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The Trail Of Waitangi

The Causes of Many Land Wars in New Zealand.

Heavily condensed from pages 60-64 of Hugh Carleton's "Life of Henry Williams, Vol II"

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The 'pre-emptive' right of the Treaty is interpreted as the sole right of purchasing land from the natives as being reserved to the Crown alone. This of course destroys the market value of land, but implied an expectancy upon the Crown to give a reasonable price; a price similar to what the settlers were paying for land before the establishment of a Government.
It should be noted that in pre Government or pre Treaty times, and contrary to the perception of some, that the early settlers in most cases paid quite substantial amounts for land purchases, and that accusations of many acres being obtained for a blanket or hatchet were not in fact applicable to them.

The Government was now a competitor in purchasing and trading in land along with the New Zealand Company. Both these parties saw a source of revenue in what was commonly called the Government Brokerage, which was the difference between the price paid to the native owners, and the price received from the Europeans that the land was sold on to.
IThis 'difference' was in fact the equivalent of a hefty tax levied exclusively upon the coloured population, and the Government did all they could to make the most of it. In the South Island the land purchasers were instructed not to exceed the price of threepence per acre! (15 cents per hectare).

With respect to pre Treaty purchases, as opposed to post Treaty purchases by the Government, there was an essential difference. The earlier settlers were not in a position to make unjust deals, and transactions had to be clear-cut and above-board. They found themselves in a position of having to acquaint themselves with native land customs, procedures, and rights to ownership, and had to make sure that any transaction was properly sealed, for they knew with time, that any Government would challenge their acquisition to test its validity.
On the other hand, the Government had no need to deal in this manner, for they knew that they would soon have armed forces to call upon. (see the nature of Colonialsim).


The Government, being in a hurry, had no taste for long preliminaries, and wanted the land at less than its worth. The result was soon apparent, for their passion for cheap land was quickly taken advantage of by the natives, who began offering land with bad title for any price that the Government thought proper to give.

So the Government became a catspaw in the native quarrels. A native would sell land that was disputed in tribal differences for next to nothing, particularly if the effect of a sale would be to involve his rival in a quarrel with the English! He would then have the double satisfaction of revenge, and of relief from the obligation of being bound in honour to maintain a troublesome and uncertain right. This is the clue to many of the troubles about land.

With regards the land purchases made by the old settlers for occupation, the land ownership proved secure and stood the test of time; while those by the Govemment, in many areas of the North Island involved a succession of disturbances, and sometimes the use of armed forces.

Captain Hobson's first error.
This concerned land between Kaitaia and Paihia, there being two tribes involved, the Rarawa and Ngapuhi. Ngapuhi had been residing on land involved near Kaitaia peacefully for some 30 years since their conquest of it, however Nopera Panakareao, a Rarawa chief, wanted no part of them in the area.
See the page on UTU

Nopera travelled to meet Captain Hobson, and on a return trip to Kaitaia by boat with a Mr Shortland he was asked who it was that owned all the (Ngapuhi) land that could be seen from the coast inwards. "That is all mine," Nopera replied, and then on their arrival at Kaitaia he entertained Shortland in an impressive manner, putting on a large feast for him. Upon Shortland's return to Captain Hobson he reported that they had found the great chief and landowner that they were looking for in their quest to obtain land. Hobson then wasted no time in travelling to meet Nopera and proceeded to purchase much land off him.

Troubles soon began when Ngapuhi found out that their land had been sold by Nopera. Hundreds of warriors from both sides began fighting against each other, and immediately missionaries and others were brought onto the scene to make peace and to stop the fighting before large scale inter tribal slaughter took place.
After a small number of fatalaties had occurred, settlement was made which required Nopera to relinquish all claim to the area, and the Government to give up the purchase deeds and to also sacrifice the money paid for the land, the money being kept by Nopera.

The Waitara war, which brought very serious consequences to the Colony, arose from a transaction of a similar nature, - Tiera selling land to the Government on his own authority, without previous consent by the tribe.

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