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

The Chief Commissioner to Colonel T. Gore Browne, C.B., Governor

The Chief Commissioner to Colonel T. Gore Browne, C.B., Governor

Whangarei.Reporting Visit to that District and Kaipara.


Land Commissioner's Office, Auckland, 20th March, 1857.

I have the honour to report, for your Excellency's information, some particulars connected with my late visit to the Whangarei and Kaipara Districts.

The District of Whangarei, situated between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, contiguous also to the valleys of the Kaipara, the Wairoa, and the Hokianga, lies in a most desirable position for settlement. The main estuary forms a safe harbour, navigable for vessels of large tonnage for a distance of fifteen or sixteen miles. The country on each side presents at first sight a broken and hilly aspect. The curiously-formed Manaia rocks, rising boldly from the water at the northern side of the entrance in irregular chasms, give a wild and romantic character to the scenery, which is very much heightened by the contrast with the tame and monotonous appearance of the low, sandy country around the town-site of Marsden at the south-eastern entrance of the harbour. Numerous small rivers and creeks, navigable for canoes and boats, empty themselves into the main estuary. On the banks of these streams are some Native villages, and on the Crown lands a few well-selected farmsteads are springing up. The soil is chiefly of a rich volcanic description, intercepted with belts of timber alternating with flats of open country. Here and there are occasional patches of poor white clayey soil which have been dug over for kauri gum: such, however, is the influence of a genial climate upon even the poorest of New Zealand soil, that with slight culture it can be rendered wonderfully productive.

Lands acquired or under Negotiation.

The extent of land already acquired by purchase from the Natives in this district may be estimated at 268,000 acres; lands for which negotiations are now pending at 58,210 acres.

In addition to the districts in the immediate vicinity of the Harbour of Whangarei, the Government is now in treaty for the purchase from the Natives of extensive tracts upon the Kaipara and Wairoa Rivers, from which places some valuable cargoes of kauri spars have been exported for the British navy. These districts, intersected with fine navigable rivers, which swarm for thirty miles upward from their mouths with mullet and other fish, are capable of maintaining a large and flourishing population, and still carry magnificent forests of kauri timber, easy of access, which have never yet been touched with the axe, and which might be worked with great advantage both to the European colonists and also ton the Native, population, who from long experience are very expert in dragging out the spars and preparing them for export. The settlers of Whangarei are of a highly respectable class, and already thriving, though it is only within the last few years that they have established themselves there.

Nova-Scotian Settlement at Waipu.

At Waipu, about twelve miles from the south head of Whangarei, a party of emigrants from. Cape Breton, North America, have formed a settlement, and in the short space of twelve or fifteen months have converted the primitive wastes and forests into comfortable homes and farmsteads. Without any other aid than that of the axe and the hoe they have cleared and brought under cultivation muck more than sufficient land to raise crops for their own subsistence, and from their hardihood and previous skill in contending with the heavy forests and capricious climate of North America there is every reason to expect that, in a country like New Zealand, which they regard as a comparative paradise, page 57by a continuance of their present industry and perseverance, they will contribute greatly to the material advancement of the province. Thousands of their countrymen would follow these first pioneers from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and other parts of British North America, if inducements were held out to them to do so. These inducements need not be of any extravagant character: all that they ask is that we should give hem land in localities suited to their requirements, allowing them the usual privilege to which other immigrants are entitled by way of remission in land for their passage-money, and a credit for five or seven years for such additional quantity as it may be advisable to assign to them, under a pre-emptive right of purchase.

By these means the Government would insure a steady flow of immigration to the province of well-trained, hardy, and experienced bush-men and sailors; whose loyalty and devotion to British authority, joined with their clannish spirit and unanimity of action, would he found most important elements in the formation and early settlement of a new country situated like New Zealand. Such colonists, moreover, derive a peculiar value from the manner in which they transplant themselves to these shores, bringing along with them their religious and educational establishments already in operation: no chance-collection of men, but an active and organized community possessing many of the characteristics of the early pioneers of colonization in North America. Nor ought this opportunity to be overlooked by either the General or Provincial Governments, lest the stream should be diverted to other colonies, the Cape of Good Hope, for instance, which are fully sensible of its value, which a liberal administration of the waste lands, valueless and unproductive without capital and labour, might secure for New Zealand—a population which would so materially contribute towards the wealth, the stability, and the progress, not only of any one province in particular, but also of the colony at large.

A glance at the map of the northern peninsula of New Zealand will show your Excellency the peculiar advantages which it offers for English colonization. In addition to the main harbours of the eastern coast—Auckland, Whangarei, the Bay of Islands, and Whangaroa (likely to be so important in case of the establishment of the Panama line of steamers)—there are numerous well-sheltered coves and smaller anchorages; while the Kaipara and Hokianga on the western side, if more dangerous from the bars across their mouths and the stormy character of the coast upon which they open, yet lead up into navigable streams which must tend to form a hardy and skilful race of seamen, invaluable to our insular position in the Southern Hemisphere.

