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

No. 45. — Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen, G.C.M.G., to the Right Hon. Earl Granville, K.G

page 195

No. 45.
Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen, G.C.M.G., to the Right Hon. Earl Granville, K.G.

Report of Visit to Whanganui, Taranaki, &c. Government House, Auckland, N.Z., 14th October, 1869.

My Lord,—

In continuation of my previous reports of my official visits to various parts of this colony, I have the honour to state that I left Wellington on the 20th September ultimo, and arrived at Auckland on the 4th instant, after a very interesting and, as I am assured, not unprofitable journey and voyage along the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, during which I visited Whanganui, Wereroa, Patea, Taranaki, Whaingaroa, and other places important in connection with the recent or existing disturbances.

2.Accompanied by Mr. Fox, the Prime Minister of the colony, and by one officer of my Staff (Captain Pitt, R.A.), I proceeded, in the first instance, from Wellington to Whanganui. I found that town in a far more satisfactory condition than at the period of my former visit to it in last November, when Titokowaru had advanced to within ten miles from its suburbs, and an attack was expected almost every night, followed, perhaps, by massacres of women and children like that which had then recently been perpetrated by Te Kooti at Poverty Bay. News, however, reached me that Te Kooti was near the Lake of Taupo, where he had been joined by the influential chief Te Heuheu; and that he was threatening a fresh raid from his present central position, whence he could come down the River Whanganui in war-canoes, as the rebels came before the battle, of Moutoa in 1864. The gallant chief Te Kepa (Major Kemp) at once consented again to take the field, and to march against Te Kooti with a strong division, of his clan. It will be seen from my Despatch No. 140, by this mail, that he afterwards joined Colonel McDonnell; who had set out from Napier at the head of a combined force of Europeans and loyal Natives from the East Coast; and that Te Kooti had already been defeated, with heavy loss in two severe actions.
3.Annexed is a copy of the address presented to me by Te Kepa and the other chiefs of the Whanganui. It will repay an attentive perusal, as showing their views with regard to. The present posture of affairs. It will be seen that I again visited them at Putiki, their settlement at the opposite side of the river from the Town of Whanganui, and harangued them in praise of their loyalty to the Crown, of which they have given so many proofs. I also inspected, accompanied by Mr. Fox, the houses at Putiki where the wives and children (about one hundred and fifty in number) of the rebels iu confinement at Wellington are fed and clothed at the expense of the Colonial Government. They seemed to be in good health, and made no complaints of any kind.
4.From Whanganui we rode overland to Patea, escorted by a dozen troopers of the local Yolunteer Cavalry. In disturbed districts it is considered the safest course to form only a small party of horsemen, and to ride fast, so that the Maoris may have no time to lay their deadly ambuscades. However, on our entire journey we saw only three Natives, upon whom we came suddenly at the corner of a wood. One of them was identified as a member of Titokowaru's band, and an escaped prisoner; so he was sent back to confinement.
5.The country between the Rivers Whanganui and Patea, forming part of the Province of Wellington, and also the entire Province of Taranaki, has been described as the "cockpit" of New Zealand, like Belgium of Europe. For more than nine years past there has been almost constant fighting in these districts, between, on the one hand, the Imperial and Colonial forces, successively under General Pratt, General Cameron, General Chute, and Colonel Whitmore, and, on the other hand, portions of the Maori clans of the Ngatiruanui, Ngarauru, Taranaki, and Ngatiawa, under Wiremu Kingi te Rangitake (the well-known" William'King," of Waitara), Hone Pihama, and other leaders, and latterly underTitokowaru. There is hardly a league throughout the whole extent of this country without its tale of some desperate skirmish, bloody ambuscade, or fierce assault and defence of a Native pa or of an English redoubt. We visited all the more remarkable scenes iu the recent annals of the colony. In particular, I may mention that we rode over the flat open land at Nukumaru, where, on the afternoon of the 25th January, 1865, General Cameron's camp was attacked by six hundred Maoris, under Hone Pihama, who is stated to have forced his way,' before he was repulsed, to within one hundred and fifty yards-of the General's tent. On the rising ground, two miles further, we visited the pa at Tauranga-ika, fortified by Titokowaru with vast labour aud great engineering skill, but which he evacuated in last February, fearing to have his supplies cut off, when he had been nearly invested by Colonel Whitmore. The first night after leaving Whanganui we bivouacked at the famous Wereroa Pa, which occupies a very important strategetical position, and concerning which there was so much correspondence (since published in the Parliamentary Papers) between Sir George Grey and General Cameron. This post, as also posts at Wairoa, at Patea, aud at Manawapou, are now held by strong detachments of the colonial Militia and Volunteers.
6.On my arrival at the Township of Carlyle, at the mouth of the River Patea (where a small body of settlers have maintained themselves with much courags and perseverance throughout the war), I was presented with an address, of which, and my reply to it, I annex a copy.
