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New Zealand and the War.

Chapter IV

page 77

Chapter IV.

The Government urged to adopt a New System in the Purchase of Native Land.—Declaration of the Governor on the Subject.—Negotiations for the Purchase of the Waitara.—Opposition to the Sale.—Difficulty of Completing a Satisfactory Purchase.—A Survey of the Land Attempted—Martial Law Proclaimed—The Waitara occupied by a Military Force.

As it was found to be impossible to obtain the assent of all who had an interest in the Waitara, it was thought that some individual members, having a special interest in particular portions of the land, might be induced to sell; and the Council of the Province presented a memorial to the General Assembly in the Session of 1858, in which they complained that the system commonly adopted by the Government of acquiring the assent of every claimant to any piece of land before a purchase is made, had been found to operate injuriously to the settlement: and they urged the expediency of setting aside the Tribal right—expressing their opinion that such of the Natives page 78 as are willing to dispose of their proportion of any common land to the Government should be permitted to do so; and that the Government should compel an equitable division of such common land amongst the respective claimants on the petition of a certain proportion of them. And they added their opinion that “no danger of a war between the Government and the Natives need be apprehended from the prosecution of a vigorous policy, inasmuch as a large proportion of the Natives themselves would cordially support it, and the remainder would, from the smallness of their number, be incapable of offering an effectual resistance.” But the suggestion received no countenance at that time, either from the Government or the Assembly. On the contrary, “I will never,” wrote the Governor, “permit land to be taken without the consent of those to whom it belongs; nor will I interfere to compel an equitable division of common land amongst the respective claimants. This decision is not less one of expediency than of justice, for the whole of the Maori race maintain the right of the minority to prevent the sale of land held in common, with the utmost jealousy. Wi Kingi has no sort of page 79 influence with me or the Colonial Government. We believe him to be an infamous character; but I will not permit the purchase of land over which he has any right without his consent.”

Early in the following year (1859) the Governor paid a visit to the settlement; and although the settlers had not cultivated more than 13,000 of the 43,000 acres of land then in their possession, and of the territory which had already been ceded by the Natives 20,000 acres of heavily timbered land still remained in the hands of the Provincial Government open for selection, the Governor was again pressed by them to obtain additional land for the extension of the settlement. “I found them,” wrote the Governor, “dissatisfied with the Government, and ill pleased with the Maories, who, although they possess large tracts of land which they cannot occupy, refuse to sell any part of it: and they complain,” he added, “that they had not sufficient pasturage for their flocks, and that immigrants and capitalists are driven to seek in other provinces the accommodation which Taranaki could not under present circumstances afford.” And he then made the declaration to the Natives, in which he was unfortunately under- page 80 stood by them to announce his intention to adopt a new policy in the purchase of Native land, viz., to treat with individual claimants, to disregard the influence of the Chiefs, and to set aside the Tribal right.

At the meeting which the Governor had with the Natives, he said he never would consent to buy land without an undisputed title; he would not permit any one to interfere in the sale of land unless he owned part of it: and, on the other hand, he would buy no man's land without his consent. A Native, described in a semi-official statement of the proceedings as “Te Teira, a Waitara Native,” then stated that he was anxious to sell land belonging to him; that he heard with satisfaction the declaration of the Governor referring to individual claims, and the assurance of protection that would be afforded by his Excellency. He minutely defined the boundaries of his claim, repeated that he was anxious to sell, and that he was the owner of the land he offered for sale. He then repeatedly asked if the Governor would buy his land. Mr. McLean, on behalf of his Excellency, replied that he would. Te Teira then placed a parawai (bordered mat) page 81 at the Governor's feet, which his Excellency accepted. This ceremony, according to Native custom, virtually placed Teira's land at Waitara in the hands of the Governor. Paora then informed the Governor that Te Teira could not sell the land he had offered without the consent of Weteriki and himself, as they had a joint interest in a portion of it. Te Teira replied to him, and was immediately followed by William King, who, before addressing the Governor, said to his people, “I will only say a few words and then we will depart,” to which they assented. He then said, “Listen, Governor, notwithstanding Teira's offer, I will not permit the sale of Waitara to the Pakeha. Waitara is in my hands; I will not give it up, ekore, ekore, ekore (i. e.), I will not, I will not, I will not. I have spoken.” And, turning to his tribe, added, “Arise, let us go.” Whereupon he and his followers abruptly withdrew, and it is said that some of the Natives present at the meeting cautioned Teira not to embroil the country by attempting to effect the sale.*

* The maximum price which had been given for land at Taranaki was three shillings an acre; but it is believed that the District Land Purchase Commissioner was authorized to give Te Teira a bonus not exceeding 250l. for the cession of a tract of land in so advantageous a position.

