1. NgāiTakoto were among the first iwi to encounter European settlers in any numbers. When an increasing number of Europeans began to visit New Zealand in the 1830s, they came first to the north. Although much of the early contact took place around the Bay of Islands, Mangonui and the regions around it also became a centre for European contact. The first Europeans came to trade or to replenish their boats or as missionaries. But by the late 1830s many came to stay. They wanted to set up trading posts and eventually to farm. These Europeans were often welcomed by NgāiTakoto and other Maori for their technology, knowledge of the European world and the capital that they could bring into the tribe.

2. By the end of the 1830s a number of Europeans had settled on NgāiTakoto land. They did so with the acceptance of NgāiTakoto, but often through negotiations with leading chiefs of neighbouring tribes. Most of the Europeans who came into NgāiTakoto rohe were educated and had capital. They were part of an elite group looking to invest and to develop land. At first their agreements with chiefs were informal and limited. Rangatira welcomed them into NgaiTakoto communities for what they brought and Europeans had the opportunity to build places for them to live and to begin farming operations.

3. All of these agreements took place in a NgaiTakoto context, despite the form of the agreements coming from an English legal system. The overall interpretations of these agreements took place in the Maori context. Agreements were amended and further payments were made as circumstances changed.

4. In the months prior to the Treaty of Waitangi both Maori and European settlers began to anticipate the arrival of the British Crown. Whether New Zealand should come under the protection of the Crown had been an increasing topic of debate both in New Zealand and in Britain. Europeans expected the introduction of English property law. Some revised and augmented earlier agreements and sought from rangatira new conveyances, which gave the appearance of transferring title from the chiefs to the European settlers. Settlers hoped this would give them a security of title once New Zealand became a British colony. A number of the existing agreements which affected NgāiTakoto were substantially revised with the signing of new deeds in late 1839.

5. Despite several of these deeds covering most significant areas of NgaiTakoto’s land and in particular that involving the Awanui River and the western side of the Rangaunu Harbour, the initiative largely came from neighbouring rangatira. NgaiTakoto’s major rangatira were not parties to these agreements.

6. The transactions were far from a complete transfer of Maori rights to the Europeans. One of the most significant of these revised agreements, signed on 17 December 1839, and the last of a series
of similar agreements with the same purchaser, involved the Awanui River. The most economically significant areas, the fertile areas along the banks of the Awanui River, were to be retained for Maori cultivation. Maori and European agriculture flourished for a time in this area. The provision for Okiore was similar. Despite Europeans believing, that they had obtained a freehold title to the land, Maori still saw these deals as including Europeans into the economic and social context of the tribe, enhancing the tribe’s economic and social capacity, not diminishing it.

7. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed at Kaitaia on 28 April 1840 by 61 rangatira, including a number of NgāiTakoto. The treaty was seen as establishing a new and permanent relationship with the governor.

8. European attempts to acquire land in New Zealand were a major contributor to the Crown’s decision to intervene in New Zealand. The British Government believed that very substantial areas of land were being alienated from Maori ownership, and that this would be to the detriment of the tribes. While the extent and nature of these transactions were mistakenly overstated, fears that Maori land loss would contribute to Maori extinction helped persuade the British government to reverse its refusal to intervene in New Zealand.

9. Humanitarians, significantly influenced by missionary groups in New Zealand and the United Kingdom were forced by the decision of commercial, colonising interests, to establish a new colony in New Zealand, to intervene on behalf of Maori. One of the most significant aspects of the treaty was to protect Maori from the consequences of colonisation and in particular from the alienation of their lands into European hands, in a way that would undermine their economic and social interests. In his instructions to Captain Hobson, the colonial secretary Lord Normanby made it clear that colonisation and the acquisition of Maori land could only take place if it did not interfere with the fundamental rights and interests of Maori.

