Among the subjects on which the history-twisting power-seekers who infest New Zealand today would whip up the emotions of their supporters the major one would certainly be land. The most recent example is of course that of Ihumatao. There we have the self-appointed protest leader, Pania Newton reported as saying: “we are challenging the notion that the government can simply wash its hands of the confiscation of lands that happened in the 1860s, and the devastating effects of this.”[i]
Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson chimes in, claiming that the dispute represents a: “continuation of colonisation”.[ii] The protesters’ ‘facebook” page claims that: “we protect this waahi tapu at Ihumaatao”,[iii] By contrast, tribal leaders “point out that claims that the land is on ancient burial grounds and is wahi tapu, are deliberately misleading [and that] the land to be built on was used for growing wheat”![iv]
These agitators echo the wild claims of such as Sacha McMeeking, Peter Dey and Potonga Neilson – of which more will be said in this article, of Marama Fox, an MP at the time, claiming "Over the past 160 years ... 95% of our land was lost either by force or stealth.”[v], of National list MP, Nuk Korako who writes of the “wrong” which was “the Crown’s massive theft of Maori land”[vi] and of Joshua Hitchcock who chimes in with “the Crown’s own research ... indicated that the total value of the loss suffered by Ngāi Tahu amounted to $16 billion. The price of relativity is little more than a drop in the bucket when compared to the actual loss suffered by Māori.”[vii] The actual truth is that these billions are the present value of that land, owed almost entirely to the hard labour and investment of its owners since. These brazen distortions of the truth by such persons in positions of influence are all-too-typical of the fake history with which our country is awash today. Not one acre was confiscated from Ngai Tahu!
We look a little more deeply into the true history of our topic.
Isolated from the rest of the world for several centuries, the pre-European Maoris of New Zealand lived in a Stone Age hunter-gatherer society, albeit kumara and some minor crops were grown in the north. Inshore fishing and what they could gather from the bush were their main food sources. Fern-root, nutritious but fibrous and hard on teeth, was the major plant source while the lack of large land animals meant that apart from the Maori rat, the kiore, birds were the source of animal protein.
With no idea of conservation, despite recent claims to the contrary, birds were hunted ruthlessly, around thirty species being driven to extinction before Europeans arrived[viii], one a unique black swan recently identified,[ix] and the various kinds of moa in barely a century. As examination of ancient middens has revealed, often only the choice cuts were eaten, much of a moa carcass going to waste.[x]
While the practice of cannibalism was probably brought to New Zealand by Polynesian immigrants, depletion of other food sources made it an attractive option. By time Europeans arrived it was well-established, as vividly shown by the 1772 fate of Marion du Fresne and 26 of his crew, promptly massacred and eaten for fishing innocently in a “tapu” bay.[xi]
As hunter-gatherers, each tribe needed a hunting area or “rohe” of its own but as intertribal warfare was their favourite sport, this meant incursions into the rohe of another tribe and often its acquisition by conquest. The process has been described by Michael King in “Moriori”[xii] with eyewitness accounts of those events, a mere five years before the Treaty was signed. “[V]ictims were killed by a blow ... to the temple. Afterwards, ... the heads were removed and thrown to the dogs ... Then the virile member [penis] ... was thrown to the women ... who ate this dainty morsel eagerly.” The remainder of the body was then dismembered, washed and cooked in a “hangi”.
As King continues: “[W]hat took place was simply tikanga, the traditional manner of supporting new land claims. As Rakatau noted with some satisfaction in the Native Land Court in 1870: ‘ we took possession ... in accordance with our customs ... .’ ... The outcome was nothing more nor less than what had occurred on battlefields throughout the North Island.”
Now, hunter-gathering means that food sources are where one finds them and this is most successful when a band of individuals works together. This implied in turn that the rohe, the food-gathering area, was not held by individuals but in common by tribal members, sharing the proceeds but doing little, if anything, to improve it as a food source.[xiii] Apart from the kumara plots, it was not farmed. It is this obsolete form of land-holding which continues under Maori title today.
This was the situation which Europeans found when they showed an interest in buying land.
