Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

New Zealand Revisited

Chapter III — Arrival

page 38

Chapter III

Although the coast of New Zealand showed little change from its former aspect, the moment the steamers rounded the North Head and entered the Waitemata Harbour an entirely new and changed spectacle presented itself. The aspect of the North Head itself from the sea side gave warning of such a change; an ugly fort and some pretty houses and gardens had replaced the primitive bush by which it was formerly crowned. But on entering the harbour it appeared that the old picturesque city of Auckland with its wooded bluffs and green hills and scattered dwellings embowered in trees, was gone; and a grand new city presented itself, extending to both sides of the harbour, in which none of the old landmarks were discernible.

The Red Jacket had had to anchor off the town, and cargo and passengers were landed at the old commercial pier in tugs and lighters. But the S.S. Sonoma, of far greater tonnage, went at once alongside one of a series of fine wharves, at which other large steamers were lying. While she was being made fast I perceived amongst the crowd on the wharf, waiting to come on board, a very old tattooed Maori, with the most benign face imaginable, who had evidently recognized me, and was pointing me out to a younger man page break
Photo by Govt. Tourist DepartmentAuckland

Photo by Govt. Tourist Department

page 39who was with him. Presently the old Maori came on board, and I discovered that he was no other than Patara Te Tuhi, a near relative of Potatau, the original Maori King, and the former editor of the Hokioi, a Maori newspaper that was published in the Waikato before the war.

Of all the men, European and Maori, who were prominent in the events which preceded the Maori war, Patara was at the time of my visit the sole survivor. The "Hokioi" was a bird of Maori mythology, never seen, but known only by her scream, which was an omen of war and pestilence. The press at which the newspaper was printed had been given to the Maories by the Emperor of Austria, and the articles that were published at Ngaruawahia, the Maori capital, were logical and trenchant.

It had been my lot while Commissioner of the Waikato to edit, under Sir George Grey's direction, a rival Maori newspaper called the Pihoihoi Mokemoke, "the sparrow that sitteth alone upon the housetop"; and great was the screaming and bickering of the two birds during the short life of the latter, the particulars of which I will narrate in a subsequent chapter. But the hatchet had long been buried between the Hokioi and the Pihoihoi. Patara was in England some twenty-three years ago on a futile mission of the Maories to the British Government, and we then forgot our old contentions and cemented our personal friendship. But Patara at the age of page 40eighty-three was determined to be one of the first to welcome me back, as an old friend returned. He came from Mangere, a village some miles from Auckland; his welcome was typical of the generous nature of the Maori, and his inability to keep up feelings of animosity.

The Sonoma was seven days behind time at Auckland, owing to defective boiler power, and there was only just time to arrive at Christchurch for the opening of the International Exhibition, to be present at which I had been sent from the other side of the world. It had been intended by the New Zealand Government that we should travel overland from Auckland to Wellington and visit on the way the various places in the Waikato district which were the scenes of my former life; but the late arrival of the Sonoma had obliged them to abandon this plan; and it was arranged instead that the overland journey and the visit to Waikato should be put off till the end of our visit, when we were to return to Auckland to re-embark. Under these circumstances we could spend no time in Auckland, but had to hurry through to our ultimate destination. From the time we arrived at the wharf there were only two hours to spare before the mail steamer left Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour on the west coast of New Zealand for New Plymouth, and we had to go some six miles by train.

We were met on our arrival by telegrams of welcome from Lord Plunket, the Governor, and page 41Sir Joseph Ward, the Prime Minister, and officers of the Government took charge of our effects. An arrangement was made by Captain Boscawen, aide-de-camp of the Governor, to drive us about Auckland for an hour, and return to the station in time to go by train to Onehunga. This drive was immensely interesting, but it was very difficult to recognise the old spots. A great part of the modern city is built on what was in the old days the foreshore of the harbour.

There was the old Government House little changed from the days when Sir George Grey reigned; but all the wooden Government offices in which I had spent many unhappy days as a permanent official just before the outbreak of the Waikato War were swept away and the offices transferred to Wellington. It was from these buildings that just as the troops were about to invade Waikato in 1863, orders were issued to expel the inhabitants of the Maori villages round Auckland who were relatives of the Waikato tribes. Most of them were old and infirm. No complaint had ever been made of their harbouring dangerous characters, or behaving ill to the European farmers by whom they were surrounded. Our arrangements for governing Maori settlements, even close to our own doors, were so defective that the instant war broke out we found it dangerous to allow these poor creatures to remain in their homes. Twenty Maori policemen could have quelled the whole of them even in actual page 42revolt, but the Government had not a single policeman upon whose obedience they could depend. It was, therefore, resolved to drive these poor men and women from their homes and confiscate their lands. There was no difficulty in finding a pretext. They were Maories, and relatives of Potatau, the original Maori king. Underlings from the Native Office were dispatched in hot haste to call upon them to give up their weapons and take the oath of allegiance to the Queen, or in default to retire beyond Mangatawhiri under pain of ejection.

The first person to whom this cruel decree was made known was Tamati Ngaporo, the brother of Potatau and the uncle of the Maori King, who was conspicuous for the efforts he had made to prevent war. He was living at Mangere in European fashion, receiving a considerable income from letting his lands as grazing grounds to the neighbouring farmers. After a short silence, Tamati asked: "Is the day of reaping then at hand?" Being told that it was, he observed: "Why has not the Governor put Waikato on her trial, before stretching forth the strong hand?" Tamati and the other Mangere natives quite understood the alternatives. They must submit to what they regarded as an ignominious test, or lose the whole of their property. And yet, to their honour be it said, they did not hesitate for a moment. They all thanked the Pakeha for this last act of kindness in giving them timely warning of the page 43evil that was to come upon Waikato, and an opportunity of themselves escaping; but they could not forget that they were part of Waikato, and they must go and die with their fathers and friends. The officer of the Government did not deem it his duty to endeavour to turn them, but the Rev. A. Purchas, who had been the clergyman of Mangere for many years, and had lately been the Medical Commissioner of Waikato, resident at Te Awamutu, did all he could to persuade them to take the oath of allegiance and remain in their homes: he could not shake their determination. All the old people showed the most intense grief at leaving a place where they had so long lived in peace and happiness, but they resolutely tore themselves away. The scene was most pitiable. The fugitives were of course unable to carry all their goods with them. What remained behind was looted by the colonial troops and the neighbouring settlers. Canoes were broken to pieces and burnt, cattle seized, houses ransacked, and horses brought into Auckland and sold by the spoilers in the public market.

In the residential suburb of Parnell a few of the old houses could be still picked out. Bishop Selwyn's house still stands, but is not the present Bishop's residence. The old Maori college, where deacons were prepared for holy orders, is turned into a school for young Maories, where handicrafts are taught, very much like the school begun at Te Awamutu forty-five years before, and swept page 44away by the war. One could almost fancy oneself back again in the workshops there.

When we returned to the station we found Patara there returning to his home at Mangere, near to Onehunga. We invited him into the carriage and Mr. Swanson, a half-caste, who had formerly been a scholar at Te Awamutu, and had come with Patara to take care of him. Patara looked more benign every moment, and seemed to feel real pleasure at the sight of me. One of the oldest New Zealand settlers also came to the station, Sir John Logan Campbell, who had known the land on which Auckland was built long before it was selected as the site of the New Zealand capital city: but he had during almost the whole of my former life in New Zealand been temporarily absent from the colony.