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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

The Maori Land Question

The Maori Land Question.

There is still an Imperium in Imperio in the Northern Island of New Zealand.

There are large tracts, where for 100 miles, the Queen's warrants are disregarded, no roads can be made, no telegraph laid down, no trade, and no settlements can exist.

Ten thousand square miles in the centre of the State remain waste.

The inhabitants of this comparatively unpenetrated tract remain to a great extent a separate people—like the Scotch till they gave England a king—an independent race. They stand at bay and bid us standoff wherever they choose in this tract.

There is no such improbability as amounts to an impossibility in there again being warfare between the two races.

True, that the Europeans now greatly outnumber the Maories; that there need be no doubt, and that the Maories themselves have no doubt, that in a determined contest they would be worsted; and that time is fast accomplishing the spread of British sovereignty.

But, granting all these probabilities, it is in the first place by no means certain, nevertheless, that the amalgamation of the races will be completed entirely without further bloodshed; secondly, time is not accomplishing all things perfectly.

In the first place there is delay—and waste of time is at least as bad as waste, i.e., loss of other things.

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Next, during the suspense of this waiting policy is not a noble race passing away—a race whose chivalry and courage has tested the prowess of the Pakeha as no other race on earth has done, and one whose uncultivated intellectual faculties also give fair promise of being fully equal to their own—a savage race the preservation of which from extinction after contact with ourselves it would be only proper ambition for us to seek to accomplish?

In this present waiting transition period the Maori is learning our vices and suffering from their consequences, without benefiting by the blessings which also accompany civilisation.

The energies of a large population are comparatively without an object—without occupation.

Those who might by their labour enrich themselves and benefit us, live in comfort and be one with ourselves, still live as savages of the woods in the wretched bush hovels of their ancestors.

Large tracts of rich land, valuable minerals, and other natural products lie locked up—unheeded by the Maori, untouchable by the European.

The praiseworthy efforts of Government to procure land peaceably from the Maories for European settlement have in reality put Government in competition with private bids for the same, and the natural course of bargaining inevitably requires time.

When the purchase is completed the whole thing is partly a misfortune and partly a mistake.

The money so paid out of the Government Treasury is a large sum sunk.

For the money that has been paid by the Government, not in public works of communication, but in the purchase of land, is so much capital lost to the community for ever.

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Again looking at it from the Maories' side, a large sum down is paid to those who are unaccustomed to the possession of such wealth. Is it all carefully used? Is it invested for the future need of those who receive it? or does it go the way, as usual, of money easily made and easily lost?

It is feared that the latter is very much the case, and that those who thus permanently part with their greatest possession, their land, find themselves in a year or two after poorer than before.

Thus the Maori race, whom to draw on in health, wealth, material and mental prosperity, in common with ourselves, would be worthy of our ambition, will in reality lose their only vantage ground, the soil, and sink away inevitably through poverty.

Further, even the sum paid by the English purchaser is so much abstracted from his working capital—a very considerable sum perhaps swells the public income of New Zealand for that particular year—but the purchaser's powers are lessened for many a year—where he might have made the land carry five head of cattle it only supports one, &c., &c.

Thus the purchase of land diminishes the working capital—the productive wealth of the community; and, if avoidable, must be deprecated as the loss of so much capital removed from fertilizing channels.

Finally, this outright sale of land is forestalling in one year the income of future generations—a selfish, narrow, unwise course in Nations as in families.

It is as much for the benefit of the Maories as of the English that the tract of country they occupy should be opened up, and its wealth developed like other parts of the Islands, by roads, by settlements, and by the expenditure among them of that which will enable them in turn to become purchasers of such British manufactures as the climate and their growing new desires page 8 render necessary to them. They wish also that crime among them be controlled, and that law and order should be more really extended to themselves, and (more than any other savage race with whom Europeans have come in contact) are perfectly prepared and desirous to adopt a more settled life, and become a civilized people like the Pakeha.

It is the land question mainly that keeps the two races apart.

To remove this difficulty and hasten this consumation is surely an object worth an effort.

Englishmen at one time bought large tracts of land of the Maories for ridiculously small sums, and the Maori afterwards, repenting of his bargain, raised endless obstructions.

Occasionally the land was bought from several claimants—one after the other.

