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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)

(Chapter 17) — The Waitara Purchase

page 447

(Chapter 17)

The Waitara Purchase

Sir George Grey, Governor, in his despatches to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, strongly criticized the methods of a previous Administration in forcibly dispossessing Wiremu Kingi and other owners of the disputed Pekapeka Block, Waitara, and detailed the reasons for the renunciation of the attempted purchase. Writing on the 24th April, 1863, he said: “My settled conviction is that the natives of the Waitara are in the main right in their allegations regarding the Waitara purchase, and that it ought not to be gone on with. It does not involve any new acquistion of territory for Her Majesty and the Empire.” The Queen had no legal title to the land, and it seemed more than doubtful if such a title could ever be given to her; and the block had never been paid for. Teira Manuka had only received a deposit of £100, and this the Government decided to relinquish.

In further despatches and minutes the Governor said that Wiremu Kingi's own home at Te Kuikui pa and the homes of two hundred of his people were destroyed by the troops in 1860; the houses and the surrounding cultivations were burned. The Waitara owners thereupon retaliated by burning an exactly corresponding number of European settlers' houses.

“Ought Her Majesty,” Sir George Grey asked in a memorandum, “to make such a purchase in which she gained for an inconsiderable sum a property worth much more, and acquired against their will and consent the homes of more than two hundred of her subjects, which they had occupied in peace and happiness for years, and who were not even accused of any crime against Her majesty or her laws, but some of whom had, on the contrary, risked their lives in rendering her service in former wars?”

The Governor further showed that the forcible occupation of the Pekapeka Block in 1860 had convinced the Maoris that a new system of obtaining lands was to be established, and that they would all be despoiled like Waitara if they did not make general resistance. They became convinced that their destruction was decided upon, and thus there arose an almost universal belief that the struggle was one for house and home. Hence the wrong done the natives by the seizure of the Waitara land was the cause of other wars.