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A Compendium of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs in the South Island. Volume Two.

No. 2. — Walter Mantell, Esq., to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, &c., &c

page 82

No. 2.
Walter Mantell, Esq., to Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, &c., &c.

London, July 5th, 1856.


I do myself the honour of laying before you the following statement, relative to the non-fulfilment by Her Majesty's Colonial Government, of the promises which I was authorized to make to the Ngaitahu Natives in order to induce them to cede certain of their lands to Her Majesty in return for an almost nominal money payment, and by their faith in which promises lands were obtained by me for the Crown.

In first bringing the subject before you I will endeavour to state the case as briefly as possible, ready, however, and desirous to afford such further information as may be deemed necessary.

Since August, 1848, I have been employed as Commissioner for the acquisition for the Crown of Native Lands in the Middle Island of New Zealand—(Provinces of Canterbury and Otago.)

The enclosed map shows the extent so acquired by me.

By promise of more valuable recompense in schools, in hospitals for their sick, and in constant solicitude for their welfare and general protection on the part of the Imperial Government, I procured the cession of these lands for small cash payments.

The Colonial Government has neglected to fulfil these promises, and appears to wish to devolve the responsibility on the General Assembly.

This would not be just, and is fortunately impossible. It may be true, that the Crown lands have been ceded to that body, or even to the Provincial Governments, but the promises of the Crown to the Natives can now only be fulfilled by the Imperial Government, it not having retained sufficient influence in the Legislature of the Colony to ensure due provision being made by its means for the welfare of the Natives. The Natives are now utterly unrepresented in the General Assembly; they are, in respect of their original lands, denied the franchise which they would exercise with at least equal judgment with the whites, while among the latter the suffrage is practically universal.

I have said that the Government has neglected to fulfil its promises to the Ngaitahu; I am aware that to build and endow schools in the Province of Otago, £200 were given, and £50 for hospital expenses; such inadequate sums as these do not effect my statement.

No officer is charged to look after the interests of the southern tribes; indeed, the duties of the only Native Department (excepting the Nominal Department of Native Secretary), maintained in the Islands (the Native Land Purchase Department), consisting principally in the acquisition of Maori lands at the lowest possible price, are in practice, as I am prepared to show, highly prejudicial to the best interests of the Natives.

Nor can the Ngaitahu rely on the Bench of Magistrates for protection when so strange additions are made to the Commission of the Peace by Her Majesty's representative, that I almost hesitate to record them; one instance may be mentioned as not likely to come to your knowledge from other sources.

A man under heavy sureties to keep the peace for a severe assault on a clergyman, was, while so under bond, although ignorant and illiterate, and notorious for his violent conduct, gazetted as a magistrate.

With reference to the promised schools, I enclose the reply of the Governor to an application on behalf of the only Native school in the South; a school not maintained by the Government, but by a mission society in Germany, and the head of which, small as are the means at his disposal, has done, and is still doing wonders for the good of the Southern Natives.

In the transfer to the local Legislature of the land in respect of which the unfulfilled promises were made, the Natives were not a consenting party, it is therefore not in the power of the Government to declare that having divested itself of those lands the former owners must look to the present managers for the completion of the contract. Nor has the contract been an unprofitable one to the Europeans.

I have myself acquired from the Natives about 30,000,000 acres, which could not have been worth less than 2,000,000 sterling.

For this the Natives received about £5,000, and the repudiated promises which form the subject of this letter. This sum has long since been repaid to the Treasury by sales and rents of a minute fraction of the 16,000,000 acres, under my management as Commissioner of Crown Lands.

The Natives' proportion of 15 per cent. on all proceeds of land sales, if it have been set apart from those of southern sales, has been misapplied. On this account at least £5,000 seem to have been due in 1854, but barely a tenth of this amount has been allotted to the Ngaitahu although they have, through my agency ceded to Her Majesty a far larger extent of land than has ever been or will ever be so ceded by all other tribes together.

I am aware that there exists in the Colony an opinion that, if this and similar questions can be shelved for a period the Natives will by their extinction relieve the Government from the fulfilment of its engagements.

But, apart from such aids to extermination as peculiarities in Government may hereafter afford, I rejoice to see no grounds for this opinion.

Were such a result probable, or even certain, I cannot perceive the honour or the justice of adopting on such a hope, such a mode of evading the honest fulfilment of the terms of a bargain.

While such neglect is shown towards tribes numerically weak, the policy of Government towards those strong enough to be feared is very different.

In short the contemptuous indifference evinced toward the unquestionable rights of those who are powerless is more than counterbalanced by the imbecile timidity which marks the conduct of the authorities toward the powerful.

The Ngaitahu and Ngatimamoe are perhaps the only objects of the former policy, and I trust that page 83Her Majesty's Government will take such steps as will relieve me from the painful position of having been the channel of promises, which have been at least forgotten, and secure my Native clients in the possession of the advantages which have been so long withheld from them.

It is at the request of the Chief and subordinate Chiefs of the united tribes that I make this application to you, for in the Local Government they have long ceased to repose confidence.

It is fortunately a subject on which reference to the Colony is quite unnecessary.

The negotiations have been conducted and concluded by me, to whom also all Ngaitahu questions were invariably referred and in my absence there is not an officer of the Government competent to give an opinion on matters so vitally affecting the Ngaitahu tribes.

I have striven to avoid details but am not unprepared to illustrate what I have said by facts which have come under my own observation.

I have not even referred to the purchase of Ngaitahu lands from stronger tribes, nor to many other points connected with the subject of this communication.

I regret that your refusal to grant me an interview should have imposed on me the painful duty of forwarding this communication.

I have, &c.,

Walter Mantell,
Commissioner for the extinguishment of Native claims.

Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State, &c., &c.,