Taranaki Confiscations


The Royal Commission of Inquiry into of Native Lands and Other Grievances alleged by Natives.  This extract of the report is specific to Taranaki as they were the first case to require justification of confiscations.

In dealing with this subject it is not necessary to go further back than the Waitara purchase, which was made in the year 1859. The view now generally accepted of that transaction is that set forth by Mr. W. P. Reeves in his book The Long White Cloud." This is what he has said on the subject (3rd cd., p. 196) Colonel Gore Browne took the reins from Colonel Wynyard. The one was just such an honourable and personally estimable soldier as the other. But, though he did not involve his Parliament in ridicule, Governor Browne did much more serious mischief. In ordinary matters he took the advice of the Stafford Ministry, but in Native affairs the Colonial Office had stipulated that the Governor was to have an overriding power. He was to take the advice of his Ministers, but not necessarily to follow it. 

On Governor Browne, therefore, rests the chief responsibility for disastrous series of wars which broke out in 1860, and which were not finally at an end for ten years. 

The impatience of certain colonists to buy lands from the Maori faster than the latter cared to sell them was the simple and not too creditable cause of the outbreak. broad survey of the position shows that there need have been no hurry over land acquisition. Nor was there any great clamour for haste, except in Taranaki, where rather less than 3,000 settlers restricted to 63,000 acres fretted at the sight of 1,750 Maoris holding and shutting up 2,000,000 acres against them." Then, after referring to the establishment of the Native Land League and to the virtual repeal of the Ordinance forbidding the sale of arms to Natives, Mr. Reeves continued thus: "Finally in 1860 came, the Waitara land-purchase—the spark which set all ablaze. 

The name Waitara has been extended from river both to little seaport and to the surrounding district in Taranaki, the province where, as already said, feeling on the land difficulty had always been most acute. Enough land had been purchased, chiefly by Grey, to enable the settlement to expand into strip of about twenty miles along the seashore, with an average depth of about seven miles. During visit to the district, Governor Browne invited the Ngatiawa Natives to sell land. 

Chief, Teira, and his friends at once offered to part with 600 acres which they were occupying. The head of their tribe, however, Wiremu Kingi, vetoed the sale. The Native Department and the Governor sent down Commissioners, who, after inquiry, decided erroneously that Teira's party had right to sell and the head chief none to interfere. A fair price was paid for the block and surveyors sent to it. The Ngatiawas good-humouredly encountered these with band of old women well selected for their ugliness, whose appalling endearments effectually obstructed the survey work. Then, as Kingi threatened war, an armed force was sent to occupy the plot. After two days' firing upon stockade erected there, the soldiers advanced and found it empty. Kingi, thus attacked, astutely made the disputed piece over to the King tribes, and forthwith became their protege...

It should be mentioned that while all this was going on the Premier, Mr. Stafford, was absent in England, and that his colleagues supported the Governor's action. Parliament did not assemble until war had broken out, and then majority of members conceived themselves bound to stand by what had been done. Nevertheless, so great was the doubt about the wisdom and equity of the purchase that most of the North Island members even then condemned it. Most of the South Island members, who had much to lose and nothing to gain by war, supported it. Very heavily had their Island to pay for the Waitara purchase. It was not crime, unless every purchaser who takes land with bad title which he believes to be good is criminal. But, probably wrong technically, certainly needless and disastrous, it will always remain for New Zealand the classic example of blunder worse than crime." 

It is to be observed that the resolution to use military force, if necessary, for securing the completion of the purchase was adopted at meeting of the Executive Council held at Auckland on the 25th January, 1860. The advice tendered to the Governor was as follows :—
  1. That Mr. Parris be instructed to have the said land surveyed in the ordinary manner, and to take care that the Native chief, William King, be indirectly, but not officially, made aware of the day on which the survey will be commenced.
  2. Should William King or any other Native endeavour to prevent the survey or in any way interfere with the prosecution of the work, in that case that the surveying party be protected during the whole performance of their work by an adequate military force under the command of the Senior Military Officer with which view power to call out the Taranaki Militia and Volunteers, and to proclaim martial law, be transmitted to the Commanding Officer at New Plymouth. 
  3. That, when the survey shall have been completed, the Officer Commanding at New Plymouth shall, until further instructed, keep possession, by force if necessary, of the said land, so as to prevent the occupation or any act of trespass upon it by any Natives. 