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Usually negotiations for the purchase of land in New Zealand are entrusted to the officers of the Land Purchase Department, but on the present occasion the Governor himself initiated the proceedings. To any one unacquainted with the Natives, the abrupt withdrawal of William King would doubtless appear offensive, and it was in fact construed by the Governor into an act of intentional disrespect; but it was simply a Native mode of signifying the emphatic determination of the Chief of his tribe to give his uncompromising opposition to the sale, and Governor Browne was no doubt afterwards considerably embarrassed by having appeared before them in the character of a land buyer, and by having given even a conditional understanding to become the purchaser of the land.

It soon appeared that the Native by whom the land was offered for sale had great difficulty in making a satisfactory title. William King, the Chief of the Waitara, acting as the representative of the Tribe, and as the guardian of the common property, resolutely opposed the sale; and numerous members of the Tribe, including several who were residing in the south and page 83 claiming to have an interest in specific portions of the block, also refused to dispose of their respective shares; and, setting aside any question of tribal right, denied the right of Te Teira to deal with any of the land comprised within the boundaries of the block, except the specific portion of it to which he was himself individually entitled. But it appears to have been determined from the outset, that this interference of the Chief of the Waitara was a mere assumption, which should be set aside, in case of need, by force. “I have little fear,” said Governor Browne, officially reporting the result of his visit to Taranaki, “that William King will continue to maintain his assumed right, and I have made every preparation to enforce obedience, should he presume to do so.” The Chief of the Waitara, however, did venture to maintain his right; and in the course of the following month, acting as the mouthpiece of the community, and as the guardian of the rights of those who, besides Te Teira, claimed various portions of land within the block, and who had not consented to the sale, the Chief of the Waitara addressed a written remonstance to the Governor, claiming to be heard in their behalf. “Your page 84 letter,” he says, “reached me about Te Teira and Te Ritemana's thoughts: I will not agree to our bedroom being sold (I mean Waitara here), for this bed belongs to the whole of us. You may insist, but I will never agree to it. All I have to say to you, O Governor, is, that none of this land will be given to you; never—never, not till I die. I have heard it said that I am to be imprisoned because of this land. I am very sad because of this word. Why is it? You should remember that the Maories and Pakehas are living quietly upon their pieces of land, and therefore do not you disturb them.” In his letters also addressed to the Archdeacon of Kapiti some months afterwards, King uses much the same language. “I am not willing” he wrote, “that this land should be disposed of; you must bear in mind the word of Rere (his father), which he spoke to you and Mr. Williams. You know that word about Waitara.* I will not dispose of it to the Governor and Mr. McLean. Let your word to the Governor and Mr. McLean be strong, that they may cease their importunity for Waitara

* Referring to the injunction of his father, in 1840, not to sell the Waitara.

page 85 here, that we and the Pakeha may live in peace. I will not give up the land. The Governor may strike me, and without cause, and I shall die! In that case there will be no help for it, because it is an old saying, ‘The man first, and then the land.’ They say that Teira's piece of land belongs to him alone. No; that piece of land belongs to us all; it belongs to the orphan, it belongs to the widow. If the Governor should come to where you are, do you say a word to him.”

