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Written By: - Date published: 11:09 am, December 30th, 2020 - 8 comments
Categories: history, Maori Issues, racism, uncategorized - Tags:

I am spending some time down in Taranaki and thought I would check out some of the local historical sites.

Top of my list was Parihaka.

I was generally aware of its history but after reading some more about it I cannot believe how badly local iwi were treated, and how this particular treaty settlement was, out of a crowded field, so just.

A starting point is the Treaty of Wairangi, especially article 2 which said:

The Queen of England agrees and consents (to Give) to the Chiefs, hapus, and all the people of New Zealand, the full chieftainship (rangatiratanga) of their lands, their villages and all their possessions (taonga: everything that is held precious) but the Chiefs give to the Queen the purchasing of those pieces of land which the owner is willing to sell, subject to the arranging of payment which will be agreed to by them and the purchaser who will be appointed by the Queen for the purpose of buying for her.

This did not last long.  The land wars, essentially a grab of land by the authorities and pakeha immigrants erupted.  One of the causes, the Waitara purchase, caused fighting to break out in Taranaki.

The New Zealand History website has this description of how it started:

The opening shots of the first Taranaki War were fired when British troops attacked a pā built by Te Āti Awa chief Te Rangitāke at Te Kohia, Waitara.

A minor chief, Te Teira Mānuka, had offered to sell Governor Thomas Gore Browne land in 1859. Te Rangitāke (also known as Wiremu Kīngi) denied the validity of the sale and his supporters erected a flagstaff to mark their boundary.

Gore Browne overturned previous policy by pursuing a contested land sale. He hoped to win support from New Plymouth settlers desperate for land. When Gore Browne ordered surveyors onto the Pekapeka block, Māori pulled up their pegs. The governor declared martial law and sent in British troops.

This sort of event, sale of land by an individual clearly without tribal authority that the European authorities then insisted on enforcing, happened time and time again during our country’s history.

The actutal chief, Wiremu Kingi had previously tried the polite response and wrote to Governor Thomas Gore Browne.  In legal terms Browne was being put on notice:

Browne did not take the hint.

The fighting itself ended more in a stalemate than a victory for the settlers with Kingi and his supporters proving to be adept at the use of fortifications protecting them against the overwhelming firepower the authorities utilised.

The settler dominated Parliament then chose to pass the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 which allowed the confiscation (raupatu) of land owned by any tribes deemed to be in open rebellion with the Crown.  All of Taranaki was deemed to be in open rebellion, ergo they all lost their land.  Clearly as far as the settlers were concerned the opposition to clearly unenforceable contracts for the sale of land was tantamount to rebellion.  And while for the purposes of land sales individual Maori had the right to do what they wanted when it came time to land confiscation under the Act all Maori were collectively responsible for the actions of a few.

The Taranaki Iwi website has this description of the confiscation process:

The New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863 provided for the confiscation of Maori land when the Crown determined an iwi, or a significant number of members of an iwi, had been in rebellion against the Queen.

On 31 January 1865 “Middle Taranaki” was declared a confiscation district. The area commenced at the Waitara River mouth and extended to the Waimate Stream in the south, within which eligible sites were to be taken for military settlement. Oākura and Waitara South were then declared as “eligible sites for settlement for colonisation” being specific areas within the wider ‘Middle Taranaki’ district. In September of that year two other districts were declared, Ngatiawa and Ngatiruanui. The Ngati Ruanui and Middle Taranaki districts included the entire Taranaki Iwi rohe and the Crown assumed ownership of all the land within that district.

A Compensation Court set up under the New Zealand Settlements Act was intended to return land to some of those affected by the confiscations, principally those who were deemed not in rebellion against the Crown. Every member of Taranaki Iwi who sought the return of their land was required to do so through the Compensation Court. Those deemed rebels could not make claims.

In 1866, the Court made 147 awards totalling 20,400 acres for the whole of the Taranaki area. The awards were made via land scrip and promissory pieces of paper to individuals (and mostly settled out of court) rather than iwi, the customary way in which we had held title to our lands.