Maoris on the other hand, soon began to appreciate the superior and more readily produced food which Europeans brought. Notable were pork and potatoes, described with timber and flax as their only “taonga” by 13 Ngapuhi chiefs writing to King William in 1831. When Charles Darwin, prince of observers, arrived on the 1835 visit of HMS “Beagle”, he noted on his walk to the Waimate mission: “The road [was] bordered on each side by tall fern ... we came to a little country village, where a few hovels were collected together, and some ground cultivated with potatoes.”[xiv]
Suddenly the tribes discovered that large hunter-gathering areas were no longer necessary for their support, while the variety of material goods and possessions of Europeans were attractive items much to be desired. A rapid transformation occurred of the entire tribal system of values. A veritable frenzy of land selling began, some chiefs travelling to Sydney to sell. Of course they encountered plenty of speculators ready to deal with them. The documents recording the transactions exist there today.
A summary of pre-treaty South Island purchases registered in the names of the buyers reveals the scale of this activity[xv]:
- Nelson, Marlborough, Kaikoura: 44
- Canterbury, West Coast: 6
- Banks Peninsula: 14
- Otago, West Coast: 35
- Southland: 66
- Stewart Island, Ruapuke, etc: 14
- plus a few unregistered sales.
Reserves were set aside according to the rank of individuals; from 666 acres for principal chiefs to 73 acres for free men to zero for slaves.
In the South Island, its tiny native population was concentrated in coastal villages near their scanty food supplies. In vast areas of the hinterland, any native who tried to settle would soon starve, as soon discovered by a remnant of Waitaha, said to have tried in the upper Waitaki. Any money or trade goods which white men offered was pure profit to eager sellers.
Loud assertions today that land was “stolen” or “dispossessed” are hypocrisy – a mockery of the truth. Some specific examples of sales were these:[xvi]
1. On 25th October 1839, Te Rauparaha of Ngatitoa sold all of the South Island north of 43º to the New Zealand Company. Sales such as this typically excluded “pahs, cultivation, burial places, and wahi tongoa” (this a term of uncertain meaning).[xvii]
2. In February 1840, a Ngai Tahu group sold the central South Island from latitude 42º 40’ to about the mouth of the Rangitata River to the French Nanto-Bordelaise Compagnie. (Note the overlap!)
3. On 15th February 1840, Ngai Tahu sold almost all of the remainder of the South Island to Jones and Wentworth of Sydney. (To his credit, Johnny Jones came to Otago as a genuine settler.)
There were likewise eager sellers in the North Island. Thus[xviii]:
1. On 25th October 1839, Ngatitoa sold a fifth of the North Island, on a line from the Mokau River mouth to Castlepoint.
2. On 8th November 1839, Ngatiawa sold the same area (!)
3. On 16th November 1839, 35 Wanganui chiefs sold ‘Wanganui’ from Patea to Tongariro and Manawatu to the New Zealand Company.
4. On 15th February, 1840, a consortium of 85 Ngamotu chiefs, (one a woman) sold the Ngamotu, Taranaki Block to the New Zealand Company.
These are but examples of many, an 1878 letter from chiefs Ihaia Kirikumara and Tamati Tiraura[xix] stating that some Taranaki land had been sold three times and records exist in one case for five sales(!)
It was little better than a free-for-all and a situation which no responsible government could allow to continue. Thus, on 30th January 1840, the day after his arrival, and in accordance with his instructions from the Colonial Secretary, Lord Normanby, Hobson issued a proclamation requiring all existing land claims to be proved and subject to confirmation “by Her Majesty” with all subsequent claims being “considered as absolutely Null and Void”.
In the event, all pre-treaty claims were scaled back to a maximum of 2560 acres or four square miles, tidy enough amounts perhaps but a small fraction of that claimed in many cases. The intention to be fair to Maori interests must be obvious.
Moreover, looking ahead, Hobson inserted in Article second of the Treaty the provision that: “the chiefs ... grant to the
Queen the exclusive right of purchasing ... land ... at such prices as may be
agreed”.[xx] It would be
hard to imagine a fairer way to protect tribal interests than this yet it was
not long before would-be sellers were complaining that it prevented them from
getting a higher price from private interests.
We should realize today that they were times of rapid change for all
concerned and almost inevitably a few cases where fast-talking white men
outwitted prospective sellers though I know of no specific examples.
