Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reuben Chapple: Taranaki Toffee

It has become a revisionist article of faith that the Waitara land purchase which sparked the Taranaki War (and in some measure ignited the subsequent Waikato War) is a primary example of white settler wrongdoing to Maori. The facts of the matter are quite different. In 1827, a number of Taranaki Maori had migrated south to Waikanae, hoping to take advantage of the increased opportunities to trade with Europeans that would come from residing nearer to Cook Strait.

In 1834, the Taranaki was invaded by musket-toting Tainui, who defeated and killed most of the Taranaki Maori still living there. Tainui then returned to the Waikato, taking with them a number of captives to eat on the way or use as slaves and concubines. Small rump groups of Taranaki Maori fled to the offshore islands or to their relations at Waikanae and even as far south as the Nelson-Golden Bay area to escape death or captivity.

When the NZ Company arrived in 1839 looking for land to purchase for its settlements, the Taranaki-New Plymouth area was practically deserted. Colonel William Wakefield first paid the Taranaki refugees living on the offshore islands to purchase large tracts of this vacant land.

Armed with information about their whereabouts, he then went to the places at which the other Taranaki migrants and refugees were living and procured signatures from tribal chiefs (including Wiremu Kingi) selling most of the Taranaki-New Plymouth area (including the subsequently disputed Waitara Block) to the NZ Company.

Tainui soon saw an opportunity to profit from the affair, too. In 1842 they went to Governor Hobson stating that as conquerors of the Taranaki tribes, the mana of the land lay with them. Tainui threatened that if not paid too they might just return and molest the New Plymouth settlers. Hobson gave them money and trade goods to extinguish this claim.

In 1843, Commissioner William Spain, charged with investigating pre-Treaty land sales on behalf of the Crown, finally got around to reviewing the NZ Company’s Taranaki purchases. He awarded the New Plymouth settlers some 200 km² of tribal land around New Plymouth, including the Waitara Block.

Problems first arose when the newly-Christianised Tainui began releasing the captives they’d taken in the 1834 invasion. The former slaves then trickled back to Taranaki and began to re-occupy the land, asserting that they’d never agreed to the New Zealand Company sale or received any of the purchase money.

Emboldened by these developments and well aware that the presence of white settlers meant Tainui was now unlikely to re-invade, Wiremu Kingi wrote in 1845 to Governor Fitzroy from Waikanae where he’d been living since migrating there 18 years before. Kingi now repudiated the sale he’d agreed to in 1839, and asserted that the Taranaki tribes would not yield their tribal lands.

The only troops available to uphold the rights of the Taranaki settlers were at that time embroiled in Northland fighting in Hone Heke and Kawiti’s war. Making a mistaken virtue of necessity and in order to keep the peace, Fitzroy overturned the Spain Award and downscaled the final land grant to the settlers to some 20 km² around New Plymouth.

The balance was returned to its former Maori “owners,” most of whom had not only cravenly fled the area back in 1834, but had accepted payment for the land from the NZ Company in 1839 when it looked like they’d never be able to return, lest Tainui come back and finish them off.

In 1848, Kingi and his hapu returned to Taranaki despite initial opposition from Governor Grey, and settled around Waitara. He was allowed to come back on the condition that he settle on the northern bank of the Waitara River. Kingi agreed to this then broke his promise.

In order to place the river between his hapu and renewed hostilities from Tainui, Kingi was permitted by another chief named Tamati Ruru to build his pa on the southern side of the Waitara River on land which did not belong to him. It should be noted that Kingi’s ancestral land was on the northern side of the river, where he was supposed to re-settle in the first place.

Over the next 11 years the Crown and settlers made numerous attempts to repurchase land already purchased twice over: once by the NZ Company from the Taranaki tribes and again by the Crown from the Tainui tribes, but short-sightedly returned by Governor Fitzroy. The presence of an anti-land selling league and its ability to intimidate chiefs who hadn’t joined it meant they failed to make much headway.

In 1859, evidently prompted by a dispute between a member of his hapu and Kingi’s over a woman, a chief named Teira decided to turf Kingi off his father, Tamati Ruru’s land, which had now come to him by way of inheritance. At a hui also attended by Kingi, Teira offered the Waitara Block directly to Governor Gore Browne, as he had every right under the Treaty of Waitangi to do.

Kingi then got up and told the Governor, “I will not permit the sale of Waitara … Waitara is in my hands, I will not give it up; I will not, I will not, I will not.” Note that Kingi never stated the land was his, because he knew full well that it was not.

