Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Town of Wellington, Port Nicholson, from Rai - Warra - Warra Hill (From Samuel Charles Brees, Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand, John Williams and Co., London, 1848) Twelve months in Wellington / by John Wood (1843)

Chapter 3

Contents: preface | introduction | narrative page 1 | chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
The first and principal settlement contains seventeen districts, in which lie the suburban land attached to the town acres. Sixteen of these districts have been selected in the mountain group which all but environs Wellington; of this number it may be said that the Hutt is the only one of importance, whether viewed abstractedly or with reference to the township in the vicinity. "To expatiate upon the fertility of the Hutt would he altogether superfluous. It is the only agricultural district within forty miles of Wellington. Its soil is so amazingly rich that it would produce corn sufficient to supply the white population of this territory for many years, setting aside all that might he exported. It would have been of little or no consequence if Karori, Porirua, and the neighbouring districts, had never been discovered; but the valley of the Hutt has been formed by nature for the granary of Port Nicholson : without it we can have no agriculture." (footnote 1)
Mr Brees Cottage, Karori Road, by Samuel Charles Brees, Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand, John Williams and Co., London, 1848. Karori, of which so much has been said in the Colonial papers, is a high-lying valley, (footnote 2) of poor soil, embracing twenty sections, or 2000 acres, - that is, about the size of a Norfolk turnip farm. Mr. Brees, surveyor to the Company, tells us that the whole of these districts, with trifling exceptions, is fit for cultivation. To the emigrant we say, receive with caution the opinion of the Company's surveyor on the agricultural capabilities of districts open for selection, - an auctioneer is neither silent nor diffident on the merits of his goods.

The same may be said of the New Zealand Company. Receive, then, the latter's recommendation as you would the guarantee of the former; if you do more, the fault is yours, not mine. The seventeenth, or remaining suburban district, is the Manawatu River, eighty-four miles from Port Nicholson. The northern coast of Cook Strait, where the Manawatu debouches, is, from the prevailing winds, generally a lee shore, where the surf must be seen to he credited. From this cause the difficulty of taking the bar at the river's mouth is considerable ; but once over it, there is a well-defined channel with from one and a half to five fathoms water for forty miles up the stream. Sand hills extend for the first nine miles above its mouth. This steril district passed, the river enters a swampy region, through which it serpentines thirty miles more, being margined throughout this distance by a belt of trees about 100 yards broad. Beyond this the forest fringe widens till it joins the firm land, stretching down from the mountains. The stream is sluggish, and well adapted for steamers. Were a vessel of this description to visit the river weekly from Port Nicholson, there is little doubt that the Manawatu would take the lead of the other districts. For an establishment to dress and prepare flax for exportation, no locality could be better suited. The swamps nourish this plant in the rankest luxuriance ; and to sum up its advantages, the climate of this river is milder than further south, neither wind nor rain being so incessant as among the Wellington Mountains. It now remains to say a word or two of Wanganui, where the country lands of the first and principal settlement have been given out. This river is 112 miles distant from Port Nicholson. The stream is accessible to vessels of very heavy burden, for the Clydeside of 230 tons, has gone over the bar at its mouth. The country along its banks is described as bare of timber, but well adapted for grazing. As we did not visit the district, we cannot speak of it from our own observation ; but fortunately we have the letters of those who can. These were published at Port Nicholson ; but even the Gazette so far from being able to contradict their facts, was at length forced to confirm them. Now we entreat the public to peruse these documents with attention, and then judge between the New Zealand Company and their settlers.

"To the Editor of this New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator."

"Sir, - In your paper of the 2nd instant are some remarks not over complimentary to the settlers at Wanganui. We are, with much lack of courtesy, called 'a listless, useless set of grumblers.' With what justice and propriety we are thus traduced may be inferred from a brief sketch of our position.

When, in January, 1841, we were induced to come hither, it was under an assurance from Colonel Wakefield and Captain Smith that sections would he ready for choice in the following March, and that the natives were very friendly and desirous of our settlement, so that no obstacle was likely to arise to prevent the immediate location of our sections. Fifteen months have now elapsed, and we are still squatters on the land which, on our first arrival, necessity usurped, - still herding in all the discomfort inseparable from a state of suspense, and the frail and precarious nature of our tenure. Tis true, we are nominally owners of sections represented by certain parallelograms on the surveyor's plan - we have had Pisgah glimpses of the allotted land,

"The outward show of earth and sky
Of hill and valley"
but as to the occupancy, or even the appropriation to our use of turf or tree, we are as far from it as when, two years ago, we exchanged our property, and the moderate, but peaceful enjoyments of life, for promised benefits "beyond the Cape of Good Hope," - in sober prose, in New Zealand.

