THE PORT NICHOLSON PURCHASE Wellington settled illegally
"New Zealand's capital city, Wellington, was settled by colonists through the use of an invalid deed, the New Zealand Waitangi Tribunal has ruled. Maori now stand to receive millions of dollars in compensation and return of the land by the crown..............The tribunal found that the 1839 deed by which the New Zealand Company purported to have purchased the Port Nicholson block was invalid, conferring no rights on the company or its settlers"
"The tribunal said that when Colonel William Wakefield first bought the land which became Wellington from Maori, the English language deed inadequately described the boundaries of the purchase which were not shown on a map."
Extracts from published report of 17th May, 2003
A closer look at the events of 1839 can best be gained from the reports of the four men involved.
Those of Colonel William Wakefield himself in his reports to London, Edward J. Wakefield, nephew,age 19, who subsequently published his account of the transactions, Charles Heaphy aged 18yrs, NZ company draughtsman reporting on land sales and Ernst Dieffenbach, aged 28yrs, the German naturalist, who recorded details two years later when his contract with the company had expired. All agree in substance and fact with the events which occurred over the short time that the land sale was taking place
In the preceding years, two prominent Maori Chiefs, Te Wharepouri and Te Puni, came to Te Ati Awa from Taranaki after the tribal wars of 1831 and settled with other tribes from Taranaki along the shores of Kaiwharawhara to Hokoikoi near the mouth of the river.
Four years later in 1835 the chiefs had paid the Captain of the Brig 'Rodney' to transport the Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga tribes down to the Chatham Islands. Some 900 people in total crowded aboard the vessel during the two journeys, men, women and children, goods and chattells.
Port Nicholson was de-populated.
On their arrival at the Chathams, they completely decimated the peaceful Maoriori inhabitants living there, taking many as slaves.
Just three years later in 1838 , Te Wharepouri was appealing to those of his tribes remaining in Te Awaite to return to swell the numbers living at Te Whanganui-a-Tara. The tribes declined to move as they were busily engaged in whaling till the end of the season.
THE NEW ZEALAND COMPANY Brigantine TORY made land fall at Te Awaite in the Marlborough Sounds on the 8th September 1839 after a swift passage from London. They arrived at the height of the whaling season and were forced to delay until the Barrett family, James 'Worser' Heberley and a trader named Smith could sail with them to Port Nicholson.
"Colonel Wakefield told us he had come to look for a place for a settlement and where might be the likeliest place, so we told him Port Nicholson, so he agreed with Barrett and me to stop and help him the next day. We got underway and came down to Te Awaite Whaling Station. The TORY anchored there for a fortnight till our whaling season was over," wrote James Herberley.
Shortly before the arrival of the TORY the missionary Henry Williams and several Sydney businessmen and merchants had been to Port Nicholson hoping to buy up land ahead of the New Zealand Company. They met with little success as the maori tribes wanted European residents to settle, not absentee landlords.
On the 20th September, 1839 the Brigantine TORY sailed up the channel of Port Nicholson.
"As we advanced up the channel we were boarded by two canoes containing the two principal chiefs of the tribe living on the shore. One, of mature years, named 'Epuni' advanced with much dignitary and manner to greet Barrett as an old and respected friend and was joined in this by his nephew Te Wharepouri, a fine commanding man of about thirtyfive.
Epuni eagerly inquired the motive of our visit and expressed the most satisfaction on hearing that we wished to buy the place and bring white people to it. Wharepouri also expressed his willingness to sell the land and of his desire of seeing white men come to live on it." Edward J. Wakefield
Both Te Wharepouri and Te Puni had been twice to Sydney and were not unaware of pakeha ways, both knew of the ill-treatment of the aborigionies by the Australian settlers. Te Wharepouri even detected the different accent of the German naturalist from the English spoken among them.
The party aboard the TORY could not speak any maori so Dicky Barrett was appointed interpreter. Although he spoke pidgin maori he was no linguist, however, he had lived among them for ten years with his maori wife and family. The European party had no doubts that the maori were most anxious to have European settlers among them to provide a buffer against their enemies and were willing to sell the land to this end.
Dieffenbach counted around 1500 [Colonel Wakefield estimated 500] maori living in the vicinity of Port Nicholson from the Te Ati Awa, Ngati Ruanui, Hamua, Ngati Tama, Nga Motu and Taranaki.