10. The Crown’s commitment to protect Maori interests was also focused on the large numbers of land purchases that were taking place, something of a land rush, in anticipation of the coming of the Crown. One of Hobson’s very first actions after being appointed Lieutenant Governor in Sydney was prohibit further private purchasing by imposing pre-emption.

11. In developing policy for dealing with the legal status of land covered by pre-Treaty purchase agreements between Europeans and Maori, the Crown drew on a number of international debates about Aboriginal property rights and sovereignty which had extended back to the initial colonisation of the Americas.

The Crown did not accept that Europeans had the right to acquire title from aboriginal peoples. Instead, the Crown recognised only its own land titles. However, while the Crown regarded European titles acquired prior to 1840 as void, it still maintained Maori had the power to sell land.

12. As part of the treaty negotiations, Lieutenant Governor Hobson promised that these earlier transactions would be investigated. Despite the government’s position that settlers had not acquired any title, they were promised that if they had made bona fide purchases they would be given grants of land. Maori were promised that land would be returned to them if it had not been properly acquired.

The Land Claims Commission of 1843.

13. The Crown established a process for investigating these purchases, requiring European claimants to register their deeds. A land claims commission was established to investigate these claims and determine what should happen to the land involved. There were some legislative problems in developing this regime, but eventually commissioners were appointed charged with determining if a sale had taken place. Witnesses, including Maori signatories to deeds, were called to give evidence that they had a right to sell, approved of the purchase and had been paid the sum specified in the deed.

14. Once the commissioner had determined that a sale had taken place, a recommendation was made to the governor for a Crown grant for an area of land determined by a formula which included the date of purchase and the amount paid. Those who had paid the largest amount for the land and who those who had purchased the earliest were awarded larger grants of land. No award was to exceed 2,560 acres. Any remaining land within the area of the purchase deed was deemed to be Crown land. This land became known as Crown surplus land.

15. The commission was not given the power to consider whether the alienation of this land, either to settlers or to the Crown, had a detrimental effect on Maori. Commissioner Godfrey held his Commission of Inquiry at Kaitaia in January 1843, where the principal signatories gave evidence in support of the agreements that they had made with Europeans prior to 1840. Despite these agreements having been supposedly completed prior to 30 January that year, many Europeans had made substantial additional payments to the Maori witnesses in 1842. The main witnesses were those rangatira who signed the deeds from neighbouring tribes. NgāiTakoto were not called to give evidence for these blocks and no investigation was undertaken on the impact of the alienation of these blocks on NgāiTakoto.

16. Despite the failure to investigate the consequence of these decisions to NgāiTakoto, the commission still recognised that in one of these agreements there was explicit provision for continued and extensive participation in what were the economically important areas around Awanui river. In interpreting these deeds Maori interests were only taken into account if they were specifically identified in the deed.

The Land Claims Settlement Act 1856

17. The Land Commission’s recommendations were implemented by Governor FitzRoy, but no surveys had been undertaken, and for some claimants, FitzRoy appointed additional commissioners and revised the awards to settlers, in ways that were later found to be illegal.

18. The process had failed to provide clear titles to settler claimants and there was considerable confusion on the ground. Many settler claimants also took scrip, a credit in land which was taken up in other places, not on the original land that they had claimed. There were a number of attempts to resolve these problems through the 1840s and into the 1850s, but it was not until 1856 that an entirely new process had to be devised. The original Crown grants were recalled under the Land Claims Settlement Act 1856, surveys of the blocks being claimed were undertaken, and Francis Dillon Bell was appointed to re-examine the claims and recommend new Crown grants to settlers, which in most cases extended the area of the original award, to compensate them for the cost of surveys.

19. All of the claims involving NgāiTakoto lands were re-examined by the new commissioner in 1857. The commissioner did not re-open the circumstances of the original sale, despite a number of claims that substantial areas of land should be returned to Maori ownership. NgāiTakoto and others were insistent that the land along the coast should be returned to them. The commissioner was only prepared to recognise Maori interests that had been specifically identified in the original deeds as confirmed by the land claims commission of 1843. Even here, he took a narrow view of Maori interests.

