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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

"Memorandum to the Hon. Minister oe Justice

"Memorandum to the Hon. Minister oe Justice.


"I have the honor to forward the enclosed requisitions for money to meet the expenses of the Native Land Court now sitting at this place. I send the requisitions to yourself direct, as the Chief Judge has refused to recommend the requisition of the 14th July.

"The Court was notified to be held according to law by Chief Judge Fenton, who directed me in writing to preside thereat. (Vide copy of letter attached.) The Court opened on the day appointed, 1st June, 1880, since which there have been two adjournments; on the first occasion for five days, when the natives all became drunk and incapable of business on the death of a chief, Waata Taranui; on the second occasion when the assessor fell sick and returned to his home. Here I should explain I had not chosen the assessor, for contrary to usage he had been chosen for me.

"At the second adjournment I decided not to resume the Maketu Court until after the Cambridge Court should have risen. Meanwhile I held a Commissioner's Court for three weeks at Tauranga, and passed eight blocks.

"I did not resume the Maketu Court because the whole of the Rotorua natives were absent at the Cambridge Court, and they had requested the adjournment of all claims in which they were interested until they should have opportunity to attend. Thus all the large cases upon the Maketu list, and many small ones as well, were unavoidably adjourned. The mistake was in calling two important Courts in a way to interfere page 66 with each other; that mistake, however, was not mine, and I am not to be blamed for the results.

"The officers were discharged at the adjournments. Owing to the adjournments the Court has had only 22 sitting days, during which period 18 orders have been made, of which 9 are for memorials of ownership. Several recommendations have been made; one case has been adjourned, and 3 more are likely to follow; 96 claims have been dismissed through want of plans or as duplicate claims; 12 claims, which had passed former Courts, were dismissed; the discovery that these claims had not been written off in the Head Office, compelled the Court to search the records in many other cases also.

"Thus upon a 12 years' accumulation of claims amounting to 204 in ail, sent to my Court, but 74 remain upon the list. (Vide list attached.) Again, when the Court opened first it was delayed four days in the difficult task to strangers of arranging hundreds of claims with their plans. This should have been done in the Deputy Inspector of Surveys Office. Eight days after a letter was received from that office shewing the connection, but it came too late to be of service to the Court.

"The case now before the Court is that of a block worth about £45,000, claimed by every hapu of the Arawa. The Supreme Court of New Zealand seldom has larger or more difficult cases to deal with than that which is now engaging the attention of Assesor Leaf and myself. Native Chiefs of highest ranks, are present from Torere, east of Opotiki, from Te Awa ote Atua, Tarawera, Taupo, Rotorua, Cambridge and Auckland, also from Te Rotoiti.

"I mention these things to shew how contrary to fact is the statement by Mr. Chief Judge Fenton, that 'nothing comes of the Maketu Court.' When I first entered the Native Land Court at Maketu, to relieve Judge Heale, two years ago, the Court was full of men stripped and armed for fight with revolvers, tomahawks, spears and every kind of Native weapons. Six spearmen held the door, and the Sergeant of Police reported his men wounded in trying to enter.

"The Court was informed that blood would be shed if it attempted to proceed with the business before it. This state of things is changed (although a weak or an inconsiderate and impatient course of action might easily revive it) and something came of the Court at Maketu, when the change was effected.

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"I am the only Judge who has sat there since that time, but I believe I am right in stating I am not the only Judge who has been asked to sit there.

"I do not desire to trouble you with Mr. Chief Judge Fenton's minute upon the requisition for money for Maketu Court, in so far as its effects are felt from a business point of view. Whether a Court is to contract debts without paying them, or whether it is to pay or be paid according to the amount of work it may appear to have performed, I would respectfully submit are matters beyond discussion among business men.

"I would, however, remark that it has been the practice heretofore to recommend imprests for the payment of Courts which have not heard a single case. I will mention four such Courts within this district during the last two years, costing altogether about £300.

"I. The Court at Galatea, in 1878, which I was ordered by the Hon. Native Minister to adjourn at its opening, because it had been called in an unsuitable place.

"The hut I tried to sleep in had neither door, nor window, nor floor, nor furniture, nor bedding, nor food. The ice outside the hut was two inches thick, and food for man and beast could not be bought. I then saw how correctly the Native Minister had been informed.

"II. The Court at Galatea in 1879 removed by Judge Symonds to Te Teko. No case beard.

"III. The Court ordered at Taupo, 1879. Judge Symonds had not an opportunity to hear any case in this instance.

"IV. The Court at Tauranga on the 4th February last. Two Judges attended this Court, Mr Chief Judge Fenton and Judge Symonds, but no case was heard.

"I have not written this memo, as an apology for myself as presiding Judge at Maketu Court. I have written simply by way of controverting an error contained in Mr Fenton's minute upon a matter of fact, and because I desire that funds may be furnished without delay for the Court over which I am at present required to preside.


J. A. Wilson

, "Judge Native Land Court."