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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Judgment of the Native Land Court

Judgment of the Native Land Court.

The following is a copy of the judgment in the Wharepuhunga case, delivered recently by Judge Gudgeon:—

This block of laud, containing [unclear: 133,720] acres, was brought before the Native Land Court sitting at Kihikihi on the 7th April, 1832, after several adjournments which were granted in order to enable the parties to the suit to come to some arrangement outside to which the Court might give effect; but, as is usual in such cases, no good resulted from the adjournments.

The Court was unable to deal with the partition claims in the Gazette, inasmuch that the title to the block had not issued, and, by rule 15 of the Native Land Court, no subdivision of land can take place until the title to the land has issued. It was withheld in this case in consequence of a Government survey lien of £344 10s against the block.

Under these circumstances, the Court decided to proceed with the application of Hitiri te Paerata for the determination of relative interests.

During the early stages of the case, Mr. W. H. Grace, acting on behalf of Rangitutia aud 33 hapus of the Ngatiraukawa, raised certain objections on which the Court will now comment in order that there may be no misconception in the minds of those interested.

The first point taken was that Mr. G. T. Wilkinson, in his capacity as agent for the Crown, had no standing in the Court, since any interests acquired by the Crown were illegally purchased, from the fact that the title had not issued.

The Court decided that Mr. Wilkinson had an undoubted right to appear and watch the interest of the Crown, and that the legality or otherwise of the presumed purchase did not concern the Court, since it was not called upon in this case to decide what interest the Crown had acquired. Its only duty in this case is to award such shares as the evidence shall show each person to be entitled to, and to prevent chiefs of tribes or hapus from increasing or diminishing the interests of any person for the reason that he has or has not sold to the Government of the colony. The case before the Court is one for definition of interests, and the Court will perform its duties, without reference to any collateral question of sale or otherwise.

Another point was to the effect that the Court could not entertain the application of Te Paehua to set up a case on behalf of Ngatiwhakatere, since the land had been definitely awarded to Ngatitakihiku.

Here,' also, the Court differed from Mr. Grace, who had been misled by a document in the handwriting of the assessor, Parnteue Ngata, attached to the tile. This document is, apparently, an unauthorised expression of his own opinion, since there is nothing in the minutes of the Court to show to whom this land was awarded, or to warrant the memo, above referred to, which, after reciting the boundaries of the block, proceeds to say that the award had been made in favour of certain hapus of Ngatitakihiku.

There has really been no investigation into the title of this land. It is true that an order has been made in favour of 991 persons, but the boundaries and lists of names were settled outside the Court, and presented by Hauauru Poutama, and it does not appear that these lists were objected to, or even questioned, by anyone. It is for this reason that the Court has been compelled to treat the case as one of original investigation. Had the block been awarded to any tribe or hapu, the matter would have resolved itself into a simple inquiry into descent and occupation. Now, however, an exhaustive in- page break quiry the history of the Wharepuhunga block during the past 60 years has become necessary, to enable the Court to define interests in a manner satisfactory to all parties to the suit.

The Court does, however, agree with Mr. Grace in his contention that the Survey Department have no lien against this laud, and therefore that there is no good or sufficient reason for delaying the issue of title. A lien can only be lawfully obtained in the manner prescribed by the Native Land Court Acts, and, as the procedure has not been followed in this case, there is no lien.

The following claims were made, and cases set up in this block:—

1. Te Paehua, on behalf of the Ngatiwhakatere, claims a long narrow strip on the western boundary of Wharepuhunga, extending from the Kokoputahi ford on the Mangatutu Stream to a point on the southeastern boundary, which ho affirmed to be the true Taporaroa. He objects to the position of Taporaroa as shown on plan No. 6024.

2. Areta Kapu claims a right over the whole of the Wharepuhunga Block, for herself and other descendants of ancestors included in the following Hapus:—Ngatiwairangi, Ngatitakihiku, Ngatimaiotaki, Ngatiteupokoiti, Ngatitamatenura, etc.

3. Mr. Grace, on behalf of 33 hapus of the Ngatitakihiku tribe, claims exclusive right over the whole block, and denies the right of Hitiri te Paerata or the counter-claimants to the land before the Court.

4. Hitiri te Paerata claims a right, but not exclusive, over the whole block, on behalf of the Ngatitekohera, Ngatiparekawa, Ngatingarongo, Ngatimoekino, Ngatiihutara, Ngatipihautea, Ngatiparetekaihae, and Ngatikiritaratar hapus.

Subsequent to the setting up of these cases Te Raugimueakau asked to be allowed to set up a case for himself, apart from that of Areta Kapu. The Court permitted him to do so, but after occupying the time of the Court during one day, he decided to merge his case into that of the 33 hapus represented by Mr. Grace.

The Court will deal with these claims in the same order as they were brought before it.

Te Paehua, in support of his claim, stated that the ancient boundary between the Ngatiwhakatere and Ngatitakihiku tribes followed, not the natural boundary of the Mangatutu Stream, but the old native track which, crossing the Mangatutu stream at Kokooutahi goes by way of Te Kahikatea and Matapuku to Taporaroa. He claims that his fellow-tribesman Te Purangi lived at Orangipaea before the great Ngatiraukawa migration took place, and that his own grandfather. Hungahunga, lived at Pawhenua subsequent to the migration in question, lie, moreover, asserts that on the occasion of the meeting held at Aotearoa, in order to discuss matters connected with the survey of the block, he attended, and asked to be allowed to form one of the survey party, but the Ngatiraukawa refused to allow him, to do so; that he, nevertheless, followed the surveyors, and objected to the position they had fixed as Taporaroa, under the direction of Te Rangimoeakau, and succeeded in inducing the surveyor, Mr. Tole, to put in a peg at the spot he indicated as the real Taporaroa. He further assures the Court that, during the Maraeroa investigation, he succeeded in establishing the truth of his claim as to the position of Taporaroa, and that the boundaries of the Pouakani block were altered to include the piece claimed by him in Maraeroa.

