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

Chapter XXXV — “Spoils to the Victors”

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Chapter XXXV
“Spoils to the Victors”

Echoes of Hauhau and Te Kooti Revolts—Muddle Over Lands Confiscation Policy—Nearly a Riot in Gisborne—Warship Engages in “Politico-Naval Demonstration.”

The initial steps taken by the Stafford Government to punish the East Coast, Poverty Bay and Wairoa tribes—sections of which had gone into open rebellion in 1865—by confiscating some of their lands led to a muddle which, for several years, caused grave unrest, especially in Poverty Bay, among the loyal natives as well as among those who had been disaffected.

Under the East Coast Lands Titles Investigation Act, 1866, the Crown planned to take over the land interests of those natives who had revolted. Mr. Stafford told Parliament that it had been arranged with the loyal chiefs that portions of the lands so taken should be given to the friendly natives who had fought against the rebels, and that military settlers should be planted in certain districts. However, the enactment failed to specify clearly the class of persons intended to be adversely affected, and, consequently, when Judge Monro visited Poverty Bay in July, 1867, no business could be transacted by his court.

The measure was rectified in 1867, but, as Major Biggs considered that it might take many years to separate the land interests of the disloyalists from those of the loyalists, Mr. McLean (early in 1868) suggested to the loyal chiefs that blocks of land in Poverty Bay, and others on the East Coast and in the Wairoa district, should be handed over to the Crown voluntarily, as representing the land to be given up by those tribesmen who had been in rebellion, and that, in turn, the Crown should waive its claim to rebel interests outside the blocks so ceded. This proposal was under consideration when Judge F. E. Maning (author of Old New Zealand) visited Poverty Bay in March, 1868, and he merely opened his court and adjourned it.

Without undue delay, the Wairoa chiefs handed over to the Crown a substantial area at Marumaru, and it was converted into a military settlement. In October, 1868, Major Biggs told the Ngati-Porou that the area which they had offered was too small. The matter was in abeyance when the Poverty Bay massacre took place in the following month. No definite offer had been made by the Poverty Bay chiefs, but they now appealed for a greater measure of protection. On its part, the Government was anxious to keep its promise to members of the Hawke's Bay page 306 Defence Corps who had fought in the East Coast War that it would find lands upon which to settle them.

Towards the close of 1868, the Hon. J. C. Richmond arranged with the loyal chiefs of T'Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngaitahupo to cede the whole of their tribal lands to the Crown upon condition that those portions which were found by the Native Land Court to be the property of friendly natives would be returned. The deed of cession (Maori Deeds and Purchases: North Island, Vol. 1, Auckland, H. Hanson Turton) was signed by Henare Ruru and 278 others on 18 December, 1868.

When the Poverty Bay Crown Grants Commission sat at Gisborne on 30 June, 1869, Mr. Atkinson (for the Crown) intimated that he had succeeded in effecting a fresh arrangement with W. A. Graham, who represented the natives. It provided that Muhunga (Ormond), Patutahi and Te Arai (or Papatohetohe) should be given up to the Crown in full satisfaction of all claims against the Poverty Bay natives and that, in return, the Crown would waive all its rights over the remainder of the ceded area. It was stated (minute book, p. 2) that Muhunga comprised 5,000 acres. Mr. Graham pointed out the boundaries of Patutahi to the natives present with the aid of a plan [probably the Deed of Cession plan held in the Deeds Office at Gisborne], which showed its area as “57,000 acres more or less.” Te Arai was of 735 acres.

On 9 August, 1869, Mr. McLean met the chiefs of Ngati-Kahungunu and Ngati-Porou, and it was decided that the ceded blocks should be divided into three portions: one for the loyal Ngati-Porou, another for the loyal Ngati-Kahungunu, and the third for the Crown. It was also agreed that the European soldier settlers should receive their land at Muhunga, that the Ngati-Porou should get theirs out of Patutahi, and that Ngati-Kahungunu should be provided for out of the Te Arai lands.

The matter was again raised when Mr. McLean visited Port Awanui on 28 November, 1872. Ngati-Porou were resentful on account of a rumour that Ngati-Kahungunu were to receive portion of Patutahi; they put in a claim to the whole of that block. Mr. McLean (vide Hawke's Bay Herald) told them that it had already been decided that the ceded land should be divided into three distinct pieces—one-third to be retained by the Government and the other two-thirds to be given to the natives who had remained faithful to the Queen. Five thousand acres had been appropriated by the Government at Te Muhunga for a military settlement, and now 10,000 acres would be given to Ngati-Porou. It was true that he had promised some of the Patutahi land to Ngati-Kahungunu, but Tareha and others had agreed to accept money instead.

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Two days later, at Poverty Bay (vide Standard, 7/12/1872), Wi Pere and others urged that Patutahi should be returned to the natives, seeing that the lands of some other tribes which had turned Hauhau had not been confiscated. In reply, Mr. McLean stated that the Poverty Bay natives were well aware of the arrangement under which Patutahi had been taken, and that Ngati-Porou were to receive 10,000 acres “out of the 57,000 acres which belong to the Government.” On 7/12/1872, when tenders were called for surveying Patutahi, “said to contain 57,000 acres more or less,” the natives complained that the boundaries shown on the plan were incorrect. Mr. Locke, who was sent by Mr. McLean to examine the block, reported back that the boundaries were in accordance with the plan, and that the Government was entitled to 57,000 acres. On 20 December, 1872, Mr. Locke instructed Captain Porter to point out the boundaries to O. W. L. Bousfield, who had secured the survey contract. The block was found to contain 50,746 acres. [Captain G. J. Winter began the subdivisional survey on 15 June, 1874.]

