The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
Progress: — Sir G. Grey and Mr. D. McLean
Sir G. Grey and Mr. D. McLean.
At this juncture, Governor Fitzroy was recalled, and the appointment of Captain George Grey, Governor of South Australia, to control the affairs of New Zealand, gave general satisfaction. The new Governor did not visit New Plymouth till 1847, but in 1846 he abolished the Maori Protectorate, and appointed Mr. D. McLean Inspector of Police, with a small body of armed followers. By this time the population of the settlement was about 1,100, and the land sold and selected up to date was 14,000 acres. The minimum price of the suburban land was £2 5s per acre; and there were still left, unsold, on the Company's hands, ninety-five suburban sections and 800 town sections, the minimum price of the latter being £12 10s per acre. The following figures may serve to throw some light on the conditions of life that prevailed in the little colony: The retail price for pork was 3d per lb, mutton 6d per lb, and beef (which was very seldom in the market) 6d to 8d per lb. Taranaki beer was sold for 2s per gallon, potatoes 1s 6d per hundredweight; fowls, 1s 6d per couple. Working bullocks were worth £35; cows £14 to £20 each; and pigs page 25 were supplied by the natives to the butcher at 1d to 1½ d per lb. The price paid for clearing fern land was at the rate of £3 per acre; and clearing land of timber from £8 to £12 per acre. Sawn boards were worth 12s per 100 superficial feet; and limestone was delivered from Massacre Bay at £1 per ton. In December, 1846, the police took a census of the district, which showed the following results: Population—Males, 586; females, 502; total, 1,088 persons. Land in cultivation—Wheat, 838½ acres; barley, 132¼ acres; rye, 3 acres; oats, 74¼ acres; potatoes, 132¾ acres; turnips, 57 acres; maize, 1 acre; grass, 153 acres; flax,¾ acre; fallow, 122¼ acres; total, 1,515¼ acres. Live stock—Horses, 22, mules, 2, horned cattle, 303; sheep, 571; pigs, 702; goats, 96; total, 1,696. Mr. Charles Hursthouse, in describing the settlement in 1846, said that the township contained a granite built church, handsomely fitted up; another, in rustic style, at Te Henui; a Wesleyan and Primitive. Methodist chapel, two taverns, a gaol and police barracks, and an elegant though costly native hospital in course of erection. On the different streams running through the town, there were three mills, two small breweries and a tannery. At Moturoa there were two whaling establishments. A Court of Request was held every month for the recovery of debts as high as £20 between Europeans and as high as £100 between natives and Europeans.
When Governor Grey paid his first visit to New Plymouth in February, 1847, he found a difficult task before him. Wi Kingi, the Ngatiawa chief who came up from Waikanae, ostensibly to aid in settling the land difficulty, was very insolent in his demeanour, and it was clear that Governor Fitzroy, in abandoning 56,000 acres to the natives, had encouraged them in the belief that their right to it would be paramount. After several meetings with the Maoris, Governor Grey instructed the Commissioner, Mr. Donald McLean, to make every effort to acquire for the Europeans those blocks which were awarded to the New Zealand Company by Mr. Spain, leaving always the original reserves for the natives, or areas equal to them in extent elsewhere.
The Governor was singularly fortunate in his choice of an agent to conduct these negotiations. “Mr. Donald McLean,” says Mr. Seffern, “was just the class of man to be entrusted with such an important mission. His chief characteristic, when dealing with the Maoris, was to gain their confidence first, and having done that, make use of his influence to attain the object he had in view.” An “Old Settler,” writing in one of the newspapers, said: “If I was asked how Mr. McLean gained and held such a great influence over the natives, I should reply that it was his perfect self-reliance, a placid calmness of speech and manner, which nothing seemed to shake. A patience, almost superhuman, never allowed him to forget a promise, no matter how trivial, or to whom made; and a thorough knowledge of the race and their traditions.”
So successful were Mr. McLean's efforts, that, by the end of 1849, the natives had surrendered in all about 30,770 acres of land. This area included the Fitzroy or Home block of 3,500 acres; 4,000 acres at Tataramaika; the Omata block of 12,000 acres; the Grey block of 9,778 acres; and the Bell block of 1,500 acres. The Grey block, which surrounded the Home block, was heavily bushed, but well watered and fertile, and was bought for £390, to be paid in annual instalments. The Tataramaika block cost £150; and the Omata block cost £400; so that it could not be said that the land was acquired at an extravagant price. A difficulty arose with the Puketapu natives over the Bell block, and the Maoris who wished to sell had a hand-to-hand conflict with the Maoris who wished to retain possession of the land. Mr. Francis Dillon Bell, after whom the block was named, was the New Zealand Company's local agent, who had superceded Mr. Wicksteed. In Gisborne's “New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen” he is described as follows: “He has a mind remarkable for its perceptive faculties, and for its analytical power. His industry is inderatigable; his fondness for work grows by what it feeds on; in fact, he often makes work for his own enjoyment. Patient, painstaking, and exacting in his investigation, he delights in making clear what is dark, and in making simple what is complicated.” Mr. Bell was thus eminently fitted for the work entrusted to him, and it was largely owing to his ability that the friction with the natives was for the time reduced to a minimum.
But there were some indications of trouble brewing among the Maoris. The restless and vindictive Te Rauparaha was intriguing page 26 with the Waikatos to concert a war of extermination against the southern Maoris (between New Plymouth and Wellington) and incidentally against the Europeans. Te Whero Whero opposed the plan, but several of the northern tribes and some of the Waikatos were inclined to fall in with Te Rauparaha's project.
A further complication was introduced into the native question in 1848, by the great migration of the Ngatiawa from their refuge at Waikanae, to their old home in the north. The reasons urged for their return were that they had now sold Waikanae to the colonists, and that their love for Waitara, their native place, was unquenched by separation. Moreover, Wi Kingi had obtained leave from the Waikatos to go back to the land of his fathers. In April, therefore, 587 natives returned to the Waitara. They were conveyed in one vessel, four boats, and forty-four canoes, and a score or so travelled overland on horseback. Wi Kingi had promised faithfully to keep to the north bank of the Waitara, so as not to interfere with the Europeans. But when he reached his destination, he pretended that he was afraid of the Ngatimaniapotos, who had clearings there, and he obtained permission from an old chief to build a pa on the south side of the river. Governor Grey was, from the first, suspicious of Wi Kingi's intentions, and at the outset refused to allow the migration from Waikanae, and threatened to seize the canoes. But as the returned Ngatiawas were more civilised and industrious than the Waitara natives, and protested loudly that they would not only be the faithful allies of the Europeans, but would persuade the local natives to sell their lands to the whites, and more especially because the authorities at Wellington were anxious to get rid of Wi Kingi, and to buy the land at Waikanae—the Governor at last gave a reluctant consent. The sequel will show how justly founded were Governor Grey's apprehensions.