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The Maori: Yesterday and To-day

Chapter XXIII. — An Economic Survey

page 249

Chapter XXIII.
An Economic Survey.

When Colonel Wakefield, the leader of the New Zealand Company's pioneer settlement expedition to New Zealand, came to these shores ninety years ago he formed the opinion that the Maoris were destined to furnish the necessary supply of labour for the white nation-builders; but he appeared to regard them as chiefly useful as hewers of wood and carriers of burdens. Certainly they were most helpful in those capacities for a long time, but Wakefield presently had reason to revise his first impression. The Maori, considering himself quite as good as the pakeha in all essentials, and, for one thing, a better fighter, was not disposed to become a meek toiler for the white immigrants. He furnished much of the labour for pioneering work; he supplied, too, much of the produce of New Zealand that went overseas. No better axemen than the Maori ever felled a tree. Hundreds of cargoes of great kauri spars, the chief export of the country in the early days, were loaded in Maori bays, where every part of the work from cutting and squaring the timber to hauling it out and towing it off to the ships for foreign parts was done by the native communities directed by their chiefs. In later times, the pakeha settlers depended very largely on their Maori neighbours for the necessary help in draining, fencing, forest-clearing, road-making and other work indispensable to the production of wealth from the soil. As shearers the natives, on the East Coast in particular, cannot be bettered. Many a sheep-station to-day would be hard put to it for competent men at shearing time if it were not for the Maori workers.

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In every branch of country labour, skilled and unskilled, the native of the soil has a useful place. But with it all he maintains his independence. Though economic pressure in these hard commercial days dictates the necessity for wage-earning, the Maori is not disposed to work at uncongenial occupations. His tastes and heredity incline him naturally to the country life, which is indeed the only healthy life for the great majority of the race. The land and the sea: the Maori is a natural sailor, and there was a time when scores of small craft trading around our coasts were owned and manned wholly by natives.

The ideal to be kept in mind, in considering the future of the race, is the settlement of every family on its own sufficient farm-land, a section which shall be inalienable, a home in perpetuity. The position, however, is that the area of usable land still under Maori ownership, is not sufficient to enable all those who wish to farm to be provided with sections on which they can make a living. The State purchase of native lands has been carried to a point at which it must cease, indeed it has outrun all reasonable bounds, all consideration for the present and future welfare of the race. The official ambition of every Native Minister of the earlier days, up to within the last generation or so, was to acquire as much native land as possible through the operations of the Land Purchase branch of his department. This policy, following upon the confiscation—“muru-whenua”—of the territory of so-called rebels in the wars, has brought economic ruin to some tribes. The problem now is to undo, so far as it can be undone, the mistakes of the past, and by a judicious system of settlement, reinforced by all the facilities in finance and in technical help which the State extends to pakeha farmers, to build up contented, prosperous native communities, each family on its own defined page 251 piece of land, with adequate provision for the settlement of the children of the now steadily increasing race.

* * * *

Some disquieting aspects of native life present sociological and economic probles. One feature directly due to the landless condition of many Maori people has aroused so much concern among enlightened natives and pakeha friends of the race that it was made the subject of an official investigation by a Government Committee during 1929. This was the association of Maori girls with Chinese market-gardeners in the Auckland suburbs and other districts. An excellent body of the younger natives, the Akarana Maori Association, was the first to draw attention to the position. There were 54 Maori girls employed by Chinese in and around Auckland, and during the past two years probably 150 had been employed. The debasing miscegenation resulting from this, greatly concerned the Association. The cohabitation of the girls with Chinese was a scandalous condition which many thought should be ended either by absolute prohibition of female labour in Chinese gardens or by forbidding the further immigration of Chinese into New Zealand. A solution, however, seemed rather difficult to find, but upon one thing all were agreed—this degrading association of young Maori womahood with the undersirable Oriental must be stopped. Economic reasons are largely responsible, the want of land on which native families can decently be maintained, and the lack of country employment; there is also the taste for the pleasures and excitements of town life that is not peculiar to the Maori. Sir Apirana Ngata, Native Minister, discussing the position, said the best course would be so to improve the social and economic conditions of these girls that it would be made impossible to desire to be employed in Chinese page 252 gardens. The Government investigating committee's report recommended strict control of living conditions in market gardens, and the prohibition of the employment of Maori females under 21 years of age in gardens controlled by Asiatics, except under suitable supervision. The committee suggested various steps having for their object the independent settlement of Maoris on the land—the education of the natives for agricultural pursuits, setting aside areas for farmlets, the revival of native arts and crafts, and arrangements for marketing the output, and for the domestic training of Maori girls.