Judges Hooted and Hissed

During 1873 that section of the Poverty Bay natives which favoured the repudiation of all transfers of land to the Crown and to private individuals became more active. Henare Matua (the leader of the Hawke's Bay Repudiation Party) arrived at Gisborne just prior to the opening of the Native Land Commission's sitting on 15 August. When the first case—the Okirau block—was being investigated, exception was taken by some natives to the evidence which was being given by Mrs. Wyllie, the principal claimant. Judge Monro, who was associated with Judge Rogan, then suggested that the business might be expedited if only those natives who were directly concerned were permitted to remain in court.

“On a preconceived signal given by someone in the crowd,” the Standard states, “the natives rose en masse and, amid cries of “Korero parau!” (false evidence!) and ‘Kokiri! kokiri!’ (Rush! rush!) effectually put an end to all hope of further business being transacted. Captain Richardson and his small force were active in their efforts to eject the more prominent among the rioters and they got a little rough usage in the scuffle. Sergeant Shirley's head came in contact with a square of glass and the noise when it broke added to the tumult outside, giving rise to a suspicion that the Maoris really intended to carry out their threat (pretty freely expressed) to attack the courthouse and destroy the maps and other property of the commissioners. Captain Porter rendered good service, and, eventually, the court was cleared and the doors locked. Outside, however, the excitement became intense, and it was certainly only due to the fact that business had been entirely suspended that open hostilities did not break out.”
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The settlers met under Major Westrup and decided to urge the Government to adopt a firm stand. They blamed Henare Matua for instigating the disturbance, and deplored the fact that the Judges had been hooted and hissed. It was agreed that a like scene of disorder had never before been witnessed in any court in New Zealand. In the hope that the unrest might subside, the Government instructed the Judges to adjourn the sittings until November. Reinforcements were rushed to Ormond and Wairoa, and the Luna was held in readiness for coastal service. Some outsiders who had intended to settle in Poverty Bay took their departure, and the Standard sorrowfully commented: “… and there has also been an exodus of their capital.” When Major Ropata turned up from Waiapu, Henare Matua quietly slipped away.

Just before the Commission was due to resume its sittings early in November, 1873, H.M.S. Basilisk (Captain Moresby, after whom Port Moresby, New Guinea, was named) anchored in Poverty Bay. What the Standard described as “a politico-naval demonstration” was staged on 31 October. The district's defence forces were called upon to repel efforts by the marines to land within Turanganui River. At 10.30 a.m. the attackers entered the river under cover of the warship's guns and opened fire on reaching the clear space opposite Read's wharf. When the first cannon was discharged, some of Captain A. F. Hardy's mounted men were thrown off and their horses broke away. Under Captain Winter, the infantry kept up a smart fire whilst the boats were being beached. The demonstration failed to achieve its main object, inasmuch that only a few natives turned up. However, the Standard held that the awed talk among that section of the residents proved that it had had a salutary effect, and it hinted that the Basilisk would probably return ere long and make a longer stay.

When the Commission held its delayed sitting, Mr. Locke (for the Crown) told the natives that he had come to give back to them all their lands except Te Muhunga, Patutahi and Te Arai, and those smaller blocks the ownership of which had been determined by the Commission. Commenting upon this decision, the Standard remarked that, if Mr. Atkinson (the former Crown Agent) had effectually done in 1869 what Mr. Locke had just done, “fours years of irritation and annoyance would not have happened; suspicions on the part of the natives in regard to the Government's intentions would not have been aroused; and much of the land included in the arrangement might already have become the homes of new settlers.”

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Several investigations have taken place in regard to a complaint by the natives that the Crown received more land than it was entitled to. It obtained a total area of 56,161 acres in the three blocks that were ceded. The Royal Commission of 1920 (presided over by Chief Judge Jones) held that the Crown should not have received, in the aggregate, more than 30,000 acres. It used for a measuring rod not the areas that were shown on the plans, but a statement attributed to Mr. McLean [August, 1869] that the land given up … would be divided into three equal parts—one for Ngati-Porou, one for Ngati-Kahungunu, and one for the Crown,” coupled with the fact that Ngati-Porou received only 10,000 acres as their share. The Commission reckoned that there was a surplusage of 26,161 acres, from which should be deducted 5,825 acres, which the Crown had either returned or had paid compensation for. No action has, so far (1949), been taken on the report.


In April, 1870, Mr. McLean notified the Ngati-Porou chiefs that, in consideration of their further military help after the Poverty Bay massacre, the Government would not confiscate any of their lands, but desired that 100 acres should be reserved for the use of the magistrate at Waiapu and five acres at Port Awanui for a landing-place.

The Government, on 30 September, 1873, paid to Ngati-Porou £5,000 for their share (stated in the deed to be 10,000 acres) in the lands ceded in Poverty Bay, and, by July, 1878, it had acquired the shares of 245 Ngati-Kahungunu at £10 apiece, leaving only 17 others to receive payment.