Against this background Te Whiti and Tohu decided to set up a new community at Parihaka.  It was pan tribal and at its peak 2,500 people lived there.  They also decided on the unusual but logically compelling tactic of engaging in completely peaceful opposition to attempts to take from them their whenua.  Surely if they did not fight the European settlers they could not be deemed to be in rebellion against the Crown?

Unfortunately not.  The greed for land clearly usurped considerations such as the rule of law and the provisions of the Treaty.

The actions taken by local iwi would have made Mahatma Ghandi proud.  The treaty settlement summary has this description of the steps they took:

In May 1879, followers of Te Whiti and Tohu began to plough land across Taranaki, as an assertion of their rights to the land. By the end of July, 182 ploughmen had been arrested. Only 46 received a trial, but all were detained in harsh conditions in South Island prisons for at least 14 months, and some for two years. In June 1880, Crown forces began to construct a road through cultivations near Parihaka. Between July and September 1880, 223 more Māori were arrested for placing fences across the road in an attempt to protect the cultivations. Only 59 fencers received a trial, but again all were sent to South Island prisons. Over this period, the Crown promoted and passed legislation to enable the continuing detention of those prisoners who had not been tried.

In July 1881, people from Parihaka and surrounding Taranaki Iwi settlements erected fences around traditional cultivation sites which the Crown had sold to settlers. On 5 November 1881, more than 1500 Crown troops, led by the Native Minister, invaded Parihaka and then dismantled the settlement and forcibly removed many of its inhabitants. Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested and held without trial for 16 months.

For their efforts Te Whiti and Tohu were put on trial but something unusual happened.  They struck a fair Judge.  Dick Scott in his book on Parihaka describes what happened:

After six months behind bars Titokowaru came before Judge Gillies in the supreme court, New Plymouth. The judge dropped a bombshell. Questioning the legality of the whole Parihaka expedition, he declared no cabinet minister could personally conduct such a campaign ‘of his own mere will’; he must act under formal and official authority. If the jury found Bryce and Hursthouse had not been properly authorised to disperse people who ‘merely sat still’, their duty was to bring in a no bill.

The grand jury found true bills and the newspapers headed an attack on the judge for his remarks. But Gillies, a judge of unusual character, had a record of independent rulings. On 8 May when the case came for trial, Whitaker, the new Prime Minister (Hall had retired with a knighthood), ordered the crown prosecutor to drop the prosecution. After men had been imprisoned on grave charges for a long time it was ‘a very extraordinary proceeding,’ Judge Gillies commented, ‘more especially when I see that two of the indictments have been quashed on account of insufficiency in the face of them.’ Addressing the dock he said: ‘The government has determined not to bring you to be tried on this charge. You have already been in prison six months waiting for trial. Nor does the government offer any evidence. You are therefore free to go where you will.’

The Government responded by passing the most extreme, obscene overreach of law I have ever seen.  The effect was to allow the continued detention of Te Whiti and Tohu without trial and to protect those who had clearly acted illegally in arresting and detaining them.

As for the promise to reserve some land as reservations this was also broken.  Again from the Treaty Settlement summary:

In 1881, the West Coast Commission found that the Crown had failed to fulfill promises about Māori reserves, and recommended that some reserves be granted. However, reserves were not returned to Māori outright, but were placed under the administration of the Public Trustee, who then sold or leased in perpetuity large areas to European farmers. Through the 20th century, a number of legislative acts further undermined the ability of Taranaki Iwi people to retain or control their remaining lands. Today, less than 5 percent of the reserved lands are in Māori freehold ownership, and approximately 50,000 acres remain leased in perpetuity. The massive loss of land has limited the ability of Taranaki Iwi to participate in society on equal terms with many other New Zealanders.

Recently the Crown has been seeking to repair the damage and make amends for what occurred.  The Taranaki Iwi Deed of settlement summary contained this apology:

The deed of settlement contains acknowledgements that historical Crown actions or omissions caused prejudice to Taranaki Iwi or breached the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles.

The deed of settlement also includes a Crown apology to Taranaki Iwi for its acts and omissions which breached the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and for the damage that those actions caused to Taranaki Iwi. These include the Crown’s actions that led to the outbreak of war in Taranaki, the indiscriminate, unjust and unconscionable confiscation of the land that had supported Taranaki Iwi for centuries, and its invasion of Parihaka and systematic dismantling of the community.

