The earliest accounts associated with Te Atiawa iwi ancestors precede the coming of Taranaki to the western seaboard. They were known as the Kāhui people, some of which were known as Te Kahui Ao, Kāhui Rangi, Kāhui Pō, Kāhui Atua and Kahui Toka collectively called Te Kāhui Maunga. They occupied Mimi Maunganui (the mountain preceding Taranaki), Ruatupua (Pouakai), and Ruatawhito (Kaitake) ranges and various places along the Taranaki coast.
The journey of mount Taranaki from the central plateau has been recounted for centuries. It is an account that describes cataclysmic volcanic activity and the movement of people.
Taranaki was formerly known as Pukeonaki and Pukehaupapa and stood in the area around Lake Rotoaira near Tūrangi, with Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Pihanga. Pukeonaki and Tongariro both loved Pihanga and fought over her. Following the conflict Pukeonaki, bearing the scars of battle, withdrew underground and down the Whanganui River valley. Led by his companions Te Ra-uhiuhi, Wheoi and the guide stone Rauhoto they entered the sea. When Taranaki surfaced he saw Pouakai Mountain inland. Pukeonaki then followed Rauhoto up the Hangatahua River and resurfaced beside Pouakai. Rauhoto continued her flight on the North eastern side of Pouakai where she then turned westward at the gap between Pouakai and Kaitake. Her flight path went through the sweeping saddle between Kaitake and Pouākai and ended near the mouth of the Hangatahua River by the sea. Pukeonaki remained there with Pouakai and their offspring became the trees, plants, birds and rivers that flow from their slopes.
The settlement of Taranaki is best described in two eras. The original inhabitants were known as the Kāhui people. The Kāhui people established knowledge systems in and around the wider Taranaki area. They held mana over the lands and gave meaning to many of the Kainga along the coast.
When the Polynesian groups arrived from Hawaiki, marriages soon produced a mix of Kāhui Maunga and polynesian people. The influx of new migrants also created tension and many conflicts ensued. The key marriages however, have become the source of dual identity for Te Atiawa and other Taranaki iwi today.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, iwi in Taranaki had occupied the length of the Taranaki coast. However, in the 1820s and 1830s, inter-tribal fighting on a large scale led to a series of movements out of the Taranaki region. Many Te Atiawa were also taken captive by neighbouring tribes, while others relocated to areas around Kapiti, Wellington and the top of the south. However, ahi kaa – was maintained during this time by people who remained in the rohe, and by the intermittent return of migrants and their descendants to Taranaki.
In May 1839, the New Zealand Company was formed in London to promote the profitable colonisation of New Zealand. The Company’s directors were already aware that the British Crown planned to claim sovereignty over New Zealand and establish the Crown’s sole right to purchase land. The New Zealand Company hastily despatched representatives to New Zealand to acquire large tracts of land before annexation occurred. In October 1839, at a time when many Maori were still absent from Taranaki, the New Zealand Company purported to purchase twenty million acres of central New Zealand, including all of the Taranaki region.
In January 1840, Lieutenant Governor William Hobson proclaimed that no private purchases of Maori land made after January 1840 would be confirmed or recognised by the Crown, and that it would establish a commission to investigate the validity of any land transactions that had already occurred between settlers and Maori, including the New Zealand Company’s deeds. On 6 February 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, establishing the Crown’s right of pre-emption over land sales.
On 15 February 1840, New Zealand Company agents transacted the “Nga Motu” deed with seventy-nine Maori living around New Plymouth, purportedly purchasing a large area of land lying between the Hauranga and Mohakatino Rivers that included most of the Te Atiawa rohe. At this time, many Maori were unfamiliar with the process and effects of land purchases according to English land law.
In November 1840 the New Zealand Company and the British Government negotiated an arrangement to provide land by Crown grant to the Company in New Zealand on the basis that the Company had spent large sums of money associated with colonisation, including the purchase of land. Under the arrangement the Crown would grant the Company four acres of land for every pound spent on its colonisation operations. In early 1841, a New Zealand Company surveyor arrived in Taranaki to set out a township within the 68,500 acre area claimed by the Company between present-day New Plymouth and the Waitara River. Settlers who had purchased land from the New Zealand Company in Britain began to arrive soon after.
Maori who had left Taranaki during preceding decades began to return around the same period. Relations between those Taranaki Maori who had remained in the area, those who had migrated and then returned, and those who had been taken captive but subsequently released were complex, as were their views on land sales.
The New Zealand Company’s claim in Taranaki under the “Nga Motu” deed was eventually investigated by Crown-appointed Lands Commissioner William Spain, who in June 1844 recommended an award of 60,000 acres to the New Zealand Company. Spain denied that Maori who were not then resident in Taranaki had any rights in the area claimed by the Company.
Spain’s recommended award was opposed by Te Atiawa people who had not received payment from the Company and by absentees whose rights to the area had been denied. One such absentee was Wiremu Kingi te Rangitake, a chief of the Manukorihi hapu of Te Atiawa and a leader of high status and reputation among Te Atiawa. Kingi was then residing in Waikanae but had been present at Spain’s announcement, and immediately wrote to the Governor to express opposition to the award. In response to the concerns of Maori, and of European settlers in Taranaki who were worried for their safety, Governor FitzRoy travelled to Taranaki in August 1844. After conducting his own investigations, FitzRoy announced that he found the New Zealand Company’s titles to Taranaki lands to be “defective”, and refused to ratify Spain’s recommendation. He then moved to purchase 3,500 acres encompassing the town of New Plymouth, upon which he intended to relocate settlers from the disputed outlying lands.
Further settlers arrived in Taranaki throughout the early 1840s. From 1844, Governor FitzRoy waived Crown pre-emption to allow the New Zealand Company to make additional payments to Te Atiawa outside the FitzRoy block and to absentees in order to secure more land for European settlement.
Following a change in the British government in 1845-1846, the new Governor of New Zealand, George Grey, was instructed to secure, as far as it was practical to do so, the balance of the 60,000 acres awarded by Spain. Early in 1847, Governor Grey met with the leaders of various hapu of Te Atiawa and informed them that he intended to resume more of Spain’s 60,000 award. He also stated that he would set out “ample reserves for the present and future wants” of resident Maori and those who were likely to return to Taranaki. Grey wrote afterwards that “very few of the Natives seemed disposed to assent to this arrangement”. Grey then instructed Donald McLean to make arrangements for the purchase of 60,000 to 70,000 acres around New Plymouth.
