HISTORY – SETTLEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT
Aftermath of War
For the settler, the victory meant the removal of obstacles to settlement, for victory was accompanied by legislation which eased the expansion of the European economy. Of the many later nineteenth century Acts affecting Maori land, one is pre-eminent. Francis Dillon Bell's Native Lands Act of 1862 provided for a European Court to determine individual claims to communally owned tribal land, and empowered Maori owners to sell direct to European purchasers – the honourably intentioned policy of Crown pre-emption was discarded. Over 40 years, this Act and subsequent legislation was utilised to separate the Maori from the greater part of his better quality land, frequently under conditions of manifest unfairness to the seller. And in the wake of land sales came demoralisation, disease, a high death rate, and general hopelessness.
Further, the war altered the balance within the political system; the central, rather than the provincial institutions of government, took first place, even if for a long time the pretence was maintained that the war, and notably its expense, was the care of the Imperial government acting through the Governor. But though, through a series of stratagems over the course of a decade, the colonial government managed to keep the Imperial government responsible for the cost of Imperial troops, it had, nevertheless, increasing expenses of its own, and so was drawn into conflict with provinces accustomed to a lion's share of the revenue. The 1856 arrangement had given the major share of colonial revenue to the provinces; the central government could only tax and raise loans. Taxation automatically raised cries of protest from South Islanders unable to see why they should be taxed for a North Island war. In extreme cases protest bred a demand for the separation of the two islands. Overseas loans seemed at first a more attractive expedient. In 1863 a complicated scheme was implemented whereby an immense quantity of land was confiscated from “rebel” Maoris and used as the security for a £3 million loan to be raised in the United Kingdom. The British Government, only with great reluctance, refrained from vetoing the scheme. Those behind the scheme, notably a group of Auckland financiers headed by Frederick Whitaker and Thomas Russell, had high hopes of personal advantage, and believed as well that the plan would stimulate the colonial economy, that of Auckland in particular. To some extent both expectations were disappointed. Some 3 million acres of Maori land were confiscated in the Waikato, Taranaki, and the Bay of Plenty, and the legacy of bitterness the policy left behind – for the innocent suffered along with the guilty – was its most important consequence.
These important steps were taken in the early 1860s while a rapid succession of ministries grappled with the problems of war. Stafford had fallen in 1861, a victim of provincial jealousies, and had been succeeded by four ministries, each of about a year's duration, headed by William Fox, Alfred Domett, Frederick Whitaker (together with Fox), and Frederick Weld. Thereafter Stafford returned at the head of another lengthy administration from 1865 to 1869. From 1861 to 1868 Grey was again Governor, and the extent of his authority in native and war policy and that of his ministers was for long obscure. Grey, as ever, believed in his own rectitude, but the Colonial Office believed that colonists should pay for their own wars and so be responsible for policy. Consequently, in 1861, Grey passed over responsibility for native affairs to his ministers, declaring that he would act in this sphere on the advice of his ministers as in all else, and believing (without reason as it proved) that he could still retain the initiative. But ministers, realising that with responsibility went the cost of the war, rejected this attempt to confer upon the colony full responsible government. The result was that during the 1860s the conduct of the war and native policy was bedevilled by deep divisions and by the constant effort of those making policy to avoid responsibility for it. Stafford, by masterly evasion and obstruction, contrived to secure effective control of policy while leaving much of the expense to the British taxpayer.