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The Farmer in New Zealand

1. The Maori Farmer

1. The Maori Farmer

The Writings of Elsdon Best provide the most authoritative accounts of pre-European Maori agriculture, especially his monograph, Maori Agriculture (Wellington, 1925). The more dogged student will find material of value in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute (Wellington, 1869-) and the Journal of the Polynesian Society (Wellington, 1892-).

John Savage's Account of New Zealand (London, 1807), the first description of New Zealand after Cook, provides an interesting account of the importance the potato had assumed in Maori economy by 1807. Savage describes, of course, only the Bay of Islands where the natives were most closely in touch with European civilisation, a qualification that must be made in regard to most early missionary narratives of New Zealand life. The contribution of the missionaries to Maori agriculture is splendidly drawn in Dr J. R. Elder's Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden (Dunedin, 1932) and Marsden's Lieutenants (Dunedin, 1934). Here in picturesque procession pass Ruatara, page 144Hongi, Pomare, and the missionaries who helped or disapproved of them. The Rev. William Yate's Account of New Zealand (London, 1835) contains references to missionary and Maori agriculture, but he was regarded as unreliable by his contemporaries. Dr S. M. D. Martin, author of the vigorous and often critical reminiscences, New Zealand (London, 1845) should not be confused with Sir William Martin, Chief Justice and the husband of Lady Martin, from whose Our Maoris (London, 1884) a striking passage has been quoted. William Swainson, more matter of fact, chimes in with an admirable piling up of detail about the scope of Maori agriculture in his New Zealand and its Colonization (London, 1859). The story of the East Coast and Taupo natives' stock-farming is eloquently told by the Rev. Thomas Samuel Grace in A Pioneer Missionary among the Maoris (Palmerston North, 1928). Sir John Gorst's great book, The Maori King (London, 1864) with its penetrating and sympathetic study of the Waikato tribes, contains much information about agriculture.

Dr A. S. Thomson's thorough and competent history, The Story of New Zealand (London, 1859) throws light on every phase of Maori and European life. Alfred Saunders, in the two volumes of his History of New Zealand (Christchurch, 1896 and 1899) occasionally considers farming matters, both Maori and European, but his partisanship and haphazard selection of material diminish the value of his work.

The files of The Maori Messenger (Auckland, 1849-61), page 145one of a series of bilingual or Maori newspapers published with the express intention of helping the natives to civilise themselves, contain much news of their agricultural affairs. There are, of course, many valuable references to both Maori and European farming in early newspapers, such as The New Zealander (Auckland), the Nelson Examiner, and the Port Nicholson and Cook Strait Guardian.