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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



While these strange doings were still causing widespread alarm, there was a change of Government. The Hall Ministry took office in October 1879, with Bryce as Native Minister. He realised that Te Whiti's hostility was endangering the peace. The natives erected fences, which the page 156constabulary kept pulling down. Parties of natives with some sort of clubs or sticks followed the constabulary as they went about their task, and the position became daily more menacing. Bryce wanted to force the issue by arresting Te Whiti and his chief adviser Tohu and removing them from Parihaka. The rest of the Cabinet objected. They counselled delay. They said the slow course was the sure one. Finding his policy unacceptable to his colleagues, Bryce resigned, and his portfolio was taken over by Rolleston.

Now Rolleston had seen this trouble brewing for many years. We have seen in an earlier chapter that, as far back as 1869, he had urged in Parliament the appointment of a Commission to settle the whole problem before it became acute. But his advice was disregarded. "When I was asked", he said, "whether I would join the Hall Government (in 1879) one of the first things I put to Mr Hall was: 'Will you agree to a Commission being appointed to settle this question of the apportionment of the lands on the West Coast?'" This led to the appointment of the famous Fox-Bell Commission, whose report traversed the whole history of our conflicts with the Maoris. On the immediate problem the Commissioners were emphatic that the main cause of the trouble was the failure of successive Governments to set aside and indicate to the natives the reserves set aside for them before pushing on the surveys. Parliament adopted this Report, which made not only fair but liberal reserves for the natives. Lands to the value of over £1,000,000 were granted to natives not exceeding 3000 in number.