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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73


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Sir W. Buller.—Sir, before I proceed to any explanation, I desire to say that I submit to the decision of the House—and to express my regret—although I had no intention of committing a breach of the privileges of this House; nor was I for one moment under the impression that I had committed such an offence at the time. My sole object in writing the letter to the Minister of Lands was that it seemed to me the only means within my power of asking inquiry into the charges that the Minister had levelled against me when the Horowhenua Block Bill was in Committee of the House. I thank you, Sir, and the House also, for the opportunity of explanation now afforded me by being placed in this position. The time allowed me has been so short that it was quite impossible for me to prepare anything like a set speech; indeed, the whole time has been occupied in hunting up documents and verifying dates. I do not propose, therefore, to address you at any great length, but to give a brief history of my connection with the Horowhenua Block, and to explain some other transactions that have been referred to, and I shall then tender myself to honourable members for cross-examination. I may say, however, that I find myself placed at a great disadvantage. By the decision of the House I find I have already unwittingly committed a breach of privilege in addressing what I thought to be an extremely temperate and fair letter to the Minister of Lands; so I feel that if, in the course of my address to the House, I am led to comment in any way upon the speech which called forth my letter, I may be committing another offence—that is to say, another breach of the privileges of this House. I will therefore ask the House for its indulgence, and beg honourable members to bear in mind that I am placed at that disadvantage. I will add that I am at this further disadvantage: that I did not hear the speech made by the Minister of Lands this morning, when, as I am informed, other charges were added to those levelled against me when the Bill was in Committee. I have not had time even to see the report of the speech; and, although a member of the Government very kindly promised to get from the Minister of Lands a list of the blocks referred to by him, I have since received a message that even this cannot be supplied to me. I understand that the blocks with which my name has been connected by the Minister of Lands in a disparaging way are the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block, the Owhaoko Block and the Rangatira Block. These are the only blocks I have heard of; and therefore, if I do not refer to anything else, it is simply because I have not the information I had asked for In writing the letter complained of to the Minister of Lands I was actuated by a hope that he would, from a sense of fair-play, repeat elsewhere the words he had uttered in this House, so as to give me the opportunity of meeting him in the Supreme Court. In my letter to the Premier, which opens the correspondence that I now desire to put in [Exhibit No. 1], I gave a distinct and emphatic contradiction to all the general allegations of the Minister of Lands. What I demanded was that the charges should be formulated, in order [unclear: that] might meet and refute them. I simply claimed the right of every British subject—to meet my accuser face to face before the highest Court of the land, and to be tried by a jury of my countrymen. Of course, I am prepared to go before any Royal Commission the Government may appoint. I am ready to meet the charges there, and to challenge the strictest and closes investigation into every act of my public and private life; but I submit that I am placed as a very great disadvantage in being tried by a tribunal of the Minister's own creation, instead of by the ordinary Courts of justice. This disadvantage I must, however, accept. Before proceeding to any explanation, and speaking now, as it were, in extenuation—for I have already submitted to the right of the House and have expressed my regret for having unwittingly committed a breach of privilege—I would ask honourable members present to put them selves for a moment, in imagination, in my position. I need hardly tell them that, like the Minister of Lands, I am a self-made man. All my interests are bound up in the colony. I was born in the colony, my children were born in the colony, and I have been identified with it for more than half a century. Any distinction I may have achieved I have achieved for myself in the colony; any reputation I may have gained belongs to the colony; and I put it to honourable members, placing themselves for one moment in my position, could anything have astonished or shocked them more than to page 3 find the character of a lifetime thus wantonly assailed? I have been denounced to the country, and the most opprobrious epithets have been applied to me. And by whom? By a member of a Government that I have loyally supported—a Government with whom I was on terms of personal friendship, and whose confidence I was supposed to possess! And denounced for what? Because of my dealings with the Horowhenua Block! Without a hint of what was coming, without notice, and without a word of warning, I was held up to public opprobrium in the land of my birth! I am proud, as any British subject should be, of having been singled out by Her Majesty for the honour of knighthood; but you are told by a Minister of the Crown that, instead of being knighted by the Queen for my services, I ought to be in gaol! I have received a shorthand report of the Minister's speech, and I find that, in addition to this, the Minister of Lands said I had "robbed the Natives by getting them to sell or lease parcels of land, and, with the money, to fight one another through the legal profession." Surely by every rule of fair-play I have a right to meet these charges and disprove them. I submit that, placing themselves for a moment in my position, any one in this House would, under similar circumstances, have taken the same course that I did. I should be either less than human or more than human if I had sat silently by and, out of defence to some law of privilege, remained dumb and silent under such charges as these. My honour has been impugned, the worst motives have been imputed to me, my private character has been assailed, and I have been stigmatized as a man who ought to be in gaol; and, forsooth, because of some rule of privilege I am to remain silent! I bow to the decision of the House, but under similar circumstances I fear I should commit the same offence again. As I stated in my opening remarks, I have not attempted to prepare a speech. I must trust to my memory to a great extent for the dates and facts I shall make use of. I think the best plan will be to state my case as briefly as I can, and then invite members of the House to put me through the most fiery ordeal they can—to put any number of questions, and to search into every transaction in which I have been concerned in connection with Native lands; for I feel that I am on my trial before the country, and I say that I am prepared to challenge the closest scrutiny into every transaction I have been concerned in during the fifteen or sixteen years I was in practice. I am not conscious of ever having wronged a Native or European in connection with Native lands. I know it is impossible for any man, nay, even for an archangel from heaven, to be mixed up in Native affairs for any length of time and to escape without being the subject of suspicion. But my conscience is perfectly clear on this point: I am not conscious of having done a single thing of which I, as a gentleman, should be ashamed, or for which as a professional man I should be censured. I invite the closest possible scrutiny. With regard to the charges themselves, I shall be extremely careful not even indirectly to offend against the privileges of the House. Standing here before my peers in Parliament, I reiterate what I stated in my letter to the Premier, that I specifically, emphatically, and wholly deny every one of the allegations brought against me by the Minister of Lands. I do not say that he has purposely misrepresented me; it is perfectly clear that he knows nothing of himself, and has been misled by others, for I could not believe that even my worst enemy would formulate charges of this kind without believing them to be true. But, standing here at the bar of the House, I solemnly declare that there is not the smallest foundation in fact for any one of these serious charges; and I only ask for the opportunity of meeting them. My friend Mr. Bell, in his speech this afternoon, said that I had supplanted him in the Horowhenua matter. I know the sense in which he used the term professionally, and it was perfectly fair; but I did not supplant Mr. Bell in the ordinary sense. When I returned from England in 1892, Major Kemp came to mo and said he had been employing lawyers all over the country—Mr. Bell, Sir Robert Stout, and others—and, Maori-like, he was anxious to change his lawyer, and wanted me to take up the Horowhenua case. I was then on terms of intimacy with the late Premier, Mr. Ballance, and told him that Major Kemp had requested me to act for him in regard to the Horowhenua Block. I believed that I could rely on the Government of which Mr. Ballance was the head to see that right was done, and it was with his full knowledge that I accepted from Major Kemp a retainer signed by himself and nearly the whole of the Muaupoko Tribe. In 1892, acting on this retainer, and in the interests of the tribe, I presented a petition to this honourable House, and obtained the permission of the Chairman of the Native Affairs Committee to appear and conduct the case for Major Kemp. I examined witnesses, and addressed the Committee, and obtained a favourable report. Mr. Ballance, the then Premier, agreed to bring in legislation to give effect to the report of the Committee, but, owing to the lateness of the session, he found it impossible to do so. I had frequent interviews with Mr. Ballance at his own house, day and night, for a week or more previous to the close of the session, and, in order to protect the Muaupoko against wrong, Mr. Ballance, on the Sunday evening preceding the close of the session, summoned the Cabinet, and got his colleagues to agree by minute to a Proclamation protecting the block against any dealings. That was done by the present Government, under the direction of Mr. Ballance, and had the effect of conserving the interests of the tribe, and preventing a great wrong from being done. The effect of this Proclamation was to hang up the block for two years—that is to say, it prevented any dealing with the Horowhenua lands for two years from the issue of the Proclamation. As a condition precedent—before, indeed, the page 4 Governor had power to issue the Proclamation—it was necessary that there should be some negotiation for the purchase of the land; and, to bring the block within the Act, I induced Major Kemp to accept from the Land-purchase Department a nominal payment of £5, and to sign a voucher for it in the ordinary way; and the Government then proceeded, as I have stated, to proclaim the block. The protection afforded by that Proclamation was to endure for two whole years. Almost immediately after that, Mr. Ballance's Government sent me to England to represent New Zealand at the Imperial Institute. I was accordingly absent from the colony during the session of 1893. I had to return to the colony before the session of 1894. As a matter of fact, I came back before I had discharged my duties in connection with the Imperial Institute owing to what had happened in relation to the Horowhenua Block. I will not refer to that more particularly, because that might be a breach of privilege; but, in consequence of what happened, I came back to the colony before the session of 1894. I then presented, on Major Kemp's behalf, a petition to the House of Representatives which, with your permission, I will read, because it was drawn up by myself, and sets out very succinctly the salient points of the Horowhenua case. It says,—

