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Whakarewarewa School Reserve, Motueka (Report of Mr. Commissioner Mackay upon the).

[Memorandum regarding the Petition of Tapata Harepeka and Others]

Memorandumre the Petition of Tapata Harepeka and Others, for the Restoration of certain Lands at Motueka granted to the Bishop of New Zealand as an Endowment for an Industrial School out of Reserves set apart for their Use and Occupation.

The history of the early formation of the Nelson settlement being inseparably connected with the subject-matter of the petition, it would be difficult to explain clearly the whole of the circumstances which led to the setting-apart of the lands which are now sought to be recovered by the petitioners without briefly referring to the scheme under which the reserves at Motueka were set apart.

One of the principal features in the formation of the New Zealand Company's settlements was the scheme of Native reserves, and in all the early land-transactions with the Natives the deeds contained an express covenant that a portion of the land ceded, equal to one-tenth, should be reserved by the Company and held in trust for the future benefit of the vendors.

In fulfilment of the above engagement the original quantity set aside by the Company in the Nelson settlement as Native reserves was 20,100 acres—viz., 100 town acres, 100 suburban sections of 50 acres each, and 100 rural sections of 150 acres each, out of which only 5,057 acres have been retained.

In addition to the tenths it was also agreed between the Government and the New Zealand Company that the Natives were to have occupation land allowed them as well, as it was not intended that they should take possession of the tenths, but that these lands should be held and managed for the benefit of the vendors, and the proceeds expended for their moral and social advancement.

The mode of acquiring the Native reserve tenths was determined by lot in the same manner that orders of choice were obtained by European purchasers.

The tenths, town and suburban, were selected in the Nelson settlement by the Police Magistrate, Mr. H.A. Thompson, in 1842.

In fulfilment of the arrangement made between Captain Wakefield and the Natives shortly after the arrival of the preliminary expedition at Nelson, that they should retain a considerable portion of the Big Wood at Motueka, then in cultivation by them, Mr. Thompson was compelled, in consequence of their cultivations being included in the surveyed sections, to select these lands as Native reserves under the New Zealand Company's scheme. This led to the following fifty-acre suburban sections being chosen : viz., Nos. 157, 159, 160, 161, 183, and 187—in all, 300 acres.

In 1844 Mr. Commissioner Spain, who had been sent out from England by the Imperial Government clothed with plenary powers to investigate and determine the New Zealand Company's claims to land in New Zealand, arrived in Nelson for the purpose of holding an inquiry into the Company's claims in that district. On visiting Motueka he found the Natives, besides being in occupation of the aforesaid sections, were also cultivating lands that had been chosen by the settlers. It became necessary, therefore, in order to enable the Company to keep faith with its purchasers, to exchange these sections for lands selected as Native reserves tenths other parts of district.

This resulted in seven of the original fifty-acre sections being exchanged for seven others of an equivalent area in the Big Wood. In addition to the sections already in the occupation of the Natives, Commissioner Spain awarded them three more, bringing the number up to sixteen, and the quantity of land to 800 acres.

In July and August, 1853, two grants, comprising in all 1,078 acres and 5 perches, were issued in favour of the Bishop of New Zealand as an endowment for a school for religious, industrial, and English education of children of both races, and of children of other poor and destitute persons being inhabitants of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Of the quantity of land included in the grant, 918 acres and 5 perches was appropriated out of the Native Trust Estate, and 160 acres belonged to Crown lands. The proportion taken page 2out of the Trust Estate included some of the best lands belonging to the property, but the Crown land was utterly valueless, and has remained so to the present day.

The 918 acres appropriated as aforesaid included 350 acres of the quantity allotted formerly by Commissioner Spain for the Natives, and to the dissatisfaction that has prevailed in consequence of this action may be attributed the want of success that has attended the school since its outset.

On the allocation of the Native reserves in Motueka becoming known, the Nelson Provincial Council passed a resolution condemning the dedication of these lands for the purposes described in the grant as being a violation of the contract in virtue of which the Nelson settlement was founded. A memorial was also despatched to the Secretary of State for the Colonies setting forth the reasons why the grant to the Bishop should be annulled.

In reply to the protest made by the Council, permission was granted to try the validity of the grants by scire facias, but after duly considering the matter, although still holding to the opinion formerly expressed, it was decided that it would be impolitic to make any attempt to disturb the grants, as other questions of title were inwrapt which it would be inexpedient to raise.

The question of the Motueka endowment was subsequently brought before Parliament in 1867, on a motion made by Mr. C. Parker, M.H.R. for Motueka. Owing to the representations then made, and the general dissatisfaction that prevailed regarding the administration of the whole of the educational Trusts throughout the colony, a Royal Commission was appointed in 1869 to inquire into the matter.

