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Aureretanga: Groans of the Maoris


One long standing grievance exists in the Middle or South Island. When the Maoris sold to the New Zealand Company (in 1844) a block of land at Otago, the Governor commissioned a Crown Agent Mr. J. J. Symonds, to control the proceedings, and to inform the natives that none would be sanctioned which were “not honest, equitable, and in every way irreproachable.” The deed of sale signed (31st July, 1844) by Maoris and by Symonds, provided for certain reserves, but left the main question of reserves for the Governor's decision.

The Company had bound themselves to the Government in England to secure as reserves for the natives one-tenth of all lands which they were permitted to purchase. In this case Symonds wrote—” I left the further choice of reserves,—namely, the tenth part of all land sold by the New Zealand Company—to be decided by His Excellency the Governor.”

A Proclamation by the Governor in 1844 declared that “of all land purchased from the Aborigines by reason of the Crown's right of pre-emption being waived, one-tenth part, of fair average value as to position and quality, is to be conveyed by the purchaser to Her Majesty for public purposes, especially the future benefit of the Aborigines.”*

Will it be believed that for more than forty years, the Maoris have vainly pleaded for fulfilment of these solemn undertakings, and that though a Royal Commission reported favourably to their claims in 1881, the Maoris are vainly pleading still?

The Government was doubly bound to do justice to them; for when the New Zealand Company surrendered its charter in 1850 it was officially declared that “Her Majesty's Government take the lands of the Company subject to existing contracts :”—and the contract to

A Compendium of Official Documents relative to Native Affairs in the South Island. Compiled by Alexr. Mackay, Native Commissioner: Wellington, New Zealand, 1873. Vol. I., p. 103. Formal adoption by the Government of Symonds' proceedings; and sanction of the claim for the Maoris of “one tenth of each description of allotment, town, suburban, and rural; “may be seen in a New Zealand Parliamentary Paper:—Leg. Council, 1885. (Return) No. 15.

* Blue Book, 1845.

page 61 assign, as reserves, one-tenth of the land, having been made with the Crown by the Company, the Crown was in a position of double trust, and unimpeded in doing right, if only those who acted in its name in New Zealand desired to act honourably.

In 1848 Mr. H. T. Kemp was commissioned by the Government to purchase for the Government the lands of the Ngaitahu tribe in the Middle Island, and for £2,000, to be paid in four annual payments, he bought land extending over several degrees of longitude from Kaikora to Otago, and embracing the space from sea to sea on east and west. But there was a reservation in the Ngaitahu Deed (or Kemp's Deed).— “Our places of residence and our cultivations are to be reserved for us and our children after us, and it shall be for the Governor hereafter to set apart some portion for us when the land is surveyed by the surveyors.”*

Not only Taiaroa's name but the names of other Maoris, of Mr. Kemp and of two officers of H.M.S. Fly, and of the Principal Surveyor of the New Zealand Company, were duly appended to the Deed.

Subsequently Mr. Mantell was employed as Commissioner for acquiring lands in the Middle Island, and, according to his own letter (5th July, 1856) to the Secretary of State, he acquired 30,000,000 acres, for which “the natives received about £5,000, and the repudiated promises which form the subject of this letter.” . . By promise of more valuable recompense in schools—in hospitals for their sick—and in constant solicitude for their welfare, and general protection on the part of the Imperial Government—I procured the cession of these lands for small cash payments. The Colonial Government has neglected to fulfil these promises.… I trust that Her Majesty's Government will take such steps as will relieve me from the painful position of having been the channel of promises which have been at least forgotten, and secure my Native clients in the possession of advantages which have been so long withheld from them.”

Mr. Mantell appealed in vain. The Secretary of State denied him an audience (he was in London), wrote rudely to him, and disparagingly of his appeal for his native clients. Mr. Mantell, after another effort to induce the Secretary to call in the talents and probity of Mr. Justice Martin to adjust the claims, indignantly threw up his office as Commissioner (18th Aug., 1856), on the ground that the Secretary of State had refused to entertain the claims of the Ngaitahu Natives, and that he himself could not approve of the so-called principles and policy of the Local Government towards the Natives.

To this day are the Maoris groaning for relief from the injustice thus done on the spot, and thus winked at by a Secretary of State.

There are many just and kindly persons in New Zealand, but they have not been able to control the dealings of the Government with the Maoris. Those who desire to study the question of the Middle or

* Mackay's Compendium, Vol. I. p. 211.