Colonel Wakefield, accompanied by Te Wharepouri set about an inspection of the land around Port Nicholson, travelling up river for a few miles. Wakefield expressed his satifaction, anxious to procure enough land to divide among the first settlers who were already on the high seas on their way to New Zealand.
On September 24th the goods offered in exchange for land were laid out on the deck of the TORY and divided into six lots for the tribes involved under the direction of Te Wharapouri.
The sale of Port Nicholson went according to plan, the only dissenting voice coming from chief, Te Pu-whakaawe, of Hikoikoi village on the Pit-one foreshore.. He had been listening to the preaching of the missionary Henry Williams against the land sales. He warned about the sale of maori land both before and after the chiefs came aboard the TORY to accept their sixth share of the goods. Standing in front of the chiefs and others assembled there, he said in a loud voice,
"What will you say when many,many white men come here and drive you all away into the mountains. How will you feel when you go to the white man's house or ship to beg for shelter and hospitality and he tells you, with his eyes turned up to heaven, and the name of his God in his mouth, to be gone, for your land is paid for."
His plea went unheard with the sight of the guns and goods lying there before them on the deck. Totally ignored by the other chiefs, he silently gave way and accepted his tribes one sixth share of the goods aboard the TORY.
During the sale of the land, Edward J. Wakefield, always at Colonel Wakefield's side with pen and paper taking notes of proceedings and comments, recorded that the Maori chiefs present were all in favour of the sale. It was a vague sale of a block of land on the lower portion of the North Island down to Port Nicholson and the sea.
He reported. "Chief Te Wharepouri marked out on the deck of the TORY with his finger the boundaries of the land, while Barrett translated his words. He followed the line from the Rimutaka to the summit of the Tararua and round to Te Rimurapa and the sea"
This information, recorded at the time by Edward J. Wakefield, who had little legal training in dealing with such documents, was transcribed into the deed of sale to the New Zealand Company for the total sum of £360, to be taken in guns, goods and chattels which had been displayed.
DEED OF SALE:
"The whole of the Bay, Harbour, and District Boundaries of Wanga Nui Atera, commonly called Port Nicholson situate on the North Eastern side of Cook's Straits New Zealand. The summit of the range of mountains known by the name of Turakirai from the point where the said range strikes the sea in Cook's Straits, outside the Eastern headland of the said Bay and Harbour of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson, along this summit of the said range called Turakirai at the distance of about twelve English miles, more or lose, from the low water mark on the Eastern shore of the said Bay or harbour of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson until the foot of the high range of mountains; called Tararua, situate about forty English miles, more or less from the sandy beach at the North Eastern extremity of the said Bay or Harbour of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson, is the Eastern boundary of the said Lands, Tenements, Woods, Bays, Harbours, Rivers, Streams and Creeks.
From the point where the Eastern boundary strikes the foot of the aforesaid Tararua range of mountains along the foot of the said Tararua range until the point where the range of mountains called Rimarap strikes the foot of the said Tararua range, is the North Eastern boundary of the said Lands, Tenements, Woods, Bays, Bays, Harbours Rivers Streams and Creeks.
From the said point where the Rimarap range of mountains strikes the foot of the Tararua Range, along the summit of the said Rimarap range of mountains, at a distance of about twelve English miles, more or less, from the low water mark on the Western shore of the said Bay or Harbour of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson until the point where the Rimarap range strikes the sea in Cook's Straits outside the Western headland of the said Bay of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson is the Western boundary of the said Lands, Tenements, Woods, Bays, Harbours, Rivers, Streams and Creeks.
From the said point where the Rimarap range of mountains strikes the sea in Cook's Straits in a direct line to the aforesaid point where the Tuiakirai range strikes the sea in the said Cook's Straits in a direct line to the aforesaid point where the Turakirai range strikes the sea in the said Cook's Straits is the Southern boundary of the said Lands, Tenements, Woods, Bays, Harbours, Rivers, Streams and Creeks; Be it also known that the mid Bay, Harbour, and District of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson does include the island of Makaroa. and the island of Matiu, which islands are both situate in the said harbour of Wanga Nui Atera or Port Nicholson as well as all other Lands, Tenements, Woods, Bays, Harbours, Rivers, Streams, and Creeks situate within the aforesaid boundaries, and now sold by us the aforesaid Chiefs to the said William Wakefield in trust for the said Governors, Directors and Shareholders of the Zealand Land Company of London, their Heirs, Administrators and Assigns for ever."