Colonizing Steps to be taken.

Means should now be adopted to resuscitate and promote upon a permanent basis the colonization of this portion of the Northern Island, so materially valuable, and historically so interesting as the seat of the earliest European settlement of New Zealand. To effect this it will be necessary to adopt liberal and comprehensive measures contemporaneously with the extinction of the Native title to the extensive districts of waste land that as yet remain unpurchased in this peninsula.

The first step which I would recommend would be the resumption by the Crown of all the lands which have been already alienated by the Natives to different individuals, and which have been subsequently exchanged by those individuals for Government scrip. There should be no delay in taking possession of these lands while some of the older Natives who sold them are still alive, and can point out to a surveyor the locality and limits. From what I have observed among the northern tribes, they are most anxious that this should be done, and they are almost all of them particularly honourable in pointing out the exact boundaries of what they have sold. Two intelligent surveyors and parties, acting in concert with the Land. Purchase Commissioners, could in twelve months determine with sufficient accuracy the extent of these lands, which should be declared open for sale and selection whenever the boundaries are defined. The next step, and one which is now in successful progresses is to acquire larger tracts of land by purchase from the Natives, out of which blocks, varying in extent from 100 to 2,000 acres, should be reconveyed under Crown grants to the principal chiefs upon the extinction of the tribal title, such blocks consisting not only of culturable but also of forest land, in order to secure to them a continued revenue proportionable to their rank.

In order to do away with present or future dissatisfaction on the part of the Native sellers at the price they receive for their land as compared with the value it acquires when in the hands of the Government, unable, as yet, to comprehend the reasons that influence comparative value, it would be most desirable to expend a certain definite proportion (and that no inconsiderable one) of the moneys realized by the waste-land sales on roads and other improvements exclusively within those districts from which they have accrued, and from time to time to publish the balance-sheets of such expenditure in the Maori Messenger.

Correct Native Census should be taken, and Assessors appointed.

No correct return of the Native population of this northern peninsula has yet been taken. This should be done without delay, and the territorial limits of the four leading tribes—the Aopouri, the Rarawa, the Ngapuhi, and the Ngatiwhatua—should be ascertained, and as nearly as possible, defined. Estimating the population at 8,000 souls, it would not be difficult to ascertain the names of the principal chiefs whose co-operation would be essential for carrying out the views of Government, and who should, in return for their exertions, when efficiently rendered, to preserve the peace of their respective districts, be rewarded with marks of approbation and fixed annuities for their services. These chiefs should be designated Assessors, and have commissions issued to them defining as nearly as possible the nature of their duties. They should also be invited to take part with the settlers in framing by-laws for adjusting cases of trespass, disputes, and other local cases. They should also be invested with powers of jurisdiction in some measure analogous to those exercised by the English Courts of Petty Sessions. It is quite evident that the English law cannot be strictly carried out without the agency of the Natives. It is therefore obvious that they should be invited to take part in the administration of justice, in order that executive authority, instead of diplomatic bargaining, may attend the decisions of the District Magistrates, who are at present placed in a most anomalous position when attempting to enforce against the Maoris that law to which all British subjects are amenable; and, if this result canpage 58 be more certainly effected by calling in the aid of the chiefs, it appears a most reasonable, just, and expedient means of effecting so highly desirable an object.

I am quite aware that time, patience and perseverance, mutual forbearance, and reciprocity of good offices, are required to reconcile the Natives to our forms of government, but I am nevertheless fully confident that if they are once made to feel that the aim and object of the Government is to promote impartially the permanent advancement of both races of Her Majesty's subjects, irrespective of any temporary expedient for gaining some particular object, they will soon-adapt themselves with zeal and loyalty to such changes as their natural acuteness of observation may prove to them as in reality conducive to such a consummation.

If your Excellency and your Excellency's Government concur in the general views which I have cursorily sketched out in this communication, I will afford further and more explicit information on the detailed means of carrying them into practice, as I should rejoice to see our relations with the Native population, in at least one portion of this province, placed on so firm a footing as to preclude all probability of future rupture between the races. Nor, from the high standing and commanding influence of the tribes inhabiting it, could I suggest a district where this could be done with greater prospect of success than that to which I have been referring. The Natives of all other portions of the colony would look on with imitative zeal and interest, while the Government would have the satisfaction of having laid a firm foundation upon which a more extended fabric of settlement and civilization throughout the Island might be gradually erected.

I have &c;

Donald McLean,
Native Secretary.
His Excellency Governor Gore Browne.