Mr. Mackay's Compendium, &c. Vol. II., pp. 81–88.

page 62 South Island unfulfilled promises will find ample material in Mr. Mackay's Compendium, and in Parliamentary Papers and Debates.

These cover many thousand pages, however, and for those who have not time for lengthy research, a few lines will present one or two salient cases.

Taiaroa, a chief of high lineage, son of the chief who signed the Ngaitahu Deed, had given notice (in 1872, when Stafford was in office for one month) of his intention to move for a Committee on the Unfulfilled Promises in the Middle Island. Mr. Stafford, the Prime Minister, threw obstacles in the way, but with aid of Donald McLean, Taiaroa carried his motion. Stafford having lost his position, McLean soon returned to office as Native Minister, but did not aid Taiaroa in procuring an enquiry.

In 1874, Taiaroa renewed his demand for a Committee. Mr. Fox admitted that there were unfulfilled promises; McLean could not deny it. Mr. Mackay, the Commissioner of Native Reserves, reported that the Ngaitahu claims were good on all grounds known in Maori law— “hereditary, conquest, and occupation or possession.” But enquiry was refused. In 1879, a Royal Commission was appointed while Mr. Sheehan was Native Minister. Later in that year Mr. Bryce subsequently became Native Minister and informed the House that, while admitting that “no doubt the Natives had a claim,” he would urge the Commissioners to “curtail their expenses,” and report quickly, Crippled in their action, by refusal of advances from the Treasury to enable them to work, they nevertheless reported in 1881, and recognized the Native claims.

In May, 1882, Taiaroa asked, “what were the intentions of the Government with regard to the Report?” The Native Minister, Bryce, replied, that “the Government regarded the recommendations of these Commissioners (one of them was a Judge) as being utterly impracticable, and they therefore did not intend to take any action in regard to them.”*

A petition on the subject was referred in 1882 to the Native Affairs Committee, which reported upon it. A member moved that the Report be referred “to the Government for consideration.” (There are Greek calends in New Zealand.) Taiaroa, alleging that there were “six members on one side, and six on the other” in the Committee, and that the Chairman decided the matter, moved that the Report be referred back to the Committee, “for the purpose of taking further evidence.” Sir George Grey supported Taiaroa, and pointed out that “the evidence of Judge Smith was absolutely necessary in the case.”

The Report was referred back (Mr. Duncan informing the House that the condition of some of the Natives dependent on the result was “a disgrace to any Government,” but the Committee “found no reason to alter their report,” and if the House should desire the

* New Zealand Hansard, 1882. Vol. XLI., p. 62.

ib. Vol. XLIII., p. 563.

ib., p. 800.

page 63 Committee to take still further evidence, it was “practically impossible to do so this session.” Taiaroa deemed it unfair that he had not been “allowed to give evidence. The proceedings of the Committee had set at nought promises made in former years, and the Committee refused to allow persons to say what they had to say in favour of the natives. I shall not say very much more, because I know the majority of the House will support the Government, as it invariably does in regard to native matters.”

Mr. Bryce thereupon said that Taiaroa had “imputed unfairness of conduct in gross terms to the Committee. Let me say one word in reference to the members of that Committee, and let me express a hope that the honourable member will take it to heart. There are four members of the native race on that Committee… I warn the native members that if they persist in merely representing the native race, and utterly ignoring considerations in connection with European interests, the House will certainly become impatient of the position. I say that by way of warning; and let me say this also: matters in connection with the Native Affairs Committee are becoming so unsatisfactory, that in my opinion, this House will have to seriously consider whether that Committee ought to continue in existence or not. It is customary in this House to tamely submit to imputations because they come from natives, but I challenge such imputations once and for all, and I warn the honourable members that such imputations will not be tolerated.”

Te Wheoro replied with some dignity. Mr. Sheehan, formerly Native Minister, appealed to the sense of fairness in the House. He averred that the Natives no more combined than European members did, and that “anybody can see, on reference to Hansard, that repeated promises have been made to the natives by Ministers none of which have been fulfilled.

Mr. Daniel was sorry that the Minister was “putting his foot down on the Native race again. They only want their just rights.… I do not see why justice should not be given to them… A great injustice has been done to the Natives of the Middle Island. Not only has their land been taken from them, but they have been deprived of the Reserves promised to them… I am sorry that the Native Minister should make such an attack upon the Native members. I know that on the Committee they give their decisions the same as other honourable gentlemen do, and I have not seen that they have been biassed in the least.”

There was a division in the House on the matter, and Taiaroa's prediction of the result was confirmed.