In May 1847, McLean concluded a purchase with twenty-eight Te Atiawa from the Ngati Whiti hapu for 9,770 acres of land (known as the Grey block) to the south of the FitzRoy block. The payment of £390 was made in three annual instalments. In March 1848, after settlers had expressed frustration at McLean’s failure to conclude any further purchases on the fertile lands north of New Plymouth, Grey agreed to allow New Zealand Company agent F. D. Bell to negotiate with Maori. The Company then embarked on negotiations at Hua and Mangati, to the north of New Plymouth. The proposed sale of the Mangati land was strongly disputed by sections of the Puketapu hapu. In April, Bell ordered surveyors to cut boundary lines at Mangati “in order to try the right of the disputants”. After surveying began, Bell reported that two groups within Puketapu hapu fought with “fists, sticks, and the backs of their tomahawks” over the location of the survey lines.
Despite the divisions among Puketapu over the sale, a deed was transacted in November 1848, with seventy-six signatories agreeing to sell 1,500 acres (known as the Bell block) for £200, although the sale price was later disputed. Even after the purchase was transacted, McLean withheld some of the purchase money because he believed that it would be needed to pay members of the selling hapu who continued to oppose the sale. The last three owners did not accept payment for the land until 1852.
By 1848, Wiremu Kingi te Rangitake was expressing his intention to resist the alienation of his traditional land at Waitara by returning to the area. In April 1848, Kingi led nearly 600 people, including many Te Atiawa, back to Taranaki from the south. Some travelled by waka while others drove stock before them up the coastline. The Crown sought to prevent this return, with Governor Grey threatening to destroy their canoes. When it became clear that their return could not be prevented, Grey attempted to convince the returning Te Atiawa people to settle on the north bank of the Waitara River, although the rohe of many hapu extended south of the river. When Te Atiawa returned to Waitara in November 1848, they settled on their ancestral lands on south bank of the river.
Te Atiawa people were soon participating fully in the emerging Taranaki economy. They developed substantial cultivations of maize, wheat, oats, and potatoes, owned large numbers of stock, and possessed agricultural machinery. The sale of crops provided a significant and growing income. Some settlers expressed concern that local Maori were becoming “more sensible of the value of available land, and will consequently be more difficult to bargain with”.
British settlers in Taranaki wishing to attract more immigrants to the area continued to put pressure on the Company and the Crown to secure the lands awarded by Spain and to obtain additional land, particularly between Waiwhakaiho and Waitara. As the Company and the Crown attempted to meet this demand, Maori opposition to sales both north and south of New Plymouth increased, and tensions between selling and non-selling members of Te Atiawa continued to grow. In late 1849, members of the Puketapu hapu of Te Atiawa erected a forty-foot-high pou (pillar) on the northern bank of the Waiwhakaiho River between New Plymouth and Waitara. McLean understood this to indicate that the hapu wished to “prevent Europeans acquiring more land in that direction”. In January 1850, some Te Atiawa people met with Governor Grey and offered to sell land to the Crown, but many others expressed their opposition. The Governor then attempted to visit Pukerangiora pā on the Waitara River, but some Te Atiawa people physically prevented him from entering their lands.
Around this time, Maori from various iwi of Taranaki held a series of meetings around the region to discuss land issues, and some made agreements to prohibit further sales. Crown officials viewed these agreements as obstacles in the way of European settlement.
In 1853 and 1854, the Crown concluded deeds for the 16,500 acre Waiwhakaiho block and the 14,000 acre Hua block, which took in large areas of Te Atiawa land. Again, the Crown failed to obtain the general agreement of all rangatira and hapu in these areas, and ignored the strongly expressed opposition of some hapu members. During negotiations for the Waiwhakaiho purchase, the Crown made unpublicised payments to individual Maori in an attempt to facilitate further sales. When discovered, these unpublicised payments created significant tension between neighbouring Te Atiawa hapu. A Crown agent wrote that these “petty jealousies” had worked “most opportunely” to generate further offers. After completing the Hua deed in March 1854, McLean wrote that the transaction had been difficult because a “decided minority of Natives [had been] in favour of a sale”.
In 1854 and 1855, tension between Te Atiawa individuals or groups arising from further Crown purchasing activities, particularly in relation to negotiations around the Tarurutangi block, developed into armed conflict between groups of Te Atiawa people, resulting in injury and loss of life. Conflict between Māori over land sales was such that European settlers in Taranaki petitioned the Government to send troops for their protection. By September 1855, approximately 500 Imperial troops were stationed in New Plymouth.
By 1859, following the sale of the 14,000 acre Tarurutangi block, nearly all Te Atiawa land lying south of the Waitara River was claimed by the Crown. Out of 59,378 acres purchased, only 4,604 acres (or 7.75 percent) had been reserved. Moreover, the proportion of land reserved varied significantly between the purchased blocks. More than sixteen per cent of the Waiwhakaiho block was reserved for Maori, but only 250 acres (1.7%) of the 14,000 acre Hua block, and ten acres (.07%) of the 14,000 acre Tarurutangi block were reserved. In the case of the Hua block, the Crown encouraged those Maori who were selling to repurchase sections for ten shillings an acre, more than three times what the Crown had paid for it.
Four reserves were placed under the Native Reserves Act 1856, which transferred their administration to Native Reserves Commissioners who often had the power to sell or lease them without the owners’ consent. By 1900, thirty-two per cent of the pre-1859 purchase reserves had been alienated by Native Reserves Commissioners. The land reserved for Te Atiawa from the pre-1860 purchases was later investigated by the Native Land Court and issued under individualised titles, which meant that customary title was extinguished over lands that Te Atiawa retained for their own use.
Between 1900 and 1905, title to all remaining pre-1860 reserves was vested in the Public Trustee and brought under the operation of the West Coast Settlement Reserves legislation. By 1990, at least ninety percent of the land reserved from the pre-1860 purchases of Te Atiawa lands was alienated.