At the enquiry the Akarana Maori Association produced figures showing that in three years 45 half-caste children, of which Chinese were the fathers, had been born to 27 Maori girls, and that 17 other girls employed in Chinese gardens had returned to their homes enceinte.

Not alone with Chinese does this sex-and-labour association exist. The steady influx of Indians, chiefly Hindus, who originally came to Fiji as labour on the plantations is a further source of racial pollution. In the King Country especially the Indian element is strong, and it seems to be no one's business to make a stand against it. The most effective method undoubtedly would be to prohibit absolutely the immigration of Asiatics, whose presence in New Zealand is a curse from every point of view, economic and sociological.

The Maori drift from the country to the towns has been a subject of investigation. A census compiled during 1929 by the Akarana Maori Association showed that there were 805 Maori people living in Auckland City and its environs; of these only 182 were living as members of native communities, as follows: Orakei village 60, Mangere 41, Pukaki 22 (both these places are on Manukau Harbour), Takapuna 41, Northcote 18. There were 124 living in the page 253 city and 247 in the suburbs, making 553; to these had to be added 252 half-castes and quarter-castes, living as Europeans in the same area. Besides these there were several hundreds of eighth-caste and lesser degrees of Maori blood resident in the city and suburbs, but these were not taken into account. The figures compiled showed that the sexes were well-balanced. Of the 553 Maoris living in their own village communities or in city and suburbs 154 adults were males and 167 were females. There were 163 males and 164 females in employment; of these 69 females and 8 males were working for Chinese. Most of the other men were employed in general labouring work.

A complete stocktaking of the Maori race and a survey of the surrounding economic conditions has been initiated by the new Native Minister, Sir Apirana Ngata. Such a survey, which is being carried out by officers of the Native Department, is an essential preliminary to a systematised movement for the bettering of native conditions of living.

The problem of living is less complicated in the remoter districts where the people live in conditions more nearly approximating to the primitive state. Here they have a range of the food supplies to which they have been accustomed from olden times. As an example of this, I quote the account of a contribution of kai which a party of twenty Maoris took with them from Marokopa, on the west coast south of Kawhia Harbour, when they entrained at Te Kuiti for Ngaruawahia on a visit of ceremony to Te Puea and her Waikato people at the opening of a new meeting-hall and model village. The food, which filled two railway trucks, consisted of 2 2/1 tons of potatoes, a large bullock, 3 pigs, 2 casks preserved pork, 500 large smoked eels, 4 sacks of sea-eggs (kina), 1 sack of pawa (a large shellfish), 22 small bags of karaka berries, 2 sacks of watermelons, and page 254 several sacks of kumara, onions and marrows. Also, as presents for their hosts, the visitors took twenty handsomely-woven flax mats (whariki), made by the women as floor coverings for the new carved house. This list of products of land and sea and of native industry indicates a healthy, natural condition of life, a semi-communal state of existence, self-contained and largely independent of outside resources.

* * * * *

Reference has been made in the opening chapters to the excellent results of the co-operative sheepfarming enterprise in the territory of the Ngati-Poru tribe. A further proof of Maori capacity for sustained effort on modern industrial lines is the success of the Ngati-Porou Dairy Factory, owned by a tribal company, with Sir Apirana Ngata as chairman of directors. This factory, at Ruatorea, near the East Cape, produced during the 1928–1929 season 285 tons of high-graded butter. The great majority of the suppliers are Maori; several pakeha settlers took an interest in it from the beginning and their co-operation and practical advice greatly heartened and helped the native beginners in the industry. The company was wisely managed from the beginning. It bought for its suppliers herds of good-grade cows, most of them from Taranaki, and many purebred Jersey bulls, and during the first season supplies were drawn from about 1000 cows. It is a model dairy factory, this Ruatorea establishment, and it is of very great economic value to the coast tribes by providing them with monthly cash returns for their industry.