A section of the deed of sale. This details the boundaries [approximately 160,000 acres of land] outlined by Te Wharepouri and recorded by Edward J. Wakefield.
Dicky Barrett, who could in no way explain the legal terminology of the deed, gave his condensed version of the document in Maori as best he could to the assembled chiefs and would later give evidence to Land Commissioner Spain as to the words he used. Heaphy said in his report to the NZ Company in London, that it was the insecurity that caused the maori to sell so readily. With 2000 muskets alleged to be in the hands of Te Rauparaha and the Ngati Raukawa maori at Kapiti, the 120 muskets included by the Colonel in his purchase, were most welcome. He further expressed the opinion that had there been no guns on offer, then the sale would probably have not been concluded so easily and amicably.
In another of his London dispatches about the purchase, he wrote:
"On being told the amount of the immediate payment, their most influential chiefs replied, "that they cared but little about what would be given them for their land but that they wanted white men to settle among them and bring cattle and grow corn."
On the 30th September, 1839, Wharepouri held a celebration on the conclusion of the sale on Pit-one Beach. His men performed a peruperu [war dance] and the TORY fired a twent-one gun salute as the New Zealand Company hoisted their flag on the beach. The Colonel set off next day to continue purchases of more land from Te Rauparaha.
The New Zealand Company land claims were brought before Commissioner Spain in the Wellington Land Claims Court in 1842. Colonel Wakefield had only three witnesses, believing that the matter was just a formality. He was soon to find that this was not the case.
Commissioner Spain asked: "Was it explained to the natives before they signed the deed that they were selling their pa's, burial grounds,and cultivated lands within the boundaries of the deed?"
Colonel Wakefield replied: "The expression made use of was that they were selling all the land within those boundaries, but that reserves would be made for them; there was no special mention made as to their pa's, burial grounds and cultivated land."
Richard Barrett was asked to tell the court exactly the terms in which he had explained the deed of purchase. Barrett did so in Maori, which in turn was translated by the official court interpreter:
"Listen natives, all the people of Port Nicholson. This paper respecting the purchase of land of yours. This paper has the names of all the places of Port Nicholson. Understand this is a good book. Listen, the whole of you natives to write your names in this book; and the names of the places are Taraua[continuing on to the other side of Port Nicholson to the name Parangarahu] This is a book of the names of the channels and the woods and the whole of them to write in this book, people and children, the island, to "Wideawake". When people arrive from England it will show you your part, the whole of you."
Barrett was later asked if he told the natives who signed the deed that one tenth of the land described should be reserved for the use of themselves. He answered by saying that he did not tell them that they would get one tenth in accordance with the New Zealand Company and British government policy, only that they would get a certain portion.
In summing up in his report on the Port Nicholson lands on the 1st March, 1845, Commissioner Spain wrote "that this interpretation in explanation was not calculated to explain to the natives who were parties to the purchase deed a correct idea of what lands that instrument purported to convey, or of the nature or extent of the reserves that had been made for their benefit and this will in a great measure account for the very determined manner in which the natives generally in the district opposed the occupation of the lands by the Europeans and denied the sale to Colonel Wakefield from the earliest period to the arrival of the settlers."
Strangely enough, even though given the opportunity by Commissioner Spain to claim a greater price for the Port Nicholson land from the New Zealand Company at the various court hearings on this matter between 1842 and 1850, both Te Pahi and Wharepouri and other chiefs declined to seek a greater payment. Their reasons leave a question which may never have an explanation.
In 1850 the New Zealand Company ceased to operate as a colonising body and surrendered its charters. Under the terms of earlier agreement, the Crown came into possession of the Company's entire landed property in New Zealand ( just over 1,000,000 acres), for which it was bound to pay £268,000. By the terms of the 1852 Constitution Act this amount became a first charge on the land revenue of New Zealand.
The Waitangi Tribunal recommended that the tribes enter negotiation with the crown to settle the long outstanding grievences over the Port Nicholson Block.