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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Pioneer Settlers and Settlement

Pioneer Settlers and Settlement.

When writing more than thirty years ago, in Sir Julius Vogel's “Official Hand Book of New Zealand,” Mr. W. Carlile remarked that it was not possible to fix any date at which it could be said that the settlement of Hawke's Bay was founded. For many years it had been associated in the minds of colonists only with whalers and pakeha Maoris; and the few faithful missionaries who laboured amongst the native tribes felt little desire to expose their converts to the evils which always follow in the first contact of a higher with a lower civilisation.

Canterbury, Otago, Nelson, and Wellington were settled at certain fixed dates by specific bodies of colonists, who came there for a clearly determined purpose. But Hawke's Bay, as a settlement, started without any definite impulse, and grew first by almost imperceptible degrees. After the Wellington settlement was firmly founded, the extensive and fertile plains of the northern and north-eastern districts speedily attracted the attention of colonists. Between Wellington and Hawke's Bay the magnificent stretches of forest land—one area alone bearing the name of “Seventy Mile Bush” —the splendid sheep country along the old lake bed of the Ruataniwha—the plains of Heretaunga and Karamea, which to-day contain some of the richest soil in the colony—all these natural advantages suggested irresistibly to the early colonists the duty of extending settlement in this direction. Further, there was grave danger that if no efficient effort was made to secure this land, it would fall into the hands of the “landsharks,” and other unscrupulous selectors. Even before 1850, public attention was called to the fact that pastoralists were taking up the Hawke's Bay land on illegal leases from the natives; and, in spite of the right of pre-emption claimed by the Government, in virtue of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the strongest regulations against trafficking in native lands, there was no doubt that the Maoris were already being fleeced and impoverished by unprincipled Europeans.

In 1851 Mr. Fox, in his “Six Colonies of New Zealand,” urgently recommended the Government to purchase the lands now included in the Manawatu, Wairarapa, and Hawke's Bay districts. At that time it was believed that £50,000 would cover the total cost of the land; but it was not until some time later that the desired step was actually taken. However, in December, 1850, Mr. Donald McLean, then Native Minister, had gone up to the Hawke's Bay district as Lands Purchase Commissioner, and negotiated the purchase of several important blocks. A tribal quarrel about land titles between two of the principal Hawke's Bay chiefs and their followers, ended in some loss of life to the page 283 natives; but after the fight was over, both parties appear to have accepted Mr. McLean's offers gladly enough. From the chief Te Hapuku, the Commissioner bought some large and valuable areas in the interior, including the land now comprised in the Pourere and Homewood estates; and from the rival chief Tareha Te Moananui he bought Scinde Island—now the site of the town of Napier—and the surrounding districts. The ownership of these lands having thus passed into European hands, the revenues of Wellington province were considerably augmented, and the pastoral leaseholders were able to exchange their precarious native titles for a well defined and permanent form of tenure. From this time onward the stream of settlement flowed rapidly towards Hawke's Bay. The Land Purchase Commission quickly extended its operations, and within five years after the original purchase, the town of Napier was laid out. The town sections were sold by auction on the 5th of April, 1855. The streets were named by the Hon. Alfred Domett (author of “Ranolf and Amohia”) who was then Provincial Crown Lands Commissioner; and his strong literary tastes were evinced in the names of Shakespeare Road and Milton Road, Byron, Browning, Tennyson, Emerson, Dickens, and Thackeray Streets. About that time Indian affairs were matters of general current interest, and this fact accounts for the occurrence on the map of Hawke's Bay of so many names connected with the rise of the British Empire in the East—Napier, Clive, Meanee, Scinde, Havelock— not to mention Hyderabad Road, Clyde Road, Hardinge Road, and Clive Square in the town itself.