By contrast, from the very extensive records collated by Jean Jackson,[xxi] it is quite evident that government officials made strenuous efforts to deal honourably with tribal claimants, often faced with conflicting or very dubious claims. For example, when the French settlers arrived at Akaroa, they “discovered nine [Maori] parties able to contest their rights to the harbour”.[xxii] Inevitably there will have been occasional mistakes, sometimes by surveyors such as H.T. Kemp, often working in winter conditions in trackless wastes with unfordable rivers.
And so, with the establishment of Pax Britannica after the Wairau Massacre on 17th June 1843, the Lands Commissioners systematically purchased from the Natives of Motueka and Whakapuaka and the Ngaitawa Natives, excepting their pas, cultivations and burial places, their lands at Whakatu (Nelson) Waimea, Moutere, Riwaka. and Taitapu (Massacre Bay), now Golden Bay, in deeds dated 14th and 15th August 1844.[xxiii] As Commissioner Alexander Mackay reported on 15th May 1871, Native reserves in the province of Nelson amounted to 226¾ acres for each of them.[xxiv]
On 24th June 1914, “Henare Parata, or Henry Pratt” sold a four-acre block at Karitane to my own grandfather.[xxv] It was not the first sale. With most of their pre-treaty sales nullified by Hobson’s proclamation of 30th January 1840, eager selling by tribal members continued apace, more than 38 million acres of South Island land of no commercial value and almost worthless to the owners was sold between 1844 and 1860 plus Stewart Island in 1864.[xxvi] Despite this eagerness to sell, Government officers showed clear restraint. An offer “to sell off the residue of Maori land lying south of the Molyneux towards Foveaux Strait ... to the White men for Ever” was declined with a firm but courteous refusal.[xxvii]
Continual bleating today about “loss” of land becomes an increasing chorus. Among the most flagrant is one from pale-faced, red-headed Sacha McMeeking, now no less than the Ngai Tahu member of the University of Canterbury Council. According to her, “the decision was to settle cheaply – accepting $170m when even the treasury value of dispossessed lands lay between $12 and $15 billion”.[xxviii] Note the word-twisting: what was sold eagerly is now “dispossessed” while the land today is nothing like the wilderness of 1840.
And the process continues. In 2010, Ngai Tahu Corporation, registered as a charitable trust, sold Rakanui Station south of Kaikoura to Margaret Hyde, an American citizen, for several million dollars and in 2011, Ngai Tahu Forest Estates Limited, sold 18,252 hectares of central South Island land to a Swiss company for $22,888,888.[xxix]
Nor were this tribe utilising much of what they continued to own. The 1896 census revealed that Ngai Tahu were cultivating a mere 857.5 acres of 45,000 in their possession.
Dover Samuels speaking before the Waitangi Tribunal stated: “Maori also lost their land, their fisheries, and the rest of their culture” and "unlawful actions by the Department of Maori Affairs [led] to loss of land.”[xxx] - wild generalities ignoring legitimate transactions freely entered into.
Today 5.6% of our land remains under Maori title, just 4% having been confiscated from rebel tribes in the colonial period. Though precise figures are not available, a considerable amount of land held under fee simple has Maori owners. Arowhenua Trophy winners (for Maori farmer of the year) Dean and Kristen Nikora (2008) and Barton and Nukuhia Hadfield (2013) are, I surmise, among them.
Of course there is today amongst the history-twisters, much song and dance about the land confiscated. The extreme hypocrisy of this must be obvious to all with eyes to see ... and in particular to note the well-established tribal process of acquisition described by Rakatau and outlined above. Moreover, the rebel tribes had received fair warning that land was liable to confiscation, to compensate a cash-strapped government in part for the cost of suppressing their rebellions and settlers who had suffered the grievous loss of what they had achieved by hard work.
In due course, too, a substantial part of the confiscated land was returned to the rebels to ensure that they had enough to live on. Beyond that a merciful government required only that they swear loyalty to the Queen.
One Potonga Neilson, whose opinions are often aired in the “Wanganui Chronicle”, claims that the Taranaki tribes should receive $24 billion![xxxi] Peter Dey in “Sunlive”[xxxii] states that “the value of land wrongfully taken from Maori by past governments is more than $30 billion. Fair compensation is very simple. It returns what was taken or enough money to buy the equivalent of what was taken.”
Apart from Dey’s wild claims of land “wrongfully taken”, they blatantly omit the critical point that the value of land today is almost wholly owed to the hard labour and investment of settlers and of successive governments in roads, drainage, irrigation, wharves and other infrastructure.