At Tikitiki, East Cape district, a large co-operative store is run entirely by members of the Ngati-Porou tribe.

In the eastern part of the Bay of Plenty, the chief focus of native industry and modern com- page 255 mercial enterprise is at Te Kaha, where the Whanau-a-Apanui tribe has a co-operative dairy factory, built in 1925. This factory has served a very use ful purpose in encouraging the families along the coast towards Cape Runaway in habits of industry and in demonstrating the profitable returns of steady work. The butter-making establishment (which is situated in a beautiful bay about 40 miles north-east of Opotiki town) began operations with 15 suppliers, and the first season's output was 10 tons. The dairy herds and the output quickly increased, until the suppliers numbered 43 and the manufacture of butter 35 1/2 tons; and there is a further increase every season. The usefulness of such a means of transmuting grass into gold is attested by the transformed condition of much of the country on the coast between Omaio and Cape Runaway.

In another district there is a dairy factory at Ruatoki, in the Whakatane Valley, which is largely supplied by the Urewera land-owners.

In the Wairoa (Hawke's Bay) and adjacent districts there are many native dairy-farmers, with modern plants, drawing their power from the Waikaremoana hydro-electric works.

In North Auckland, from the Kaipara Country up to the Rarawa and Aopouri districts of the Far North, the Maori is gradually developing a more settled industrial life now that kauri-gum digging and timber-working are no longer the all-absorbing occupations that they were a generation or two ago. In spite of all their difficulties with land titles and in the financing of farming operations, many communities have turned to cultivation and dairying as steady means of livelihood, with benefit to health and pocket and to the moral stamina of the race. On farms of about 20,000 acres in the aggregate, about 7000 cows were being milked by these tribes, according to recent estimates. During the 1927–28 page 256 season some 550 northern Maoris supplied butter-fat totalling nearly 750,000 lb. to the various factories.

The Tokerau Native Land Board has carried out most helpful work in the north, on the initiative of its president, Judge Acheson. A dairying settlement has been established at Te Kao, near Parengarenga, North Cape district, and the Board assists the farmers to develop their holdings. There is similar activity at Whatuwhiwhi (Doubtless Bay), Whangape, Whangaroa, and other districts.

In Taranaki, where political and land troubles so long hampered farming development, the Maori is exhibiting an excellent spirit of progress and a fine capacity for steady work. Here the testimony of a pakeha dairy-factory proprietor must be quoted. Mr. T. L. Joll, of Okaiawa, on the Waimate Plains, recently described the Maori dairy farmers of his district, the Ngati-Ruanui tribe, as “a decided success.” They were keen, he said, and ready to adopt improved methods. They regarded the work as light, and they were naturally early risers. Maori suppliers always delivered their milk to the factories before the Europeans. The Maori did not trust to luck any more than the pakeha in regard to the provision of food for stock. He grew and stored winter food and generally took an interest in the good condition of his stock. The manager of a factory in the Manawatu district bore similar testimony to the satisfactory character of native suppliers as dairy farmers.

Wheat-growing, long ago a profitable native industry, has been revived this year in the large Ratana settlement, Lower Rangitikei. Here the religious leader Ratana and his people have put several hundreds of acres under wheat.

In the Arawa Country, extending from Rotorua to the Bay of Plenty, the revival of farming industry and its direction into modern avenues have given page 257 new life and hope to many of the people. Here the Arawa District Trust Board, which has an income of £6000 per annum as the result of the settlement of the Lakes title after long litigation, has given an excellent lead and is in fact the salvation of the Lakes Country Maori. The Board, which is composed entirely of Maori members, has acquired several considerable blocks of good land in the Rotorua, Rotoiti and Maketu districts, and is farming these on the community system. This is a beginning; the ideal aimed at is to establish all those who are likely to be a success in farming on sections or in community groups where they will have an opportunity to win a comfortable, independent living in a congenial occupation. Tobacco culture, on the community system, has been established at Te Koutu, Owhata, and other places on the shores of Lake Rotorua, and at Maketu and Te Puke and elsewhere in the district, under the expert guidance of a Government instructor. Those interested in this branch of agriculture expect that in a few years the tobacco crop will return at least £20,000 per annum to the Arawa people.

