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Contributions to the Early History of New Zealand

Chapter X

page 55

Chapter X.

Voyage concluded—Natives assembled at Koputai to complete Purchase—Fresh Quarrel with Mr. Symonds, who again returns to Wellington—Colonel Wakefield comes down with fresh officials —Perambulation of the Boundaries—Deed Drawn and Signed—Messrs. Nicholson, Allom, and Davison, surveyors, sent down—Mr. Tuckett's Farewell.

It was upon this expedition that the first information was given by the natives of the existence in the interior of certain animals, concluded from the description to be beavers. Rakiraki, one of the guides, circumstantially described them as building whares, like his countrymen, and as making a screaming noise, and also that some of their houses were floating ones. He told Mr. Barnicoat that their habitation was on the east side of Lake Wanaka. It is needless to say that no such animal has ever been found in New Zealand; and yet it seems probable there must be some foundation for Rakiraki's positive statement. And now the returned travellers saw some signs of bustle and activity. Two days before their arrival, Mr. Symonds returned from Wellington, and with him Mr. Daniel Wakefield, who, as previously said, came to act as peacemaker or intermediary between the belligerent parties; but it was very shortly apparent that there was no healing the breach. Several natives had also arrived from various quarters, for, in the wonderful way in which news spreads amongst them like wildfire, it was known far and wide that the pakehas wished to purchase a large block of land in the district. The Deborah lay quietly at anchor a short distance from the shore. On the beach were two whares and two tents, and a rude temporary jetty had been erected for landing the vessel's cargo. The bricks and timber, brought down from Nelson, for the erection of Mr. Tuckett's little house, were lying close by. All this was to be seen on the narrow head of Koputai or Port Chalmers, on the spot now occupied by the foot of George Street and the road leading to the dry dock. Koputai means the high or full tide. The ground was white with snow, and the cold was severely felt in the draughty tents.

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Sketches or plans of the district between Otakou and the Molyneux on a scale of two miles to the inch were made. These were to be used to assist the natives in recognising the various boundaries, and naming the several owners within them. Mr. Symonds proposed that the extent of land to be purchased should be pointed out to the natives on the ground, and he considered it indispensable that Mr. Tuckett should himself accompany them, so as to prevent the possibility of any later misunderstanding. And then commenced the second quarrel, which terminated in Mr. Symonds again leaving for Wellington, with his friend Mr. Daniel Wakefield; for Mr. Tuckett held that, as chief agent, his presence at Koputai was important, and that Mr. Barnicoat was in every respect as equally competent to traverse the block with the natives and point out its boundaries as himself. Again ensued an angry correspondence, for the pair would hold no personal communication. This seriously impeded negotiations—indeed, temporarily suspended them — to the loudly-expressed dissatisfaction of the natives, who were daily coming in in fresh numbers, in the midst of which Mr. Symonds departed. Altogether, there were eighteen boats drawn up on the beach, and not less than 150 natives, who, according to their custom, being mihanere or Christianised, assembled twice a day for religious service. Some were wild-looking fellows, decked with albatross down and feathers stuck in their nostrils. The difficulty was to get them to name a price for the land—a subject which afforded them a source of many a voluble and clamorous discussion. Taiaroa said he would take £1200 for his share, another asked £2000 for his, and Tuhawaiki modestly mentioned a million. Finally, Mr. Tuckett succeeded in getting Tuhawaiki, Karetai, and Taiaroa, the principal chiefs, to sign a memorandum binding them to sell the whole country from Otago to the Molyneux, with the exception of certain reserves for themselves, and as shown in the map, for the sum of £2400. This agreement was signed on the 20th of June, and Mr. Tuckett engaged that payment should be made a month from that date, and further that if the money were not then forthcoming, he would move from the ground. He considered that this period was ample to bring all negotiations to a final issue, and accordingly waited until some other Government official should be sent down from Wellington with whom he could more amicably act. He was thus left almost alone on the beach of Koputai, page 57although master of the situation. His recent companions returned to Wellington in the Deborah, and the natives, knowing that their presence would not be required for a month, departed in boat-loads to visit their friends at various points of the coast.