WAITARA AND THE WARS
On 8 March 1859, Donald McLean, speaking on behalf of Governor Gore Browne, informed Maori and settlers in Taranaki that “he would never consent to buy land without an undisputed title” and “would buy no man’s land without his consent”. At the same time he said he would not permit anyone to interfere in the sale of land “unless he owned part of it”. Soon after, Te Teira Manuka of Te Atiawa offered to sell him land at Waitara known as the Pekapeka block. Three days after making his offer, Te Teira wrote to the Governor to state that he and another owners were only selling their own undefined interests in the block, a small area that he estimated might be ‘only sufficient for three or four tents to stand upon’.
Immediately after Teira made his offer to the Governor, Wiremu Kingi te Rangitake, widely acknowledged as the principle rangatira of Waitara, objected to it. He argued that as rangatira he was responsible for protecting the collective interests of his people, including the retention of land and the preservation of autonomy. Kingi told the Governor, speaking on behalf of his people, that “I will not permit the sale of Waitara to the Pakeha. Waitara is in my hands, I will not give it up…”
Despite this objection, and despite the Governor’s previous statement about not purchasing disputed land, the Governor ordered his officials to identify each person’s part in the Pekapeka block, and to negotiate terms of sale with those identified. Wiremu Kingi and others from the Waitara community refused to undermine the collective interest by making an individual claim to any part of the block.
The Crown did not gain the general agreement of the rangatira and hapu of Waitara while negotiating the Pekapeka purchase. Governor Gore Browne received poor advice from Crown officials concerning the nature of Te Atiawa rights at Waitara. The Crown purchase agent in Taranaki, for example, informed the Governor that Kingi had no interest in the disputed land, despite knowing that Kingi was in residence there at the time.
In November 1859, the Crown made a partial payment to Te Teira. In February 1860, the Crown attempted to survey the block but was prevented from doing so by an unarmed party of Kingi’s people, mainly women. The Crown responded by proclaiming martial law throughout Taranaki, and sending Crown troops to support the survey.
After martial law was proclaimed, the Crown executed a deed of purchase with Te Teira and some of his whanau and announced that the title to Pekapeka was not disputed. Kingi continued to dispute Te Teira’s right to sell, and indicated his determination that Te Atiawa retain the land. Early in March 1860, the Crown took military possession of the Pekapeka block. On 15 March, after the survey of the block had resumed, Kingi’s supporters built a fortified pa on the south-western corner of the block, commanding the road access. When Kingi refused to surrender it, on 17 March 1860, some 500 Crown troops began a bombardment of the pa. This marked the beginning of war in Taranaki.
Te Atiawa soon received support from other Maori from within and outside of Taranaki. Initially, most fighting took place to the south of New Plymouth, as the Crown responded to attacks mounted in the area by iwi groups from middle and southern Taranaki. In June, fighting resumed in the Te Atiawa rohe, with fighters from Te Atiawa and other iwi groups defeating a force of 350 British troops at Puketakauere, just inland from Waitara. In the following months, Crown troops moved through the Te Atiawa rohe engaging in skirmishes with Te Atiawa fighters and destroying abandoned pa, kainga, and stores of provisions. Between December and March 1860, British forces employed sapping techniques which involved approaching established Maori positions through long trenches constructed for the purpose. This technique, designed to counter the guerrilla tactics being successfully employed by Maori, was labour intensive and expensive, and did not produce any significant victories for Crown forces.
In April 1861, after a year of fighting, a peace agreement was reached with the involvement of Kingitanga representatives. The agreement provided that the Waitara purchase would be investigated. In the meantime, the Pekapeka block remained occupied by Crown troops, while iwi of central and south Taranaki maintained occupation of the Omata and Tataraimaka Blocks. These two blocks had been purchased by the Crown in 1847 but re-taken by Maori during the war. Some Maori asserted that the return of Tataraimaka, and presumably also Omata, was contingent on the Crown giving up Waitara.
In March 1863, before an inquiry into Pekapeka had been completed, Governor Grey ordered Crown forces to re-occupy Omata, and on 4 April, troops occupied the Tataraimaka block. On 6 April, Governor Grey decided to renounce the purchase of the Pekapeka block, but his Ministers did not announce this until 11 May.
In the meantime, Crown troops had been carrying provisions and equipment across Maori land between the Ōmata and Tataraimaka Blocks and New Plymouth. One week before the announcement to abandon the Pekapeka purchase was made, a group of Taranaki Maori attacked a party of soldiers moving between the blocks at Wairau, killing nine. Within three weeks, Crown troops and Maori in Taranaki were again engaged in fighting.
Conflict continued through late 1863, and in early 1864 Crown troops occupied Te Atiawa land and built the Sentry Hill military redoubt on an ancient pa site called Te Morere. In April 1864, a Maori force of approximately 200 assaulted the redoubt, but was repulsed with significant losses. In the following months, Crown forces built a number of redoubts on Maori land along the lower Waitara River, to secure military occupation of the land and to provide security for military settlements. Some redoubts were built on wahi tapu. In July and August, Maori carried out raids against settler properties around New Plymouth, including in the Te Atiawa rohe. In late September, Crown forces mounted several attacks against groups of Maori fighters and pa sites in the Te Atiawa rohe. These attacks resulted in the loss of Te Atiawa property, and injuries and loss of life for Te Atiawa people.
In 1863, the Crown passed the New Zealand Settlements Act to provide “permanent protection and security of the well-disposed inhabitants of both races for the prevention of future insurrection and rebellion and for the establishment and maintenance of Her Majesty’s authority and of Law and Order throughout the colony”. The Act stated that the best means to achieve this was through “the introduction of a sufficient number of settlers able to protect themselves and to preserve the peace of the Country”.
The Act provided for the confiscation of Maori land whenever the Governor in Council was satisfied that “any native tribe, or section of tribe or any considerable number thereof” had been in “rebellion” against the authority of the Queen since 1 January 1863. The Act provided for the Governor in Council to first declare the land within which the tribe was situated to be a “district” for the purposes of the Act, and then to set apart “eligible sites for settlements for colonization” within such districts. The land reserved for the purpose of such settlements would then become Crown land.
The New Zealand Settlements Act provided that no compensation would be granted to persons engaged in, levying, or making war against the Queen since 1 January 1863.
The British Colonial Office had misgivings about the scope and application of the Act, considering it “capable of great abuse”, but allowed the legislation to proceed because final authority for any confiscation remained with the Governor. The Colonial Secretary instructed the Governor to withhold his consent to any confiscation which was not “just and moderate”.
