Memorandum by Sir George Grey.
The question of the cultivated lands reserved to the Natives of Port Nicholson and its vicinity is one of some difficulty.
The Government were pledged by an arrangement concluded with the Natives by Governor Fitzroy to secure them all the pas, burial-places, and grounds actually in cultivation by the Natives; the limits of the pas to be the grounds fenced in around the Native houses or huts, without the fence, and the cultivations being those tracts of land which are now used by the Natives for vegetable productions, or which had been so used by any aboriginal natives of New Zealand since the establishment of the colony. This description was very vague, and, as the lands intended to be included in it were not at that time defined, it has now become almost impossible to tell whether many portions of land, now in cultivation by the Natives, or which were formerly so, have been occupied by the Natives page 170since the date of this arrangement with Governor Fitzroy, in which case they will of course have no title to them, or whether, though now retaining marks of having been under cultivation, they had ceased to be cultivated before the formation of the colony, in which case also they would be excluded from the class of lands contemplated by Governor Fitzroy. In short, it has become almost impossible to tell what lands were included in this agreement. The Government have made an attempt to remedy this evil by directing that a survey should be made by Government officers of all portions of land which they regarded as being secured to the Natives by Governor Fitzroy's arrangement. This survey is now probably very nearly completed; the amount of land included in it is estimated at about three hundred and eighty acres, and in this quantity are, I believe, included all lands claimed by the Natives. These lands consist principally of cultivated grounds scattered in small patches of a few acres throughout sections owned by European proprietors, whose farms are in many instances rendered comparatively valueless by the isolated patches of cultivation which are dotted throughout them. As might be anticipated, from the looseness of the original agreements, and from the circumstances above stated, the settlers in many instances contend that the lands regarded by the Government surveyors as included in Governor Fitzroy's arrangement ought to be excluded from it.
The manner in which the Native reserves have been administered in Port Nicholson has somewhat contributed to increase these evils. I will point out presently, in general terms, the evils which I believe to have resulted from the mode in which lands were in the first instance reserved for the Natives; but, in addition to these general evils, the following ones, peculiar to Port Nicholson, will be found to exist: The Company's lands in that district were to a great extent sold to absentee proprietors, and to the present day are only to a very limited extent occupied by Europeans. At the first settlement of Port Nicholson by Europeans the Natives continued as before to cultivate exactly where, and in each position to exactly what extent, they pleased. Those persons who were charged with the administration of the Native reserves were probably, from this cause, led to believe that, as the Natives rarely occupied their reserves, they did not require them for the purpose of cultivation or of residence. In this view they resolved to appropriate them for the purpose of raising a future revenue for the Natives, and they let some of the best of the reserves on very long leases to Europeans, who forthwith began to clear and make substantial improvements on them, and in some instances sublet them. Hence, when, from the spread of European population over the country, the settlers began to require lands which they had purchased, and which were occupied by Natives, the Government found it impossible to put the Natives in possession of these reserves (without which they had no means of subsistence) unless they got rid of the tenants to whom they had been leased, by paying them enormous sums as compensation, and the Natives, having no other lands to go upon, sturdily retained possession of the spots they had occupied. This state of things produced the most serious evils, led to constant and violent disputes between the Europeans and Natives, prevented the progress of the settlement, and afforded a constant ground of dispute between two races of people who could most materially assist each other, and who have positively no other ground whatever of jealousy or difference between them.
The mode by which I have hitherto endeavoured to get rid of this difficulty has been as follows: To ascertain exactly what lands the Natives are entitled to. If they are in possession of lands the bonâ fide property of settlers, as there have been no reserves at my disposal on which the Natives could be placed, I have purchased, at the expense of the Government, lands for them in spots selected by themselves and of such extent and quality as to render them good and obedient citizens, by giving them a valuable and permanent interest in the prosperity of the country, and, having made over these lands to them, I required them to surrender to Europeans the properties to which they were justly entitled. I proposed in the same manner, in dealing with the question of the other Native cultivations required by Europeans, to inquire in all instances whether the Natives had sufficient lands for their wants, exclusive of those required by the Europeans. If they had, I would encourage them to sell to the Europeans at a moderate price those portions of their cultivations which interfered with the operations of the European settler, and I believe the Natives would in almost every instance gladly accede to an arrangement of the kind. If the Natives have not sufficient lands for their wants, exclusive of that portion of their cultivations which may be required by the settler, I would recommend that the settler or the Company should be required to pay to the Government such sum as Colonel McCleverty may think proper, and that he should thereupon recommend the Government to purchase for the Natives some portions of land selected by themselves, which should be given to them in lieu of those cultivations required by the Europeans; and it would be essential that every exchange of this kind should be one which is rather advantageous to the Natives than otherwise, not only for the purpose of securing their immediate and cheerful acquiescence in the exchange, but with a view to securing, together, with their comfort, their attachment to the form of government under which they live.
