MEMORADUM OF THE MANAWATU RANGATIKEI
I deem it necessary to place on record the position in which I found this purchase at the time when I undertook to attempt an adjustment of the difficulties connected with it; and in order to con-vey a general idea of the subject, I shall briefly advert to a few of the leading points in the transaction.
For many years the Title to the Block in question had been the subject of a dispute between the Ngatiapa and Ngatiraukawa tribes. These disputes, with differences about the division of rents received by them, for portions of the Block leased to Euro-peans, increased to such an extent that hostilities appeared inevitable.
In 1863 Dr. Featherston was requested by the Government to interpose, and reconcile if possible, the conflicting interests of the contending parties; and in the course of time an agreement was entered into by the Ngatiapa, and some of the Ngatiraukawa, to dispose of the land to the Government.
In December 1866 a sum of £2,500 was paid to the Natives in the following proportions :-
It will be seen by the appended notes of Meetings that the latter tribe did not receive their full amount, the greater portion having been diverted by the Chief, Hunia, in whose hands they wished the money to be placed, on the plea of an old obligation for land formerly sold by the Rangitane.
It was anticipated that the payment of the purchase money would have removed all further difficulties to the settlement and occupation of the districts, but unfortunately these hopes were not realised, as a considerable section of the natives who claimed to be owners of the Block, not only declined to ratify the sale, but offered a strenuous opposition to it, and made appeals to the Government on the subject.
By the Native Lands Act of 1862 the Manawatu Block was excluded from the Jurisdiction of the Court. In order, therefore, to arrive at some clear under-standing with regard to the claims preferred, it was found necessary to insert in the Act of 1867 a clause enabling the Court to take cognisance of the case.
During the years 1868 and 1869, the lengthened sittings of the Native Lands Court were held first at Otaki, and then at Wellington, in order to adjudicate upon the claims; the Title of the sellers was established, and certain awards amounting to about 8000 acres were made in favour of a portion of the dissentient claimants.
Though the acreage and general position of these awards were fixed by the Court, the boundaries were not defined, and it remained to have them laid off on the spot in such a manner as to meet the reasonable wishes of the natives. While the matter remained still incomplete to this extent, the Government, on the very urgent pressure of Dr. Featherston, handed over the entire Block to the Provincial Government, subject to the awards before mentioned, and to the Reserves promised by him to the sellers. He then, in his capacity of Superintendent, proceeded to survey those awards and Reserves.
I cannot help thinking that it was unfortunate that the Government handed the land over to the Province before the awards and Reserves had been defined to the satisfaction of all parties. It was done on the assurance of Dr. Featherston that no difficulty was likely to arise on the subject.
His expectations were, however, disappointed, for great difficulties did arise. A number of the Natives interested in the award of the Court, protested against the boundaries proposed by Dr. Featherston; which, after his departure for England, were attempted to be delineated on the ground.
Obstructions to the survey shortly afterwards commenced. The imprisonment of a native for a breach of the Trigonometrical Stations Act, under a warrant issued by a Magistrate on the information of the Provincial surveyors, allayed for a time, the opposition; which was, however, soon renewed; and the prospect of a peaceable occupation of the Block remained as distant as ever.
The obstacles in the way of a solution were enormously increased by the fact that, contrary to the usual practice in such cases, the whole of the price agreed upon, had been paid before the inland boundary of the Block, or the Native Reserves had been properly defined on the ground. Nothing could be more unfortunate than the omission of thes preliminary steps in such an important purchase; as it deprived the Government of any further hold on the owners of the property, and gave the natives an opportunity of escape from their engagements, on the
plea of non-fulfilment of the promises made to them respecting reserves.
In the mean time I was urged by the Provincial authorities, and by the dissentient Natives, with their Agent, to undertake the settlement of these outstanding difficulties; but I felt some hesitation in doing so, having previously declined a similar request from Dr. Featherston.
I however accepted the task, which proved to be of no small trouble.
In November 1870, I visited the district, and had several interviews with the Natives concerned, to whom I explained that, while anxious to effect a peaceable settlement of the existing causes of centention, I should not in any way interfere with Dr. Featherston's arrangements, or with the decisions of the Native Land Court; which should, for all practical purposes, be regarded as final.
At the several Meetings held, it was very evident by the tone of the speeches that great dissatisfaction existed among both sellers and non-sellers, at the alleged non-fulfilment of promises, especially with regard to Reserves. In fact, many of the sellers had so changed their ideas about the sale, that they had sunk the old differences concerning
rival claims, and were uniting with the non-sellers in an attempt to repudiate their engagements.