The Crown’s view was quite correctly that Kingi had no personal rights in the land. The genuine owners, Teira and his hapu, who’d chosen to sell, would be supported, by force if necessary.

In early 1860 the government sent in surveyors. Though Kingi’s ancestral land on the northern side of the Waitara River was scrupulously excluded from the area surveyed, events soon spiralled into war. After a period of savage fighting, an uneasy truce was negotiated. In order to protect that peace, Governor Grey decided to cancel the Waitara purchase.

Kingi had his supporters. There were sickly white liberals prepared to rat out their own race for that warm glow even back then. The Reverend Octavius Hadfield, whose mission station at Waikanae had sheltered Kingi from his enemies, was one. Another was a previous Chief Justice, Sir William Martin. Both claimed that the Waitara purchase was illegal and that Kingi was simply exercising his right as a paramount chief to veto a land sale.

Celebrated historian, Keith Sinclair, appears to have based his analysis of the situation entirely on the views of these men, and is principally responsible for the belief widespread today that the disputed land was improperly purchased.

Sinclair is wrong.

Martin had produced a pamphlet setting out his view of the Waitara Affair, which was introduced into the Parliamentary Record and completely demolished (see Further Papers Relative to the Taranaki Question, AJHR 1861, Session I, E-02). This rebuttal makes it clear that Kingi was no “paramount chief” with veto rights. Nor did he have any proprietary rights in the disputed land.

In point of fact, Kingi had aped the separatism of the Maori King movement got up by his former Tainui enemies, and set himself up as the head of an anti-land selling league in the Taranaki. Kingi and his adherents then deployed their collective clout to stand over and even murder chiefs who hadn’t joined the league, thus preventing dissenters from exercising their Treaty right sell land that they owned to the Crown.

When the facts of the Waitara purchase were placed before the 1860 Kohimarama Conference attended by more than 200 chiefs from all over New Zealand, Kingi’s only supporters were a tiny handful of his own relations.

The events outlined above show how Maori have always “run with the hares and hunted with the hounds.” By this I mean making the best of a situation by expediently cutting deals when they are weak. These agreements are then repudiated when their position is stronger and it becomes clear that by a combination of bluff and threats they can have another bite at the cherry.

This complete lack of honour (while shrilly demanding it of the Crown) can be seen today in the many Waitangi Tribunal claims from tribes that have already agreed to full and final settlements (some more than once) of various grievances.

And so on ad infinitum, until New Zealanders are prepared to say that they have had enough of this nonsense.


Cpt747 said...

... A Great,concise and true'version of this event, Reuben..the Waitangi Tribunal's 'Twisting of the Treaty', as you say continues unabated. Our present political gangsters of Key/Finlayson and Bill English,plus many other MPs are blatantly encouraging their 'ugly maorification' of this Nation..'Criminal Enterprise' of the worse form. Destruction of our Democracy ...when will New Zealanders wake to this 'High Treason'by the politicians..????

Anonymous said...

I think most New Zealanders are well aware of the politicians sell out and the undermining of democracy in New Zealand.......the problem is how do we get this message through to our politicians that we will not tolerate it. Much is now done in secrecy and if we are told at all it is after the event. Unfortunately when we vote for a party we have to take all their policies good and bad. It would be helpful,if people,bombarded politicians with their concerns.The media should be educating the public on these issues too. They are sadly lacking in informing the public.

Anonymous said...

This is not a bad summary of some key events but the overwhelming majority of Maoris in Taranaki at the time took a different view and put their lives on the line to defend it. Some unnecessarily pejorative language - "cravenly fled the area back in 1834" "aped the separatism" "sickly white liberals prepared to rat out their own race"

Anonymous said...

"Taking a different view" doesn't mean that it is a correct one.

Clearly in this instance it was not.

I consider people who run away, then enter into an agreement to profit from land they have vacated, then creep back behind the shield of the Crown, then repudiate the sale agreement because they now feel strong enough to do so, craven and lacking in honour.

I consider people who think it's OK to bully and stand over others to be "apes."

I regard people who line up against their own race for that warm glow of identifying with what leftists have told them are an "oppressed" people (despite them having the same opportunities as every other citizen), "rats."

In our society today, the highest status attracts to someone claiming membership of a Marxist-Leninist- designated "victim" group.

If you can't be a victim, the next highest status attaches to being a totally supine and penitent "victimiser."

It is these guilt-tripping white liberals who have bent over and grabbed their ankles for the Treatyists who are 100% responsible for the parlous state of this nation in 2014.