After a six-days' passage, inclusive of a detention at Waikouaiti for the purpose of taking in whale oil, the Deborah reached Wellington on the 29th of June. Mr. Symonds again laid his complaints before the Government, and after some correspondence upon them Colonel Wakefield decided to go down himself to Otago. He was accompanied by Mr. Spain, the commissioner appointed to inquire into land claims, and Mr. George Clarke, the sub-protector of aborigines. Mr. Symonds, whose services and knowledge were indispensable, again formed one of the party. The Deborah was chartered at £90 a month, and sailed on the 7th of July, arriving at her destination on the 15th after a stormy passage. Colonel Wakefield was greatly pleased with the appearance of the harbour and surrounding country, and considered that Mr. Tuckett had made a most excellent selection.

Accompanied by Messrs. Symonds and Clarke and six natives he proceeded without delay to inspect and mark the boundaries of the land, with which he became increasingly satisfied. They proceeded no further than a lofty hill in the neighbourhood of the Waihola Lake, from the top of which the Molyneux district could be descried. The perambulation occupied a week, and on the 26th of July the party returned to Koputai. Messrs. Symonds and Clarke at once prepared the deed of conveyance. By this time the natives had again arrived in full force; and a remarkable sight it must have been to see them, 150 in number, men, women, and children, mustered on the present site of Port Chalmers for the purpose of alienating their lands to the pakeha for ever. The whole matter was carefully explained, and sufficient time allowed them for their usual korero. They consented to the terms, and on the 31st of July the deed was read to them—Mr. Clarke saying that they had now only to receive the payment to complete the transaction for which they had assembled; that they were about to part with the land with all growing on it or under it; that it would be gone from them and their children for ever; that they must respect the white man's land, and that the white man would not touch the land reserved for them. A little speechmaking followed, and then Tuawhaiki first signed the deed, followed by page 58Karetai, Taiaroa, and twenty-two others of the Ngaitahu tribe of New Zealand. It was witnessed by Messrs. Symonds, Tuckett, Clarke, and Scott. This Otago block contains 400,000 acres, and extends from Taiaroa Head down the coast to Tokata Point or the Nuggets, then inland in a north-westerly and northerly direction, having for its boundaries the crest of the Kaihiku range, of the Maungaatua, of the Wakari or Flagstaff, and lastly of the Mihiwaka range, dropping down to the sea-level again at Heyward's Point, at the mouth of the harbour, and opposite Taiaroa Head. The sum paid for this was £2400, equal to about three-halfpence an acre. The northern portion, extending from the Otago Heads to the Taieri, belonged to Tuawhaiki, Taiaroa, and Karetai, and the portion from the Taieri to the Molyneux, to Tuawhaiki and the members of their tribe.

The final act was that of payment, and this was accomplished in the most orderly and satisfactory manner. This time no blankets, no pipes, or tomahawks formed any part of the quid pro quo; it consisted of bank notes, gold, and silver only. For his share, as the largest proprietor, Tuawhaiki received £900, together with £300 for division amongst his Taieri and Molyneux friends. Taiaroa and Karetai received £300 each, and the remaining £600 was divided amongst the other Otago natives. An eyewitness told the author that Colonel Wakefield penetrated the bustling crowd in every direction, freely distributing half-crowns and shillings and even sixpences amongst the women and children. All were perfectly satisfied and in high good humour. Any little difference or misunderstanding was ably adjusted by that clever Maori, Tua-whaiki. The same informant says that the portion of this chief was devoted to the purchase and fitting out of a little vessel with which to extend the trade which he already carried on. Bold and skilful sailor as he was, he lost his life soon afterwards—in November, 1844—whilst piloting his boat through a tempestuous sea off Moeraki. He was standing at the steer oar when a tremendous wave struck it so as to knock him overboard, and no effort availed to save him from his watery grave. So perished John Tuawhaiki, esteemed and liked by both pakeha and Maori for his intelligence, courage, and justice. It would not be true to say that the remainder of the purchase money was expended in a similar judicious manner. Then the tapu was removed by carrying away the bones of a chief interred in the vicinity and burning down his whare, page 59the Union Jack was unfurled, and thus at Koputai was the Otago block made over to those who are now its heritors. The natives turned their boats homewards, and on the evening of the same day—the 31st—Colonel Wakefield and his party embarked on the Deborah for Nelson, arriving on the 16th of August. Mr. Tuckett remained to prepare his plan of future operations and to await the arrival of a larger staff to carry on the survey.

After the completion of the survey of these 400,000 acres Colonel Wakefield undertook to select from them his 150,000 acres, being the quantity whose pre-emption by the Crown had been waived in favour of the Company by Captain Fitzroy. Mr. Symonds had sanctioned the extension of the limits to the larger quantity of 400,000 acres in order that the most available land should be included, and that there should be no difficulty about boundaries. When the selection had been made the Crown grant was to be issued, and there was an understanding that if Colonel Wakefield desired still more land he was to have it. This was the origin of what was afterwards known as the depasturage licences, under which settlers were authorised to run cattle and sheep in the adjoining districts.