7.Here I found a portion of the loyal Ngatiporou clan from the East Coast which is to be placed (in pursuance of a policy which was successfully carried out at the Cape by General Cathcart) at Waihi, about twenty five miles north-west of Patea, as an advanced guard for the English settlements against Titokowaru's bands, which still infest the country beyond. There was some misunderstanding of the intentions of the Colonial Government and consequent discontent among the Ngatiporou, but, at the request of Mr. Fox, I addressed them in an explanatory and encouraging speech, which had the effect of restoring their good humour. The next morning they marched out to occupy the fertile lands assigned to them, a rich exchange for their rugged mountains on the East Coast. The march presented a most picturesque and suggestive picture. The kilted warrors, their mantles waving in the breeze and their arms flashing in the sun, strode proudly and rapidly forward, in long "Indian file" over the beautiful prairie, at this season—the spring-time of the Southern Hemisphere—bright and fragrant with page 196flowers and flowering shrubs. From time to time a part of the line would he lost to sight as it passed through a ravine or a grove of trees, soon to reappear heyond. The mounted chiefs gallopped to and fro, marshalling their clansman hy voice and gesture, and guiding the progress of the wagons carrying the sick and wounded. The women stepped gaily along by the side of their husbands and brothers, many with their children clinging round their necks. As I rode up to each group I was saluted by all alike with ringing shouts and chants of welcome. This fertile open country, stretching east and west, is bounded on the south by the Pacific, as blue and sparkling as the Mediterranean; on the north by the dark forests which reach inland from Whanganui to Taranaki, and above which swells the graceful, cone-like peak of Mount Egmont, the holy mountain of the Maoris, and celebrated in their traditional songs and legends. This part of the coast-land of New Zealand vividly reminded me, in many Tespects, of the coast-land of Sicily between Syracuse and Messina. Mount Egmont, a now extinct volcano, is a more shapely and graceful Mount Ætna. I trust that your Lordship will pardon a brief digression of this nature, as I am led to believe that you desire to realize in your mind a complete and correct picture of the scenes and events now passing in this country.
8.Most thoughtful men in New Zealand seem to be now agreed that it would have been more prudent not to attempt for some years to come to place European settlers in the frontier district of Patea, which is peculiarly exposed to the attacks of the hostile Natives. But this policy was, carried out several years ago; and it now appears to be also generally agreed that to retreat at the present crisis would be regarded by the Maoris as a sign of weakness, which would probably have no other effect but to transfer the fighting from the outposts to the heart of the colony—from Patea and Waihi to Whanganui, and possibly even to Wellington. The homesteads of the settlers, over an extent of nearly a hundred miles, have been burnt by Titokowaru, their cattle devoured or driven off, and their crops and fruit trees destroyed; but they are now gradually returning to their lands, the Colonial Parliament during its last session having voted a sum of money to them, by way of loan, to enable them to make, as it were, a fresh start. The plan adopted resembles that recommended by General Cathcart for the defence of the frontier districts of the Cape Colony. The rebuilding of the scattered homesteads is discouraged, while at convenient distances and in commanding positions (such as Wereroa, Wairoa, Patea, and Waihi) redoubts and blockhouse have been erected for the protection of villages in which the settlers and their families will reside, going forth from these central places of refuge to tend their cattle and cultivate their farms. The advanced posts of the Ngatiporou inspire general confidence.
9.From Patea I proceeded to New Plymouth, the capital of the Province of Taranaki, where I was heartily welcomed alike by the Europeans and the Natives, as will be partly seen from the accounts of my reception published in the local newspapers. The address presented by the settlers, and the speeches of the Maori chiefs, deserve attentive perusal, as showing the views of both races on the present condition and prospects of the West Coast. It will be perceived that four hundred Maoris, at least half of whom were returned rebels, recently in arms against the Crown, assembled to meet the Governor and the Minister for Native Affairs (Mr. McLean), who had preceded me by sea to Taranaki. To our great satisfaction, the redoubtable Ngatiruanui chief Hone Pihama, who fought so long and so bravely against Generals Cameron and Chute, attended the korero and made a loyal speech. He has always waged an honourable warfare, and has never sanctioned (like Titokowaru and Te Kooti) muxders in cold blood, or the slaughter of women and children; so he comes under the spirit of the peace Proclamations. Hone Pihama has actually taken the contract for the conveyance of the mails across the country of Titokowaru, who dares not meddle with him. The truth is that many of the Maori chiefs on the West Coast, who a short time back thought and spoke of nothing but "driving the pakehas into the sea," appear now to have come to the conclusion that ifc will be more pleasant and profitable to follow the example of their countrymen at Hawke's Bay and elsewhere on the East Coast, by leasing their lands to the pakehas, and living in European comfort and luxury on the rents. Hone Pihama's conversations with me and with Mr. McLean were full of the blessings of Christianity, and of law and order, of loyalty to the Queen, friendship for the settlers, and offers of land on sale or lease for the making of roads, the erection of flax-mills, saw-mills, and iron foundries, the discovery of gold fields, and the general development of the natural resources of the country.
