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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Gisborne Seat

page 356

Gisborne Seat

There had been, up till 1949, only three holders of the seat:

Sir James Carroll (“Timi Kara”) was born at Wairoa (H.B.) on 20 August, 1857. The spot is marked by a sturdy cabbage tree, protected by a fence. His father (Joseph Carroll) was born in Sydney in 1814, settled at Wairoa in 1842, and died there in 1899, and his mother (Tapuke) belonged to Ngati-Kahungunu, and was noted for her fine features and accomplishments. Sir James believed that his father had come of the same family stock as Charles Carroll, one of the signatories to the American Charter of Independence and that, in the fifteenth century, King O'Carroll, the famous Irish ruler, was the head of the line.

Until he was seven years old, Sir James lived at the home of Ngarangi Mataeo (his mother's uncle), first at Matiti pa and then at Hikawai. His schooling—first, at Wairoa, and, later, at Napier—covered only about three years. He served as a cadet in the Native Land Department at Napier for some years, and then spent about 12 months at head office in Wellington. In 1879 he became a Native interpreter in the House of Representatives. On 4 July, 1881, he married Heni Materoa, a daughter of Mikaera Turangi and Riparata (nee Kahutia). His bride was a granddaughter of the chiefs Paratene Turangi and Kahutia.

In 1887 Sir James defeated Wi Pere (who had the support of adherents of Te Kooti) for the Eastern Maori seat. Prior to the General Election in 1890, Te Kooti told Wi Pere that he was willing to stand against Sir James, but nothing came of the proposal. When he entered Parliament, Sir James was a supporter of the Atkinson Conservative Government. In 1888 he proposed that the Maoris should be granted full equality with the Europeans, “so that the same laws as to property and as to rights and privileges of citizenship shall apply to all alike.” On account of hostility by other Native members, he withdrew his motion.

Sir James was an opponent of Sir John Hall's Female Suffrage Bill in 1891, but he supported the principle in 1893, when it was backed by the Seddon Liberal Government. In the interim he had (1892) changed his political coat by accepting the position of Native representative on the Executive Council in the Ballance Liberal Government. By winning the Waiapu seat in 1893 he became the only ex-holder of a Maori seat to secure election to a European seat.

On 21 December, 1899, Sir James was promoted to full Cabinet rank, with the portfolio of Native Affairs. His refusal to yield to an incessant clamour for the widespread opening up of native lands for settlement led his opponents to call his policy the “Taihoa” (“Wait a bit”) policy, page 357 and they gave him the sobriquet “Taihoa Timi.” He supervised the compilation of the Native Land Laws (Consolidation) Act, 1909, and piloted it through Parliament. Twice he had the distinction of holding office as Acting Prime Minister—in 1909, when Sir Joseph Ward was in London attending an Imperial Conference, and in 1911, when Sir Joseph was in London for the coronation of King George V. He was honoured with a knighthood in 1911.

Sir James was a member of the Parliamentary party which visited Britain and France during the first Great War. In France he received a very warm welcome from the Maori Battalion. He was chosen as one of the speakers at the banquet in the Guildhall, London, which was attended by Mr. Asquith (Prime Minister of Britain) and 1,500 scions of the noblest British families. At Mr. John Redmond's special invitation he paid a visit to Dublin. The Massey Government awarded him a seat in the Legislative Council in 1921, two years after he had lost the Gisborne seat in a triangular contest. He died at Auckland on 26 October, 1926. Lady Carroll received the O.B.E. award in 1918. Her death occurred on 1 November, 1930.

The Carroll memorial at Makaraka was unveiled by Sir Joseph Ward on 3 March, 1929. In his eulogy, Sir Joseph referred to the thorough grasp which Sir James had of European, as well as of Maori, psychology, and to the great amount of success which had attended his efforts to build a bridge of friendship and of co-operation between the two races. He concluded: “Sir James was an able statesman, a polished gentleman, and a loyal friend.” Upon the monument is an inscription which, translated into English, reads: “It is Kahungunu who has come a second time, born again to the world, to link together his two peoples, Maori and pakeha, that they may live together amicably. O ye people! Hasten slowly! We are one!”

The Takitimu carved house at Wairoa (H.B.) was opened as a memorial to Sir James on 15 June, 1938. In his honour the Taihoa Hall there was so named. His portrait in oils hangs in the National Art Gallery in Wellington.


In a lecture at Hastings in November, 1937, Sir A. T. Ngata referred to Kahungunu's imperturbability, and, in that respect, likened Sir James Carroll to him. He recalled that, on one occasion, Kahungunu lay on his bed whilst a besieging party of Whakatohea was storming Maunga-akahia pa on Mahia. After the fighting had proceeded for about a week, and when the last trench had fallen into the enemy's hands, he bestirred himself and inquired what was the matter. He quietly had a daughter handed over the wall to the enemy, and peace was at once restored. Then he turned over on his bed and went to sleep again!

Telling a story against himself at a political meeting at Gisborne in July, 1895, Sir James Carroll remarked that it had been said concerning him that he possessed all the gifts that the gods could bestow except that of application. Shortly after the latest appeal to the people a good friend had called him aside and told him that he wished to speak to him on a very serious matter. “You must know,” his friend said, “that the Hon. J. Ballance killed himself by overwork; that Sir Harry Atkinson did the same; and that many other statesmen have shared a like fate. Now, do keep such experience in mind, and, whatever you do, take care not to over-exert yourself.” Sir James added, amid much laughter, that he had given a promise that he would not knowingly overdo things, and he trusted that, if any friend found that he was risking his life in such a manner, he would at once draw his attention to the pledge that he had given!

William Douglas Lysnar (born at Auckland in 1867) was the second son of W. Dean Lysnar. He was descended from one George Lysnar (of Flemish, or Dutch, origin, a “learned man,” who went over to England from Hanover with the court of King George I in 1714). For a number of years he practised as a solicitor in Gisborne, and then took up sheepfarming, and started a dairy factory. He led the movement which resulted in the formation of the East Coast Rabbit Board, and was the chief promoter of the Waipaoa freezing works. Towards the page 358 close of his career he appeared as leading counsel in two of Poverty Bay's most notable lawsuits.

Doggedness in upholding any cause which he espoused was Mr. Lysnar's most outstanding characteristic. He conducted a Dominion-wide campaign in favour of the adoption of improved facilities for handling, and better methods of marketing, New Zealand produce at Home, and in opposition to overseas concerns gaining interests in freezing works in the Dominion. He also stumped the country in opposition to a movement aimed at the prohibition of the sale of liquor. It was largely due to his persistency that the New Zealand Meat Producers' Board was set up in 1921.

Besides serving the district as its representative in Parliament for 12 years, Mr. Lysnar was Mayor of Gisborne, and a member of a number of local bodies. He died on 12 October, 1942. Gisborne was indebted to him for the Lysnar Reserve (22 acres) at Okitu. Frances Brewer Lysnar (a sister) was the only lady Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in New Zealand.

David William Coleman (born in London in 1881) was an infant when his parents migrated to Queensland. He settled in Gisborne in 1905, worked at his trade as a builder until 1913, and then conducted a general business until 1932. He was for 22 years president of the Gisborne L.R.C., and a member of the executive of the New Zealand Labour Party from its inception in 1916 until 1947. In addition to serving as Mayor of Gisborne for, in all, 11 years, he was a member of Cook Hospital Board (20 years), chairman of Gisborne Fire Board (8 years) and a member of the Power Board for a term. In 1947 he was appointed Under-Secretary to the Minister of Works. He announced in 1949 that he intended to retire from political life at the close of that year.