The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
In the provincial annals of Hawke's Bay are to be found the names of many colonists who played a distinguished part in the early history of the colony. J. D. Ormond, Colenso, Tiffen, Captain Carter, T. H. Fitzgerald, Hitchings, Kennedy, Tuke, Russell, J. Buchanan, D. McLean, Colonel Whitmore—these are some of the names which fill the largest part of the public and political records of the district; and of these gentlemen some held the honourable post of Superintendent. Hawke's Bay's first Superintendent was, as we have seen, Mr. T. H. Fitzgerald; but in April, 1861, he resigned, and his place was taken by Captain Carter. In 1863 Mr Donald McLean was unanimously chosen as Superintendent; and in 1867, when his four years of office had expired, he was unanimously re-elected. In September, 1869, however, Mr. McLean's place was taken by Mr. J. D. Ormond, who was re-elected in 1871, and was holding office when the career of the province was cut short by abolition. Of other official members of the Provincial Council it is sufficient to notice the Speakers—Captain Carter, Mr. Tucker, Mr. Wilkinson, and Mr. Colenso—who all contributed largely to the successful solution of the many difficult problems of local self-government.
Of Mr. McLean (afterwards Sir Donald) it may be said that he had won a deservedly high reputation in the colony before he settled in Hawke's Bay. “Soon after he came to New Zealand,” writes Mr. Gisborne, “he became conversant with the language of the natives, and their habits of thought and feeling. From an early date he had been continuously employed by Government in difficult negotiations with native tribes in different parts of both islands for the purchase of land, and for other public purposes, and he showed singular aptitude for these duties. Wherever he was sent he fulfilled his mission with ability, and almost always with success. Physically and morally, he had wonderful qualifications for bringing arrangements with natives to a successful issue. He had a commanding presence, and a dignity of behaviour—qualities to which the New Zealand natives attach considerable importance, and he combined with penetration and good judgment, equanimity, patience, tact, energy, and perseverance. He threw himself, as it were for the time, into the minds of the natives, in their meetings and in his conversation with individual chiefs, and he inspired them with confidence in himself.” This indeed is an impressive eulogy, and Mr. Gisborne points out that when, in 1862, Sir William Fox's Ministry, of which Mr. McLean was a member, was turned out of office, the new Government tried hard to secure Mr. McLean's services as Native Minister. Such a testimony to personal work and ability is indeed rare in political life. His influence was always cast in the scale of peace; and it was largely owing to his efforts that peace was finally established on an enduring basis between the whites and Maoris. Sir Donald McLean was perhaps, less successful in the administration of provincial business than in the sphere of native affairs. His deliberateness and capacity for suspending judgment, which enabled him to deal so effectually with the Maoris, were often out of place, or even a positive hindrance in transacting the practical affairs of the province. Moreover, he was often at fault in the choice of his subordinates; and the self-confidence, born of a consciousness of ability in his own special department, made him occasionally difficult to work with, and impracticable. But no one has ever doubted that Sir Donald McLean did good and enduring work for the country of his adoption; and when he died, in 1877, the members of the Government paid his memory unwonted honour by going from Wellington to Napier to be present at his funeral.
Mr. J. D. Ormond was a man of a very different type. He was one of the early settlers in the Hawke's Bay district, and he was for many years the able coadjutor of Sir Donald McLean in public life. “Mr. Ormond,” writes the brilliant author of New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen, “is a man of great mental power. He is cool, observant, cautious, prudent, and resolute. His political and administrative ability is considerable. He thinks deeply, and when he has made up his mind to act, he acts with decision and effect. What he has lacked in later years is sympathetic power. He has become taciturn, reserved and angular in his general relations to other public men. He is more like the veiled prophet of politics than the gregarious statesman of the modern day.” Mr. Ormond was for many years a Parliamentary representative of Hawke's Bay. In 1872 he was Minister of Public Works and Immigration in the Stafford Ministry. In the Waterhouse Ministry (1872–3) he was again Minister of Public Works. Under Dr. Pollen, in 1875, he was Minister of Crown Lands; and in 1877 he was once more Minister of Public Works. Few men in the colony have done more than Mr. Ormond to further the interests of their district, and to discharge conscientiously then public and private responsibilities.
The name of Sir George Whitmore is connected with the early history of Hawke's Bay, chiefly through its association with the Maori war. Colonel Whitmore did much to break the power of the rebel Hauhaus, and it was largely through his exertions that Te Kooti was finally driven from the East Coast. Sir George Whitmore was Colonial Secretary and Defence Minister under Sir George Grey, 1877–9; and in 1863 he was appointed page 293 to a seat in the Legislative Council, which he held for over forty years.
Another more conspicious figure in the later politics and public life of Hawke's Bay is Sir William Russell, the son of a distinguished soldier who played an active part in the Maori wars of 1845–46. Captain Russell was also in the army till he settled in New Zealand in 1861. He was for several years an active member of the House of Representatives, and he was a member of the short-lived Atkinson Administration of 1884. Again in 1889–90 he took office under Major Atkinson as Colonial Secretary and Minister for Defence. In these capacities Captain Russell showed considerable administrative ability; displaying not only great and conscientious industry, but unusual tact and discernment in dealing with his colleagues and subordinates. From June, 1899, to the end of 1905 he was the recognised Leader of the Opposition, and stood, in the eyes of the colony, tor the old “Conservative” party, now almost displaced by the Liberals. But though Sir William Russell has always commanded the respect of his opponents and the admiring affection of his friends, he has never been a very successful party leader; but it may be that, neither as Leader of the Opposition nor as a private member of the House, a Conservative of the old type is no longer indispensable to the successful administration of New Zealand's affairs.