In the Waikato Country conditions have been most unsatisfactory, even distressing, for many years, chiefly because of land grievances. Waikato, as a people, were most harshly treated by the Governments of sixty years ago and more, in revenge for the war against the Queen's authority. It was called punishment for rebellion; in point of fact the war developed into a campaign to acquire Maori land for white settlers. The arbitrary confiscation of the best part of the Waikato lands embittered the tribes, and deadened their desire for progress. The Royal Commission which sat in 1928 to investigate these grievances and similar troubles in Taranaki modified the severe judgment of the Sixties. It recommended the payment of certain annual page 258 sums in compensation, and it expressed the opinion that provision should be made for landless Maoris. In Taranaki, where the Maori cause was fully vindicated by the Commission, a payment of £5000 per annum was recommended; for Waikato the annual sum suggested was £3000. Sir Apirana Ngata, in commenting on the findings of the Commission, said that even if it meant the expenditure of a capital sum of £250,000 in a final settlement of these land problems, it would be a small item by comparison with the psychological conversion of the Maori people and the establishment of the backward sections of the race on a satisfactory basis for development as an industrial people.

In a considerable measure, the drift to the unhealthy labour and moral conditions of town life, can be stayed, so far as the South Auckland Maoris are concerned, by a readjustment of the position with regard to land occupations. It seems urgently necessary that the State should devote a large area of suitable land, in the Lower Waikato, Hauraki and other districts, to the purpose of settling landless families and hapus, and providing capital on loan for stocking and development purposes. The Akarana Maori Association has suggested that such prospective native settlements should be classified in this way: (a) Areas for occupation as farmlets suitable for those heads of families who do not possess special ability as farmers or capital for larger operations; (b) areas for occupation as dairy farms, starting in a small way, with possibilities of development; (c) areas for cattle and sheep-raising. It is also suggested that a native afforestation scheme should be embarked upon. There is sound wisdom in these proposals; it remains for the State to make a start in giving them practical effect.

The Maori needs a helping and guiding hand in the endeavour to keep pace with the pakeha in this page 259 commercial age, and especially in the matter of finance. Here the Native branch of the Public Trust Office can widen its sphere of usefulness. The Maori, with his generous spendthrift nature, cannot conserve his money resources with the forethought of the pakeha. An example of his inborn tendency to make swift use of the good things the gods provide was the squandering in recent years of the money received from the sale of the Orakei block of land, on the south shore of Auckland Harbour. The members of a small tribe, the Ngati-Whatua, after long negotiations, were induced to sell the land, through the Government, for the purpose of a site for a model residential suburb of Auckland. The price paid was £80,000, in cash. In a year or so little remained of that fortune but a few motor cars and the memory of a grand burst of pleasure-seeking. The remnant of Ngati-Whatua who dissipated that £80,000 live in a dilapidated hamlet on the papa-kainga (the village site) on the beach flat in Okahu, a drab degeneration from the pretty kainga, with its neat thatched whares and its fruit groves and kumara gardens, that stood there in old Paora Tuhaere's patriarchal time forty years ago. Had the State authorities held, say, half of the purchase money in trust for a period and helped the people with advice as to means of employing it for their economic benefit, the ex-owners of Orakei would be a happier and more comfortable community to-day.

To sum up in a few words, the problem of a new life for the Maori can be solved by providing sufficient land and financing the stocking and development of that land. The Maori is entitled, at the very least, to as helpful a hand as that which the State extends to pakeha settlers from overseas. He is our own first settler; that he can hold his own with the most advanced pakeha farmer, given fair opportunities, has already been demonstrated. page 260 Recent legislation makes provision for financial assistance to dairy farmers and other native settlers, out of a special development fund. The State can do much in this way, but equally needful is a broadly sympathetic spirit in the pakeha community, a general effort to set the Maori on the solid ground of successful farming industry.

A Chief of Ngati-Hau, at Taumarunui, in the Rohepotae, 1883.

A Chief of Ngati-Hau, at Taumarunui, in the Rohepotae, 1883.