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Middle Island Native Land Question (Report on.), By Mr. Commissioner Mackay

The Murihiku Block

The Murihiku Block.

It will be unnecessary to do more than give a brief history of the circumstances connected with this purchase without entering into details, as the particulars are for the most part similar to those associated with the acquisition of the Ngaitahu Block (Kemp's Purchase).

The tract of country comprised within the block now under review includes all the southern part of the South Island to the south of the Ngaitahu and the Otakou Blocks, the aggregate area being 6,900,000 acres. The negotiations for the purchase were completed on the 17th August, 1853, for the sum of £2,600. Reserves were made for the resident Natives at the following places within the block, viz., Tuturau, Omaui, Oue, Aparima, Oraka, Kawakaputaputa, and Ouetoto; the total quantity set apart for the purpose being 4,588 acres.

The resident population numbered 140, the average per individual would therefore be under 33 acres. In this case, as in Kemp's Purchase, there were a number of persons who were not entered in the census taken at the time, through being absent at Stewart Island and other places, as well as from other causes. A number of the persons then residing on the Island of Ruapuke were also concerned, and, had they represented their position properly to the Commissioner who effected the purchase, would no doubt have had land reserved for them, as full authority was conferred for the purpose. The result of this omission, is that they are now either without land or only possess an insufficient quantity.

The deed does not contain any engagement to set apart additional reserves, but similar promises were made to the sellers with regard to schools, hospitals, and other advantages; and it has been expressly stated by the Commissioner who extinguished the Native title that these pledges were the main consideration for the sale of the land, on the faith of which he procured the cession of a large tract of country for a small cash payment.

The population according to the last census, including Stewart Island and Ruapuke, computed 353 persons; but there are others residing in the neighbourhood of and to the north of Otago who are also interested in the matter, and should be considered when additional lands are granted.

Assuming there are four hundred persons interested, and that land to the extent of fifty acres each is allotted them for individual use and occupation, less the 4,588 acres already appropriated to the purpose, it will need 15,412 acres to make up the requisite area, and to this a further quantity of 40,000 acres should be superadded for endowment purposes, making in all 60,000 acres. Independent, however, of the population basis alluded to, the same quantity is arrived at by classifying and assessing the value of the land according to prices paid in other parts of the colony on the same principle as the one adopted in Kemp's Purchase.

If this proposition is approved, it will be necessary to appropriate a total of 55,412 acres for all purposes; and I beg to recommend that this quantity be set apart. The same practice could be observed in regard to the appropriation as the one already suggested in respect of the area to be dedicated for a similar purpose in Kemp's Block.

As regards the locality of the land to be selected, that is a point on which I cannot afford very much information. By a statement kindly furnished by the Chief Surveyor in Southland, there | does not appear to be much open agricultural land left in the hands of the Crown, excepting lands that have been set apart either for deferred payments or perpetual lease. There is a good deal of bush land adapted for the purpose, but that has all been gazetted under the State Forests Act There is a large area of unappropriated land on Stewart Island; but even there all the bush land has also been proclaimed under the aforesaid Act. The localities on the mainland in which land page 14best suited for Native purposes could probably be obtained is the country on the sea-board between the Catlin's Disrict and the Mataura and to the west of the River Waiau Foveaux Strait.

The Natives living at Riverton and at the settlements to the westward are very desirous to secure a block of land in the last-named locality; and I beg strongly to recommend that their wishes be given effect to. I have to report that the Natives interested in the fulfilment of the terms of the purchase are willing to accept a grant of land in satisfaction of their claims.