The Governor acted on this advice, and Proclamation of martial law within the Province of Taranaki was thereupon signed by the Governor and countersigned by the Colonial Secretary. The attempt to carry out the survey was made on the 20th February, and subsequently communication was made to Wiremu Kingi giving him twenty-four hours to apologize for the obstruction offered by his people and to notify his relinquishment of his opposition to the survey. His reply was that he did not desire war that he loved the white people very much, but that he would keep the land, and that they (that is, he and the Government) might be very good friends if the survey were relinquished. 

On the 22nd February, 1860, the Proclamation of martial law was published in the English and Maori languages. This Proclamation recited that active military operations were about to be undertaken by the Queen's Forces against Natives in the Province of Taranaki in arms against Her Majesty's sovereign authority. 

The Governor proceeded to New Plymouth, where he arrived on the Ist March. He immediately dispatched to Wiremu Kingi message requesting that, to prevent misunderstanding, he would come into town and learn the Governor's intentions, and offering safe-conduct. Wiremu Kingi declined the invitation. On the 1st March the troops were moved down to Waitara and occupied position on the disputed block. 

On the night of the 15th March pa was built by some of Wiremu Kingi's people at Te Kohia, within the bounds of the block. The next day they pulled up the survey stakes and burnt them.

On the 17th March the troops attacked the pa, and the Natives evacuated it before daylight on the morning of the 18th. The war, which commenced in this way, was continued until March, 1861, when it was terminated by an agreement between Hapurona (the Maori leader) and the Government. The terms included the investigation of the title to the Waitara Block and the completion of the survey.  

During the course of the discussion before us reference was made to Sir William Martin's pamphlet, The Taranaki Question," and to Mr. C. W. Rich- mond's memorandum in reply to it. In this memorandum the right of the Crown to the land was based on (1) the cession in 1841 of the whole Taranaki District by the Waikato chiefs, and (2) the purchase from Teira. The first ground appears not to have deserved serious consideration/for in the discussion which took place in 1863 between Sir George Grey, who had returned to New Zealand as Governor in September, 1861, and his Ministers as to the proposal to abandon the Waitara purchase the cession was not relied on or even referred to, and the Crown's claim to the block was based entirely on the agreement made with Teira. 

Sir George Grey, in his despatch to the Duke of Newcastle of the 24th April, 1863, declared that his settled conviction was that the Natives were, in the main, right in their allegations regarding the Waitara purchase, and that it ought not to be gone on with. In the memorandum addressed by Sir George Grey to his Ministers on the 22nd April, 1863, he stated his reasons for abandoning the Waitara purchase. The view taken by the Natives of the subject is set forth at length in this memorandum, and we quote the following passages It is further to be observed that the Natives declare that they did not take up arms to prohibit the alienation of territory to the Crown, or to maintain any seignorial rights. They rest their justification for entering into the general conspiracy, which was undoubtedly formed throughout the Island, by declaring that it was struggle for house and home. Especially on the East Coast the Natives have stated this to the Governor and that the almost universal belief of the Native race was that new system of taking lands was to be established, and that if they did not succeed by general and combined resistance in preventing their houses and lands being taken by the Government from the Natives of the Waitara they would have been each in their turn despoiled in detail of their lands. 

They refer to the manifesto issued by the Government in February, 1860, declaring the causes of the war against the Native race and they affirm that the most important statements contained in that manifesto are not correct; and they contend that there was no resort to arms on their part until, from this and other causes, they were convinced that their destruction was determined on, and that their only hope of safety lay in their courage and strength, if an armed force was sent to dispossess them of their homes and they say that until they were sure armed force was intended the survey of the lands claimed by Teira was only interfered with by women, who, without violence, interrupted the surveyors on portions of land which was their own property or that of their husbands. Their general statement with regard to all this is that the people of the Waitara were driven from their homes at the point of the sword that great crime had been committed against them that through all future generations it will be told that their lands were forcibly and unlawfully taken from them by an officer appointed by the Queen of England. The Natives will not agree to any investigation of the title to the land at Waitara alone. They say they do not want that; that great wrong has been done them, which has entailed great suffering on them, and they ask for an inquiry into the whole affair, in order that it might be shown who is really guilty of the evils which have sprung from the late war."

