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

Poverty Bay Troops Return Home

Poverty Bay Troops Return Home

When Whenuakura was reached, the Poverty Bay settlers pointed out to Whitmore that they had volunteered to serve only for the protection of their own district, and that they were not prepared to engage upon a lengthy campaign farther afield. Writing to Mr. McLean on 18 August, 1868, Biggs stated:

“Whitmore abuses Poverty Bay and the whole of its population very much indeed. You will hear him say before very long that the Poverty Bay Volunteers deserted him within sight of the enemy. This is far from the truth. The enemy had crossed the Hangaroa River ten days before we got to it … Our force was short of food, had to sleep in the snow, and had but little prospect of getting more provisions…. Westrup asked Whitmore to give him some idea when the expedition would end, as he considered it useless to go on over the river without food. His men were willing to go on for even ten days, but wanted some limit put on the time, as they had been absent from home for nearly a month. Whitmore would give no satisfactory answer, but told him that the settlers might go back if they wished to, after which he issued an order that they were to do page break
John Townley. Gisborne's “G.O.M.” Mayor, 1889–1908. Harbour Board Chairman, 1890–1918.

John Townley.
Gisborne's “G.O.M.”
Mayor, 1889–1908. Harbour Board Chairman, 1890–1918.

James Woodblne Johnson. First Chairman Cook County, 1877–78.

James Woodblne Johnson.
First Chairman Cook County, 1877–78.

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Gladstone Road, Gisborne, 1875. (Looking from Custom House Street)

Gladstone Road, Gisborne, 1875.
(Looking from Custom House Street)

page 241 so … The Poverty Bay natives then said that they would not remain without their pakehas, so back they went also. I had been sent to Turanga to see about getting up supplies.”

Biggs added that Whitmore intended to pay the settlers, but not the natives—picked men from Paratene's and Hirini's tribes—although they had been promised 2/- per day and rations. If the natives were not paid and were again required, they would naturally refuse to assist. It would not do to embitter them at that juncture. Whitmore also talked of having the Poverty Bay Volunteers disbanded, but he (Biggs) hoped that no such injustice would be done and that a strict inquiry would first be held. Whitmore's language to the Volunteers and in their hearing about them “has been enough to make any men mutiny. The natives are equally disgusted with him …”

Whitmore's version appears in Hansard (4/9/1868):

“The Mutiny Act is,” he pointed out, “not available without the concurrence of the O.C. the Forces of the colony. When we were within two days' march of the enemy, and with his fires almost in sight, I was made acquainted with the fact that … the Volunteers from Poverty Bay, which I had come to protect, were unwilling to go farther than the Hangaroa River, alleging that it was their district boundary and that, if further employed, they should be used as a transport corps … If 1 had accepted this offer I should have been no better off in keeping up supplies; it would have cost £100 to £150 per ton for a service of about 30 miles … I had to consider my position as regards the law. At least one half of these Volunteers had not been sworn in…. If the state of the law had been known, even those who had been sworn in could not have been forced to do anything they did not choose to do. Being unwilling to expose this state of affairs, I simply ordered them back to their homes … Had they all been regular Volunteers, they never would have been allowed by me to return …”