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William Archibald Murray: a Piako farmer who invested in Waiorongomai mines

Proudly Scottish and from a sheep-farming family boasting a distinguished lineage, William Archibald Murray settled in Otago with his brothers in 1858 and acquired a large estate. A successful farmer, he was elected to parliament in 1871 and held his seat until losing it in 1881, becoming infamous as a parliamentarian because of his highly opinionated but tedious speeches. He advocated a wide range of ways to assist the development of New Zealand, but was accused of using his position to attempt to benefit himself and his family. Acquiring a large estate in the Piako district in the 1870s, this undeveloped land became a successful farm. On the basis of his experience, he advised others how to farm successfully, and criticized government and council policies affecting farmers, producing alternative ideas, which once more would benefit himself. He invested in Te Aroha mining in a small and unprofitable way, again urging both council and government to assist the field. Because of his land dealings at Te Aroha and Waiorongomai he was accused of being a land shark. He continued to produce fertile ideas on how to benefit the district, none of which would have been to his personal disadvantage. In his desire to encourage settlement he sought ways to separate Maori from their land, and despite arguing that the state should not interfere in people’s lives and should leave them to make their fortunes without being taxed heavily, in practice he wanted state support for a variety of proposals. Despite determined efforts to express his views through his many letters and occasional speeches, he failed to be elected to the county council or to parliament in 1891. In addition, Murray produced and publicized several inventions, mostly to help farmers. His last years were spent pioneering another district, named Glen Murray after his family, and his ill health, caused, it was argued, by the exertions involved in breaking in new land, meant he did not inflict so many of his views on the community. A compulsive self-promoter, he managed to annoy many of those he claimed to want to help.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). William Archibald Murray: a Piako farmer who invested in Waiorongomai mines. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 152). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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