In this memorandum Sir George Grey states certain facts which had been discovered as the result of inquiries made by himself and the Native Minister, Mr. F. D. Bell, on their recent visit to Taranaki. The block of land agreed to be sold by Teira was found to contain about 980 acres. This block of 980 acres of land now appears," said Sir George Grey, to have been inhabited, at the time Teira under- took to sell it, by William King and between two hundred and three hundred of his people. They had been in occupation for twelve years had villages, cultivations, houses and other buildings on it—their homes for years. Teira now states that William King and these people occupied this land under valid tribal arrangement, which would appear from his statement to be of such nature that no person could sell the land without William King and these people being consenting parties to the sale. Teira also now admits that there are other legitimate claimants to various portions of this block of land. Teira further states that he had never intended to sell the sites of the Native villages, although these were what the Government especially wanted to form town-site on the river. Finally, Teira alleges that it was arranged that he was to have reserve of 200 acres for Native purposes kept on the block of land, and that this reserve has not yet been settled." 

The Ministers were reluctant to abandon the whole purchase, but left the decision of the question entirely to His Excellency. Sir George Grey decided to abandon the purchase, and published Proclamation, bearing date the 11th May, 1863, in which, after reciting that circumstances connected with the purchase unknown to the Government at the time of the sale of the land had lately transpired which made it advisable that the purchase should not be further proceeded
with, the Governor declared that the purchase of the block of land was abandoned and all claim to the same on the part of the Government was renounced.

Unfortunately, however, for the cause of peace, this tardy admission of the justice of Wiremu Kingi's cause had been preceded by the armed occupation of the Tataraimaka Block. That was block of land distant about twelve miles south-west of New Plymouth, which had been acquired from the Natives and was occupied by settlers when the first Taranaki war broke out. The settlers were driven out during that war, and the Natives now claimed the block by right of conquest. They informed the Governor and General Cameron that the block would not be given up unless the British first gave up the Waitara Block. Notwithstanding this declaration, force of 300 officers and men marched out on the 4th April, 1863, encamped on the block, and built redoubt on it. This march upon Tataraimaka was regarded as declaration of war, and the Taranaki Natives sent out appeals for assistance to their allies. 

The first shot in the second Taranaki war was fired on the 4th May, 1863, when small party of soldiers was ambushed at the mouth of the Wairau Stream, near Oakura, on their way to New Plymouth and all but one man killed. After the issue of the Proclamation of the 11th May, 1863, the troops were withdrawn from the redoubts at Waitara, and at the same time the blockhouses which held the intervening Native territory, claimed under Hapurona's treaty of peace, were silently surrendered, and the troops marched back. These acts, which if done week earlier might have averted war, were regarded by the Native as sign of weakness. When Governor Grey heard his men were killed at Oakura," said chief, his heart misgave him, and he said, Now must give up Waitara.'

By Proclamation of the 2nd September, 1865, published in the New Zealand Gazette of the sth September, 1865, the Governor announced to the Natives of New Zealand that the war which commenced at Oakura was at an end. Before this, however, by an Order in Council under the New Zealand Settlements Act, 1863, published in the New Zealand Gazette of the 31st January, 1865, the Governor had
proclaimed what was called the Middle Taranaki District as district under that Act. By another Order in Council, made on the 2nd September, 1865, the Governor proclaimed the Ngatiawa and Ngatiruanui Districts as districts under the same Act. 11. The New Zealand Settlements Act, 1863, authorized confiscations in the case only of Natives who had been engaged in rebellion against Her Majesty's authority after the Ist January, 1863. The first Taranaki war, which arose out of the Waitara purchase, had come to an end long before that date. It was contended
by Mr. Taylor, on behalf of the Crown, that as the confiscations were made on account of acts of rebellion committed after the Ist January, 1863, and not on account of any acts of rebellion committed during the first Taranaki war, the question of the justice or injustice of the Waitara purchase was entirely irrelevant to the subjectmatter of the present inquiry. We are unable to accept this view of the matter.

It appears to us that, in considering whether the confiscations were justified or not as punishment for acts of rebellion, it is impossible to ignore the Waitara purchase.  

