The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
[6. Opotiki August 13th to August 20th, 8 days]
6. Opotiki August 13th to August 20th, 8 days—1 memo rial ordered, 16 cases dismissed, 1 case adjourned (unopposed)
Opotiki Court sat from 16th to 20th August, 4 days. Work done—1 memorial, 13 succession orders, 2 succession cases withdrawn. Besides this, there were 5 blocks for hearing upon the list, of which I give particulars; viz.: Te Ruatiawa, land at Kaipara, adjourned by me to Kaipara for investigation. Otaiharuru, land held under Crown grant title, in confiscated block at Whakatane, dismissed, no jurisdiction. Hikutaia, held under Crown grant in confiscated block at Opotiki, dismissed, no jurisdiction. Opotiki No 2. (dismissed), no survey, no jurisdiction over page 34 a large portion of the block; no appearance. Otarapata, no survey; dismissed, for, as the law then stood, unsurveyed land could not be adjudicated. Succession cases, no appearance; dismissed, 9; total, 31 cases being upon the list. What more could I do at that Court? It surely was not my fault that I had been sent to Opotiki to hear claims over which the Court had no jurisdiction, which, had the jurisdiction existed, could not have been heard for want of surveys. All this it was the Chief Judge's business to know from the Deputy Inspector of Surveys before putting the public to the expense of holding a Court. Yet I was sent to hold this Court, so arranged, and then made to suffer by an injurious representation secretly tendered to the Minister of Justice by the very person who so arranged the Court that I could not do more than award one unopposed case. "Who could be safe when the administration of the Native Land Court assumed this form? So anxious is the Chief Judge in his document, J. 80/2411, to find fault that the word ("unopposed") is actually underlined in red ink, as if I were to blame because a case was unopposed. However, the public was the gainer, as I was able sooner to turn to the subdivision of Opape Reserve. But the arrangement of the cases for my Court at Opotiki, in August, 1879, is equally remarkable in the omission of cases that were awaiting adjudication there at that time, such as the rehearing of Te Waimana, and others.
In Appendix C., it will be seen that to work harmoniously with Judge Fenton I postponed two Commission Courts at Tauranga in order that I might take this Opotiki Court. It will also be seen in the same Appendix how the Chief Judge refused, without cause or reason assigned, to recommend the payment of the expenses of the said Court, and therefore need not repeat these matters here.
Re dismissed cases, the following "Circular," with which I entirely agree, explains the reasons which prompted me to make a point of dismissing all the cases that were not in a condition fit for investigation.
11/1475. "Native Land Court Office," Auckland,
October 13, 1879.
I have the honour to draw your attention to the very great inconvenience resulting to this Court, from the Judges not noticing my repeated suggestion that all claims brought page 35 before them in such manner, as prevents their investigation at the Court then sitting, and in respect of which there are no cogent reasons for allowing an adjournment, should be dismissed. It is difficult to imagine any case which would justify in permitting its adjournment, when there is no appearance on the part of the claimant, or when it cannot be shewn that a survey is actually in progress or reasonably repeated.
"I have, &c.,
"F. D. Fenton,
"To J. A. "Wilson, Esq., Judge Native Land Court, Tauranga."