Such an arrangement can only be carried out by an immediate expenditure for the purchase of the requisite lands on the part of the Government. If such an expenditure were never to be refunded I should feel justified in incurring it. A settlement of this vexatious question, by restoring tranquillity and the confidence of the Natives, will save a large military and naval expenditure, and will extensively promote internal production and commerce; but the fact is that, besides producing these advantages, the expense incurred may very soon be refunded to the Government from the sale of some of the Native reserves. It may be said, in fact, that the Native reserves are at present in a great measure unavailable to the Native population, either from their being leased to Europeans, from their ineligible position, or from the soil not being adapted to the mode of husbandry at present pursued by the Natives. In lieu, therefore, of these at present unavailable reserves, the Government is about to put them in possession of land adapted to their wants; in other words, to exchange certain lands for reserves, which will consequently not be needed for the future wants of the Native population, and will therefore ultimately form a source from whence the Government may reimburse itself for the expenditure at present incurred.
I have only to add that much will depend, in the settlement of this difficult question, upon page 171 judicious management. It would be better in the first instance only to deal with those cases in which lands under cultivation by Natives, or claimed by them under Governor Fitzroy's agreement, are required by European settlers. By thus dealing with individual cases upon their own merits, and only taking cases from time to time as the Europeans required the land, there will be much less probability of creating any combination amongst the Natives or extortionate demands from them; but what should at once be settled is, What lands are included in Governor Fitzroy's arrangement? These should at once be defined and surveyed; and, the question haying been thus once arranged, no fresh claims should ever hereafter be entertained.
District of Wairau.
With regard to the purchase of the Wairau District from the Natives, it appears unnecessary to make any lengthened observations. Colonel McCleverty will soon make himself master of more information on this subject than is possessed by any other person. It may be sufficient to say generally that a very great benefit will be conferred upon the colony by the prompt and immediate settlement of this question. It will be desirable, before entering into any negotiation upon the subject, to ascertain the exact number of Natives at present inhabiting the district, the extent of land they have under cultivation, and whether any portion of the Ngatitoa Tribe are likely to remove from Porirua to that district, and then take the necessary precautions for securing to the Native inhabitants blocks of land in continued localities of sufficient extent to provide for the wants of the probable Native population.
I think it proper to observe generally that the system of Native reserves as laid down by the New Zealand Company, although an admirable means of providing for the future wants of the aborigines, is in some respects insufficient for their present wants, and ill adapted for their existing notions.
It will be found necessary in all instances to secure to Natives, in addition to any reserves made for them by the New Zealand Company, their cultivations, as well as convenient blocks of land for the purpose of future cultivation, in such localities as they may select themselves. Many chiefs feel a great repugnance to go upon lands belonging to other persons, if their reserves may be selected in such situations. In other instances Natives belonging to a weaker tribe are afraid to venture upon lands belonging to others, if their reserves may be selected there; and they naturally generally feel under all circumstances the greatest repugnance to quit their villages and cultivated lands, many of which have been cleared at a large expense of time and labour. Indeed, I am satisfied that it will be in many instances impossible to induce them to do this except at a considerable sacrifice of life. I therefore earnestly recommend Colonel McCleverty in no single instance to sanction the purchase of any large district of country without seeing that the cultivated grounds, and portions of land in the vicinity of them for future cultivation, are reserved for the Natives. The judicious exercise of his discretion on this subject will do more towards preserving the future tranquillity of the country than any other precautionary measure with which I am acquainted.
In reference to the objection raised by the New Zealand Company to the grant of land which has been offered to them for the Nelson district, namely, that it excepts any portions of land within any of the lands described in the grant to which private claimants or any private claimant may have already proved, or may hereafter prove, that they or any of them had a valid claim prior to the purchase of the New Zealand Company, I think that Colonel McCleverty should ascertain what claims have already been preferred to such portions of these lands: these claims should be allowed or disallowed, and the exceptions complained of should then be limited to such claims as may upon inquiry be found to be valid and just;—that the inquiry should strictly be confined to such claims as have already been preferred. I do not think that claims which might now be made, after a large body of European settlers have been for so many years in possession of the land, should be allowed to operate for their detriment. If such claimants should show that they are entitled to the consideration of the Government, I think that compensation should be given to them in the form of grants to land in other localities, or in such other form as might be found most convenient.
Another general observation which I would make is that, in all instances where it is arranged that certain portions of land are to be assigned to particular bodies of Natives, Colonel McCleverty should see that they are furnished with accurate plans and descriptions of the boundaries of these tracts of land, and that when these are handed over to them they should sign a receipt stating that their claims to land have all been satisfied. Even in cases of disputed boundaries between different tribes of Natives, it would be a wise measure of precaution to recommend the Natives to allow the Government to settle disputed boundaries, and to issue to the claimants confirmatory grants to their lands, so that no dispute regarding their title might ever hereafter arise. I have found the Natives generally desirous of receiving such descriptive grants from the Government; and, as all these grants could be registered in the Survey Office, the Native population might thus gradually be brought in a great measure to register their claims to land, and feel that the holding a positive grant from the Crown was the best guarantee and title which they could obtain. The Government would be enabled to ascertain the portions of country to which the Natives had valid claims, and those portions which might be regarded as waste lands belonging to the Crown.
I have only further to add that Colonel McCleverty will find that about seventy claims to land in the Middle Island have been made and gazetted, but have never yet been investigated. It is a matter of great importance that these claims should be heard and reported on with as little delay as possible; and, if no objection should exist to Colonel McCleverty hearing and reporting on all of these claims, he will render a great service to the Government in so doing. If, however, he should see any objection to his adopting this course, and will report the same to me, I will lose no time in despatching the Surveyor-General to the South, for the purpose of hearing such claims as Colonel McCleverty may not think proper to dispose of.