Sir W. Martin to the Hon. D. McLean.
Sir,—Auckland, 29th July, 1871.
In reference to the subject of a memorandum submitted by me to the Government in January last; I have the honour to lay before you a draft Bill for consolidating and amending the laws respecting the Native Land Court.
The history of this draft is as follows: It being expected that a Bill for consolidating the Native Lands Acts would be introduced by the Government, I was requested a few months ago to frame some clauses, to be submitted to the Assembly whenever the Bill should come before it. When I consented to do so, the only object in view was to meet certain defects in the existing system. I had no thought of taking upon me the heavy and, as it may seem, the presumptuous task of framing a new Bill. But it soon became obvious that other points must be provided for, and the mutual dependence of the several parts of the subject at last made it necessary to carry the corrections, in a greater or less degree, over the whole field. The labour, which has been considerable, I shall not regret if the result shall be found serviceable to the colony. In this hope I now respectfully request you to bring this draft under the consideration of the Government.
In framing this Bill, I have benefited by the results of further inquiry and of conference with various persons conversant with the subject, including the Chief Judge and another of the Judges of the Court, and have been furnished with the views of persons interested in the subject and regarding it from different points of view. In particular, I have received valuable aid throughout from Dr. Shortland, with whose knowledge and practical experience in these matters you, Sir, are well acquainted. Some explanatory notes are appended, which, though unnecessary for yourself, may be useful to others.
You are aware, Sir, of the dissatisfaction on the part of the Natives with the Native Land Court, as dealing with their interests in a manner which they have no means of understanding, seeing that the law which prescribes the jurisdiction and powers of the Court is not accessible to them in any intelligible translation. The remedy for this will be found, not in an attempt to render into Maori, word for word, the Act which the Assembly may pass, but to frame first an intelligible statement in ordinary language (such as any intelligent man amongst us readily makes to his neighbour) of the substance of each clause, and then to put forth by authority a faithful and idiomatic version of such statement. That this mode may be fully successful, it is desirable that the structure of the Act itself be as simple and clear as possible.page 38
On the subject of the Native Land Court different theories are current. Some think that the object of the Court should be to create a body of wealthy Native proprietors through whom the Government may influence the mass of the people; others think the sooner all alike are brought to the condition of day-labourers the better. The Bill now submitted has not been framed upon any theory whatever, but sol[gap — reason: damage]ly upon a mature consideration, with all attainable aids, of the means most likely to render the action of the Court just, intelligible, and cheap, so that it may command the confidence of both races, and be (what it ought to be) the means of securing peaceful relations between the two races throughout this Island.
I have, &c.,
The Hon. the Native Minister.P.S.—The draft Bill now sent excludes the subject of the Native reserves, and leaves it for a distinct Bill, which I will send as soon as possible. It seems to me that the administration of the Native reserves, and of the income to be derived therefrom, should be closely connected with the Native Department, and not at all with the Native Land Court.