Whether that land is worth $30 billion today is utterly beside the point. It was sold for what it was worth at the time. Governor Fitzroy, not our most successful governor, did get it exactly right on this point: ‘What is it that makes land valuable? It is labour … in addition to the price of the land it is for bringing out labourers, and tools, and seeds, and cattle, in ships; for … roads, and bridges, and surveys, and many other things. The payment for the land only is very small.”[xxxiii]
Tory, E.G. Wakefield and Whig, Lord Normanby agreed on this aspect. In Wakefield’s words, land was to be sold to settlers at ‘a sufficient price’. This price was indeed somewhat more than that paid to Maori owners for the raw land. In providing funds for infrastructure it was the equivalent of property rates today. It may be noted also that when in due course rates were levied, owners of Maori land were at times required to pay only half the standard rate or exempted entirely from it. The gravy-trainers today conveniently forget this favoured treatment of Maori landowners.
In 1842, Rev. Samuel Ironside was the pioneer Methodist minister of the Nelson settlement. A plaque in Old St John’s church today commemorates the centenary of his arrival. Some years later he moved to Taranaki and worked as a missionary there from 1855-1858. Having retired to Sydney, he responded to intemperate criticism by a Church of England dignitary who had never been to New Zealand, his letter being published in the “Sydney Morning Herald” and the “Nelson Examiner”.[xxxiv]
Such objective testimony from an eyewitness, recorded soon afterwards, must be wholly superior to alleged “oral histories” passed down by word of mouth for 150 years by old men, “kaumatuas”, many of whom told what they wanted to have told and heard only what they wanted to hear. Be it noted too that Ironside was witness only to the first round of hostilities in Taranaki. Tribal violence increased thereafter, 177 settler homes and farmsteads being destroyed in little more than twelve months in 1860-1.[xxxv] And it got worse later! Such were the alleged “Land Wars” which we are now expected to commemorate!
Ironside’s words, lightly edited, are:
“I have lived twenty years in New Zealand in the capacity of a Wesleyan Methodist Missionary, am tolerably conversant with the language and habits of the natives, was in and out among the poor people during many of their wars, and yield to none in a sincere desire for their welfare. ...
During the whole of my twenty years' experience in that country I cannot call to mind more than one instance of murder of natives by a white man. Not an acre of land has ever been purchased from the natives except at their own repeated request, and by the free consent, as far as could be ascertained, of every individual owner.
They have now millions of acres of land unappropriated, not one tithe of which they can ever cultivate. This land has been a fruitful source of quarrel, bloodshed and violence, among themselves; and the quietly-disposed among them, lamenting over evils which they cannot remedy, namely, the unceasing strife among the various tribes about ownership and boundaries, would gladly alienate the land to the Crown, being sure of equitable payment for all they sold, large reserves for themselves and families, and the presence of English emigrants, who would be a guarantee of peace and quietness, and also furnish an excellent market for all the produce they could raise.
If the Queen could purchase their lands it would be an inestimable blessing to themselves, by removing the fruitful source of war and strife. But the violent and disorderly among them not only refuse to sell lands of which they are themselves owners, but resolutely prevent their neighbours from selling theirs.
The noted Weremu Kingi [sic], in open conference with the District Commissioner, is asked by him if the land in dispute belongs to the parties offering it for sale. He replies, "Yes, the land is theirs; but I will not let them sell it." In 1854 these violent men cruelly and in cold blood murdered seven of their fellow natives, who, unarmed, were engaged in cutting the boundaries of a piece of land which they wished Government to buy. If the Governor had had it in his power to punish those murderers as they deserved, I believe the present war would have been prevented. But they escaped through the weakness of Government, and ever since the lawless and turbulent have done things of this kind with impunity.
It is really too bad to charge the unoffending settlers with being "grasping, and unfair, and oppressive." They are in no way responsible for the war, which is an Imperial question, but have many of them, suffered the loss of all. Husbands, and sons, and fathers, and even little children, have been cruelly murdered. The houses of the settlers are burnt; their pretty English homesteads, in which they had invested their all, and on which they had expended years to toil and sacrifice, are utterly laid waste by an unprincipled mob of natives; ... .
