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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



About the time Rolleston took office as Under-Secretary there was a change of Ministry, and Stafford became Prime Minister for the third time. Mr Sewell in his diary, dated 29 November 1865, says:

Met Rolleston, the Under-Secretary for Native Affairs, a new man imported by our late Government from Canterbury. He was page 64Provincial Secretary there and a very capable man; a great addition to the staff of the Government. He is a brother of Dr Rolleston, of Oxford. He tells me that Native affairs are being sadly mismanaged—and no wonder….Rolleston expresses great alarm at the probable effects of the mismanagement of Native affairs by the present Government and the real danger there is of a revival of war.

The opinion expressed about the mismanagement of Native affairs seems to have been well-grounded, for when he left office a few months later, Mr James Mackay, on his way to Tauranga, wrote to Rolleston:

I note what you say about writing less savagely—it is quite true. I fear another six months under R. would have made me hate the whole service. I know what you have gone through, and God forbid any of us ever go through another such ordeal. I know you have always tried to put things square when you saw any of us were doing our best for the service. I felt perfectly miserable, and as savage as any bear during the last few months. When I heard R. was out of office, I felt a millstone removed from my neck.

Mr Parris, who played a notable part for many years in Native affairs, was at this time what was called a Civil Commissioner.1

Rolleston's correspondence makes it clear that he soon won the confidence of the various Civil Commissioners, Native Agents, and missionaries. They wrote to him freely page 65on Native affairs. Their letters reveal the deep concern these officers felt at the political bungling and maladministration of successive governments, and it is clear that Rolleston fully shared their indignation.