On 30 January 1865, the Governor declared “Middle Taranaki” to be a district for the purposes of the Act. This district lay in the western part of the Taranaki region between the Waitara River mouth in the north and the Waimate Stream in the south, and covered approximately 560,000 acres. Two other proclamations then set aside two blocks within the Middle Taranaki district, called “Oakura” and “Waitara South”, as eligible sites for settlement.
On 2 September 1865, the Governor declared two further large confiscation districts, named the “Ngatiawa” and “Ngatiruanui” districts. The Ngatiawa district extended north-east from the existing Middle Taranaki confiscation district to a line traced twenty miles due east from Parininihi on the northern Taranaki coast, and covered approximately 400,000 acres including most of the Te Atiawa rohe. The Governor then designated the whole of the Ngatiawa and Ngatiruanui districts, which included the remaining parts of the Middle Taranaki district, to be eligible sites for settlement. These confiscations took place in the absence of any substantial acts of rebellion by the resident tribes.
The lands taken greatly exceeded the minimum necessary for achieving the purpose of the New Zealand Settlements Act. They included the whole of the confiscation districts rather than just the lands required for the purpose of creating specific settlements. The confiscations also deprived both “loyal” and “rebel” Maori alike of the ownership and use of their lands, despite the statement in the confiscation proclamation of 2 September 1865 that the land of “loyal inhabitants” would be taken only where “absolutely necessary for the security of the country”.
In 1866, Parliament passed the New Zealand Settlements Acts Amendment Act, which retrospectively declared all of the instruments and proceedings made under the authority of the 1863 Settlements Act and subsequent amendments “absolutely valid” and beyond question “by reason of any omission or defect”.
The New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 and subsequent amendments provided for a Compensation Court to be set up to compensate certain Maori whose lands were confiscated by the Crown. Sections 5 and 6 of the Act precluded from receiving compensation any Maori who had made war or carried arms against Crown forces, assisted those who had, or who had refused to give up arms when requested. The compensation process and its outcomes added to the uncertainty, distress, and confusion among the people of Te Atiawa as to where they were to live and whether they had security of title.
Those Maori considered “rebels” could not make claims. In many cases the Court relied on the evidence of very few witnesses to determine who was a loyal and who was a rebel, rather than fully investigating the circumstances of each person affected. The Court excluded other claimants, such as those who did not appear at hearings, and many absentee iwi members. Hearings began while war was continuing, making it difficult for some claimants to attend.
All of the Compensation Court awards in northern Taranaki were based on out-of-Court settlements, which the Court did not inquire into. One such agreement was reached with the Ngati Rahiri hapu of Te Atiawa in 1866. Prior to the passing of the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, Ngati Rahiri had agreed to move off their traditional lands around Tikorangi so that the Crown could establish a blockade and military settlement there. After the war, they returned to find their traditional lands overcome with settler homes and farms for which the Crown had issued grants. The 1866 agreement promised to return all of the lands not taken up by military settlements to Ngati Rahiri people. Ngati Rahiri resisted all attempts to individualise title to this land, and in 1869 the Compensation Court issued a certificate was which gave “the Ngatirahiri Tribe” the right to occupy “all the land owned by them [in the district] not taken for military settlement”, later surveyed at 13,100 acres. However, both the award of this land, known as the Turangi block, and the 1866 agreement were then declared a “nullity” as the relevant Acts only allowed for land to be returned to individuals, rather than to iwi or hapu. In 1873 Ngati Rahiri were offered £500 as compensation for the loss of their traditional lands, but they refused to accept this money. Ngati Rahiri continued to demand that their land be returned to them, under customary title, for the next twenty years. In 1884, Ngati Rahiri finally acquiesced to the return of their lands under individualised title.
In the area corresponding roughly with the Te Atiawa rohe, awards made by the Court on the basis of these settlements were organized into four divisions: 4, 5, 6, and Waitara South. In total, the Compensation Court awarded approximately 37,200 acres in these divisions. In two of them (Waitara South and Division 6), awards were made to individuals rather than to hapu, and therefore did not reflect customary forms of land tenure. Some awardees received land outside their traditional whanau areas.
The Court’s ability to award land was compromised by the fact that by the time it began its hearings, the Crown had already disposed of most of the readily usable land in northern Taranaki to settlers. Within the 25,000 acre Waitara South block, the Crown had allocated over 14,000 acres of the more valuable land to settlers. This left only 10,000 acres that the Court could award to Te Atiawa, one thousand acres of which were coastal sand dunes. In the Ngatiawa Coast block, the Crown had given so much of the useful coastal land to military settlers that the Court’s presiding judge threatened to eject military settlers “in order to restore a fair proportion of the land to the Natives”. Compensation awards often included inland areas that were hilly, bush-clad, or difficult to access.
By 1880, the Crown had granted only 1,485 acres of the 39,943 acres awarded by the Compensation Court in the Ngatiawa Coast block, and approximately 6,130 acres of the 10,615 acre Waitara South awards. However, over 3,000 acres of the Waitara South grants had already been sold by Maori by 1880.
In 1867, the Crown also promised awards of land to the absentee owners from each iwi. ‘Te Atiawa’ absentees were awarded 2,700 acres, and absentees from Puketapu hapu were awarded 2,100 acres. By 1880, the Crown had not yet granted any of the awards that it had promised.
By the early 1870s, some Taranaki Maori who had been displaced by the wars of the 1860s had returned to their homes within the confiscated territory. The Crown had not prevented this, and as a result many Taranaki Maori believed that the confiscation had been abandoned. From 1872, under mounting pressure to find land for European settlers, and apparently in recognition of the impracticality of enforcing the confiscation almost a decade after it was proclaimed, the Crown began to purchase substantial quantities of Maori land in the interior of Taranaki, both inside and outside the confiscation boundary.
In 1873 and 1874, the Crown purchased two blocks of land within the confiscated area from groups of Te Atiawa. These were the 32,830 acre Moa-Whakangerengere block and the 11,200 acre Manganui block. Those hapu of Te Atiawa who signed these deeds received just over 400 acres of reserves in the Manganui block, and no reserves in the Moa-Whakangerengere block. However, the Moa-Whakangerengere purchase deed made provision for members of the selling hapu to repurchase lands in the block at 10 shillings per acre, more than three times the price paid by the Crown. By 1880, none of the reserves set aside in these purchases had been defined or gazetted by the Crown.