We have, again and again, represented our situation to Colonel Wakefield, but apparently without effect. If the frequent expression of disappointment is to be considered grumbling, we shall still continue to 'grumble,' aye, and to agitate, until some manifestation of sympathy and speedy redress is exhibited. Colonel Wakefield was here for a few days in December. Did he do anything to smooth our difficulties? Nothing. He desired us individually to negotiate with the chiefs for our sections, and that he would repay any reasonable disbursement. We endeavoured to do so, but failed ; the natives refused our advances. But why leave to us the onus of negotiation? We expect the promised peaceable possession of the land ; we did not come hither to be the penny-splitters between the natives of New Zealand and the New Zealand Company. Why does not Colonel Wakefield himself meet the chiefs in congress, ascertain their wants and wishes, and set the matter at rest? 'Tis an affair of pounds, shillings, and pence, and an hour's palaver with a display of authority, and the expression of determination, would secure that which years of official sluggishness will fail to attain. To the most placable person here is sufficient cause for grumbling ; but in addition, let it be considered that many of the settlers absolutely require their lands to secure to themselves the necessaries of life. They possess but small capital, and naturally despond when they see it assume what mathematicians would call an evanescent quantity. We have that inalienable treasure, a fine climate, but of what avail is it, and all the natural advantages of fertility, position, &c., when restrained in our industry by the inactivity and vacillating policy of those appointed to aid us? We are unable to undertake any enterprise which our sagacity or energy might originate. We see our farming implements rutting and rusting for want of use, and our wealth vanishing in the purchase of articles which, under other circumstances, we would be competent to supply.

A glance at the ground-plan of our block (this shadowing of our substance) exhibits the name of the reputed editor of the Gazette. What has he done? What have many other absentees done for the settlement? Have they done aught to further its progress? Are they not more justly 'a listless, useless set'? Our hearts desire to be actively useful. Could we but obtain our wishes, our rights, we would be bona fide settlers, tillers of the ground, pioneers of civilization, and not the gloved and perfumed loungers of the highways. Had we but the point d'appui, we should have 'put our shoulders to the wheel,' and, without prayer to Jupiter or volunteer advice, have long since cleared many a swamp. We might feel reconciled to the injuries we have sustained, and allay our regrets at the loss of property, could we but see through the dim perspective any hope of improvement; but so protracted and apathetic seems everything connected with our settlement, that listlessness is unavoidable. Long-cherished expectations have been so frustrated that a moral torpor is creeping over our faculties, and we are likely to exhibit in reality that state of 'uselessness' to ourselves and the community which you rather prematurely proclaim.

'Years pass away, and still we're doomed to wait;
God grant attainment may not come too late
When youth is pass'd, and health and strength decay,
And the minds spring is dull'd and will not play,'
what then results? This I leave to the reflections of the agent and abettors of the New Zealand Company.
Samuel King

P.S. - I ought to apologize to the resident settlers for using the collective pronoun, and thus assuming that their sentiments are in unison with my own. From frequent association with the majority of them, and occasional intercourse with all, I feel a confidence that I truly represent their opinions, and that I only echo the oft-repeated expression of their disappointed expectations."

In reply to the foregoing just remonstrance, the Company's paper (at that time there was no other) only laughed at the settlers' difficulties:-

"We have inserted elsewhere a letter from Wanganui. Our flowery friend has made some pretty quotations, but has neither refuted the charge of inaction brought against himself and fellow settlers, nor alleged a sufficient excuse for it. He should have proved that persevering attempts were made to negotiate with the natives on the terms suggested by Colonel Wakefield, and then that occupation of the land was refused. We do not believe he could have adduced such facts, because in the only instance which has come to our knowledge of a Wanganui settler resolutely and perseveringly setting to work, the difficulty of native resistance was overcome at a small expense. There was nothing miraculously seducing about Mr. Bell, but he contrived to manage the natives ; and other older residents at Wanganui might have done what he did."
This called forth the following. (We may mention that Mr. Nixon stated much more to the same purpose, at a public meeting, when nearly all the male inhabitants of Wellington were convened and the Company's agent present, and that he sat down unanswered.)