It may be the case that an armed conflict between the two races was almost inevitable but that might have been delayed, or perhaps avoided altogether, if the Waitara purchase had not been made and insisted on. That purchase was the cause of both the Taranaki wars, and was one, at least, of the causes of the Waikato war, and we accept the view of the transaction set forth in the following passage from Shrimpton and Mulgan's "History of New Zealand" (p. 214) It is .most necessary to the understanding of subsequent events to grasp the fact that the Waitara purchase was blunder, and one of the kind most calculated to poison the Native mind against the white man. The Maori saw immemorial right and custom set aside in what seemed to him flagrant injustice, and his resentment was strengthened by the strong condemnation of the purchase by Europeans in high places. The transaction has repercussions from Taranaki to the Waikato, and from
the Waikato to the East Coast."

In connection with the subject of the Waitara purchase it is to be noted that Governor Browne in his despatch to the Duke of Newcastle of the 30th September, 1859, declared that the Europeans coveted the surplus lands of the Maori in the North Island, and were determined to enter into and possess them by fair means or foul. It is to be noted also that Mr. Parris, the Land Purchase Commissioner at New Plymouth, when writing to Bishop Selwyn on the 26th August, 1858, spoke of his (Mr. Parris's) refusal to support or countenance dishonourable and treacherous treatment of William King and his people to exterminate them from the Waitara, in accordance with Mr. Turton's peremptory plan for the acquirement of that delightful and much-coveted district."

The following conclusions appear to be established in connection with the Waitara purchase: 

(a) It is clear from the facts ascertained by the Governor and the Native Minister in April, 1863, and without regard to any general question of tribal rights, that Teira was not entitled to sell the Waitara Block without the consent of Wiremu Kingi and his people. This was acknowledged completely when the purchase was solemnly abandoned by the Governor in his Proclamation of the 11th May, 1863.  Mr. Parris, the Land Purchase Commissioner at New Plymouth, had much to do with the purchase from first to last, and it was he who was supposed to have investigated the title to the block. In the circumstances it is difficult to understand how he managed to remain ignorant of the facts in connection with the occupation of the block, which were ascertained without any difficulty by the Governor and the Native Minister in April, 1863.

(b) When martial law was proclaimed in Taranaki, and the Natives informed that military operations were about to be undertaken against them, Wiremu Kingi and his people were not in rebellion against the Queen's sovereignty and when they were driven from the land, their pas destroyed, their houses set fire to, and their cultivations laid waste they were not rebels, and they had not committed any crime.

(c) The Natives were treated as rebels and war declared against them before they had engaged in rebellion of any kind, and in the circumstances they had no alternative but to fight in their own self-defence. In their eyes the fight was not against the Queen's sovereignty, but struggle for house and home. 

(d) If the abandonment of the Waitara purchase had taken place before the occupation of Tataraimaka, it seems possible that the second Taranaki war would have been avoided. The course which was adopted led the Natives to believe that the Government intended to persist in the great wrong that had been done at Waitara. The armed occupation of Tataraimaka was, in the circumstances, declaration of war against the Natives, and forced them into the position of rebels.

It is to be noted that the Superintendent of the Province of Taranaki had made recommendation to the Governor and the Native Minister to the effect that the Tataraimaka Block should not be reoccupied until the spring but this recommendation was disregarded.

Both the Taranaki wars ought to be treated, we think, as having arisen out of the Waitara purchase, and judged accordingly. The Government was wrong in declaring war against the Natives for the purpose of establishing the supposed rights of the Crown under that purchase. It was, as Dr. Featherston called it, an unjust and unholy war, and the second war was only resumption of the original conflict. Although the Natives who took part in the second Taranaki war were engaged in rebellion within the meaning of the New Zealand Settlements Act, 1863,
we think that, in the circumstances, they ought not to have been punished by the confiscation of any of their lands.

The figures given by Mr. Moverley, of the Land Office, New Plymouth, show that the total area originally confiscated was 1,275,000 acres. Of this, 557,000 acres were purchased from the Natives and paid for by the Government, 256,000 acres were returned to the Natives, thus leaving 462,000 acres as the total area finally confiscated.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion as to the value of the land at the date of its confiscation, and our recommendation is that the wrong done by the confiscations should be compensated for by making yearly payment of £5,000, to be applied by Board for the benefit of the Natives of the tribes whose lands were confiscated.

MLC Panui - October 2021
Taupiri Ngawaea Ihaka

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