Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand

X — The Maori and the Liquor Traffic

page 199

The Maori and the Liquor Traffic

It is well for the future of our young New Zealand nation that the native race is such an excellent type, both physically and intellectually. To-day there are but some 65,000 Maoris and half-castes. The arch enemy of the Maori race has been, and is, the traffic in intoxicating liquor. All observers, both teetotallers and drinkers, agree that indulgence in intoxicants means ruination to the Maori. The natives themselves early recognized this and when the King Country was finally opened to Europeans, one of the outstanding conditions insisted upon by the Maori chiefs was that no intoxicants should be sold in that area. Reference to this is made in the Section ‘In the Beginning.’

The New Zealand Alliance has, from its very earliests days, taken a keen interest in the welfare of the Maoris and has watched their interests as opposed to a wealthy and unscrupulous trade.

Many applications for licenses have been declined through the activities of the Alliance, and on numberless occasions the Alliance has supported and wisely advised those chiefs and missionaries who have been working for the social amelioration of their people.

The following outstanding activities and achievements of the Alliance in this connexion should be recorded.

The abolition of the sale of intoxicants to Maoris for consumption off the premises.

page 200

The prevention, up to date, of the introduction of licenses into the King Country, despite the strong organized efforts made at various times to ignore the pact made with the Maoris in 1884.

It is to be regretted that the spirit of the pact made in 1884 has never been fully carried out. There can be little doubt that the Maoris intended to keep intoxicating liquor entirely out of their territory. Unfortunately, it was permitted to follow up the workers constructing the railway, and when the railways began to run, liquor was transported upon them, and Europeans have been permitted to import intoxicating liquor ostensibly for their own consumption. A sly-grog traffic sprang up and is still in existence, although it is not so widespread as is often alleged. The territory is difficult to administer from the standpoint of law enforcement, but there can be no question that despite illegal and discreditable trading by Europeans, the Maoris have been very considerably protected by the prohibition of the legalized sale of intoxicating liquor in the King Country.

Europeans going to reside in the territory knew when they went there the conditions that prevailed with regard to liquor. It is therefore to their dishonour that, after having settled there, a section of Europeans has consistently endeavoured to secure the repudiation of the terms of the Covenant with the Maoris. In the year 1909–10, advantage was taken of a technical loophole in the law to grant wholesale licenses at Ohakune. It is to be regretted that a resident magistrate took upon himself the responsibility of facilitating the granting of these licenses. At the annual gathering of the New Zealand Alliance at that time, a resolution was adopted, calling for the cancellation of these whole- page 201 sale licenses, for the enforcing of the law prohibiting the supply of liquor to Maori women, and soliciting the right of the Maoris to vote on the liquor question. In this connexion, the Ven. Archdeacon F. W. Chatterton, of the Anglican Maori College, brought forward a proposal for the construction of rolls of Maoris who should be entitled to vote on the Local Option issue only at the same time as the Europeans. On the other hand, some Maori chiefs did not want the vote because they were afraid their people would be bribed by persons interested in the liquor trade and so an honest vote would not be secured.

With periodical insistence, the liquor trade and Europeans desiring easy access to liquor in the King Country, have endeavoured to persuade successive Governments to alter the conditions existing there with regard to intoxicating liquor.

In 1923 petitions were presented to Parliament by Europeans and by Maoris, urging the Government to maintain the existing Covenant. In 1926, an exceptionally vigorous effort was made to secure a poll in the King Country on the question of whether license was to be admitted. A petition from Europeans in this sense was signed by some 5,000 people. A petition signed by some Maoris was also got up, asking for a referendum of all the Maori people as to whether license should be granted or not. Sworn declarations were made by a number saying that they had refused to sign, but their names were nevertheless found on the petition. On the other side, thirty-five leading chiefs in the King Country issued an Ohaki, or solemn testamentary declaration, reminding the people of the original Covenant, warning them of the evil that strong drink does, and urging them to remain in page 202 the path marked out by their forefathers. In addition to that, the chiefs prepared a special letter to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, imploring him to hear their prayer and allow the Covenant to remain unaltered. In that letter they said, ‘We do not want a vote because our young people would be bribed to break the sacred law of their elders.’ All these attempts to introduce the licensed sale of liquor in the King Country failed, as well they might. The Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Stout, who was Prime Minister when the Covenant was made with the Maoris, said, in 1923:

‘We therefore have this position, that there was a bargain made between the Maoris and the Government that this district was to be kept free from the sale of spiritous liquors. That was our bargain, and I might say that this bargain has often been referred to since by the Maoris. May I read a telegram that Rewi, on his deathbed in June 1892, sent to Governor Glasgow on his arrival in New Zealand. He said:

“To the Governor of New Zealand,—

“Oh, Governor, welcome to New Zealand. Long may you live. My first request is that you prevent strong drink being allowed to come within the Rohe Potae. This, my first request, will be my last.”

‘Rewi died shortly afterwards, and the Maori people have now sent in petitions against this bargain, that was made between them and the Government, being disturbed.’

The question of taking a vote in the King Country was repeatedly raised in Parliament when Licensing Legislation was being discusse. In 1928 the matter was again brought up and a vote page 203 Was taken in the House, when the proposal was defeated by forty-eight votes to twenty-one.

The New Zealand Alliance has devoted special attention to the education of the Maoris on the liquor problem. With the co-operation of the missionary branch of the Methodist Church, under the control of the Rev. A. J. Seamer, the Rev. Robert T. Haddon, himself a Maori chief and ordained Methodist missioner, has for a number of years, and especially since 1922, been continuously active in developing Temperance and Prohibition sentiment amongst the Maoris. The position was, perhaps, well-expressed by one chief when a deputation waited on the Prime Minister to combat the proposal to introduce license. He said at that time, ‘At present ten per cent. of our young men may drink, but if license is introduced, it will not be long before probably only ten per cent. of them do not drink.’ It is an offence against the law to supply liquor to Maori women or to supply liquor to Maoris in a proclaimed area. Heavy penalties are inflicted when lawbreakers are caught. The Maori's sense of justice is outraged when he finds that the European is permitted, as at present, to procure liquor for his personal consumption in the proclaimed area, whilst the Maori is prohibited. The position as it exists is a discredit and a shame to the European.

For nearly thirty years now the law has prohibited the issue of new licenses. If a poll were taken in the King Country and the proposition to issue licenses were carried, it could only be done by breaking the established usage of thirty years.

In 1928 the first Maori Bishop was appointed by the Anglican Church, Bishop F. A. Bennett. Throughout his ministry he has been a staunch page 204 advocate of Prohibition. The Churches doing missionary work amongst the Maoris have all recognized strong drink as their most deadly enemy. There are numbers of Maoris resident in territory other than the King Country where license is in force, and in these districts the Maoris suffer from the presence of liquor. The introduction of license into the King Country would be a calamity for the native race and would constitute a grevious wrong perpetrated on our fellow citizens.