Desirous that no delay should occur with the surveys, Colonel Wakefield prior to his own departure from Wellington had despatched the Carbon, a 20-ton schooner to Otago on the 26th of June, having on board Messrs. Richard Nicholson and Albert Allom, who were surveying cadets, and seven men selected for their knowledge of bush work. The voyage was perilous enough, and gives a glimpse of journey by sea as it often was sixty years ago. Driven into various bays, their food exhausted, sails split to ribbons, and all but wrecked, the voyagers did not reach their destination for a month after leaving Wellington. Under Mr. Tuckett's directions they prosecuted the survey of the harbour and suburban sections, and commenced to lay out the town.

With the exception of Mr. Carrington of New Plymouth, Mr. Barnicoat of Nelson, and Mr. Searancke, these gentlemen are now the sole survivors of the Company's large survey staff. Both came out to Nelson in 1842 in the Brougham. Mr. Nicholson (now Sir Richard) returned to England in 1845 and entered the legal profession. In this he has attained great distinction. In 1865 and following years he was closely associated with the Shrewsbury peerage case—the cause célébre of the day, and from an antiquarian point of view the most im-page 60portant peerage case ever tried. Sir Richard is now Clerk of the Peace for Middlesex and for London. Mr. Allom left New Zealand in 1848, and has since had a most varied career, holding high official positions principally in the West Indies. In the evening of his days he has returned to New Zealand, for which he had always a warm affection. His father, Mr. Thomas Allom, was an artist of repute, and engraved many well-known works; to him was also entrusted the engraving of most of the old sketches of early New Zealand which were sent home by the Company's officials. These are now of extreme rarity.

Soon after Colonel Wakefield's departure for Otago it was rumoured both at Wellington and Nelson that the Company's credit had gone, that its funds were exhausted, and that a full stop must be put to all its operations in the colony. But it was evident that Colonel Wakefield knew nothing of this, at least had received no official intimation thereof, for on his arrival at Nelson by the Deborah on the 16th of August he stated that the Otago survey contracts were to be entered upon immediately. Accordingly, Mr. Barnicoat and Mr. Budge engaged ten men, at wages of 25s. per week each, with rations, took provisions for twenty weeks, and chartered the little schooner Carbon to take them to Otago. They started on the 25th of August in this unlucky boat, which was blown backwards and forwards in Cook's Straits until on the 4th of September, ten days after starting, the buffeted passengers found themselves no nearer Otago than Port Nicholson. Here they determined to go ashore, refresh, and then proceed—a fortunate resolve for them, as now they learnt that vague rumours had developed into undoubted facts. An English vessel, the Raymond, had just arrived, confirming the worst suspicions. Colonel Wakefield's despatches enjoined him to discharge all workmen, to reduce expenditure to the utmost, and to enter into no fresh obligations —notably those of New Edinburgh. Word of this he at once sent to Nelson, which arrived just in time to prevent the sailing of the Deborah also chartered for Otago, and loaded with goods and provisions and a large survey staff.

Mr. Tuckett, receiving intimation of this disaster from his ready friends, and considering that the duties for which he had been engaged were fully accomplished, now applied to be relieved from further charge. Accordingly, Mr. William Davison was selected as a trustworthy successor. He received his instructions from Colonel Wakefield on page 61the 5th of November, which were to take charge of the Company's property and generally to act as agent or representative. Messrs. Nicholson and Allom were placed under his orders, and he was directed to incur no expenditure whatever beyond what was absolutely necessary. His salary was fixed at £150 per annum. Thus relieved, Mr. Tuckett left for Wellington on the 22nd of December, and here his important connection with the New Edinburgh settlement ceases. For his services he received the sum of £300. They were of an important and difficult character, and there can be no doubt but that he discharged them ably and satisfactorily. No part of New Zealand has a more bracing climate, fertile soil, and magnificent scenery than that of his choice. The two cadets were recalled shortly after their chief had departed, and Mr. Davison was left almost alone in the little brick house on the beach at Koputai—the present Port Chalmers. His signature appears on many of the earliest survey sheets, and his name forms a link with that of Mr. Charles Kettle who had charge of the final surveys. Thus closed the year gloomily enough; on one side with cruel disappointment and abated hope, on the other with abrupt arrest of active and successful work.