The natives who were left in a condition which Mr. Daniel described as “a disgrace to any Government,” are still, so far as I know, left to groan, or to die.

This was the fate of those who made compacts with regard to their lands. Sometimes those who refused to make compacts were haled to prison, as was the case at Parihaka, in 1881.

Sometimes (as in the Waikato country, where the authority of page 64 Tawhiao had been recognized from 1864) slower methods were adopted.

Mr. Ballance, Bryce's successor, read in the New Zealand Parliament a petition received from Waikato by his predecessor. “We have carefully watched the tendency of the laws which you have enacted from the beginning up to the present day. They all tend to deprive us of the privileges secured to us by the 2nd and 3rd Articles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which confirmed to us the exclusive and undisturbed possession of our lands.… What possible benefit would we derive from roads, railways, and Land Courts, if they became the means of depriving us of our lands? We can live as we are situated at present, without roads, railways, or Courts, but we could not live without our lands.”* This petition was signed by the great chiefs, Rewi and Wahanui, and was more argumentative than groaning; but the plaints of others were alluded to in the same debate, by Sir Julius Vogel, who said that one Minister had “succeeded in securing a very strong dislike to himself on the part of the Natives; and, no doubt, judging from the line of policy that he followed, he is rather proud of having earned such a distinction. It is certain that he is looked upon by the natives as very hard and cruel.”

The manner in which solemn promises made to the Maoris in the Middle Island were broken was not calculated to induce their brethen in the North to abandon their homes and leave the burial-grounds of their ancestors to be desecrated at the command of any Native Minister.

One case may be cited to show the difficulties under which the Maoris laboured, even when their cases went before a Court of law.

The Native Land Court was sitting at Christchurch in April, 1868. A Cabinet Minister, Mr. (now Sir John) Hall, was in attendance; and Mr. Rolleston, then an Under Secretary, but afterwards a Cabinet Minister, was there also.

In giving judgment on one (the Rapaki) case, the Judge said “The court feels that it would be leaving its duty only half discharged if it failed to notice the character of the deeds purporting to extinguish the Native title to this island which have been produced before it. Whether the deed called the “Ngaitahu Deed” can have any effect whatever in law is not a question upon which it is necessary to pronounce any opinion, but having been compelled in the course of these proceedings to consider the terms and stipulations in this and other deeds produced, the Court could not fail to be struck with the remarkable reservation by the vendors of all their “pahs, residences, cultivations, and burial places, which were to be marked off by surveys, and remain their own property.

This provision has not, according to the evidence, been effectually and finally carried out to the present day, nor has any release been sought for by the Crown… Conflicting instructions from the

* New Zealand Hansard, 1885. Vol. LI., p. 277.

ib., p. 405.

page 65 Government seem to have reached Mr. Mantell with a curious rapidity, and finally, his most useful powers were withdrawn before he had been able effectually to operate under them. The Court feels very strongly that it would be greatly to the honour and advantage of the Crown that the stipulations and reservations of these Deeds of Purchase should, without further delay, be perfectly observed and provided for.”*

This was in 1868—and as the unfulfilled promises of the Crown in the Middle Island provoked the scene (just alluded to) in the New Zealand Parliament (in 1882) and are yet repudiated or postponed, it does not seem that the honour and advantage of the Crown have been taken to heart by those whose duty it was to respect them.

The Judge had another notable case before him at Christchurch in 1868 Heremaia Mautai and others claimed land “from ancestorship and occupation.” He still lived on a part of it, but the government claimed it by virtue of the Ngaitahu Deed.

Evidence was taken, on 28th April, and “after some conversation with the Honourable John Hall and the counsel on both sides,” the case was adjourned “in order to see whether any arrangement could be made.”

In the morning no settlement had been made, and counsel for the Crown proposed to “hand in a document signed by Mr. Hall, on behalf of the Crown, referring this case under section 38 of the Native Lands Act, 1867, for decision by the Court.” Mr. Williams, Counsel for the Crown, understood that Mr. Cowlishaw (who was counsel for the Maoris) “would object to the order of reference being admitted, and he regretted this.”

Mr. Williams handed in a document referring to the Ngaitahu Deed of 1848, and concluding thus:—

“Now, therefore, the said agreement is hereby referred in accordance with the above mentioned Acts to the Native Lands Court.

By command,

John Hall.”

