


'Now we have fully considered wept over and bid adieu to this land inherited by us from our forefathers with all its rivers lakes waters streams trees stones grass plains forests good places and bad and everything either above or below the soil and all and everything connected with the said land we have fully and entirely given up under the shining sun of the present day as a lasting possession to Victoria the Queen of England and to all the Kings and Queens her successors for ever.'

Translation of final clause in the deeds of sale of blocks of land in Hawke's Bay, 1851-1856, including Scinde Island (Mataruahou) and Ahuriri, the site of the present town of Napier.

It was early in 1851 that Donald Maclean, acting under instructions from Governor Grey, began the long series of native land purchases which secured most of the fertile country from the Ruataniwha plain in the south of Hawke's Bay northward to Wairoa. The Ahuriri block and Heretaunga were the first purchase and the high chiefs Tareha and Te Hapuku were two of the principal sellers. The page 92purchase deeds were documents into which a certain quality of pathos and poetry entered. They were all agreed upon at meetings of the people, after careful deliberation. Donald Maclean never hurried or bustled the Maoris into bargains. He had already purchased for the Government, in a similarly satisfactory way, large blocks at Wanganui and the Rangitikei and Turakina districts, all most suitable places for settlement.

The first settlers who took up grazing holdings on the great levels and the rolling hill country of Heretaunga and Ruataniwha were fortunate in the generally clear character of the province and in the freedom from Maori wars. They had lordly ideas as to the areas necessary for their sheep stations. Ruataniwha, Waipukurau, Takapau, Waimarama, and some other large districts were held by a very few men in the beginning, until the days of subdivision came. They deserved all their good fortune, however, those pioneers.

The Hawke's Bay country was quite unroaded, the rivers unbridged, there were frequent floods; the first flocks of sheep were ravaged by wild pigs and Maori dogs. The prices of wool were low; there was no market for anything else but tallow from the boiled-down sheep, and the task of getting the clip to the shipping port was difficult and expensive. But there was the compensation that meant much to those early adventurers—the freedom of the life, page 93the agreeable climate, the satisfaction of looking out over and riding over miles of wild country which they helped to tame and redeem and leave as a golden land to their descendants.

The names of many of the early families are prominent in the story of the peaceful development of Hawke's Bay—the names of Russell, Nairn, A'Deane, Lambert, Lowry, Hill, Gordon, Williams, Ormond, Kinross, Gollan, Colonel Lambert, Colonel Herrick. Many of them are there to-day, and their beautiful homesteads and the well-stocked downs and hills are a pleasant sight.

One of the largest estates originally was Maraekakaho, the Maclean property. When Donald Maclean took it over after he left Government employ—the original owners could not carry on— it was a wilderness of fern and scrub, with undrained swamps. The property was stocked with merino sheep, which were crossed with Lincolns and Leicesters upon the establishment of the frozen-meat industry. When it was thoroughly cleared, Maraekakaho was sown in English grasses and stocked with various classes of purebred stock. Maraekakaho became famous as a stud farm as well as a sheeprun. Stud horses, sheep, and cattle were bred, and sent all over New Zealand and Australia. In the early days the run was of great extent but was reduced by sales, especially to those who had been employed on the estate. Sir Douglas Maclean took page 94the management of the estate over on his father's death in 1877 and it was under his control that it attained so great a reputation for breeding high-class stock. The high death duties resulted in the breaking up of this fine estate, which at one time shore about 100,000 sheep and in one season sent 1,700 bales of wool to the market.

Much of Hawke's Bay, particularly in the region about Hastings (Heretaunga) and the Havelock hills, is given over to the dairy business and much to fruit growing, for which the province is particularly adapted by reason of the generally mild climate, its rich soil and its topography, lying as it does well to the rising sun.