These purchases were carried out at a time of great uncertainty about the status of confiscated land. Changing or contradictory statements made by Crown officials or Ministers, alongside the inconsistent enforcement of confiscation across Taranaki, meant that many Maori had lost any sense of security regarding land ownership. Crown purchasing of Te Atiawa land that had already been confiscated added to this confusion by treating Te Atiawa as the rightful owners, reinforcing the perception that the confiscation had been abandoned.
Before the wars of the 1860s had ended, in late 1865 or early 1866, a movement for peace and independence was established at Parihaka in western Taranaki under the leadership of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. In the early 1870s, the settlement that Te Whiti and Tohu established under these principles grew rapidly as Maori displaced by confiscation and war arrived from throughout Taranaki. The permanent population of Parihaka consisted of Maori from throughout Taranaki and beyond, including Te Atiawa.
Throughout the 1870s, the Crown continued in its efforts to make the previously-confiscated Taranaki lands available for European settlement. In 1878, Parihaka and south Taranaki Māori leaders allowed the Crown to survey lands in south Taranaki on the basis that large reserves would be made for Maori occupation and that burial places, cultivations, and fishing grounds would be protected. However, after Maori became concerned that the surveyors were not marking out reserves that Crown officials had promised them, Te Whiti and Tohu ordered the surveyors to be peacefully evicted from the lands. In the following weeks communication between Parihaka and the Crown broke down. Te Whiti, who by this time wielded significant influence among many Taranaki Maori, stated that the surveys should not be opposed.
At the end of May 1879, Te Whiti and Tohu directed men to plough settlers’ land throughout Taranaki. Premier Grey understood the action to be an attempt to draw his attention to land issues in Taranaki, and an assertion of a legal right over land that had been confiscated or alienated from Maori in other ways.
Many settlers felt threatened by the protests and demanded an increased armed presence, while others volunteered to serve in the event of a war. The Crown began to arm large numbers of settlers and place Armed Constabulary officers around the Taranaki district. However, the Crown also advised settlers, on several occasions, not to take the law into their own hands. In June 1879, Governor Grey instructed the head of Crown forces in Taranaki to arrest any ploughmen whose actions were likely to lead to a disturbance of the peace.
Between 30 June and 31 July, 182 ploughmen were arrested at locations around Taranaki, including Tikorangi, Bell block, and Huirangi in the Te Atiawa rohe. They were charged under the Malicious Injuries to Property Act 1867 with causing to damage to land exceeding £5 in value. Some were also charged with “conduct calculated to cause a breach of the peace”. The first 136 ploughmen arrested, including a number of Te Atiawa people, were sent to Wellington to await Supreme Court trial.
The final forty-six ploughmen arrested were tried in the New Plymouth Magistrate’s Court between 23 and 29 July 1879. They were found guilty of charges including causing damage to land “to the extent of over £5” and disturbing the peace. They were sentenced to two months’ imprisonment in Dunedin, and required to pay £600 sureties each for good behaviour for a period of twelve months. Those arrested at Bell block were ordered to serve their initial two-month sentences with hard labour.
Soon after the last of the ploughmen were arrested, Parliament passed the Maori Prisoners’ Trial Act 1879. The preamble of this Act stated that it was necessary for “the ordinary course of law [to] be suspended”, so that the Crown could alter the time and location of the prisoners’ trials if “for any reason, it is expedient”. The Act was extended in December by the Confiscated Lands Inquiry and Maori Prisoners’ Trials Act 1879. In January 1880, all of the prisoners being held without trial in Wellington were transferred to prisons in Dunedin and Hokitika.
In July 1880, the Maori Prisoners Act was passed to dispense with trials altogether, despite strong opposition from some Members of Parliament. Section 3 of the Act provided for the continuing detention of those prisoners who had not received a trial. Accordingly, all of the first 136 ploughmen arrested were deemed to be ‘”lawfully detained”, and continued to be held in South Island prisons without the benefits of a trial.
Section 3 of the Maori Prisoners Act 1880 also applied to those prisoners who had been tried and convicted, and whose twelve-month sentences for being in “default of entering into sureties to keep the peace” were due to expire the week after the Act was passed. The application of section 3 to these forty-six prisoners, most of whom were Te Atiawa, meant that all of them were detained for periods longer than the sentences imposed by the court. Crown proclamations extended the provisions of the Act for additional three-month periods on 26 October 1880, and again in January and April 1881.
In early 1880, the Crown sent forces to build a coastal road through the Parihaka district. When the road reached the Parihaka block, Crown forces pulled down fences around Maori cultivations, exposing them to their horses and wandering stock. Some soldiers also looted Maori property. As the fences were broken, Te Whiti and Tohu sent fencers to repair them. Crown forces began to arrest the fencers on 19 July 1880.
In August, Parliament passed the Maori Prisoners’ Detention Act 1880 to ensure that fencers arrested after 23 July 1880 could also be detained under the provisions of the Maori Prisoners Act 1880, the terms of which had only applied to those who were already in custody at the time it was passed.
None of the first 157 fencers arrested received a trial. All were sent to South Island prisons. No records of the tribal affiliations of the fencers arrested seem to have been made. However, these prisoners were very likely broadly representative of the Parihaka population at the time, known to include people from Te Atiawa.
On 1 September 1880, Parliament passed the West Coast Settlements (North Island) Act, which made some of the activities that had characterised the protests, such as removing survey pegs, erecting fences, and ploughing, criminal offences. On 4 September 1880, fifty-nine more fencers were arrested, tried under this Act, found guilty of obstructing a constabulary road, and sentenced to two years of hard labour in Lyttleton. The final seven fencers arrested on 5 September were sent directly to Lyttleton without trial.
In total, the Crown imprisoned 405 Maori, including 182 ploughmen and 223 fencers for their participation in the peaceful resistance campaigns of 1879 and 1880.
