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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73

Owhaoko-Oruamatua-Kaimanawa (301,000 acres)

Owhaoko-Oruamatua-Kaimanawa (301,000 acres).

Q. Were you engaged in the investigation of the Owhaoko and Kaimanawa Blocks?

A. I was not.

Q. Were you acting for Renata and those connected with him?

A. Not at the investigation; but I was acting for Renata Kawepo in getting an application for a rehearing of the Owhaoko Block with drawn. That was the subject in regard to which Sir Robert Stout attacked mo so unfairly when I was in England. With regard to that matter I afterwards put my defence in writing.

Q. Were they not the successful parties?

A. I do not exactly know. The rehearing came on after I had left the colony. I had nothing to do with the case.

Q. Was there not a rehearing applied for by the opposite party?

A. A rehearing was applied for by Topia Turoa, of Taupo, and five or six other Natives. Chief Judge Fenton pointed out that the signatures appeared to be all in the handwriting of one man. That turned out to be so, and I got the rehearing withdrawn by the same man, Hohepa Tamamutu, the letter of withdrawal being signed by Topia Turoa also.

Q. Did you not appear in the Court for this party to withdraw the application for the rehearing in favour of your previous clients?

A. I appeared in Court, having sent to the Chief Judge the application for withdrawal. At that particular time, if I recollect aright, professional men could not be heard in the Native Land Court. I was not allowed, there-fore, to move for the dismissal of the case, but I was in Court, and had previously handed in to the Chief Judge myself the application for withdrawal.

Q. Did not the Natives for whom you appeared write to the Chief Judge denying your authority to act for them?

A. I believe they did. That is not an unusual thing for Natives to do.

Q. Is it true that Sir Robert Stout made the following remarks in a memorandum printed in the Appendices to the Journals of the House Vol. III., 1886, page 12:— page 13

"Dr. Buller seems to have received from Topia Turoa and Hohepa Tamamutu a retainer in the matter of the rehearing. Why there was need of a retainer in a case which was withdrawn by them I cannot understand. The impropriety of a solicitor or counsel accepting a retainer from both sides I need not point out"?

A. I have no doubt that extract is correct, but, as I was able to satisfy Sir Robert Stout, there was no foundation for the allegation that I had received a fee from Topia. I went to Taupo by arrangement with Renata Kawepo, and I was paid by Mr. John Studholme. From him alone did I receive any fee in this matter. But I should like to have the memorandum which I wrote at the time imported into this case as part of my answer to the question. It is in the Appendices to the Journals, and it was laid on the table when my friend Sir Robert Stout was Premier. I should like, with the permission of the House, to read the whole of that memorandum in reply to Sir Robert Stout, and the correspondence relating to it, and that this should be taken as part of my reply to the question, because that was a charge seriously affecting my honour as a professional man. It pained me very much, and I was pleased that Sir Robert Stout was the first to come forward and admit that he had been misinformed. He made all the atonement in his power.

Q. Is it not true that in the same memorandum, printed in the same Appendix, Sir Robert Stout, as Attorney General, concludes as follows: "I do not care to comment upon the conduct of the various persons whose actions I have had to allude to in this memorandum. The facts are sufficient without comment. Let me only add that, if this case is a sample of what has been done under our Native Land Court administration, I am not surprised that many Natives decline to bring their lands before the Court. A more gross travesty of justice it has never been my fortune to consider.—Robert Stout. Premier's office, Wellington, 18th May, 1886"?

A. I believe that is a correct quotation; but subsequently the statement was practically withdrawn by Sir Robert Stout—at any rate, so far as I was concerned.

Q. Does that refer to you, and, if so, why did you not challenge Sir Robert Stout to meet you in the law-courts?

A. It was a mistake made by the Premier, evidently on false information, and on receiving my explanation he immediately withdrew the statements complained of, and made every reparation in his power.

Q. How comes it you are satisfied with Sir Robert Stout's private letter as sufficient reparation for his public reflections on your conduct?

A. It was not merely a private letter. I would not accept a private letter from him or any other man as sufficient reparation for a public attack. But Sir Robert Stout did everything in his power; he wrote, saying, "I will give the same publicity to your reply as to my own memorandum." He also expressed regret that he had been misled, and had made statements which reflected on my character and caused me a considerable amount of pain. With your permission, Sir, I will read the correspondence as part of my reply to this question.