20. The original intent of the Awanui block to reserve the land along the banks of the Awanui River for Maori cultivations was reduced to a 200-acre reserve. In contrast, Europeans who had acquired interests from the original purchaser, and a surveyor were awarded significant areas of land within the same block totalling 5,098 acres. The Crown took the bulk of the land, 8,360 acres, as surplus. Another 200 acres Maori reserve was provided for, but never created. When Okiore was dealt with by the commissioner, no Maori reserves were made, despite the European purchaser having claimed only a quarter of the 8,000 acres involved.

21. By 1856, the Crown interpretation of the original transactions assumed that Maori had completely extinguished any interests they had in the land in the pre treaty negotiations. At the same time the decisions of the commissioner’s court ignored any consideration of the impact of the alienation of these lands on NgāiTakoto.

Crown purchasing

22. It was not until 1862 that settlers received their Crown grants and the Crown formally took the surplus land. In the meantime, a significant wave of Crown purchasing took place and the Crown completed a policy of land purchase from iwi of Muriwhenua, aimed at ‘the total extinction of Native title’.

As part of a comprehensive and sweeping wave of purchases, the Crown acquired Muriwhenua South (£1,100) and Wharemaru (£400) on 3 February 1858. When later surveyed, Muriwhenua South (86,885 acres) and Wharemaru (13,555 acres) gave the Maori signatories 3d and 7d per acre respectively. No reserves were made and there is no evidence that any attempt was made to assess the impact on NgāiTakoto of their resulting landlessness.

23. By 1865 NgāiTakoto had lost almost all of their land along the Awanui River and alongside Rangaunu Harbour and up the Muriwhenua peninsula. The one last significant piece of land remaining to NgāiTakoto, a 7,700 acre Maori Reserve block on the Houhora was acquired by a European purchaser soon after the Native Land Court was established and when the legislation contained no provision to protect owners from becoming landless. NgāiTakoto retained only tiny pockets of their original estate. In the latter part of the nineteenth century they were sustained by gum digging, but when this declined in the early twentieth century, they had little land to maintain them and no land to benefit from the development of dairying, other than a block purchased by them.

24. Even these reserves set aside for NgaiTakoto were eaten away over the following century. Currently NgāiTakoto whanau have left to them only 73 hectares of the 343 hectares reserved to them in Maimaru (44 hectares), Waimanoni (27 hectares) and Matarau (2 hectares). In addition whanau members have for several generations held 27 hectares at Kaimaumau which was purchased from the Crown and 177 hectares of the original Maxwell grant which was purchased from a loan company which took over the land after the original claimant was bankrupted.

25. Maori complaints about the old land claims increased in number by the late nineteenth century and continued into the twentieth century. There is evidence of considerable poverty among NgāiTakoto, in large part because of the loss of their lands

26. These grievances were eventually referred to a new Royal commission in 1946. This commission undertook an intensive inquiry into old land claims, including the blocks relating to NgāiTakoto. The commission was split in its findings, but still recommended compensation. This recommendation was implemented in 1956 with the creation of the Tai Tokerau Maori Trust Board. The establishment of the trust board had negligible impact on NgāiTakoto.

27. In 1991, Landcorp sold the 1183 hectare Kaimaumau station, despite substantial protest from NgāiTakoto and a recommendation from the Waitangi Tribunal that the land be retained for a possible settlement. At the time there was no process established for land banking Crown and SOE assets to provide a fund for settlement. Despite the land retaining a memorial stating that it could be returned by a binding recommendation of the Waitangi Tribunal, under the Treaty of Waitangi (State Enterprises) Act 1988, the alienation of this block by the SOE made it much more difficult for the Crown to provide a meaningful settlement of NgaiTakoto’s long standing grievances.