"To the Editor of this New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator."
Wellington, 14th April, 1842
"Sir, - Having noticed in your last number of the Gazette some remarks on the Wanganui settlers, I am induced to offer the following observations. You seem to labour under false impressions as to the difficulties a person must overcome in endeavouring to effect any permanent arrangement with the Wanganui natives. Mr. Bell is not the only individual who has tried to accomplish this, though so far he has been undoubtedly the most successful. But the persevering exertions of Mr. Bell have not been so highly rewarded as you represent. You recommend him as an example for all to follow; but, with greater prudence, we behold in him a warning. A week rarely passes without some of the natives expressing their dissatisfaction at having allowed him to plough up the land. If they confined their displeasure to mere remonstrance, it might be tolerated ; but such is unfortunately seldom the case. Mr. Bell is no coward ; he has stout sons worthy of their sire. It is not the bullying and flourishing a few tomahawks that would intimidate them; but even they have trembled at the firebrands and threats of these Maories, when their worst passions are inflamed by brooding over supposed injuries, and contrasting their strength with our weakness. Mr. Bell has under cultivation, I believe, less than forty acres, and is most anxious to proceed with his labours; but if he attempted to plough the land within 150 yards from his own house, most probably he would find the natives burn his house down, or spear the bullocks. This he is fully conscious of, or he would ere this have tried the experiment, as the land I allude to is some of the most valuable in his section. Hitherto the natives have never allowed him to cut a tree of sawing timber, though he has part of a considerable wood within a few hundred yards of his door. They refuse also to allow me to cut a single tree in any of my woods, unless they are paid at the rate of 20s. per acre, though they are to receive a most liberal bounty or some fifteen acres I contracted with them to enclose. These facts speak for themselves. Mr. Bell has not overcome the native resistance, and others have signally failed in attempting it. I perfectly agree with Mr. King, the onus of negotiation should not be transferred to us; we have suffered enough from it already. The task is not an easy one, and every day's delay only renders the natives more covetous and overbearing.
I have the honour to remain, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
John Nixon."
One month after this the Gazette seemed to see objects in another light. In April, the difficulties of the Wanganui settlers were "laughable", in May we find them declared "insurmountable".
"There have been numerous complaints from Wanganui, respecting the difficulty the settlers find in obtaining possession of their lands ; indeed, they would appear almost insurmountable. We give insertion to a letter to-day, from a sectionist, on the subject. The matter is now necessarily in the hands of the Government. The Company have or they have not purchased the land ; they have or have not completed the terms of purchase. But, as the Company are not the Government, to assert the claims of their purchasers forcibly would be acting illegally. Their title must soon be determined, and we have no doubt will be made good. It will then be the duty of the Government to announce the fact to the natives, and warn them that if they obstruct the settlers they will bring down the punishment of the law upon their heads. If the Government fail to perform this palpable duty it will he for the colonists to address them on the subject; and, failing due attention, to determine the coarse they must adopt for the possession and maintenance of their own properties. We deeply sympathize with the harassing position of the Wanganui settlers, and feel confident we are justified in stating we believe that better days are at hand—that brighter prospects are in view."

"To the Editor of the New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator."

Wanganui, 15th April, 1842
"Sir, - The present state of this part of the colony appearing to be but imperfectly known, or much misrepresented, I trust you will find room in your paper for the following remarks upon it. It is perhaps known to your readers that the natives here will not permit any sectionist to take possession of his land without a payment for it. They allege that Mr. Jerningham Wakefield either did not buy the land or did not give sufficient payment for it. Colonel Wakefield, at the last selection of land in November, promised that the New Zealand Company would return to the sectionists any amount of property (under £10) they might give to the natives as payment for the land, to say nothing of throwing a duty on the sectionists in nearly the same state as before, as there is no one supreme chief here from whom, after giving payment, they may receive possession of the land; the payment has to be divided amongst a dozen. The sectionists, therefore, ignorant of the language, cannot or dare not give to any one or any number of chiefs the payment, because some petty chief who may not have received part of it will effectually prevent their purchase being of any use to them. Four sectionists only have been able to settle on their land ; others have attempted, but after some trouble and expense have been driven back into the town. The natives on the east side of the lower part of the river will not treat for the sale of any single section, but for the whole district. If the Company had appointed a proper officer here to purchase the land from the natives, and see possession given to the sectionists, they might all by this time have been peaceably settled. In the mean time the settlers are condemned to inactivity. They have brought over cattle and implements; they can look at their land, but dare not touch it. Every day increases the difficulty. From the constant agitating of the question, the natives become impressed with the idea that the land is of great value, and consequently increase in their demands.

But even if the sectionists had possession of the land, the Company have not (as undertakers) given then servants wherewith to cultivate it. If a sectionist wants a servant, he must go to Port Nicholson ; after waiting two or three months, and pacing his passage here, he will perhaps get one who, for some trifling cause, may soon after leave him and go to Port Nicholson or elsewhere. The marriage of a female servant caused a dearth, and consequently rise of wages; it created a vacancy which has not and cannot be filled up. A female does not like to leave her friends at Port Nicholson; it is a second emigration. This is of little consequence at present; but, had the sectionists possession of their land, it would cause much trouble.

"The white people here amount to above 150, and are not able to protect themselves against the natives; theft, therefore, prevails to an alarming extent. Leave your house, even in the open day, and it is broken into. If you catch a native in the very act, you cannot punish him. Not that the natives here are worse than elsewhere. We are in no fear of our lives ; but, as they can thieve with impunity, it is not surprising they take every opportunity. The natives have no objection to our coming here; they rather desire it, and have, within the last three months, built twelve large houses to sell to the white people they expect to arrive.

"A petition to the Governor is now preparing ; but the Company can assist us more effectually than the Governor. They can send a proper officer to buy the land from the Maories, and see the sectionists put into possession; and they can send a number of labouring emigrants. These latter will supply the want of servants, prevent thefts by strengthening the white people and enabling them to punish the thieves, and add materially to the prosperity of the colony by forming roads to the distant settlements ; a work which at present is likely, among their other difficulties, to be thrown upon some two or three individual sectionists.

I am, Sir, &c.,
'A Sectionist'"

Next chapter.......

1. Wm. Swainson, Esq., F.R.S., F.L.S., "Remarks on the Present State of the Colony."
2. About 600 feet above the sea.

Heritage Links (Local History)