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

(No. 5.) — Mr. James Mackay to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary

(No. 5.)
Mr. James Mackay to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary

Auckland, 17th July, 1875.


I have the honour to inform you that Sir George Grey, in his official capacity as Superintendent of this province, has thought proper to make certain statements respecting the 1,000 acres of land reserved for the Natives in the Tairua Block which reflect seriously on my character. In addition to this a writ has been issued against myself and others in the Supreme Court by Sir George Grey, which was sued out by his solicitor, Mr. W. L. Rees, and in accordance with an affidavit sworn by the person last named, which contains serious allegations, having no foundation in fact.

Having been informed that a writ had been issued against me, I proceeded to the office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court accompanied by Major Green, and was shown the writ, the affidavit, page 94and declaration made in support of it by Mr. W. L. Rees. On my solicitor's clerk applying to make a copy of these to day, he was informed that the writ and affidavit only could be copied, and that the declaration was merely lodged there pending an application to the Court for an injunction.

If the writ, affidavit, and declaration were not filed, then the Deputy-Registrar had no right to show the letter to me and say that I "could have a copy taken by my clerk without payment of any further fee than the shilling paid by Major Green for the search." As I have been thus deprived of a copy of the declaration in question, it becomes necessary for me to endeavour to give its contents from memory. The declaration appeared to me to set out. "That the Native grantees absolutely conveyed to the Crown their title to 36,000 acres of land, known as the Tairua Block, without any reservation whatsoever. That the only record of any reservation was an indorsement on the back of the deed by myself that the Natives were entitled to a reserve of 1,000 acres, to be selected by them within three months, and to be taken in not more than two blocks. That the selection had not been made within the stipulated time by the Natives, and had lapsed. That the General Government had handed over the Tairua Block to the Provincial Government without mentioning the right of the Natives to select 1,000 acres within it, and that I had not informed the Government that any arrangement had been made to make such reserve. That I had no right or authority to afterwards cause such reserves to be selected and surveyed. That, since the proclamation of the Tairua, Pakirarahi, and other blocks as an extension of the Hauraki Gold-Mining District, I, without the authority of the General or Provincial Government, had fraudulently made the reserve in a place different from that which had originally been arranged as a site for it. That the block surveyed was at the only place suitable for a township for the Tairua extension of the Hauraki Gold-Mining District. That Gerald O'Halloran and John William Richard Guilding, two officers in the service of the General Government, and paid by them, had entered into arrangements with the Natives for a lease of the reserve in question on behalf of themselves and others. That I was likely to apply to the Crown and recommend the issue of a Crown grant to the Natives interested. That it was necessary to prevent great and irreparable loss and damage to the plaintiff as Superintendent of the province to issue an injunction against the execution of such grant, and to stop any lease from the Native owners to John William Richard Guilding and Gerald O'Halloran on behalf of themselves or others."

This I believe to be the substance of the declaration, and I shall now proceed to state the fact of the case.

In December, 1872, I commenced negotiations for the sale of the Tairua Block to the Crown. After many discussions of the question a deed was prepared which contained no reservations except those of the rights of Seccombe and Son to kauri timber (which had been acquired in 1864). No mention had been made of a reserve, as none had then been asked for. The purchase-money spoken of was £3,000, but on the day the deed was presented for execution the grantees, at the last moment demanded a reserve of 2,000 acres, or a payment of £3,600, being £100 per 1,000 acres. I then agreed to pay £2,900 and allow a reserve of 1,000 acres, which was to be selected within three months, and in not more than two blocks. The site of the larger portion of the reserve was fixed at Pukiore, at the head of the navigation of the Tairua River, and the position of the remainder was not determined, some of the Natives being in favour of taking it at Te Karaka burial-ground, and others near the mouth of the river. I did not deem it advisable to alter the conveyance, or cumber it with a covenant to produce title-deeds. I therefore asked the Natives to convey the whole to the Crown, on the understanding that a grant should be issued to them for 1,000 acres, and, to satisfy them, indorsed the particulars of this arrangement on the back of the deed. The Natives within the three months applied to me to survey the reserves, and I told them it would be attended to as soon as my other engagements would allow of it.

