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Maori land in Hauraki

Imagining the Hauraki Peninsula to contain payable goldfields and knowing that land to the south of Thames had great agricultural potential, Pakeha were determined to acquire it, and were frustrated by what was considered to be ‘Maori intransigence’. For their part, Maori landowners were justifiably concerned about losing their land, and hindered and delayed opening it to settlement for as long as possible. A major difficulty for officials seeking to acquire land was how to determine boundaries between different blocks and how to identify the true owners when there were rival claims put forward by hapu and individuals. Land purchase agents used a variety of means to get blocks through the land court and then to individualize the title, notably the controversial ‘raihana’ policy, which benefited some landowners at the expense of others. The expensive legal process involved often forced those who had proved their ownership to sell land to pay for their success, a success which resulted in grantees treating the land as their personal property rather than tribal property. Some Pakeha as well as many Maori protested at the unfair process; even James Mackay, the most effective practitioner of raihana, came to lament his success and its consequences for the younger generation of Maori (he blamed the system, not himself). When far too late, it was urged that land should have been leased rather than sold and that proceeds from sales should not have been squandered. Instead of having commissions of enquiry, as some suggested, the land court system meant that judges determined ownership on the evidence presented to them, even though some owners were not present nor had their interests represented. Sometimes the evidence was false, as was admitted by some witnesses when their perjury was exposed. And in the case of the Ohinemuri district, for which the records survive, when the land was sold to the Crown some Maori received too much money, some too little, and some missed out altogether. The struggles to open Ohinemuri to miners and settlers is examined in detail, revealing that some rangatira expected economic gain and that Te Hira’s party, who opposed the opening, were undermined by some of Te Hira’s followers: being ‘Hauhau’, they refused to take money from the Crown but instead took raihana, meaning goods which were charged against their land in a way they did not understand. Nor did anyone fully understand the system apart from Mackay, whose policy was eventually repudiated by the politicians who had encouraged it previously. Not all land was lost, but because the government did not assist landowners with advice and finance until well into the twentieth century what land that was retained could not be developed adequately.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Maori land in Hauraki. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 12), Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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