Prisoners performed hard labour, and evidence suggests that some fell ill through a combination of harsh conditions and an unfamiliar climate. Contemporary reports suggested that some of those Parihaka prisoners transferred to South Island jails experienced gross overcrowding, and that several were subject to solitary confinement with bread and water rations for “trifling offences”, some for up to two months. Some of those imprisoned later reported that they had been forced to swim out to sea and back at gunpoint. The last prisoners were released in June 1881. Taranaki Maori oral traditions record the grief that prisoners suffered as a result of their separation from their homes, community, wives, children and families.
Some Te Atiawa prisoners died while in exile from Taranaki. In 1880, Watene Tupuhi and Pererangi of Te Atiawa died of consumption in Dunedin, and in 1881 another Te Atiawa member, Pitiroi Paekawa, died of unknown causes. All three men were buried in paupers’ graves in Dunedin’s North Cemetery.
On several occasions, senior Crown figures stated that the duration of the prisoners’ detention was determined more by the political situation in Taranaki than by the particular offences with which they had been charged, and in some cases, convicted. In January 1880, the Governor issued a proclamation in which he stated that “acts of lawlessness have taken place which endanger the peace of the country, and prisoners are held in prison till the confusion is brought to an end.” In July 1880, the Native Minister spoke in support of the Maori Prisoners Act 1880 by stating that “it mattered very little whether [the prisoners] had been brought to trial or not. If convicted they would not perhaps get more than 24 hours imprisonment for their technical offences. The trial meant nothing so far as the detention of the prisoners was concerned.”
Numerous contemporary newspaper reports described the arrested ploughmen and fencers as political prisoners. In August 1880, the Crown-appointed West Coast Commission concluded its final report by stating that Taranaki Maori were being imprisoned “not for crimes, but for a political offence in which there is no sign of criminal intent”.
On 7 October 1880, the Crown released twenty-five ploughmen as an “experiment” to gauge how Taranaki Maori, and the prisoners themselves, would react. The next release of prisoners did not occur until December 1880, approximately eighteen months after the first ploughmen were arrested.
In January 1881, John Bryce resigned as Native Minister after failing to convince his colleagues of the need to take “active measures” against Parihaka. He was replaced by William Rolleston, who favoured a more moderate approach. Under Rolleston, the rest of the prisoners were released, and all were returned to Taranaki by June 1881. Those fencers released at this time had been in prison for between 10 and 12 months, while those ploughmen released had been in prison for almost two years. A few of those released were reported to be very unwell.
The Invasion of Parihaka
In June 1881, Crown forces engaged in road-making again opened fences surrounding cultivations near Parihaka. Residents of Parihaka, including Te Atiawa people, again repaired them. In August, Māori from Parihaka and surrounding settlements began to clear and fence traditional cultivation sites, some of which lay on coastal sections that the Government had already surveyed or sold to European settlers. As tensions increased, the Crown again increased the Armed Constabulary presence around Parihaka to more than 1,500 men.
On 5 November 1881, more than 1,500 Crown troops, led by the Native Minister, invaded Parihaka. No resistance was offered. Over the following days, some 1,600 men, women and children not originally from Parihaka were forcibly expelled from the settlement and made to return to their previous homes. Houses and cultivations in the vicinity were systematically destroyed, and stock was driven away or killed. Some looting also occurred during the occupation, although this was against orders and resulted in the dismissal of some members of the Crown’s forces. Special legislation was subsequently passed to restrict Maori gatherings, and entry into Parihaka was regulated by a pass system. Taranaki Maori, including Te Atiawa, assert that women were raped and otherwise molested by the soldiers.
Six people were arrested during the invasion, including Te Whiti and Tohu, who were charged with sedition. Their trials were postponed, and ultimately special legislation was passed to provide for their imprisonment without trial. Te Whiti and Tohu were held until March 1883. A second piece of legislation was passed to indemnify those who, during the invasion of Parihaka, had carried out certain acts which “may have been in excess of legal powers”.
Some 5,000 acres of the promised reserve at Parihaka were taken by the Crown as compensation for the costs of its military activities at Parihaka.
The Sim Commission concluded in 1927 that the Crown was directly responsible for the destruction of houses and crops, and “morally if not legally” responsible for the acts of the soldiers who were brought into Parihaka. It recommended the payment of £300 as an acknowledgement of the wrong that was done to the people of Parihaka.
WEST COAST COMMISSIONS
During the short period between the ploughing and fencing campaigns of 1879 and 1880, the first West Coast Commission was set up under Section 2 of the Confiscated Lands Inquiry and Maori Prisoners’ Trials Act 1879 “to make provision for an Inquiry into alleged Grievances of Aboriginal Natives in relation to certain Lands taken by the Crown under the authority of Law”. This required Maori to present claims to the Commissioners, who would then consider those claims and report their “opinion” to the Governor.
The Maori Member of Parliament appointed to the first Commission resigned, claiming that his fellow Commissioners were not impartial. The other Commissioners had previously been Ministers responsible for Native affairs, and had supported the enforcement of confiscation.
The functions of the first Commission were narrowly focused on the Compensation Court awards and specific Crown promises and did not empower the Commission to inquire into the question of fairness of the confiscations and compensation process. The first Commission refused to hear counsel who wished to question the validity of the confiscation.
The Commission’s final report found that the Crown had failed, over a number of years, to fulfil promises about reserves for Maori. They then described the extent of the reserves that they thought were required to satisfy Maori grievances. However, these recommendations sought to balance Maori grievances against the Crown’s wish to secure land for European settlement. In their final report, the Commissioners stated that “the true solution of the trouble on the coast is, after all, occupation and settlement . . . [and that] the establishment of English homesteads, and the fencing and cultivation of the land, will be the surest guarantee of peace.”
The first Commission recognised Ngati Rahiri’s grievances with regard to the loss of their traditional lands, and assured them that compensation would be made to them. In 1884, the second Commission recommended compensating Ngati Rahiri £4,000 for those parts of their lands that they had lost to military settlement. However, the Commission then suggested that the money should not be paid to Ngati Rahiri directly, but should instead be used to pay for fencing roads that the Crown had built through Ngati Rahiri lands. This, the Commission stated, would help prevent “very great trouble . . . in the future when the block, or adjacent blocks, may be occupied by Europeans.”
A second West Coast Commission was appointed in December 1880 to implement the recommendations of the first Commission. It arranged for the return of 201,395 acres to Maori across Taranaki. Another 13,280 acres were later added, making a total of 214,675 acres returned in all. Less than one-fifth was located in northern Taranaki.
