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The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.

Chapter XIX. — Karaitiana and Hapuku

page 149

Chapter XIX.
Karaitiana and Hapuku.

"Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness or contempt,
Dispraise or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble."

In all Sir George Grey's Governments it sometimes happened that funds were necessary for the public service which were not available from the Public Treasury. At such times Sir George Grey never hesitated to advance from his own private fortune the sums so required. On no occasion when this happened did he receive security or did he ask it. It was sufficient for him that the public service needed, not only his time and effort, but money also, to cause him to take immediate action. The first occurrence of this nature took place about 1853.

Between the provinces of Auckland and Wellington lie the fertile plains of Hawke's Bay. The lands of the South Island had been purchased for a trifling amount from the native tribes to whom they belonged; but the Maori inhabitants of the South were few in number, and utterly unable to occupy any considerable portion of the territory which they nominally owned. In the North the situation was entirely different. Especially was this difference shown in the district of Hawke's Bay. On the wide and rich plains which lie between the Seventy-mile Bush and Napier large numbers of natives made their homes. The cultivations were numerous, the eel fisheries abundant. Fierce wars had been waged between many page 150tribes for the possession of that territory, and wild legends are yet told in the scattered kaingas of the Maories of conquest and defeat, followed always by cannibal feasts.

Many Europeans had settled amongst the natives in this region, and it became advisable, if not absolutely necessary, that the Crown should acquire large portions of that territory in order to give good titles to European settlers. But the natives were difficult to deal with. The majority of the chiefs were willing to cede a portion of their tribal estates, while the remainder stubbornly refused. Some of them commenced to sell to the Government. On this becoming known to the remainder, a public runanga, or council, was held, at which, after a stormy discussion, the natives fell into two parties.

The war of words was, as is usual with the Maoris, quickly followed by actual conflict. After some desultory fighting, a pitched battle took place, in which many were killed and wounded upon both sides. Many noted warriors fell. The great chief Hapuku was driven from the lower plains to Te Aute. Karaitiana, Tareha Moananui and Renata Kawepo remained masters of all that rich alluvial region which surrounds Heretaunga.

It needed the skill and address of the Governor himself to complete the purchase of the land required by the Government. He met the chiefs assembled with their people. The lands to be sold were marked out upon maps, and the price to be paid was fixed at £7,000, which money was to be paid in cash. Here a difficulty arose In the Treasury there was but about £5,000 available for the purchase of these lands. The Government had no power to borrow save with the sanction of the Imperial authorities.

But Governor Grey was not to be deterred by an obstacle of this nature. He advanced the necessary balance from his own private moneys, on the understanding that he should be repaid from the proceeds of the lands when sold. Thus the full sum was paid over to the Maoris.

Of the money so advanced by the Governor, the greater part (£2,000) was not repaid to him until after his return to England. By his influence with the natives, and by his assistance in thus advancing the necessary funds a magnificent estate was secured for the colony.

After their war Karaitiana and Hapuku were sworn foes. Ka-page 151raitiana became a member of the Assembly, representing the Maoris of that district; while Hapuku, sullen and morose, dwelt apart in his pah on the shores of the Te Aute Lake. Sometimes the old warrior visited Napier, but until within a few hours of his death he and Karaitiana never met as friends.

Twenty-five years after the decisive struggle between them, Sir George Grey, then Premier of New Zealand, received intimation that Hapuku was dying. The ceremonies preceding death had been performed. His tribe was gathered for the tangi (weeping) which should lament the passage of his spirit to the unknown land. Sir George Grey, visiting Napier, sent for Karaitiana, and said that together they would proceed to the death-bed of Hapuku, so that before he died the two great chiefs and warriors might be reconciled. At first his request was refused, but in the end his persuasion prevailed, and travelling forty miles they arrived at Te Aute.

When the former Governor and Hapuku's old enemy, Karaitiana, entered the pah, wonder and astonishment filled the place, and loud cries of welcome resounded on every hand. They walked to the side of the dying chief, and there sat down. Hapuku, with wondering eyes, exclaimed, "O friend, how did you come here?" "I came," was the reply, "upon the wings of love, and have brought with me Karaitiana so that you may be friends once more before you leave this world."

While Sir George Grey (still to the Maoris "the Governor") spoke these words of affection and of peace to Hapuku, the hands of the two enemies were clasped together, and their deep emotion testified by the tears shed by both witnessed a final reconciliation. Hapuku died within a few hours, and Karaitiana only survived him for about twelve months.