The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
Colonising Schemes: The First Expedition
Colonising Schemes: The First Expedition.
Although the Bay of Islands and other places in the north had long previously been settled with white people, it was not until 1838–9 that much attention was directed to Taranaki. About that time, New Zealand began to attract considerable notice in Great Britain and France, as presenting one of the finest fields in the world for the formation of a colony. The press took the matter up, and pressure was placed upon the British Government to annex New Zealand, in order that France might not get possession of the islands. A number of persons also formed themselves into a company, and having secured sufficient capital to make the necessary arrangements, despatched a vessel to explore the colony, and fix upon places for settlements to which British emigrants could be sent.
The “Tory” was a vessel of 400 tons burden, and was laden with British manufactured goods, for the purpose of bartering with the natives. Captain Chaffers had command of the vessel, and was eminently fitted for the position, as he was one of the best navigators in the Royal Navy, and had been master of the “Beagle” surveying ship, when Captain Fitzroy was making a survey of the New Zealand coast for the Admiralty. Colonel Wakefield, who had gained distinction by serving in the British Legion, under Sir De Lacy Evans, in the Carlist war in Spain, had, as his secretary, Mr. Edward Jerningham Wakefield, his nephew, the only son of Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield; Dr. Ernest Dieffenbach, of Berlin, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of England, was the Company's naturalist; and its artist was Mr. Charles Heaphy, who afterwards signalised himself in the Maori wars, became a major in the New Zealand Militia, and was the only colonist to receive the Victoria Cross. He also made his own and subsequent times his debtor for portraits of some of the most distinguished historic chiefs of New Zealand, such as Heke, Waka Nene, Te Heuheu, Te Whero Whero, and others.
After Colonel Wakefield had arranged for a settlement at Port Nicholson, he devoted much of his time in trying to negotiate with several native chiefs at Wanganui for the purchase of some land in the district, between Manawatu and Patea.
On Monday, the 18th of November, 1839, he started in the “Tory” for the north, but, the weather being stormy, the vessel had to seek for shelter off Kapiti. After a tedious voyage of nine days from Kapiti, the “Tory” arrived off Moturoa, and was anchored in nine fathoms of water at about two miles from the land, towards the north of the Sugar Loaves. There was a heavy surf rolling on to the beach, so that the party sent on shore in the boat had some difficulty in landing, and it was only when two natives swam to them, and brought the boat through the surf, that they succeeded in getting safely on shore. The boat contained Mr. Richard Barrett, the defender of Moturoa Pa against the Waikatos, and two natives, who had been brought from Port Nicholson. Colonel Wakefield, in one of his despatches, writes: “No talking on the part of the Maoris took place in the boat. Surprised at seeing their old friends, the national custom prevented any demonstration of feeling; but after coming on board the “Torv,” an affecting scene took place, in which one of the new-comers described the wretched existence which he and his companions had led since the mass of the tribe had migrated to Cook's Strait, six years ago (1833). Continual war had been carried on against them by the Waikato natives; and nothing but the refuge afforded them by the Sugar-loaf Peaks had preserved the small remnant, not amounting to more than fifty, who still held their ground, with occasional assistance from their southern neighbours. They expressed great anxiety respecting their future fate; hoped their enemies, now being converts to Christianity, would no longer persecute them, but declared their intention not page 14 to remove, but to die on the land of their grandsires.” It appears that Mr. Henry Williams, the missionary from the north, had been amongst the natives about a fortnight previous to Colonel Wakefield's arrival, and, as he had warned the Maoris against disposing of any land to the pakeha, the Colonel found it difficult to get the natives together to negotiate. Colonel Wakefield says in his despatch that, “owing to communication with the shore being difficult and dangerous, a very bad opinion of the place was sure to be formed, which he could say nothing to palliate; but, nevertheless, the country to the south of Mount Egmont appeared extremely valuable; an immense tableland extending as far as the eye could reach, no part of which was free from vegetation.”
