Auckland: Land for a pittance

By John Roughan

As Auckland merges to create a supercity, the Herald looks back at how Auckland has changed over the years. Click here to view the full series.

The founders of Auckland lost no time in looking to acquire far more land than Ngati Whatua had sold to them in 1840.

In May 1841 they bought the Kohimarama block, a substantial chunk of today's eastern suburbs, from Ngati Paoa. The 6000-acre block extended from Mission Bay and St Heliers to the Panmure Basin. The Crown paid £100 in cash and £100 in goods.

Ngati Paoa were part of the maritime Marutuahu confederation of tribes that had coastal territory from the Matakana river north of Auckland to
Matakana Island in Tauranga Harbour. Before 1840 they had sold several sites to Pakeha settlers, including the Takapuna peninsula, the Weiti valley, the upper Mahurangi harbour and Kawau Island. In April 1841 they offered the Government the rest of the coastal strip from the Waitemata northward as far as te Arai Pt at Pakiri.

For this vast area of 100,000 acres the tribe received £200 in goods from the Colonial Storekeeper. Next June, 1841, Ngati Whatua sold the rest of the western isthmus, 12,000 acres extending roughly from today's Manukau Rd to the Whau River.

Likewise, in the south and east of the isthmus vast tracts had been sold before 1840. A 600-acre site around Otahuhu and Waipuna had been sold to James Hamlin and much of the east coast from Buckland's Beach
to Maraetai had been sold to the missionary William Fairburn. Many
of these purchases were legalised retrospectively by Hobson's successor,
Governor Robert Fitzroy with waivers of the Crown's sole right of land pre-emption under the Treaty.

By the end of 1841 practically all of the isthmus except Orakei and Remuera was in European hands. The north slopes of Remuera were sold in 1844 for £50. These sale prices were ridiculously low, even for the time.

Just before the Crown bought the Kohimarama block for £200 in cash and goods it had made £25,000 on the re-sale to settlers of a small portion of its first land purchase.

So why did Maori sell so cheaply? In a report commissioned by the Hauraki Maori Trust Board and the Marutuahu Confederation in 2006, historians Michael Belgrave, Grant Young and Anna Deason offered two
possible explanations.

"First, the Maori sellers did not understand the extent to which their customary interests were being extinguished by the sale agreements; secondly, they understood there would be additional advantages to them occurring after the sale took place."

The report cites Ngati Paoa's belief that they would be given a piece of land as a trading base within the new Auckland settlement in return for the Kohimarama block. They briefly occupied a site at Mechanics Bay in this belief. A reserve was eventually set aside at St Georges Bay but
it was put in trust to provide a hostel for all Maori visiting the town, and eventually for all "poor people".

Belgrave, Young and Deason write that, "there are very real difficulties in providing an authoritative argument on the nature of
Maori understandings in these transactions. Partly this is because of the destruction through fire of many of the original records.

"The absence of subsequent protest is also a problem," they say. "Later protests, had they occurred, would have provided some evidence that earlier expectations had not been met."

Be that as it may, their report concludes, "the Crown failed to protect Maori interests and paid a pittance for the land it acquired, without providing much in the way of benefits".

Source: Tikapa Moana and Auckland's Tribal Cross Currents: The enduring customary interests of Ngati Paoa, Ngati Maru, Ngati Whanaunga, Ngati Tamatera and Ngai Tai in Auckland, by Associate professor Michael Belgrave, Dr Grant Young and Anna Deason. Commissioned by the Hauraki Maori Trust Board and the Marutuahu Confederation.


Ngati Whatua gave the Government 3000 acres between Mt Eden and the
Waitemata for the foundation of Auckland.
The Governor gave Ngati Whatua:

56 pounds sterling
50 wool blankets
20 pairs of trousers
20 cotton shirts
10 waistcoats
10 caps
4 casks of tobacco
1 box of pipes
100 yards of gown pieces
10 iron pots
1 bag of sugar
1 bag of flour
20 iron hatchets.

- NZ Herald

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