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Reports of the Native Affairs Committee, 1877.

Report on Petition of John Hume and Others, European Inhabitants of the Wairarapa

Report on Petition of John Hume and Others, European Inhabitants of the Wairarapa.

This petition is from certain European settlers in the Wairarapa who own land injuriously affected by the overflowing of the Wairarapa Lake. They state that about two years ago the Government purchased the fishing rights in the said lake from Natives who were understood to be the owners, but that since then certain other Natives have preferred claims and petitioned Parliament. The petitioners further set forth that the Native Affairs Committee of last session recommended that the Natives last mentioned and others should be allowed an opportunity of proving their claims, and go on to state that, pursuant to this recommendation, an investigation was commenced, but had to be adjourned, for reasons not satisfactory to the petitioners. Petitioners allege that a Native named Hiko is thoroughly acquainted with the title to the lake, and that his evidence ought to be taken; but they allege that he is now an old, infirm man, and they fear that if his evidence is not shortly taken great difficulty will arise in investigating the matter. Petitioners therefore pray that the inquiry may be expedited, and, further, that immediate steps may be taken to keep the lake open, so that their property may not be injured by the overflow of the water of the lake.

I am directed to report as follows:—

That it appears from the evidence of one of the petitioners, Mr. Hume, that serious injury is caused to certain settlers in the Wairarapa by the yearly overflowing of the Wairarapa Lake, and that the evil cannot be abated without infringing the fishing rights of the Native owners, which are alleged to have been retained or preserved in the original deed of cession. That it further appears that about two years ago a purchase of the lake and of the fishing rights therein was made by the Government, but, as it seemed on inquiry by the Native Affairs Committee of last session that the whole of the Natives interested had not an opportunity of being heard in support of their claims, that Committee recommended as follows:—"That the Committee are satisfied from the evidence they have taken that the majority of the owners of the lake have not joined in the sale, and they are of opinion that it would have been better that the title should have been investigated by the Native Land Court previous to the completion of the purchase; and the Committee are further of opinion that the petitioners and other Natives who may allege a claim ought to have an opportunity of proving their title, if they are able to do so, before the Native Land Court." It now appears that obstructions to the inquiry were made by the persons in whose favour the recommendation of the Committee of last session was made. Your Committee can only now express an opinion that the inquiry ought to be expedited, and the grievance complained of by both parties settled with the least possible delay.

John Bryce,

29th October, 1877.