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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Wheat at 1s. 6d. per Bushel

Wheat at 1s. 6d. per Bushel

Upon taking up his temporary residence in Poverty Bay in 1850, the Rev. T. S. Grace found that the natives were content to use potatoes instead of flour in order that they might reserve their wheat to sell at the traders' price of 1s. 6d. per bushel. He informed the Church Missionary Society that he had seen a starving family with a houseful of wheat, which was required as part payment for an old, worthless horse. Two years later, however, he reported that the natives had begun to use flour freely and that, as a consequence, there had been a considerable diminution in the death rate. They were then planning to obtain mills to grind their wheat.

page 128

Early in the 1860's, the natives' enthusiasm for agriculture and pig-raising waned. Inquiries by Europeans for large blocks for sheep-runs were becoming more numerous. Some of the natives might have gained the impression that sheepfarming was about to become the paramount industry. But what was probably a much more decisive factor was that unrest was becoming more intense among them. The East Coast War (1865) gave production a very severe setback, and when the Te Kooti revolt opened (1868) it came almost to a standstill. When the Native Land Courts began to function in earnest in the early 1870's, many natives attended the protracted hearings of disputes as to the ownership of blocks. In those localities in which the Crown acquired blocks, the growing of crops became a secondary matter with the natives whilst their newly-gained funds lasted.

As sheep-raising was a type of farming with which the natives were not familiar, it made only a limited appeal to them at the outset. They found that much more capital was needed to establish a sheep farm than to engage in agricultural pursuits. As a consequence, the policy of leasing large areas to Europeans came into favour. However, it was the natives who provided nearly all the labour required to establish the sheep-stations which soon began to dot the fertile hills and valleys. They assisted to fell the bush, clear away the scrub, split posts, erect fences, lay down the pasture and make the roads. Fortunate, therefore, were the early settlers in having at hand native neighbours who were genuine sons of the soil and needed only guidance to become first-class station workers. Most of the labour to operate the sheep-stations on the East Coast has since been supplied by the Maoris.