From leading drivers of NZ's economy to dispossession
3/12/2020 On this day in 1863, the New Zealand Settlements Act was passed, an innocent -sounding piece of legislation with devastating effects for many Māori communities, still felt 157 years later. Referring to introducing new settlers onto the lands, its real purpose was raupatu, widespread land confiscations. In the Government’s view, this was punishment for “rebellion’” against the Crown; in the tribes’ views, punishment for defending their homelands.
Māori, leading drivers of NZ’s economy in the decades following the Treaty, were reduced to generations of landlessness and poverty as their strong infrastructure and independence was systematically destroyed. These confiscation plans were drawn up by Governor Grey and his ministers before invading Waikato in July 1863. They recruited military settlers, offering portions of the seized lands in return for their services. The sale of the remainder on the open market saw a few Pākēha get very rich; much of the land founded New Zealand’s growing pastoral economy. The lands of pro-Government and neutral iwi were also taken. The main confiscations were in the Waikato, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty regions.
For Māori, the legacy of the New Zealand Wars and legislation such as the NZ Settlements Act is still seen in the negative socio-economic statistics of communities in those regions subject to raupatu. Treaty settlements have put many iwi in a stronger economic position, but can never fully compensate for all that was lost.
Student groups who visit Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi and Te Rau Aroha museum may sometimes feel quite confronted and challenged by some of the stories they see and hear. As educators, we need to be sensitive to this and discuss the importance of knowing “the good, the bad and the ugly” of our history. This opens up dialogue and mutual understanding, shaping a better future for all New Zealanders.
Read an article on the New Zealand Settlements Act by historian Vincent O’Malley