The second Commission recommended granting reserves totalling 26,657 acres between Bell Block and White Cliffs. Most of this land, approximately 22,500 acres, lay within an area to the West of the Urenui River, which covered most of the lands in which Te Atiawa held interests. These 22,500 acres were allocated in fifty-one grants to 1,108 grantees. These reserves were supposed to be capable of supporting their residents. However, the reserves in the Te Atiawa rohe amounted to approximately twenty acres per grantee, much less than the fifty acres per man, woman and child minimum specified in Section 24 of the Native Land Act of 1873. The small size of the reserves was compounded by their poor quality. Much of this land was rough, inaccessible, or covered in bush, and in most cases, the second Commission did not make allowance for the poor quality of the available land. Te Atiawa people were thus left with insufficient agricultural land for their present and future needs.
The ownership of the blocks to be returned was determined by the second Commission without right of appeal by claimants. Of the reserves granted to Te Atiawa, virtually all was returned under individualised title, with the exception of four reserves to be held in trust for hapu of Te Atiawa. The Puketapu and Matataiore reserves, along with another unnamed reserve, totalling 908 acres, were granted in trust for the “Puketapu Tribe”, while a fity-one acre block in the Tikorangi District was granted in trust for “the Ngatirahiri Tribe”. Many of the Te Atiawa reserves were protected against alienation by sale when granted, but by the end of the nineteenth century these restrictions had been removed by statute. The West Coast Settlement Reserves Act 1892, for example, provided “that the restrictions, conditions, and limitations contained in the Crown grants of reserves shall be deemed not to exist”, to allow those reserves to be leased.
THE PUBLIC TRUSTEE
The second Commission recommended a system of management that placed the reserves under the control of the Public Trustee rather than the owners. Under the West Coast Settlement Reserves Act of 1881, reserves were placed under the administration of the Public Trustee, who was to act both for “the benefit of the natives” and “the promotion of settlement”. The Act provided for leases of up to twenty-one years for agricultural purposes and firty-two years for building purposes, with rents being based on “the best improved rent obtainable at the time”. The Act also enabled the Public Trustee to lease or sell the reserves to non-Maori tenants.
The West Coast Settlement Reserves Act of 1881 instructed the Public Trustee to consult with Maori about the management of reserves “as far as conveniently may be”, and to administer each reserve “as far as possible in accordance with the interests of the Natives interested in such reserve”. However, final decisions around the administration of reserves were made at the discretion of the Trustee. Invariably, those decisions benefitted leaseholders. Much of the land under the Public Trustee’s administration was leased without the consent of the owners. While Europeans were granted long-term leases on the reserves against which they could borrow, Maori were granted less-secure short-term leases and occupation licences, which were terminable at short notice.
The West Coast Settlement Reserves Act 1881 was amended at least five times over the next ten years. As a consequence of these changes, leasing regulations became increasingly inconsistent, and their legality uncertain. In 1892, the laws governing the leasing of the Taranaki reserves were re-written as the West Coast Settlement Reserves Act 1892. The 1892 Act vested all West Coast Reserves in the Public Trustee in trust for the Maori owners. The Act provided for perpetually renewable leases with rent based on the unimproved value of the land. In effect, these leases created permanent European settlements on the reserves. Leases previously granted by the Public Trustee which conflicted with the terms of the Crown grants were validated, as were earlier reductions in rent. Charges for surveying, constructing fences, drainage, and roads were paid out of rents.
In 1934, after the arbitration system for setting rentals resulted in a reduction of rents, the Native Trustee, on behalf of the Maori beneficiaries, successfully pursued the matter in the Supreme Court. In response, Parliament passed the Native Purposes Act 1935 to amend the definition of improvements. In effect, this nullified the court decision and led to a reduction in rents Maori would otherwise have received. In 1948, a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the West Coast Settlement Reserves condemned the 1935 Act, stating that its hurried passage through Parliament without Maori knowledge had deprived Maori of any opportunity to protest, despite its importance to their interests. The Commission also concluded that Maori had “suffered a grave injustice” as a result of the 1935 Act, and recommended that the beneficial owners should receive £30,000 in compensation.
The Maori Reserved Land Act 1955 continued the system of perpetual leases, empowering the Maori Trustee to convert any outstanding fixed term leases to leases in perpetuity. The legislation also allowed to Maori Trustee to acquire uneconomical interests or purchase any interest that the beneficiary or beneficiaries in question wished to sell, and to sell that land under such terms as the Trustee saw fit.
GOVERNMENT INQUIRIES AND THE SIM COMMISSION
Between 1890 and 1975, at least twelve major Crown inquiries considered the operation of the perpetual lease regime. Several criticised the regime in very strong terms. The 1891 Rees-Carroll Commission, for example, stated that “[t]he Maoris’ rights were confiscated by one dash of the pen” and that “[i]t would be difficult to imagine a more flagrant case of legislative robbery.” When considering the various Acts and Amendments passed up to 1912, the McArthur-Kerr Commission identified two main themes: that “every legislative measure has been in favour of the lessees” and that “on no occasion has the Native owner been consulted in reference to any fresh legislation”.
The Sim Commission of 1926-27 was set up to investigate confiscations under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 and subsequent legislation, but its terms of reference were limited. It did not consider compensation for imprisonment or economic loss suffered. The Commission could only investigate whether confiscations exceeded what was “fair and just”, and was not permitted to consider any claim that Maori “who denied the Sovereignty of Her Majesty and repudiated Her authority”, nor whether the New Zealand Parliament had the power to pass the confiscation laws.
The Commission had limited time and resources for its purpose and therefore did not fully investigate the return of land, wahi tapu and other taonga. Despite its limitations, the Sim Commission represented the first time that Taranaki Maori received serious consideration of their grievances.
With regard to the outbreak of war that led to the confiscations, the Sim Commission concluded that Teira was not entitled to sell the Pekapeka block without the consent of Wiremu Kingi and his people, and that the Crown’s announcement that military operations were about to be undertaken against Wiremu Kingi’s people in 1860 was made “before they had engaged in rebellion of any kind”, and that in those circumstances they “had no alternative but to fight in their own self-defence”. It found that “the occupation of Tataraimaka [in 1863] was, in the circumstances, a declaration of war against the Natives”, and that war could have been avoided if the Waitara purchase had been abandoned before the occupation of Tataraimaka. The Commission stated that both the first and second Taranaki wars arose from the Waitara purchase.