So far Te Paehua had established a good prima facie case, but under cross-examination he admitted several very important matters which had probably escaped his memory.

First, he admitted that, from the date of the great migration to Kapiti, the mana and management of the deserted lands had falien into the hands of two great chiefs, Manga and Pateriki, who represented respectively the Ngatitakihiku and Ngatiwhakatere tribes, and that, on the death of Pateriki, he was succeeded by his brother, Hauauru Poutama, a man of the highest rank.

Now, it was this very chief who assented to the Mangatutu boundary, and requested the Court to give effect to the boundary which had presumably been agreed to by both tribes, since there is no evidence that anyone raised an objection. He also admitted that he had, in a Gazette of the 29th June, 1886, application No. 38, described the eastern boundary of Rangitoto, and that this boundary differed materially from that now given by him as the old ancestral boundary. He can give no explanation as to this serious difference; he simply says, "I alone am responsible for the boundaries given in the Gazette; I knew it was not the true boundary."

The Court has no difficulty in believing that Te Paehua was alone responsible tor the boundary then given, and also for that now given, since both of them differ from that approved by the tribes and handed into Court by Hauauru.

But the Court cannot believe that Te Paehua, when he sent his first application to the Gazette above quoted, knew of the existence of the ancestral boundary he now quotes, for in such case he would hardly have defrauded himself of at least 5000 acres of land.

Te Paehua admits that the Ngatiwhakatere did not hand in any list of names as such, and that they only appear on the rolls of this block by virtue of descent from Takihiku.

Under cross-examination he admits that the objection made by Ngatiraukawa was not to his inclusion in the survey party, but to his being paid for going,—a difference which Te Paehua does not appear to appreciate at its true value, but which shows conclusively that Ngatiraukawa offered no obstruction, and did not carry out the survey clandestinely.

He does not deny that he was present when the map of Wharepuhunga was exhibited for the purpose of hearing objections, and asserts that he did object, but there is no minute in the Court books to show that any such objection Was made.

To Paehua was not fortunate in his witness Tiriwa, for she not only declared that she knew nothing of Te Paehua's claim, but also proceeded to set up a perfectly new claim on behalf of the Ngatiwhakatere, outside the boundaries laid down by Te Paehua.

Hitiri te Paerata also, while supporting Te Paehua, admitted that the only ancient boundary he had ever heard of between Whakatere and Takihiku was that which, commencing at Mangamaire, followed the course of the Mangatutu stream to its source, and thence went direct to Pukeokahu and Taporaroa. Now it is this very boundary that has been adopted by the tribes, and shown on the map as the tribal boundary. Under these circumstances, the Court finds that the Ngatiwhakatere have no right on the Wharepuhunga Block as a tribe, and dismisses the claim of Te Paehua.

The point raised by Te Paehua, as to the true position of Taporaroa, not being connected with the claim on behalf of Ngatiwhakatere, will be dealt with hereafter.

Areta Kapu, on behalf of the hapus already mentioned, claims by mana, ancestry, and occupation. She asserts that her ancestors and relatives, down to the time of Te Kohika, were permanent residents, and that she also has lived on the land. She claims a general, but not exclusive, right over 'the whole block, and contends that, her grandfather, Te Kohika, and his cousin, Kawhia, chiefs of the highest rank, occupied this land after the departure of the Ngatiraukawa to Taupo, Rotorua. Kapiti, and other places, and thereby not only prevented the Waikatos from seizing the land by right of conquest, but also turned away certain members of that group of tribes who had obtained a footing on the land, and by this course of action enabled some of the scattered remnauts of page 704 Ngatiraukawa to return and resume occupation at a later period.

Tupotahi, who gave evidence in this same claim, affirms that, at a certain period in the history of this block, the Ngatiraukawa living in the vicinity of the Waikato and Ngatimaniapoto, having suffered serious defeats at the hands of these tribes, retired, some to Pawaiti, some to Taupo, and others to Kapiti, and that they were visited at the former place by their near, but hostile, relatives. To Akanui and Tukorehu, of the Ngatimaniapoto tribes, who made peace with the Ngatiraukawa, and invited them to return; that the invitation was not accepted; that, subsequently, Kawhia and Te Kohika, son and nephew of Te Akanui, occupied the deserted lands, not by conquest, but by ancestral right, and were joined a few years later by Takurangi, Te Maro, Te Aokatoa, and the few families who had not gone to Kapiti, but had taken temporary shelter at Taupo, Otawhao, and other places; and that, while in occupation of Oteruahine Pa, Kawhia, and Te Kohika turned away certain members Of the Ngatikoura tribe who had begun to cultivate on Wharepuhunga.

Tupotahi admits that Tukorehu and his descendants did not occupy this land, but that Te Kohika and Kawhia, father of Manga, exercised important acts of ownership over the land while living at Oteruahine ana other places—two causes named respectively Tangiwaka and Te Kata-o-Raukawa, being built for the former, and two others for Manga. He states, moreover, that this occupation was previous to 1840, and extended to the time when Christianity was firmly established, after Hone Heke's war, when the Ngatiraukawa, living in the vicinity began to return in some numbers.

These are the chief points contained in the evidence given on behalf of the case set up by Areta Kapu, which is so intimately connected with that of Rangitutia that it will be necessary to consider them together.