From the moment when he offered the land for sale, Te Teira's power to dispose of it was steadily contested. The duty of inquiring into the validity of his title was entrusted to the District Land Purchaser (Mr. Parris), Mr. McLean, the head of the Land Purchase Department, being engaged at the time in a distant part of the Colony. After a lapse of some time spent in the inquiry, Mr. Parris reported that, in the face of opposing claims, the purchase could not yet be safely completed, and some months again elapsed without his being able to make any satisfactory report of his proceedings; but he was informed, by the then Native Minister, that the Governor felt that page 86 it was impossible for him, as her Majesty's representative, to withdraw from the position he had deliberately assumed; and the Governor now directed that the purchase should, if possible, be closed without delay. “Instructions should be sent to Taranaki,” he wrote in a memorandum of the 27th of August, “to close the purchase of Teira's land, which was commenced when I was there, without delay if possible. There is little chance of Mr. McLean reaching Taranaki for some time.” “The Governor,” wrote also the Native Minister to Mr. Parris at the same time, “is very anxious about the completion of the purchase from Teira. I am sure you will press the matter as fast as appears prudent. It will satisfy his Excellency if, without writing officially, you will let me hear privately how things stand. I have been in hopes that Mr. McLean's visit would effect something—but he delays so long.” “The Governor,” he added, “feels pledged to effect the purchase.” The local Land Purchaser, however, who appears to have exercised great prudence and caution, and to have fairly set before the Government the difficulties that stood in the way of a peaceable purchase of the land, was still unable to hold out page 87 any hope of a speedy and satisfactory settlement of the question. “I have been investigating Teira's question,” he informed the Native Minister (Sept. 21st), “in order to give an opinion as to the opposition likely to be offered to it, and I am sorry to say that I find William King full of his dogged obstinacy, assuming the right to dictate authority over land offered by the rightful owners to the Government. He takes this ground, not being able to refute the claims of Teira and his supporters, who, from all I can gather from disinterested Natives, are the rightful owners. Teira is emboldened by the justice of his claims. I therefore find it necessary to restrain him in many of his propositions, lest anger should arise and violence ensue. He offers to cut the line, but at present I decline to give my assent, knowing the opposition he is sure to meet with. The prevailing opinion amongst the Natives is that Teira's offer will settle the question of the sale of land for a long time; if purchased, more will immediately follow; if not purchased, those who want to sell will be afraid to move in the matter.” And a few days afterwards the local Land Purchaser received authority from the Governor to make an imme- page 88 diate advance in part payment for the land. “Should you be able,” wrote the Assistant Native Secretary, “to satisfy yourself that the parties offering it have an indisputable title, you will, however, inform Te Teira that the purchase will not be completed until Mr. McLean visits Taranaki.” The inquiry, however, was still prolonged; “but not,” it was said, “from any doubt that existed as to the title, but in the hope that the opposing party might be brought to reason.” Two months afterwards, however, an instalment was paid. “I do not wish,” said the Chief of the Waitara, who still persisted in his opposition, “that the land should be disturbed; and though they” (Teira and others) “have floated it, I will not let it go to sea. It is enough, Parris; their bellies are full with the sight of the money you have promised them; but don't give it to them; if you do, I won't let you have the land, but will take it and cultivate it myself.” “Teira stops in town,” added Mr. Pariss, reporting the proceedings, “since he received the instalment, considering it not safe to stop at Waitara.” On the same occasion a document setting forth the boundaries of the block was read to the assembled Natives by page 89 Mr. Parris. Appended to the document was a declaration on behalf of the Governor, that if any man could prove his claim to any piece of land within the boundary described, such claim would be respected, and the claimant might hold or sell as he thought fit. But all claimants appeared to be immediately afterwards shut out by a statement authoritatively made and widely circulated amongst the Natives in all parts of the country, that the purchase-money having been paid to Teira, the whole of the land had become the property of the Crown. Still the opposition continued, and there appeared to be no prospect of obtaining undisputed title to the land; but feeling himself committed to effect the purchase, the Governor consulted the Executive Council on the subject (January 25th, 1860), who advised that, should William King or any other Native endeavour to prevent the survey, or in any way interfere with the prosecution of the work—that the surveyor's party should be protected, during the whole performance of the work, by military force; that the Commanding Officer should be empowered to subject the Province to martial law, and that he should be instructed to keep page 90 possession of the debateable land, if necessary, by force of arms. But before attempting a survey of the land, Mr. Parris, the District Commissioner, made a last ineffectual effort to obtain William King's concurrence in the sale. “I was with him and his people,” he reported, “on Monday last, and went fully into the question with them, informing them of the determination of the Government in the matter. I endeavoured to work upon them by explaining to them how very much the Government had been troubled with the Waitara question; that it was their duty to endeavour to meet the Government in this matter, and settle the question without any unpleasantness. In reply,” continued the Report, “a young man named Hemi Te Koro spoke favourably; but before he had finished, William King, perceiving the tendency of his views, got up and said, ‘I will not consent to divide the land, because my father's dying words and instructions were to hold it.’” A few days afterwards (February 20th), the survey was commenced; but being obstructed, though without violence, the attempt was for the time abandoned. “It was the wife of Wiremu Patukakawiki and their own two daughters, and page 91 some other women of their hapus,” said the Reverend Rewai Te Ahan, “who drew off the Governor's surveyors from their own pieces of land.” In reporting the obstruction to the Secretary of State, the Governor says “that no violence was offered by the Natives”—a statement confirmed by one of the local newspapers, which reported that the obstruction was managed in the least objectionable way possible, and that no more violence was used than was necessary to prevent the extension of the chain.*

Ten days afterwards, although there was no disturbance of the public peace, martial law was proclaimed, and a manifesto was published by the authorities in the Maori language, and widely circulated by special agents amongst all the Tribes

* “Last Monday (February 20th), was the day; and, on laying down the chain, this was obstructed by a parcel of old Maori women, sent by William King and his people, to prevent by main force (although without arms) the surveyors from going on with the survey. Mr. Carrington, one of the surveyors, was embraced by one of the old hags, together with his theodolite, and prevented from using it, and the chain was forcibly taken away, but was recovered; a reserve of men was stationed near the old witches, in case they were not able to resist the survey; but the women were too much for our surveyors, and they were compelled ignominiously to retreat.”—Correspondent of the “Southern Cross.”

page 92 of the Northern Island, declaring that Te Teira's title had been carefully investigated and found to be good; that it was not disputed by any one; that payment for the land had been received by Te Teira; and that the land now belonged to the Queen: and shortly afterwards (March 5) the Queen's Troops were marched out to the Waitara, and themselves or their Native allies destroyed the homesteads of William King and his people, took military possession of the ground, and thus dispossessed by force the occupants of the soil.