For these reasons, the Commission argued that while those Maori who fought in the second Taranaki war “were engaged in rebellion within the meaning of the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 . . . they ought not to have been punished by the confiscation of any of their lands.”
The Sim Commission recommended that the Crown should make annual reparations of £5,000, to be administered by a Board for the benefit of those Taranaki Maori whose lands had been confiscated. The Commission also recommended a single payment of £300 in acknowledgement of “the wrong that was done to the Natives at Parihaka”, including the destruction of crops and the looting of residents’ property. However, these payments were not discussed with the iwi concerned, and were never accepted as adequate. Payments were delivered in irregular sums and at irregular intervals each year until the Taranaki Maori Claims Settlement Act of 1944 provided for a regular annual £5,000 payment to the Taranaki Maori Trust Board. The 1944 Act also provided for the £300 Parihaka reparation to be paid, seventeen years after the Sim Commission first recommended it.
The Taranaki Maori Claims Settlement Act 1944 stated that Maori agreed to accept the sums in full settlement of claims relating to the confiscations and Parihaka. There is no evidence that Te Atiawa or any other iwi of Taranaki agreed to this. Neither these nor the previous annuities were inflation indexed, which subsequently became an issue for Taranaki Maori.
In 1963, Te Atiawa were further disassociated from ancestral land when the titles to reserves, many of which had become divided among large numbers of owners through inheritance, were amalgamated into a single title. Owners no longer had a specific interest in their customary land but only a proportional interest in reserves throughout Taranaki. A 1967 amendment to the Maori Reserved Land Act 1955 facilitated further sales. The amendment provided that the Maori Trustee could sell lands to lessees, provided a proportion of the aggregated owners agreed, even if the owners with ancestral links to those blocks were opposed to selling. Between 1968 and 1975 the Maori Trustee sold 16,325 acres from the Parininihi ki Waitotara Reserve.
By 1974, 63% of reserved land originally vested in the Public Trustee throughout Taranaki had been sold and a further 26% was under perpetual lease.
In 1976, following the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry into Maori Reserved Land, the amalgamated reserve was vested in the Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation. The Paraninihi ki Waitotara Incorporation, in which all owners were shareholders, was formed to administer perpetually leased lands transferred from the Maori Trustee. Owners no longer had any direct interest in their ancestral land.
Today, less than five per cent of the area that was reserved following confiscation is owned by Maori people as Maori freehold land. Succession has fragmented interests, so that over time the returns to individuals have generally diminished.
The Crown has acquired Te Atiawa land under Public Works legislation. Land taken includes wahi tapu of particular significance to Te Atiawa. In 1964 the Crown acquired 479 acres of Te Atiawa land for New Plymouth Airport, which included a significant pa site and at least three urupa of the Puketapu hapu of Te Atiawa. This land was part of the Puketapu reserve which had been granted in Trust for the Puketapu Tribe in 1880 and deemed “absolutely inalienable”, but which was opened to alienation by the passage of subsequent Acts.
Traditionally, the volcanic soil, plentiful fresh water, and rich marine life of the Te Atiawa rohe provided our people with food resources, medicines, and materials that were used for a range of domestic, artistic and ceremonial purposes.
Today, the natural resources of Taranaki contribute significantly to a prosperous regional economy. Taranaki has a strong dairy sector with around 1,731 dairy herds, which together produce 10.4 per cent of New Zealand’s total milk solids. The Taranaki region also contains all of New Zealand’s oil and gas production.
However, many people feel that our ability to take advantage of the region’s natural resources has been severely limited by historic Crown actions. Access to rivers, lakes, forests, swamps, the coast, and all of the associated resources, has been severely affected by the large scale alienation of Te Atiawa lands. In 1937, Parliament passed the Petroleum Act to nationalise all petroleum resources in New Zealand and exclude land owners from receiving royalties from commercial oil fields. Māori leaders and opposition politicians objected at the time that the nationalisation of petroleum deprived Māori of the ability to earn royalties from the petroleum beneath our lands and was contrary to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The ability of Te Atiawa to use natural resources has also been diminished by various kinds of environmental degradation. The development of intensive agriculture has led to extensive deforestation, decreased soil and water quality, and decreased biodiversity in some areas. In the twentieth century, residential, agricultural, and industrial discharges polluted rivers in the Te Atiawa rohe.
For Te Atiawa, a particularly serious grievance arises from the degradation of the extensive offshore reefs that once served as important fishing grounds for many hapu of Te Atiawa. In addition to their value as a source of seafood for themselves, the reefs contributed to the prestige of Te Atiawa by allowing us to provide seafood in abundance to our guests. The rich history and cultural values associated with the reefs also played an important role in defining and perpetuating Te Atiawa culture.
By the 1980s, the pollution of rivers and offshore discharges made it unsafe to gather seafood from many parts of those reefs. For Te Atiawa, the release of material including human waste contaminated not only the food collected from the reefs, but the life-force of the water, and by extension, the spiritual health of the people.
From Raupatu to Restoration
For more than 160 years, Te Atiawa struggled against the effects of Crown actions including disruptive land purchasing practices, war, the loss of their land through confiscation, the imposition of a system of perpetual leasing, and large-scale changes to our traditional environment. Together, these actions have undermined Te Atiawa social structures, cultural traditions, and the distinctive Taranaki reo. In recent years, many Te Atiawa people have experienced poor health, relatively low levels of educational attainment, and high unemployment.
Despite the challenge of historical Crown actions and omissions, Te Atiawa have proved resilient. The number of people who affiliate to Te Atiawa is large and growing, and a higher proportion of our people are taking up opportunities in education and employment. Today, we express our vision for the future in terms of moving from raupatu to redress to restoration.
We can now forge the next stage of our tribal journey to preserve our tribal identity and begin to create a prosperous future for our people.
In the 21st century, Te Atiawa identity will continue to evolve and adapt as it has always done. The responsibility of current generations is to honour the deeds and values of our tupuna and to create an inheritance for future generations. Te Atiawa now have a responsibility to be the stewards of, to grow and use the resources we have fought to reclaim for so long; to achieve the culturally rich, boundless future our tupuna dreamed we could achieve.