Q. Perhaps the following question may be embodied in your reply: "Why did you not demand public retraction of his aspersions?"

A. Immediately on receiving a report of what he had stated in this House—or, rather, it was in the form of a memorandum laid on the table of the House—I wrote the following letter, which appears under the head of Paper G.-1 in the Appendices, Sess. I., Vol. II., 1887. [Read in full, and put in as Exhibit No. 3.]

Mr. Speaker.—Would any member like to put questions to Sir Walter Buller? Mr. Collins asks: "Block 14: Sir Walter Buller said he had acquired the freehold to a small section and leased all the rest of the block to the railway. Will he state the extent of the land acquired by lease, under what terms the lease was granted, what was at the time the value of the land per acre?

A. The extent of the land acquired by the first lease is a little over 500 acres. When I took it up it was covered with heavy timber, and the rent for the whole term was fixed at 2s. 6d. an acre—the same that Mr. Bartholomew agreed to pay for the 100 acres on the opposite side of the railway-line.

Q. Under what terms was the lease granted?

A. For twenty-one years from the date of execution—from June, 1891, if I remember aright.

Q. What was, at the time, the value of the land per acre?

A. It is hard to say. I bought afterwards a strip of 45 acres of bush-land adjoining this, and partly cleared, for £4 per acre. This was part of the Waiwiri East Block, adjacent to Subdivision No. 14. I bought that about eighteen months after I had negotiated my lease with Major Kemp.

Mr. Speaker.—Mr. Stevens asks: If you acted, as is stated by you, for the whole of the Muaupoko Tribe, against whom did you act?

A. I said that I acted for the whole of the Muaupoko Tribe except Warena Hunia and a few others. I acted against Warena Hunia. He declared himself to be absolute owner instead of trustee, and what I asked of the Supreme Court was that he should be dismissed from the trust, and that the block of land which he claimed as his own should be declared to belong to the Muaupoko Tribe. I will read the retainer which I hold in my hand, and make it part of my answer. The retainer is dated 18th July, 1892, and is in the following terms: "Re Horowhenua: We hereby appoint Sir Walter Buller our solicitor in regard to the Horowhenua matter, and we hereby authorise him to take such steps as he may think fit for the assertion of our rights to the fifteen-thousand-acre block, or any other part of the Horowhenua Estate, whether by petition to Parliament or otherwise; and we hereby retain page 14 the said Sir Walter Buller to appear for us in the Supreme Court, or in the Native Land Court, or before any Commission or other tribunal in relation thereto. [The same is repeated in Maori.]—Meiha Keepa te Rangihiwinui and sixty-eight others."

Q. Is not the Ngatipariri Hapu opposed to Kemp's action, and do you claim to be acting for that hapu at present?

A. There are Natives, I may explain, who claim to belong to several hapus. Major Kemp, for example, claims to belong to six tribes. The Ngatipariri proper are Warena Hunia's friends, and have not signed the retainer.

Q. Why did you say you were acting for the whole of the Muaupoko Tribe?

A. Well, I was acting in the interests of the whole tribe. I did not ask the Supreme Court to give back the 15,000 acres to the Muaupoko Tribe, excluding the Ngatipariri Hapu; I asked that the 15,000 acres should go back to the whole tribe, including that hapu. In that sense I represented the whole tribe. My retainer was signed by all of the hapus except Ngatipariri.

Q. Against whom did you prevent a wrong being done?

A. I was instrumental in preventing, with the aid of the Supreme Court, a great wrong being done to the Muaupoko Tribe as a whole, inasmuch as the tribal estate of 15,000 acres was vested by law in two men who were intended to be trustees, but who, in fact, were made owners. The wrong done was to the tribe who intended to appoint the chiefs as trustees, and found that by the operation of law they had made them absolute freeholders.

Q. Did not Warena Hunia repeatedly offer to give to the hapu, of which he was and is the head and chief, 3,700 acres upon which their houses and homes were situate?