Financial redress totalling $74 million were made.  Ignoring the social and economic loss suffered by local iwi the payment represents $3,600 per acre of land which the authorities had promised to return.  This is absolute peanuts.

Parihaka had its own special piece of legislation,  Te Ture Haeata ki Parihaka 2019.  At the introduction of the Bill Kelvin Davis said this:

This bill is the result of a long journey. In 2014, Taranaki iwi, Parihaka, and the Crown agreed to establish a working group aptly named Kawe Tutaki, which means “a vehicle towards closure”. Kawe Tutaki advised Ministers on how the Crown could best support the Parihaka community outside the Treaty settlement process. After careful consultation with the Parihaka community, Ministers, Crown agencies, and local authorities, Kawe Tutaki recommended the Crown reconcile its troubled relationship with Parihaka and recognise the community’s important legacy, and assist Parihaka to again become a vibrant and sustainable community founded on principles established by its visionary leaders Tohu Kākahi and Te Whiti o Rongomai.

A compact of trust was signed on 22 May 2016 as a first step to rebuild the relationship. In November that year, the Crown proposed a reconciliation package that included formal relationship agreements with Government agencies and local bodies, a financial contribution towards Parihaka’s future development, a Parihaka-Crown relationship forum, and a formal apology from the Crown. The Parihaka Papakāinga Trust then led an innovative consultation process with the community to decide whether the package was acceptable.

I acknowledge the decision was not an easy one, and that, in ultimately deciding to accept this package, the people of Parihaka have chosen to look towards the future. On 9 June 2017, a reconciliation ceremony took place at Parihaka where the Crown and Parihaka signed Te Kawenata ō Rongo, the deed of reconciliation, which records the elements of the reconciliation package. The reconciliation ceremony was not only an important turning point in the relationship between the Crown and the people of Parihaka but a day of national significance.

Reading through the documents I am struck by a few things, how egregious Taranaki Iwi were treated, how their rights were trampled on, how possibly the first attempt at a non violent response to tyranny was met with further tyranny, and how the treaty settlement is but a very modest compensation package for what local iwi has suffered.

8 comments on “Parihaka ”

  1. Brigid 1

    It's just so shameful and dreadfully sad.

  2. Descendant Of Smith 2

    Here's a very good local perspective.


    Bear in mind too the amount paid as compensation was less than the local farmers were paid for the loss of their peppercorn leases which they had over time put on their books as an asset and part of the value of the farm when selling.

    Also the fact that the land theft continues at Waitara today with the council selling off confiscated land.

  3. Descendant Of Smith 3

    I'd also add that the practise of giving the benefactors of the land thefts more compensation than those it was taken from is pretty normal. This is what occurred with the abolition of slavery as well and which then led to those funds funding the clearances in Scotland.


    We should not at all be surprised by this pattern of behaviour.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      It is astounding that the Public Trust should have helped with the alienation but I guess for the dominant ethos at the time not surprising.

  4. gsays 4

    Thanks Mickey, a shamefully typical example of the pakeha side of the treaty reparations.

    As an aside, I was fortunate to go to the second Parihaka music festival a few years back.

    It was run with affirmations rather than rules. Eg, look out for the tamariki. The vibe was as if you were at a wedding or a family do. A live music highlight for me in Aotearoa.

    We heard some of the stories- the English cannons aimed at the unarmed, women and children. There seemed to be acceptance and resolve rather than anger and injustice.

  5. John Laurie 5

    A reserve of 20,000 acres was granted at Parihaka, The West Coast Commission finalised the land returns in the whole of Taranaki at 201,395 acres for 5289 persons, an average of 38 acres each. (Another 13,280 acres were later added.) Te Whiti's intransigent refusal to negotiate probably worsened things for Taranaki Maori and was the primary reason reserves were vested in the Public Trust. A comparison of socio-economic indicators among Maori tribes does not show any significant differences between confiscation areas and other parts of the country such as Northland. Ngati Awa come out second best after Ngai Tahu.

  6. John Laurie 6

    Te Atiawa that is.

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