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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman


page 154


The Government now began to push on the construction of roads. At this stage (1870) the Government sought the co-operation of the powerful Chief Te Whiti, which was willingly given.

Meanwhile, against the protests of the settlers, the defeated tribes were stealthily creeping back by tacit permission. Sir Donald McLean, the great Native Minister, was anxious above all things to avoid another armed conflict. He decided to bide his time rather than attempt to drive the natives off the lands which were still nominally confiscated. So matters dragged on in a sort of uneasy peace until, in 1879, the Government began systematic surveys. It was here that the cardinal blunder on the part of the Government occurred. For, although several successive Governments had promised that the natives would be granted large reserves and that all their burial places, cultivations, and fishing grounds would be excluded from the lands to be settled, the natives became alarmed when they saw no signs of this being done. They saw the survey lines approaching their cultivations, and they threatened resistance. According to the Report of the Fox-Bell Royal Commission, the whole trouble arose from the failure of the Government to make clear to the natives that, in due course, their reserves would be set aside for them. It is not surprising, therefore, that the natives thought it time to forbid any further progress. They quietly removed all the surveyors to the south of the Waingongoro River.