A. I heard that such offers were made before I was connected with the block. Warena Hunia never made any offer to me. I never had any conversation with him on the subject; but I may state that when I first took a retainer for the tribe I intimated to Major Kemp that I would be no party to any compromise—that I would retire from the case altogether rather than countenance any compromise in a matter which, to my mind, involved a fraud. I stood out for the trust, and nothing short of the trust.

Mr. Speaker.—The next questions are by Mr. Pirani: The Minister of Lands said this morning that Sir Walter Buller had leased 510 acres of the Horowhenua Block at a peppercorn rental for a certain number of years, and at half the value of fair rentals for the remainder of the term. Is that correct, and, if so, what are the circumstances?

A. It is not correct. I leased for twenty-one years, and when I took the land it was covered with timber. I am paying, as I think, a fair rack-rent of 2s. 6d. an acre. It is as much, at any rate, as I was prepared to give.

Mr. Speaker.—Mr. Graham wishes to put this question: What was the name of the Solicitor-General who was good enough to return your bill of costs for the sum of £2,500 to enable you to "pad" it, so that you might receive the amount of the bill of costs as originally rendered by you?

A. I do not say that it was the Solicitor General personally, but the information came from the Solicitor-General's office. The bill was returned to me in order that I might reconsider the costs with a view to taxation. The costs first rendered were costs as between solicitor and client, and not a hostile bill. I was acting for the Crown, and had put everything in at a minimum.

Q. What was the date of the transaction?

A. About 1877. Sir Donald McLean was in office as Native Minister. I was retained for this case by Sir Donald McLean.

Mr. Speaker.—There is one question put into my hands I do not think relevant; it is with regard to the Imperial Institute.

Sir W. Buller.—Pray give me the opportunity, Sir, for I am only too anxious to answer that.

Mr. Speaker.—Oh, but it is my duty to interpose, and to prevent any question I do not think relevant.

Mr. Speaker.—Major Steward puts these questions: Does the lease of 510 acres held by you contain a covenant giving you the right of purchase?

A. Certainly not. I have to give up the place, buildings and all, at the end of the term, without consideration of any kind.

Mr. Speaker.—Then, I need not put the next question: If so, what is the price?

A. There is no right of purchase.

Mr. Speaker.—Mr. Heke puts this question: The Minister of Lands also stated this morning that Sir Walter Buller was connected with Te Waka land at Otaki. Will you give an explanation of your connection therewith?

A. I may state that I put through hundreds of titles in the Otaki district, chiefly small titles. It may be one of these. I cannot ear-mark it, but, if the Minister will give me some hint as to what it is, I shall be glad to give any information.

Mr. Speaker.—Mr. Carroll asks: Was not the Horowhenua Block 14 set apart by the tribe, and put in the name of Major Kemp for the Whatanui family?

A. It was first of all cut off by Major Kemp and offered to the descendants of Te Whatanui, but they refused to accept it. Major Kemp gave them another selection, and it was agreed that he should keep this as his own allotment.

Q. Did not the Whatanui family elect to take another block in place of the one set apart?

A. They did. They indicated where they would have it, and it was allotted to them accordingly. They have been fighting amongst themselves about its division ever since.

Q. When the Whatanui family accepted another block in place of Block 14, why was not Block 14 returned to the people?

A. Because the people agreed that this should be Major Kemp's allotment. Judge page 15 Wilson stated that in the Supreme Court at Wanganui during the recent action.

Q. If you knew it was a tribal gift to the Whatanui family, why did you not, acting for the tribe, endeavour to get a trust declared in their favour?

A. This was not the tribal gift. They elected to take another 1,200 acres, in respect of which I had no concern whatever.

Mr. Speaker.—A copy of the lease has been put in my hands. Is this true: One peppercorn for six years, and £64 a year for the rest of the term, payable half-yearly, in advance—£32 on the 20th day of May and £32 on the 20th day of November of each year throughout the last twenty-one years of the said term?

A. That is quite right. That relates to the portion of the block eastward of the railway-line. At the time the lease was granted to me Mr. Bartholomew's timber lease had six years to run. I therefore took the lease for twenty-seven years, agreeing to pay only a peppercorn for the six years during which Mr. Bartholomew's timber lease had to run, and to pay the rack-rent as soon as I came into possession—that is to say, for a term of twenty-one years. I also agreed to pay the accumulated back rates, and I did so before I registered the lease.