Bloodshed and war have been the consequence of land transactions.

The Government stepped in at one time to protect the settlers, at another the Maories, and after a time, not unreasonably, decided that land could thus be parted with, by one race to the other, only through the Government.

The Maori complained of this restriction on his right to sell his own, and the Englishman loudly echoed the same demand.

The Government withdrew the restriction—again it seemed necessary to enforce it—and again it has fallen partially into abeyance.

At present, purchases made through the Legislature, i.e., with a certificate from the Land Courts, sometimes cost so much in preliminary expenses, that there is little left to reach the hand of the Maori proprietor.

The question of how the Maori may obtain a return from his land at present locked up and waste, and how the Englishman may utilize it, has so many difficulties about it, that it may be said to have come to a deadlock.

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I venture to suggest a course by which throughout the whole Maori territory, the two races may at once mingle on equal and mutually advantageous terms; the whole of New Zealand be subject, not merely in name as now, but in reality, to the political and magisterial action of the State; the last remaining difficulty in the way of the Government be removed; the prosperity of the Colony be rapidly pushed on; and a permanent source of national income created. These results might, I trust, be accomplished without the expenditure of a shilling.

The solution I would suggest is one that respects the rights of the Maori, and meets the wish of the English; it gives to the Maori the value of the land, and to the Englishman the use of it.

I propose that there be first set aside as unalienable for ever, except to pure Maories, a sufficient quantity of land for the king, the chiefs, and every Maori individually.

The quantity that should be deemed sufficient, and the proportions as well as locality, to be assigned to each chief and individual to be determined entirely by a native council.

The smaller the area left for treatment under the next head the smaller will be the rental that will be collected and paid over to the Maori proprietor.

Next, let the Maori entrust the remainder of his land to the management of a Commissioner appointed by the Government, and approved by the Maori.

Let that Commissioner manage the estate as the agent of a large land owner.

Let the estate be roughly mapped according to its varying soils.

Let townships, agricultural farms, and sheep runs, be then marked out in dimensions varying from five acres to 500—of which any person may lease one or more lots as suits him.

Let the Commissioner undertake the introduction throughout it of the usual magisterial and other machinery of State, and page 10 the collection of the rent—from which rent he would apply what may be necessary to the purposes of administration, i.e., Public works of communication, Police, Education, &e., and the remainder, never less than one half, he would pay over to the Maories in the proportions determined by them in council.

The advantages that would be derived by the Maori are broadly—the permanent preservation of their race from poverty, the establishment for all time of their position as proprietors and landlords.

It may further be particularized as follows :—
1st.A large annual rental collected for them and paid to them by Government representing a far larger capital than any sum they can now get paid down to them as the price outright of the land.
2nd.This sum being secured to them as annual instalments for ever, instead of placed in their hands in a lump sum, and thus liable to loss by folly or misfortune in the first year.
3rd.The expenditure at once of a large sum of money on roads and other public works, in which they would be employed in all parts of their country.
4th.The immediate presence among them of Europeans, spending more or less of capital, and perhaps taking an interest and giving a kindly hand in their moral and material progress.
5th.Magisterial and medical help in the suppression of external and internal ills, and in short, such other blessings as may, it is to be hoped, overbalance the curses that accompany civilization.
6th.Trade in all its branches—great and small.

The advantages to Government of such an immediate and final solution of the Maori land question have already been touched on.

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The special advantages of this being effected by means of the creation of large Crown Lands property, may be imperfectly indicated as follows:—

Capital that would have been sunk in purchase remains with the tenants, and is employed in the development of the resources of the country—the material growth in value of the public property.

The rental forms a permanent steady income, and not the incomes of many years forestalled in one.

This annual State income reduces the amount to be otherwise raised by taxation. The land and its rental remains in fact forever the property of the whole people.

The success of this proposal depends on its thorough acceptance, both by the Maori and the Englishman.

If the Maori accepts it, if he recognizes that by it his title, his rights, his property will be respected, perpetuated, and rendered to him, for all future time; we have next to consider the reception the Englishman will give to it.

To be the owner of his homestead is the desire of every Englishman.

Leases, and above all things, ordinary yearly tenancies, will not attract capital.

The application to this property of the Ryotwarree tenancy of South India would, I believe, remove every difficulty.