The land near the beach is described by Dr. Dieffenbach to be in some parts covered with shrubs, and at other places here and there with sand. In several places behind the sandhills there were lagoons of fresh water, which abounded with wild ducks, and contained large eels, but no other kind of fish. Round these lagoons the vegetation was very rich. Dr. Dieffenbach also noticed the petroleum deposits, for he writes: “Towards Sugarloaf Point … a strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen gas may also be observed about a mile from high water mark.” Dr. Dieffenbach's report states that, on landing, he and his companions found, near Sugarloaf Point, about twenty natives. The place seemed to be a fishing station, and those of the Taranaki tribes who had not left in consequence of the Waikato raids on the district, were living in concealed potato plantations, further south of Cape Egmont, probably at Umaroa or Opunake. On the arrival of the party from the “Tory” being made known, the natives soon assembled, and, with tears, welcomed their old friend, Mr. Richard Barrett. The natives even then were afraid of the Waikatos, for, in the evening, noticing a fire in the direction of Kawhia, they kept awake during the greater part of the night, in fear of being surprised by their enemies.
On proceeding northwards, Dr. Dieffenbach says he found three creeks—the Huatoki, the Henui, and Waiwakaiho. Everywhere on their banks were traces of former cultivation, and of native villages, but no one was living there when he passed by them; thus the finest district in New Zealand was almost uninhabited—a sad instance of the mutual hatred existing among these savage tribes even before the arrival of the Europeans.
Colonel Wakefield was prepared to admit that there were difficulties in the way of establishing a European settlement in this part of the island; but in his report, written before the purchase of the land was effected, he speaks hopefully of the prospects of his adventure. “Notwithstanding the qualities of the soil of the Taranaki district,” he writes, “which are allowed to be superior to those of any land in these islands, such is the difficulty of communicating with it by water, that I do not see any probability of settlers being placed there for some years. Looking, however, to the future, and to the interest of the company's future representatives, and hoping that by the unconquerable energies of the British inhabitants, this country will shortly assume a different aspect as regards its interior communications — sanguinely hoping even to see commenced such an undertaking as the construction of a road from page 15 this district—I cannot but be anxious to obtain this fine territory.” Inspired by this enthusiasm, Colonel Wakefield soon attained his end. The natives were assembled by “Dicky” Barrett and his Maori guides, and on the 15th of February, 1840, seventy-two Maoris, acting on behalf of the supposed landowners, signed a document transferring to the New Zealand Company for what is called a “liberal” price, about 60,000 acres of the best land in the district, between the Mokau and the Patea. According to Dr. Dieffenbach, who had spent some days climbing Mount Egmont and examining the surrounding country, the negotiations were concluded with perfect goodwill on both sides, the Waikatos, who had some claim over the land by right of conquest, being propitiated by presents; and so, in the words of that eminent scientist, “the New Zealand Company became proprietors of the finest district in New Zealand, which offers to the colonist, besides its natural resources, the advantage of there being no natives on the land, with the exception of the small remnant of the Ngatiawa tribe at Ngamotu.”
Two days after the “Tory” left England, the New Zealand Company, for the first time, formally announced its scheme for the colonisation of New Zealand. The British Government had, up to that time, received no formal notice of the Company's intention, and did not take the matter seriously until some land near Kaipara, already in the Company's hands, was put upon the market. The Home Government then decided that steps must be taken to prevent the Company from ignoring the rights of the natives, and accordingly despatched to New Zealand, Captain Hobson, as British Consul, with full authority to treat with the natives for the cession of their lands, and at the same time to announce that no further transactions in land between the natives and private individuals would be recognised. Captain Hobson sailed first to Sydney; for the British Government had already realised that a mistake had been made in recognising the independence of New Zealand, and in 1839 had extended the boundaries of New South Wales so as to cover any land that might be acquired from the Maoris. It was at Sydney, therefore, that Captain Hobson was sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor; and, sailing thence in H.M.S. “Herald,” he reached the Bay of Islands on the 29th of January, 1840. On the following day, he issued a proclamation declaring that private European titles to Maori lands would not be recognised, and in eight days afterwards, through the persuasion of settlers and missionaries, and with the aid of a few presents, he succeeded in inducing the principal chiefs of the northern district to sign the treaty of Waitangi, by which the natives admitted the sovereignty of the Queen. By the middle of August, the foresight and energy of the Lieutenant-Governor had forestalled the French Nanto-Bordelaise Company in its intended occupation of the South Island, and the British flag had been planted on Banks Peninsula. Finally, in November of the same year, the islands of New Zealand, now formally admitting the British sovereignty, were constituted a separate territory, in which Captain Hobson was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief.