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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 50. — Memorandum relative to Organization of the Native Land Purchase Department

No. 50.
Memorandum relative to Organization of the Native Land Purchase Department.

Reorganization of Native Land Purchase Department.

In the present state of the colony it appears to be a matter of primary importance to its prosperity that land should be acquired from the Natives, not only to meet the increasing demand of the present European population, but also to provide for the numerous immigrants arriving from Great Britain, America, and the neighbouring colonies. While the demand for land was comparatively limited, it might have sufficed to purchase merely what was required for immediate settlement, but it is found that something more is urgently required to provide for the influx of immigration, and wealth that may be expected to these Islands, and that a system of purchasing which provides only for the exigency of the moment is not sufficient to promote, on an extended scale, the great objects of colonization.

It is estimated that the North Island of New Zealand contains twenty-eight millions of acres. Of this extent not more than four millions and a half have been acquired by purchase from the Natives, notwithstanding the various efforts that have been used by private individuals, public associations, and the Government for this object.

The details of a purchase comprising about one-fourth of the Middle Island, chiefly in the Provinces of Nelson and Canterbury, have yet to be completed before the land can be thrown open for selection. An instalment of £2,000 was paid to the principal chiefs, on account of this purchase, before Sir George Grey left Wellington, and a further instalment of £700 was recently paid on account of the same purchase at Taranaki.

It is quite obvious that the purchase of land from the numerous tribes inhabiting this Island must be a matter of considerable difficulty, arising not only from the complicated nature of their claims, but from their jealousies of each other, their superstitious objections to the alienation of the lands of their ancestors, and their doubts (which are now being partially removed by the facility afforded them of acquiring land under the regulations of the 4th March, 1853) that no portion of their country, when once disposed of, could be again repurchased for their children. It seems necessary, therefore, that in order to meet those difficulties officers should be appointed to certain districts, whose duty should be to acquire a knowledge of the Native tribes of their district, to ascertain the extent and nature of their claims, and to give their undivided energy and attention to the purchase of land, not only to meet the present requirements of the country, but to prepare their districts, as far as they possibly can, for the introduction of European settlers. The districts which seem to be more immediately required are—Auckland, Waikato and Waipa, Mokau and Kawhia, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, and Wellington Province. It is not only in the purchase of land that the services of these officers will be found valuable, but they will also, from their knowledge of Native character and language, be the means of settling disputes and adjusting any differences that may arise in their respective districts, or wherever their duties may call them.

It may also be stated that, in the acquisition of every block of land, the Natives residing thereon become virtually incorporated with the European settlers, become amenable to English law, and imperceptibly recognize the control of the Government in their various transactions.

The longer the purchase of land is delayed the more will be the expense and difficulty of acquiring it. Therefore it becomes the more necessary that an efficient department for this service should be organized, and that ample funds should be provided, so that whenever the Natives are prepared to sell their, land there should be as little delay as possible in concluding arrangements with them for that purpose.

As no other subject has embarrassed the Government in its dealings with the Natives or retarded the progress of the colony so much as the adjustment of the Native land question, I have every reason to hope that the arrangements and support for conducting this important branch of the service will be so provided for as to avoid not only a repetition of similar difficulties, but be the means of opening up the country for steady and progressive colonization.

I might adduce various other reasons in favour of establishing a steady and well-regulated system of acquiring land from the Natives, so as to keep the purchase if possible in advance of the requirements of the settlers; but this subject has of late been so frequently brought under the notice of the Government, and is so obvious to the colonists generally, that I believe it is unnecessary to add anything more in reference to it, beyond again noticing, the necessity of organizing an efficient staff of officers to negotiate with the Natives, and of surveyors to mark off the external boundaries of the several blocks or districts that may be from time to time purchased, and of the reserves requisite for the Natives within such purchases. The staff, therefore, which appears necessary should consist of a principal commissioner, whose duty it should be to instruct and direct the purchasing operations of thepage 53 district commissioners, and to keep the Government fully informed of the several negotiations in progress throughout the Islands, of the funds necessary for such, purposes, and, in fact, as he should reside (except when inspecting the several districts) at the seat of Government, he should be ready to give every information respecting his department. There should be also a deputy-commissioner to act for the principal commissioner, and keep up the correspondence with the Government and the Natives in his absence.

The duties of the district commissioners have been already alluded to, and in addition to those district officers, who should acquire a knowledge of land-surveying, there should be in the meantime a staff of surveyors and parties to mark off the external boundaries of such blocks of land as may be immediately acquired from the Natives. Those surveyors would be necessary under any circumstances, and therefore the expense of them should not be considered as exclusively connected with the land-purchasing so much as forming a part of the general surveys of the colony.

Donald McLean,
Land Commissioner.

Auckland, 15th June, 1854.