The emigrants of New Zealand are, as a body, wholly innocent of your censures. They are, and have been, honourable in their dealings with the natives. In fact, at Taranaki and its neighbourhood they dare not be otherwise, for they have been at the mercy of the natives. Government for years past has been powerless to repress and punish native crime. Trespasses by the native cattle and horses upon the cultivations of settlers have been of necessity overlooked, while the settler's horse or cow wandering upon the unfenced land of the natives, has been in many instances shot down or barbarously hacked with the tomahawk.
I speak ... of things coming under my own observation, as a missionary. I lived from 1855 to 1858 in Taranaki, where the late unhappy war raged; and was an eye-witness of the patience with which the settlers there bore repeated instances of outrage, and insult, and wrong at the hands of the natives. I hope I shall not be chargeable with want of sympathy with the natives of New Zealand in thus writing. I have given evidence of my sincere desire to their welfare during many years of toil and sacrifice among them; and were I younger in years, and able to endure the toil and exposure, I would gladly go back and labour and die among them.
But I cannot justify the rebellions in their present course, and I cannot allow the emigrants to New Zealand to be charged with fault of which they are wholly innocent, without replying to those charges.”
I am, reverend sir,
yours very faithfully,
Newtown, Sydney, January 18 1862.
Sydney Morning Herald, February 12
Sydney Morning Herald, February 12
[i] Reported by Muriel Newman, “Breaking Views”, 28th July 2019
[v] M. Fox, “Wairarapa Times Age”, 7/3/16
[vi] N Korako, letter to a private correspondent, 22/9/16
[vii] J. Hitchcock, “The Spinoff”, 25/1/18
[viii] T. Flannery’s estimate is 28-35. In 1883, Maoris are known to have killed 646 Huia in a single month.
[ix] N. Rawlence, Prime News, 26th July 2017
[x] Some of this evidence may properly be attributed to the earlier indigenous moa-hunters, we conjecture.
[xi] I. Wishart, “The Great Divide”, HATM Publishing, 2012, Ch. 3, ISBN 978-0-9876573-6-7
[xii] M. King, “Moriori”, Viking, 1989, pp. 64-66, ISBN 978-0-670-82655-3
[xiii] An exception was the extensive area of eel-trapping weirs near the Wairau River mouth, probably constructed by indigenous pre-Maori inhabitants.
[xiv] C. Darwin, “The Voyage of the Beagle”, 1839
[xv] Detailed lists of transactions registered provided by Jean Jackson, 26th June 2017
[xvi] J. Jackson, “Mistaken Maori Land Claims”, Book Seven, Treaty Series, Vol.2, 2002, p.5
[xvii] J. Jackson, op.cit., p.19
[xviii] J. Jackson, op.cit., pp.26-27
[xix] See in full, B. Wells, “The History of Taranaki”, Edmondson & Avery, 1878
[xx] Hobson’s final draft of the Treaty, 4th February 1840
[xxi] J. Jackson, op.cit., pp, 30ff
[xxii] A. Everton, “Ngai Tahu’s Tangled Web”, “Free Radical” No. 26, August 1997
[xxiii] J. Jackson, op.cit., pp.19-20
[xxiv] Ibid., p.36
[xxv] The certificate of title is in my possession.
[xxvi] For details, see M Butler, “Twisting the Treaty”, ISBN 1-872970-33-8, 2013, pp. 139ff
[xxvii] J.L. Stokes, Captain HMS “Acheron”, to the would-be sellers, 19/12/1850, quoted by S Natusch, “Rugged Shores”, ISBN 0-9582140-6-9, pp. 90-1
[xxviii] “The Press”, p. C5, 2nd July 2011
[xxix] “Committee against foreign control of Aotearoa”, August 2011
[xxx] D. Samuels, “Northern Advocate”, 5th September 2015
[xxxi] P. Neilson, “Wanganui Chronicle”, 17th June 2014
[xxxii] P. Dey, “Sunlive”, 26th May 2017
[xxxiii] R. Fitzroy, Official Report, September 1844, quoted by Ian Wishart, “The Great Divide, 2012, p.210
[xxxiv] S. Ironside, “Sydney Morning Herald”, 12th February 1862 and “Nelson Examiner”, 12th March 1862
[xxxv] W.I. Grayling, “The War in Taranaki, during the years 1860-61”, 1862
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".