10.The growing value of the New Zealand flax (Fhormium tenax), as an article of commerce, is very fortunate at the present time, for its cultivation and manufacture require the active co-operation of both races—of the Maoris to supply the raw material, and of the Europeans to prepare it for use and shipment. Much attention is also being paid to the remarkable "ironsnnd," or titaniferous iron ore, which is found in great abundance on the sea-beach of Taranaki, and from which the best qualities of steel can be manufactured. I visited with much interest the first foundry erected at New Plymouth, and hope to take an early opportunity of reporting at length on this and other cognate subjects.
11.The Province of Taranaki has often been called "the Garden of New Zealaud;" and the beauty of its scenery combines with the fertility of its soil to entitle ifc to this distinction. It will not be forgotten that its defence has been very costly to both the Imperial and the Colonial Governments. However, the exertions made by the settlers for their own protection render them deserving of support. They number in all barely four thousand, men, women, and children; of whom eight hundred, including nearly every able-bodied male; are armed and drilled, and have been for the most part under fire during the war of the last nine years. Detachments of the Militia and Volunteers hold the frontier posts, while the entire force is ready to take the field in case of need at very short notice. There is also in the province a division, one hundred and fifty strong, of the Armed Constabulary; while the stockade in the Town of New Plymouth is garrisoned by two companies, about oue hundred and twenty officers and men, of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment. Here, as elsewhere in the disturbed districts, the opinion seems universal that the moral support of detachments of Imperial troops in the principal towns is indispensable to secure any certain prospect of peace and tranquillity.
12.During the week which I spent in the Province of Taranaki I visited on horseback the scenes of the principal fights between Generals Pratt, and Cameron and the Natives under Te Rangitake (William King), who is now living in the forests near the base of Mount Egmont, about twenty-five miles from New Plymouth. He sent a message to the effect that he also, like so many other chiefs page 197recently in arms against the Crown, would have attended the meeting held to welcome me, if he had not been "whakama," that is, "ashamed of himself." This modesty probably means that he is still watching the course of events before he finally decides on peace. He has never committed homicide except in fair fight; so it has been intimated by the Government that no notice will be taken of his past conduct, and that some valuable land has been reserved for him on the banks of the River Waitara (where he began the war in 1860), upon which he can come and live quietly whenever he pleases. The voluminous Parliamentary Papers and other official documents published on the subject contain full information about the controversy respecting the Waitara block of land, and the consequences to which it led. A township is now fast growing up at the mouth of the River Waitara.
13.I inspected the outposts held by the local Militia for the protection of the settlements round Taranaki, especially that on the hill of Pukeraugiora (eleven miles from New Plymouth), where stood the pa of Te Arei, besieged by General Pratt. This important frontier post is now garrisoned by a party of military settlers, among whom I found a Greek gentleman of good birth and education from Patras, in the Peloponnesus, named Padopoulos, who, with a few others of his countrymen, fought bravely in the colonial forces. He told me that a love of warlike adventure had brought them to New Zealand; and observed that, as the Byzantine Emperors once employed Englishmen in their Varangian Guard to protect the frontier of the Greek Empire, so it seemed the English Government now employed Greeks to protect the frontier of the British Empire. He is an industrious farmer, and has already planted a small vineyard near the redoubt. It was certainly interesting to find a Greek in such a place, especially as Pukerangiora is the Suli of Maori history. About 1830, ten years before the commencement of English colonization, the Ngatiawa clan had entrenched themselves on this hill when attacked by the Waikatos under Potatou te Wherowhero, afterwards elected (in 1857) to be the first King of the Maoris. At the final assault, many hundreds of the Ngatiawas, rather than fall into the hands of the hereditary foemen, threw themselves headlong, with their wives and children, from the top of the lofty cliff overhanging the River Waitara. It will be remembered that a similar incident took place on the capture of Suli by Ali Pacha. The gorge of the Waitara below Pukerangiora reminded me in its general features of the gorge of the Acheron below the Rock of Suli.
14.From Taranaki I proceeded by the sea to the Harbour of Whaingaroa, where I visited the small township of Raglan, which, when peace shall have been finally established, will probably become a place of importance, and one of the chief ports on the West Coast. I enclose a copy of the address presented to me by the settlers, and of my reply to it. They do not exceed at present two hundred in number, and dwell principally round a redoubt, into which they would retire in the event of an attack. The few Maoris in the immediate neighbourhood of the settlement are friendly, but Raglan is distant in a straight line only twenty miles from the aukati or "pale" of the Maori King.
15.From Whaingaroa I proceeded to Auckland by the Manukau Harbour. In conclusion, I would remark that my observations on the West Coast, as in all other parts of New Zealand, confirm the views on the general condition, prospects, and requirements of this colony which have been submitted at length in my previous despatches, and especially in my reports of 7th. December, 1868, and 7th January, 1869.

I have, &c.,

G. F.Bowen.

The Right Hon. Earl, Granville, K.G.