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A compendium of official documents relative to native affairs in the South Island, Volume One.

No. 2. — Report from Mr. C. W. Ligar, Surveyor-General, to His Excellency the Lieutenant-governor

No. 2.
Report from Mr. C. W. Ligar, Surveyor-General, to His Excellency the Lieutenant-governor.

Nelson, 8th March, 1847.


In order to carry out the instructions which I received from your Excellency at Wellington, on the 19th of last month, I have the honor to report that I proceeded in the "Victoria" brig, in company with Mr. Fox, the New Zealand Company's Agent at Nelson, to Port Underwood, where we arrived on the 20th, and made arrangements with some whalers to take us to the Wairau River.

In the course of the day I visited a party of Natives, some of whom had just returned from thence, and ascertained that I should not find any people residing there. They themselves were not in the habit of residing at the Wairau, but about six weeks previously twenty of their number went to cultivate potatoes, and had, as far as I could learn, planted from three to four acres. They also told me that no one had resided permanently in the district since the Rangitane Tribe was conquered and taken captive from it by Rauparaha and his people the Ngatitoa, except a party of fugitives, consisting of nine individuate of the conquered tribe. These concealed themselves after the fight, but have gradually emerged from their hiding-places, and scattered themselves over the country. The Natives date the attack of Rauparaha about ten years back.

They likewise said that it had been the intention of the Natives to cultivate land at the Wairau at the time of the massacre, but that after it had taken place the district was considered as sacred.

To obtain permission to cultivate as much as they had lately done, they had sent messengers to Rauparaha, who failed in seeing him, in consequence of his being taken prisoner by the Government; but Puaha, in the absence of the other chief, gave them the liberty of doing what they required.

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Mr. Jenkins, a gentleman connected with the Wesleyan Mission, who assisted me at the interview with the Natives, informed me it was his own and the general impression in the neighbourhood, that these people had recently gone to cultivate at the Wairau merely to strengthen, as they supposed, their claim to the land, having heard that the Europeans were again turning their attention to the district. Mr. Jenkins resides near the pa, and would be likely to know the sentiments of the Natives. Their former intention of cultivating, at the time of the massacre, had, it is supposed by Mr. Jenkins, the same object in view.

From all I could learn, it would appear that the Wairau District has been very little used or occupied since the expulsion of the Rangitane Tribe.

The Natives residing at Port Underwood, and with whom I had communication, consist of twenty men and about the same number of women belonging to the Ngatitoa Tribe, and nine men and one woman of the Rangitane Tribe. The latter are the slaves, but one of their number, Kaikora, has acquired much influence, and may now be considered the head man of the little settlement, being referred to on all occasions. When I requested the people to tell me the boundaries of the Wairau District, he drew a plan of the coast on the ground, naming each place. I endeavoured to obtain the inland boundaries or limits; but the Natives and Kaikora seemed never to have given them a thought, and looked upon my inquisitiveness on this point as useless and troublesome.

The boundaries of the Wairau District are described by Kaikora and the Natives residing at Port Underwood.

The same people gave me the following list of the owners of the district as described above. They are all of the Ngatitoa Tribe. They have no particular portion set apart for each, but have a joint interest in the whole:—The consent required of Puka, Nohoroa, Martin, Thompson, Puaha, Rauparaha, Nohoroa (Waterhouse), Te Kanae, Bangihaeata, Tamaihangia, Pukeko, Pukekowhatu, and Pikiwau (or Te Wawhanua, a rebel).

In addition to the above list there are many who have claims, but these are the chief.

I was informed by the Natives of Port Underwood that the Ngatiawa Tribe, from the Waitohi, in the Sound; have lately been cultivating on the Tua Marina, a branch of the Wairau River; and that they (the Port Underwood Natives) drove them off and destroyed their cultivations.

As the weather proved unfavourable for entering the Wairau River, and the men we had engaged to take us considered there might be no opportunity of doing so for some days, we abandoned the original intention of ascending the valley of the Wairau from the sea, and determined on entering it from its inland extremity, and following its course downwards to Cloudy Bay. For this purpose we proceeded to Nelson, and set out, accompanied by three Natives and one of the New Zealand Company's surveyors, Mr. Bridge, who had lately been engaged in cutting a line from the Nelson District into the Wairau. We followed his route, which keeps on the west side of a range of mountains stretching to the south of Nelson, and separating the Wairau from the Waimea. A walk of forty miles brought us to a wooded pass leading into the former valley, and other ten miles brought us to the valley itself. Where we struck it, the breadth is not more than half a mile; but there is a gradual increase in width towards the sea for thirty-eight and a half miles, when it suddenly expands into a plain eighteen miles long by seven and a half miles broad.

Messrs. Cooper and Morse have established a sheep station at the head of the valley, and have about 1,000 sheep there.

The lower part of the Wairau near the sea is subject to floods in the winter, and will require extensive draining; but the plain is in general well adapted for agriculture. The upper valley and hills-afford a most abundant pasture, and are better suited for that purpose than for agriculture.

The limits of the Wairau District, as described by the New Zealand Company's Agent, are the same as given by the Natives; but it was not intended to use the great mass of mountains included within these boundaries. The quantity of level land available for agriculture and pasture is 128,000 acres, made up of the following items:—

Great Plain, 80,000 acres, available for agriculture; requiring some draining near the sea.

Wairau Valley, 28,000 acres, chiefly valuable for pasture.

Kaiparatehau, 20,000 acres, ditto ditto.

In addition to this quantity, there are 240,000 acres of hill pasture beside an equal area occupied by mountain ranges.

Throughout the district, with the exception of the head of the valley and the vicinity of the sea coast, there is a great deficiency of wood for fuel or other purposes.

The means of communication between Nelson and the Wairau, by land, at present consist of a good cart road for seventeen miles, and a horse track for the remainder of the distance, thirty-three miles. The horse-track crosses four considerable streams, two steep ridges of hills, and passes through ten miles of forest. It could not be made passable for carts without much expense, and would most probably require to be changed for some miles of its course, if an undertaking of the kind were contemplated. This route strikes the valley of the Wairau at fifty-six miles from the sea, and at fifty miles from Nelson. Horses have been lately taken by it into Cloudy Bay down the Wairau, by keeping on the eastern side of the valley.

There is another approach to the Wairau, which leaves the Town of Nelson and follows the Maitai River to the eastward, passes through the valleys of the Pelorus and Kaituna, meeting the great plain at eleven miles from the sea. The length of this track is fifty miles. Up to the present time only two persons on foot, accompanied by a Native guide, have penetrated it, and they report it to be very difficult. It is very probable that another line, midway between these two, may be discovered through the mountains at sixteen miles south of Nelson; which would shorten the distance to the Wairau from fifty to thirty miles, and at the same time enter the valley at a convenient point for every purpose.

During my journey in the Wairau District, both in the valley and plain, I saw no traces of Natives, or of their cultivations. There were no indications whatever of their having occupied the land, except near the sea coast; and I could not discover the place they have recently cultivated. This I might page 204have been able to effect if I had not been disappointed in obtaining a guide from Port Underwood; my own Natives were strangers.

The journey from Nelson to Clondy Bay, and returning, occupied ten and a half days, but with horses it might be accomplished in seven.

The sketch of the route which I have made, connecting Nelson and Cloudy Bay, showing the whole length of the Wairau Valley, I will forward to your Excellency in a few days, as I have not had time to copy it since my return on the 6th instant

I have &c.,

Ch. W. Ligar,