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

No. 23. — Copy of a Report by the Native Secretary on the Memorial of the Provincial Council of Taranaki

No. 23.
Copy of a Report by the Native Secretary on the Memorial of the Provincial Council of Taranaki.

The memorial of the Provincial Council of Taranaki contains so much of the early history of the settlement, and of the Native feuds that have arisen there, that I need not advert to these points, inasmuch as they are already well known to the Government. The Native population within the province is altogether under-estimated, and the return of 1,782 made by the Assistant Native Secretary can only apply to a portion of the province: the Native population of the whole province is certainly not less than 3,000 souls. It is true that the land held by these Natives is much in excess of their requirements: so conscious have the Government been of this fact that every exertion has been used to acquire by purchase from the Natives the cession of their surplus lands at much higher rates than have been offered for Native land in any other province. A large sum of money available for this purpose is now deposited at New Plymouth. An officer strongly recommended by the Provincial Government has been appointed to conduct negotiations with the Natives, and it has been found that any more vigorous action than has been already taken for the acquisition of land could only lead to the creation of fresh feuds among the Natives, in which the settlers and the Government might become seriously involved. Moreover, it is clearly the duty of the Government to abstain from acquiring land when the consequence of its acquisition is in any way likely to bring about serious differences among the Natives. The strict observance of this rule has been enjoined by His Excellency on all the officers of the Land Purchase Department. The memorial states that "Conflicting advice, however well-intentioned, can but cause an increase of embarrassment:" this is so perfectly true that it is to be hoped that means will be taken to prevent such advice being tendered in future; such interference has done more to retard the purchase of land at New Plymouth than can be easily imagined. The memorial sets forth that "the colonists of Taranaki have a special claim to the consideration of the Government and of their fellow-colonists, inasmuch as nearly the whole of the Natives now located in the neighbourhood of the settlement were a few years since dwelling in the present Provinces of Wellington and Nelson, and that the purchase of the lands held by Taranaki Natives by right of conquest at Waikanae and other places has been most prejudicial to New Plymouth, by accumulating in one spot the scattered remains of the tribes which had formerly resided here, and most advantageous to the provinces in which such purchased lands are situated." The facts of the case altogether disprove the page 141foregoing assertions, for, in the first place, Waikanae is not yet purchased, and, although it has been repeatedly offered by William King and other Natives, the Government declined to purchase, from a fear that its acquisition would drive the Natives to Taranaki.

2.The migration of Natives to Taranaki commenced years before any extensive purchases were made from the Natives at the South.
3.Taringa Kuri and his one hundred followers were prevented from going to Taranaki three years ago, by a purchase of land made for him at an expense of £400, lent to him for the purpose of inducing him to remain at the Hutt instead of going to Taranaki. With the same object in view, Sir George Grey purchased land for the Waiwhetu Natives; and at Nelson the following paragraph from my report on the final cession of the Native lands of that province to the Crown in 1856 will show that the interests of Taranaki were not sacrificed or overlooked: "28. The unsettled state of the Ngatiawa Tribe, and the disposition manifested by them to return to their former possessions at Taranaki, where their presence could only increase the troubles that already beset the land question in that province, rendered the present negotiation with them one of no small difficulty and delicacy,—which might, if in any way mismanaged, affect the general tranquillity of the country. I was induced therefore to agree to reserves of considerable extent being assigned to them in the various bays they were then inhabiting, with which they appeared to be fully satisfied."

I do not know what change of policy the memorialists desire: it is very evident that nothing short of strong coercive measures would effect an immediate solution of the present difficulties at Taranaki, and it is not easy to discover on what principle such measures should be resorted to in this instance, unless the Government is prepared to apply them to every similar case that may arise throughout the colony.

With reference to the prayer of the petition that His Excellency should be pleased to cause an inquiry to be instituted into the present condition of the Native inhabitants of this province, and to the causes which have led to the present difficulties, with a view to establish peace, &c., I am not aware, from the full and complete information that the Government now possess, that such an inquiry would lead to any good result. On the contrary it would raise false expectations on the part of some, doubt and apprehension with others. A succession of such inquiries among a barbarous people will only exhibit weakness on the part of the Government, if not followed by measures which it may not be prudent to undertake.

1st June, 1858.

Donald McLean.