"The humble petition of Meiha Keepa Te Rangihiwinui (commonly known as Major Kemp), a Native chief of the Wanganui and Manawatu Districts, showeth,—

"1. That on the 10th day of April, 1873, an order was duly made by the Native Land Court, under the provisions of 'The Native Lands Act, 1865,' and 'The Native Lands Act, 1867,' for the issue of a certificate of title in favour of Meiha Keepa Te Rangihiwinui (commonly known and hereinafter referred to as Major Kemp), under the 17th section of 'The Native Lands Act, 1867,' for a block of land at Horowhenua, in the District of Manawatu, in the Provincial District of Wellington, containing 52,460 acres, more or less; and that on the same day an order was made, pursuant to the provisions of the said 17th section of 'The Native Lands Act, 1867,' for the registration in the said Court of the names of 143 aboriginal natives of New Zealand, as the owners of the said land. The finding of the said Court on which these orders were based was that the Muaupoko Tribe was entitled to this land, and the list of owners was intended to include all the members of the Muaupoko Tribe so entitled. On the 27th June, 1881, a certificate of title, under the provisions of the said 17th section of 'The Native Lands Act, 1867,' was, pursuant to the said orders, duly issued by the Native Land Court, under the seal of the Court and under the hand of the Chief Judge thereof, in favour of Major Kemp for the said block of land, the effect thereof being to constitute him a trustee for the owners whose names had been registered in the Court as aforesaid.

