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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

Enclosure 3. — Memorandum by the Land Claims Commissioner

Enclosure 3.
Memorandum by the Land Claims Commissioner.

I have always been of opinion that the appointment of a number of chiefs to advise the Governor is essential to the successful conduct of Native affairs. The Native Council proposed to be established will certainly not work well unless some Native chiefs are to be associated with it, and I understand this has been admitted on all sides. No really permanent influence over the Native mind towards the full recognition of the Queen's authority and the establishment of. British law will ever be gained • except through the agency of the Native people itself; and the present proposal is a step in the right direction.

But its value depends on whether it is intended to be a merely temporary measure in consequence of the war, or the germ of a permanent plan. Ought the position of the chiefs to be raised, or not? The policy recommended to the Governor by Archdeacon in 1856 was that "the Government should do nothing towards establishing the influence of the chiefs, but should rather endeavour to lessen this by, every legitimate means." Now, the influence of the chiefs has already sensibly diminished everywhere since the establishment of British sovereignty: we destroyed the right of the strong arm, and offered nothing in its stead. In times of danger we have often owed our safety to what remained of power among the chief s, but in times of peace and security we have been inclined to neglect them. I believe the policy recommended by Archdeacon-was unwise, and contrary to the natural instincts of the Polynesian races; and that the best thing we can do is to raise the character and position of the chiefs, not certainly by remitting to them the right of the strong arm, but by encouraging them to seek European honours and a share in the government. I think the most proper course would be to invite the Conference which will assemble this year to consider the advisability of permanently establishing at the seat of Government a small number of chiefs as a recognized medium of communication and advice between the Governor, and the Native tribes. The Conference should then be asked to consider whether such chiefs ought to be elected by the tribes, or be chosen by the Governor out of a list of chiefs submitted by the Conference, or be wholly or partly nominated directly by the Governor; whether their appointment should be for life or for a term of years, or a number of chiefs be sent up by rotation to take part in the government, and attain a practical insight into the conduct of affairs on the European system; whether part of the number should have a fixed tenure of office, and the others come in by rotation, so as to combine steadiness of action in one direction with varying suggestion and advice, and so forth. The Government would indicate the plan it preferred, but the decision should be as much as possible left to the Natives themselves, either in the Conference, or (as was done last year in the case of the Message on Individualization of Titles) in subsequent discussion by the tribes in their own districts. Undoubtedly any such plan would require a considerable expenditure, and could not, therefore, be carried into effect without the sanction of the Assembly. It would be" absolutely useless without some guarantee of permanence, and without adequate provision for raising the chiefs selected, not only in the estimation of their countrymen, but in that of the European settlers. To bring a number of chiefs together in Auckland as advisers of the Governor, and leave them to shift for themselves in the Maori hostelry, would be an absurdity. A suitable residence should be appointed for them, a moderate income (say £100 per annum) granted to each, and reasonable means afforded for their exercise of: hospitality to other chiefs from various parts of the country; who should be encouraged by the Government to visit and communicate with them. There should, in fact, be the "Assessors' House," where measures might be talked over by the most intelligent men apart from the presence and influence of Government officers; and the chiefs throughout the country should be invited to write freely to the Assessors direct.'

With regard to the immediate appointment of four or five principal chiefs to advise the Governor in the existing crisis, I think it would have a good effect provided a careful notification were published to the Natives, informing them that it was the Governor's wish to propose a permanent plan to the General Assembly and the Native Conference, and that the summoning of a few chiefs in the mean-time was intended to show the people that, while the war was unavoidably prosecuted for the repression of insurrection, the Governor was most desirous to treat even the insurgents with lenity, and to resort to the advice of those who remained firm in their allegiance for the measures necessary for the restoration of peace. The Government would, no doubt, run some risk (by, now summoning the most influential among the loyal chiefs) of losing the very influence which is at this time being beneficially exerted by them in their own districts. They would very likely be pointed at, as "Governor's men," and whatever they said misrepresented as the Governor's opinion and not theirs. Even the most loyal are obliged, in the increasing spread of disaffection, to pretend more or less of sympathy with the causes of complaint among the disaffected, in order to maintain any hold whatever on their people; and their removal to the seat of Government might sacrifice that hold in their own neighbourhoods without our obtaining in exchange any influence when exercised from head-quarters. Still, if the Natives of the various tribes can be made to see the experiment as a proof of continued good-will on the part of the Government, and of its desire to consult their wishes and interests, it will result in very much good: on the whole, therefore, I am of opinion that it should be tried. The Governor would then, for the present, nominate the chiefs himself, and make temporary arrangements for their reception in Auckland, until the Assembly should decide whether (as a permanent institution) a Maori Council of advice should exist, and vote the necessary funds for its maintenance.

Auckland, 1st February, 1861.

F.Dillon Bell.