Christchurch, April 28, 1868.”
Every one knew that the Governor (Sir G. Bowen) was not in the same island with Mr. Hall. He was in the North Island, and an English Blue Book, of 1869 (307), p. 136, furnishes a singular commentary upon the use to which Sir G. Bowen's functions were applied at Christchurch in his absence. The Governor met some Maoris at Ngaruawahia on the Waikato River in May, 1868. One of them asked if they were to understand that the Treaty of Waitangi was

* Compendium of official Documents, &c. Compiled by Alexander Mackay. Native Commissioner, Vol. 2, p. 203. Heremaia Mautai's case is at page 204 and subsequent pages of the same Volume.

Mackay's Compendium, Vol. 2, p. 205.

The Native Lands Act of 1867, provided that lands referred to in Sec. 83, of the Native Lands Act, 1865 should, unless otherwise directed, be excluded from the operation of the Act of 1865; but it left power to “the Governor” to refer agreements about land to the Land Court.

page 66 “still in force,” The Governor replied (through an official interpreter).—“The faith of the Queen will be preserved inviolate… The Treaty of Waitangi is still in force; the only difference of late years is that the disposal of their lands is now placed more entirely at the discretion of the Maori owners.

Such was Sir G. Bowen's florid account of what was going on. But such was not Heremaia Mautai's experience. His counsel, Mr. Cowlishaw, objected to Mr. Hall's order of reference, “He did not see how the Crown could step in in this summary way and stop a case now under adjudication. The case was now before the Court and he submitted that neither the Crown nor anybody else could step in the middle of it, and say—you are to proceed no further… It was never contemplated that the Governor should have such a power as this—that after the case had proceeded to a certain stage the Government could step in, and because it was going unfavourably to them, tell the Court that it must not proceed further with it. Such a proceeding would be an act of the greatest injustice.”* Counsel for the Crown objected to Mr. Cowlishaw's statement: and the Judge thought he could not “allow the objection raised by Mr. Cowlishaw,” who still contended that “although the power to make it a matter of reference was given to the Governor, the Legislature never intended to make it ex post facto… There was “nothing to prove that the Order of Reference was authorized by the Governor. He would propose putting it in evidence that the Governor had never authorized Mr. Hall to refer the matter to the Court… The order of reference was merely signed ‘John Hall,’ and the Court must therefore have evidence before it that the Governor delegated his authority to that gentleman. Mr. Hall did not even sign as being connected with the Government.” Here (continues Mr. Mackay's official compendium), “Mr. Hall added the words after his signature,” “A member of the Executive Council of the Colony of New Zealand.”

“The Chief Judge said the Court was bound to presume that the order of reference was duly authorized by the Governor. The Governor's signature was not necessary; and it was presumed that Mr. Hall acted on his authority until the contrary was shown.” [Parenthetically one may remark that it is rather violent to presume what is known not to be the fact; but when a Maori is in the case, strange presumptions take place].

“The order of reference was admitted, Mr. Cowlishaw objecting. The Chief Judge said he would proceed with the case with increased powers.” The hearing of the case was soon concluded, but it did not tend to confirm Sir George Bowen's idea that the disposal of their lands had recently been “placed more entirely at the discretion of the Maori owners.” Mr. Hall appears not to have been examined; for a Maori member of Parliament said (N.Z. Hansard, 21st July, 1881, vol. xxxviii, p. 622) that when Cowlishaw “rose in his legal apparel” he “failed to find the Honourable John Hall, because that honourable

* Mackay Vol. 2. p. 206.

page 67 gentleman had got on his horse and gone to his own place fifty miles off.” Mr. Mackay's official documents do not mention at what point of time Hall left the scene where he had played so conspicuous a part.

The judgment given for the Crown was a notable instance of neglect of those principles which Lord Derby had insisted upon in dealing with the Treaty of Waitangi.

The efficacy of Mr. Halls “order of reference” in the Court was apparently doubted afterwards, but not, perhaps, on account of injustice to Heremaia Mautai.

In 1868, the Legislature passed a “Ngaitahu Reference Validation Act” to “remove doubts as to the sufficiency of a certain order of reference” signed “as by command and on behalf of the Governor,” and enacted that the order should be deemed as “valid and effectual to all intents and purposes as if the same had been made by and given under the hand of the Governor”; and “to have been a valid agreement for the extinguishment of the Native title… “

And yet this same John Hall (now, by grace of the Colonial office under Mr. Gladstone's and Lord Kimberley's guidance, Sir John Hall) has been heard to assert that the Maoris have always been kindly treated. And he, and such as he, object when the truth is placed before the public.