This discontent may be traced to the following causes :-
1st. The sellers alleged that before signing the
Deed of Cession, promises of ample Reserves were made to them, through Mr. Buller; and they complained bitterly that these had not been carried into effect.
2nd. The non-sellers objected that the lands awarded to them by the Court had not been laid out in accordance with the wishes of the claimants, or the directions of the Court.
In addition to the Ngatikauhata, about 60 in number, who urged this view, and had had their claims recognised by the Court, there were about 200 Natives of different Hapus, whose claims were not admitted by the Court; but who were yet in full occupation of the inland portion of the Block.
It was absolutely necessary, in the interests of the Province, to put a speedy and to such a state of things. The Province had incurred a heavy outlay to obtain possession of the Block, and was reaping
no benefit from it. It could not dispose of a single acre. Neither could it expect to see any settlement on this valuable portion of its territory, so long as no peaceable possession could be given, and surveys were interrupted.
To all intents and purposes, the Block was almost as unapproachable as if no payments had been made, and in the present temper of the Natives, there seemed but little chance of its soon being rendered available for European settlers.
It was not long before I discovered that, to effect any kind of arrangement, it was necessary to grant fresh Reserves, and also to increase the area of some of those already made.
I think it right to state that a portion of the additional concessions was composed of eel-lagoons, in low swampy ground, and of sandy country bordering on the coast, of little or no value from an European point of view, but to which the natives attached considerable importance.
Having, as far as the time at my disposal would admit, completed the main arrangements with the natives; and having obtained the unanimous assent of the leading Chiefs, to the terms of the settlement proposed, I directed Mr. Kemp, an Officer well-versed in Native
affairs, to join me at Rangitikei, in order to assist in carrying out the details.
I admit that after my departure, he exceeded to some extent, the instructions received from me; and that he considerably enlarged a Reserve, the outline boundaries of which I had myself determined. But I think that he did so from an earnest desire to effect a peaceful settlement of the difficulty.
I am not prepared to say the reasons given by Mr. Kemp are a sufficient justification for his having exceeded my instructions. But his act has not yet been confirmed by me, and it still remains open for me to dis-allow, should I think proper to do so.
I may add that one party of natives, whose Reserves he most materially increased, was composed of the inhabitants alluded to before, of the inland portion of the Block.
These natives had resided fully thirty years on the land, and though the Court did not recognise in them any legal ownership, it is quite certain that between 200 and 300 persons so located could not be summarily disposed. Had Dr. Featherston settled the matter himself, he must have provided for these natives as least as amply as I did, which was at the rate of ten or fifteen acres per head.
The question then arose as to whether it were better to disarm their opposition by a judicious concession of a part of the territory; or to attempt to deprive them of lands which they had occupied for a series of years.
In the latter case they would have become a nucleus of dis-affection, and besides being ready at any moment to resist dispossession, they would also have been prepared to assist any other section of Natives in the district, who might question the validity of the purchase.
It is also well to consider that the apportionment of lands for the use of the natives who are the inhabitants of this Block, is by no means unproductive even to the Province.
I am free to confess that in one sense, the settlement of the question cannot be looked upon from an entirely Provincial point of view. The transaction largely effects the powerful Ngatiraukawa, a tribe bound in strict alliance with other sections of it, inhabiting the shores of Lake Taupo, and the frontiers of the Thames and Waikato districts; and it could not be expected that these latter would be greatly influenced by any discontent on the part of their West Coast brethren, who have for so long a time dwelt in
friendly relations with the Europeans. At the same time, it was the Province of Wellington which was more immediately interested. As far as the rest of the Colony was concerned, the adjustment of the question might have been allowed to stand over indefinitely; and such a course would have undoubtedly been better than to risk a hostile collision.
Bearing this in mind, I do not think it possible that under the circumstances, any more profitable arrangement could have been arrived at than that concluded by me. Even were the broad view of Government and general interests omitted, and the question narrowed down to one of Provincial consideration only.
The whole of the Reserves made by the Court, by Dr. Featherston and myself, do not exceed 2,500 acres; much of this being land of an inferior quality; while by the arrangement the province is put in secure possession of nearly a quarter of a million acres; which, but for this settlement, it might have been unable to colonise or use for many years to come.