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.