The Commissioners, in reporting on the subject, stated, "In many cases the grants of the endowments themselves seem to be of questionable legality, and in one instance, at least, the lands have been diverted from the Trusts for which they were originally granted to objects of an entirely different character…. The Commissioners therefore, with a view to the maintenance of the rights of the persons beneficially interested in these grants, and in order to secure to them the advantages contemplated when they were made, recommend that an Act should be introduced into the Legislature empowering the Government to appoint an Official Trustee or Trustees, in whom all these estates should be vested, upon precisely the same Trusts (wherever these latter should not be considered positively illegal) as those for which they were originally given."

With reference to the grants now under review, the Commissioners make the following observations:—

"These grants, which have caused much local dissatisfaction, appear to have conveyed an amount of land (consisting of reserves originally made for the benefit of the whole of the Natives residing around the settlement of Nelson) disproportionate to the relative number of Natives of that denomination in the settlement…. The attempts to establish a school there (Motueka) must be characterized as failures."

No action was taken to carry out the recommendation made by the Commissioners.

In 1879 a Commission was appointed under letters patent to inquire into and report upon the University of New Zealand and other educational institutions. Amongst other institutions inquired into was the Motueka School endowment, and the evidence taken will be found at pages 137 to 139, 157 to 161, and 162 to 166 appended to the Commissioners' report. The Commissioners did not append any remarks to their report touching the condition of the endowments they took evidence on, consequently it is impossible to determine their joint opinion on the subject.

Touching the allegations contained in the petition, that the Natives gave the land on the understanding that it would be returned in the event of the school being closed, it will probably be found impossible to furnish any tangible evidence in proof or disproof of the statement; but it cannot be disguised that the school has been unsuccessful from the outset, and that the conditions of the grants have been infringed on several occasions.

In the first place, the school was in abeyance for about three years, between 1857 and 1860; it was then closed again for four years, between March, 1864, and May, 1868, in consequence of the scholars having decamped, owing to their unwillingness to work, as well as their distaste to be under restraint. It was reopened in May, 1868, with fair success under the Rev. Mr. Ronaldson, and remained open under his charge, and subsequently under Mr. Joseph Baker's, in an irregular manner for about thirteen years. Mr. Baker was appointed in May, 1872. The school has been permanently closed since May, 1881, and it would be fruitless making any further attempt to open it, as there are no children to educate.

The want of success that has attended the school throughout is entirely owing to local circumstances—viz., the annoyance evoked in the minds of the Natives at their lands having been appropriated for the purpose. This feeling was a continual source of irritation, and deterred the attendance of children in the locality, while the local jealousies prevented parents at a distance from utilising the establishment. The Motueka School, when first established under the Rev. Mr. Tudor, before the endowment was made, was well attended; but directly the land was taken, and the Natives had to remove off the portions cultivated by them, a feeling of dissatisfaction at once commenced, and has continued more or less ever since.

The appropriation of this land has also operated detrimentally to the interests of the Natives in other respects, as the inability of the institution to provide for all the school requirements needed necessitated other arrangements being made to bring education within reach of other localities, thereby causing an extra charge on the Native Reserve Fund accruing from other lands which should not have been hampered with claims for educational purposes, considering the valuable property that had been allocated in that behalf.

It will probably be admitted that the following reasons furnish a good and sufficient cause why the grants of the aforesaid lands should be annulled, and that legislative action should now be sought to vest the land in the Public Trustee:—
(1.)There is little doubt that the grants to the Bishop of New Zealand are both illegal and inequitable. Illegal, because the lands appropriated have been dedicated to uses entirely at page 3variance with the intention for which they were set apart—viz., for the special benefit of certain Natives; inequitable, because lands that were set apart in fulfilment of a special engagement with the Natives, and, in fact formed part of the purchase-money for the cession of their territory to the New Zealand Company, have been made available for the education of European children, and children of other poor and destitute persons of islands in the Pacific Oceau.
(2.)Because the terms of the grant have not been maintained—viz., that religious education, industrial training, and instruction in the English language should be constantly taught—the school having been frequently closed for three and four years at a time, and is now permanently discontinued owing to there being no further use for it.

Although it is impossible to gauge accurately the benefits that may have accrued to the Natives through the dedication of over nine hundred acres of the primest part of their estate as an endowment for school purposes, it is quite possible to approximate the total income that would otherwise have flowed into the Trust funds for their behoof in other ways had this allocation not been made, and the amount would be under-estimated at £8,000.

With a view to place the Committee in possession of further information on the question, I furnish herewith the under-mentioned papers, &c., viz.: (1.) Papers containing an account of the proceedings of the Nelson Provincial Council in re the grant to the Bishop of New Zealand of certain lands at Motueka. (2.) Papers containing the evidence taken before the Royal Commission in 1870 on the same subject. (3.) Book containing evidence taken before the Royal Commission in 1879. (4.) Book containing, inter alia, reports on the condition of the Motueka School in 1856, 1876-77. (5.) Book containing memorandum on New Zealand Company's tenths. (6.) Three plans of the reserves in Motueka.

A. Mackay.

9th July, 1883.