In my report of the 24th March, 1873 (vide G.–8, Appendix to Journals of the House of Representatives, 1873), I thus alluded to the Tairua purchase: "Tairua: Area 36,000 acres; price £2,900. It adjoins Whenuakiti (Government land), and gives access to the sea to the eastward. Gold has been found in these blocks. Not yet included in gold-mining district. Reason of delay in proclamation is the non-completion of survey of the Wharekawa Block (purchase negotiated; vide Return No. 2). Wharekawa separates these blocks from the Whangamata Block. Some land available for cultivation on these blocks. A reserve of 1,000 acres to be selected in one or two blocks is to be made at Tairua, and a grant issued for the same to the owners, as arranged by the Native Land Court."

In April, 1873, Timothy Sullivan was murdered by Purukutu at Waikato, and I was requested to proceed there as agent for the General Government, which effectually precluded me from completing the arrangements for surveying the reserves, as I was absent from the Thames District for upwards of twelve months. I had no communication with the Natives respecting the reserves until the 11th May last, when a letter was forwarded to me requesting me to have it surveyed. I enclose the original with translation. I instructed Mr. John Guilding, a licensed interpreter in my employ and who is not a Government officer, to proceed to Tairua with a surveyor and lay off the reserve. This was done. Nine hundred and ninety acres were surveyed at Pukiore, and ten acres at Te Kutakuta, near the mouth of the river. They applied to me on the 26th May to allow them to take twenty acres at Te Karaka burial-ground, and reduce the Pukiore reserve to 970 acres, as by letter enclosed herewith with translation. The latter question has not been arranged.

With reference to the objection raised, that I had no right to lay off the reserve at Tairua without consulting the Provincial Government, I would beg to state that I received orders from the Hon. Mr. Ormond and the Hon. the Native Minister to make reserves for Natives where necessary, and I have on no occasion gone beyond the letter or spirit of those instructions. I afterwards saw a statement in the Thames Advertiser, published at the time of Sir George Grey's visit to the gold fields, to the effect that this reserve was unknown before the proclamation of the Tairua extension of the Hauraki Goldmining District; that it was subsequently made at the only site suitable for a township for that district, and had been leased to private persons for that purpose. It was insinuated afterwards that I, or some person in my employ, had leased the land from the Natives. These assertions and insinuations culminated in the writ of summons sued out on behalf of Sir George Grey by his solicitor, and the page 95affidavit and declaration made on the 10th instant, copies of which will be forwarded if obtainable. As far as I am concerned, I distinctly deny that I ever asked the Natives to lease to me the Tairua reserve, or any portion of it, or that I ever suggested, directly or indirectly, to any person whomsoever to do so, either on my behalf or on his own account.

I leave the other defendants mentioned in the writ to vindicate their own conduct, which I have no doubt will bear the light of thorough investigation. I would have replied more fully to the allegations contained in the declaration had a copy of it been procurable. If any of the allegations made in the declaration to the writ issued against myself and others in the Supreme Court respecting the Tairua reserve are incorrect, Sir George Grey cannot plead that he was refused any information on the subject of the Tairua land purchase or the leases of timber there, as he was, on the 22nd of June last, apprised by the Hon. the Colonial Secretary that I had been instructed to furnish him with any information he required on the subject. On 25th June I forwarded a telegraphic message to him to that effect. I received a reply that nothing but a copy of a telegram was required. In supplying this I, on the 28th ultimo, again offered to give any information or explanation in my power required by his Honour. This he declined in his letter of the 29th June, saying he thought it desirable under the present circumstances to communicate direct with the General Government. If Sir George Grey had taken advantage of the offer made to him by the Hon. the Colonial Secretary, he would have been furnished with full particulars about the Tairua land purchase and timber leases, and need not have been under the necessity of employing a secret agent to make inquiries amongst the Natives at Mercury Bay respecting the Tairua reserve; and probably would not have resorted to the extraordinary measure of issuing a writ in the Supreme Court against myself and others. I consider the more constitutional course for his Honour the Superintendent to have pursued in the matter, if he had any reason to suspect me of wrong-doing, would have been to have complained to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary, and requested him to cause an inquiry to be made into my conduct in the matter. I must, however, respectfully submit that it does not appear right for one officer of the Colonial Government to proceed against another in the Supreme Court, even on public grounds, unless with the consent of the General Government first obtained. It is unnecessary to enter further into the question; but if any vindication of myself were necessary it is to be found in the fact that they who instituted have found it expedient to withdraw proceedings.

I have, &c.,

James Mackay.

The Hon. the Colonial Secretary, Wellington.