"2. In the month of November, 1886, the said Native Land Court sat at Palmerston North for the purpose of partitioning the said block of land, upon the application of you petitioner, Major Kemp; and the Court, in the said proceedings, purported to act under the provisions of the Native Lands Acts, "The Native Land Court Act, 1880,' and 'The Native Land Division Act, 1882.'

"3. On the 25th of November three division orders were made by the said Court, with the unanimous consent of the owners then present in Court.

"4. On the 1st of November other division orders were made, by general consent, the result being that all the persons named in the Native Land Court certificate of title as owners received, on partition, some portion of the said block of land in their own right. But all the portions so awarded in severalty were covered with bush, and had never been actually occupied or resided on by the Muaupoko Tribe,

"5. The effect of the partition among the owners, so far as it had now been carried, was to leave the residential portion of the block, called Horowhenua No. XI., containing 14,975 acres, and including the whole of the Horowhenua Lake, quite intact.

"6. The tribe, having determined to keep this portion of the estate unbroken as a permanent home for the people, declined to have the partition carried any further, and moved the Court to order a certificate of title for the same, as before, in the name of your petitioner, Major Kemp.

"7. At this stage of the proceedings, Wirihana Hunia, one of the registered owners, came forward as representing the Hunia family, and objected to the order being in the name of Major Kemp alone. After a short retirement from the Court for consultation, Major Kemp agreed to admit the name of Warena [unclear: Huni] (Wirihana's younger brother) as co-trustee with himself, and he then applied to the Court to join Warena Hunia with him in the order, which was done accordingly, there being no dissentient.

"8. In giving his consent to the introduction of Warena Hunia's name, your petitioner understood that he was consenting to have a joint trustee with himself in the management of the estate for the benefit of the tribe to whom it of right belonged; and that was the universal belief among the owners then present in Court, who permitted the arrangement to be recorded unchallenged.

"9. After the division orders hereinbefore mentioned had been made a survey of the block was made, and a proper plan of the subdivision prepared for the Court; after which certificates of title were ordered to be issued in conformity with the provisions of the Land Transfer Act.

"10. In the month of February, 1890, a sitting of the Native Land Court was held at Palmerston North for the purpose of further partitioning the said parcel of land known as Horowhenua No. XI. between Major Kemp and Warena Hunia, upon the application of the latter. It then became known to your petitioner and his people that, by a fiction of law, the land had become the absolute property of page 5 the two persons named in the certifícate of title, and was unconditionally at their disposal as in their own right.

"11. The Muaupoko Tribe, who all along fully understood and believed that their interest in the said block of land was held by Major Kemp and Warena Hunia, in trust, now discovered that, without any intentional consent on their part, the whole estate had passed in law to the two persons named in the order of the Court, and that their ancestral home, on witch most of them had been born—their hocuses, their cultivations, their burial-places, and their lake-fishing grounds—had passed away from them for ever. No warning had been given to them in Court that the effect of the order to be made would be to divest the said lands from the acknowledged owners, or that it was necessary or desirable that the trust under which the said lands were held should be in any way declared or protected, Indeed, there is reason to believe that the Court itself was unaware of the full effect of the order it had made: otherwise it is difficult to conceive how it could have allowed such an order to be entered up without a word of warning to those concerned.

"12. At the sitting in February, 1890, not-withstanding that the trust in the said lands was insisted on by Major Kemp and admitted by Warena Hunia, the Native Land Court proceeded to partition the said lands as though the same were held by them in their own right, and after causing a valuation of the estate to be made, divided the said block into two parcels called Horowhenua No. XI.A, valued at £13,392, and Horowhenua No. XI.B, valued at £12,244, and awarded them to Major Kemp and Warena Hunia respectively.

"13. Major Kemp being dissatisfied with the said proceedings of the Native Land Court, appealed to the Chief Judge of the said Court for a rehearing, and a rehearing was ordered accordingly. This rehearing took place in the month of May, 1891, before Judges Mair and Scannell, when your petitioner (Major Kemp) again insisted upon the trust, and protested against the land being dealt with by the Court as the private property of the two trustees. In this course he was supported by the general body of owners then present in Court.

"14. The said Judges declined to consider or inquire into the alleged trust, believing that they had no power to do so; and they made an order on the 10th day of April, 1891, confirming the previous order for partition. The following is a copy of the judgment delivered on the said rehearing:-