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Sir Donald Maclean

Chapter X — Maclean the Diplomatist — The Rangitikei Purchase

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Chapter X
Maclean the Diplomatist
The Rangitikei Purchase

Donald Maclean's supreme qualities of tact and diplomacy were exhibited in the intricate negotiations necessary in acquiring Maori land for white settlement. This in the early days was a task often attended with great difficulty, particularly when the mana and territorial rights of several tribes hostile to each other were involved. The purchase for the Government of the great Rangitikei block in 1849 is a capital example of “Te Makarini's” methods of gradually reducing opposition to his proposals and of patiently winning his way through obstacles that would have disheartened less persevering and less quietly determined men.

The increase in the pakeha population about Cook Strait necessitated the acquisition of larger areas for farmers, and Maclean on his travels up and down the coast had formed the opinion that the country north of the Rangitikei River extending thence towards the Wanganui country would be an excellent region for settlement.

The purchase of a large area there was discussed at a great meeting at Parewanui. It was a very long drawn out argumentative korero. After nearly a week, Maclean told the other Europeans there not to go away, that a change was coming. In the afternoon the Whanganui tribe announced that they had come to the conclusion that the best way to settle all the different claims of ownership was to sell to the Government.

Mr. J. D. Ormond, who was present, wrote:

“The final proceedings opened by Te Rauparaha making a speech, notifying that most of his people agreed to the page 42 sale. Directly he sat down (all the speeches were made by the natives running backwards and forwards, and gesticulating), Te Rangihaeata rose, a tall gaunt savage in appearance, clothed in a dogskin mat. He was in a towering rage. He rushed backwards and forwards, leaping in the air and yelling imprecations. After a time the dogskin mat came off, and stark naked he rushed to where old Te Rauparaha sat in front of his people. Leaning over him he yelled every taunt and filthy term of abuse he knew. He called Te Rauparaha, dog, slave-thing, and his tongue was a wonderful sight, it hung out an enormous length, and his filthy spittle dribbled on to the old chief he was abusing. Te Rauparaha sat perfectly still, never seemed to move or take any notice. At last, Rangihaeata, utterly exhausted, stopped, shouted to his followers to accompany him and leave their slaves to finish their evil work, and he went off.

“That was the end of the meeting. The next day the deed of sale was signed by all the principal people, and the purchase of Rangitikei was concluded.”

Rauparaha—who died at Otaki a few months later (27 November 1849) attended this Parewanui meeting by virtue of his position as victor over the Ngati-Apa in the early 'twenties of the century. He had not occupied the land but passed on to Otaki and Kapiti, hence he had no standing by right of long residence, like the Ngati-Apa; but he retained a kind of overlordship, and his mana no doubt was recognised by Maclean. Although he had no landed right there he was capable of giving considerable trouble, and it was well therefore to conciliate him. He frequently visited Maclean in the Government wharé at night, and it is likely that the Commissioner gave him a present for his consent.

The deed of purchase was signed on 15 May 1849. The total sum paid was £2,500 of which £1,000 in gold and silver, divided into a hundred bags for distribution, was paid over on that date, the rest to be paid in three instalments of £500, in the three following years. The deed was signed by Aperahama Tipae, Paora Turangapito, Kingi Hori Te Hanea, and Reihana (their marks).

So was concluded a bargain notable in the pioneering page 43 history of New Zealand for the thorough success in which it was carried through by the patience, calmness and good humoured persistence of one young official of the Government, conducting affairs by himself, with great numbers of people on the other side, a bargain concluded without serious dispute and without resort to force although there were many hundreds of warriors on the field, and old enemies faced each other daily.

As to the extent of the land so conveyed to the Crown, the following summary is given by Sir James Wilson in his history of Rangitikei:

Anyone looking on the map of Rangitikei County will se a straight line running from the Rangitikei River near Rata to a point close to where the Hunterville-Wanganui road corsses the Turakina, in a north-westerly direction. The whole of the land south of that, with the exception of the reserves at Parewanui, Turakina, and a few elsewhere, comprised the area purchased. The land on the north of the Whangaehu had been purchased by the New Zealand Company as described in Wakefield's “Adventure in New Zealand.” This purchase of Donald Maclean's bought the land up to the Turakina, leaving a narrow strip of land between the two rivers Whangaehu and Turakina, about four miles wide, still in the hands of the Maoris. Sir Donald said the land between Whangaehu and Turakina was to be a tribal reserve for the Ngati-Apa.

On this territory settlement soon began and it is one of New Zealand's most wealthy and most beautiful pastoral farming districts to-day.