The name “Murihiku”, meaning “the tail end of the land”, was applied by the Maoris to the southern part of the South Island. In more recent times it was the name given to a large tract of native land in those parts which was purchased for the Crown on 17 August 1853 by W. B. D. Mantell.
The Murihiku Block consisted of all the territory lying to the south of Kemp's purchase and the Otago Block and was estimated to contain 6,900,000 acres. Its boundaries, as specified in the deed of sale were: From Milford Haven (now Milford Sound) or Wakatipu in Kemp's deed and Piopiotahi to the Maoris, to Kaihiku (near Waiwera); and, from there, following the boundary line of Kemp's purchase, to Tokata Point (now Nugget Point). The boundary followed the coastline from Milford Haven to Tokata and included Tauraka, Rarotoka, Motupuo, and all the off-shore islands except the Ruapuke group in Foveaux Strait. Stewart Island was not part of the block.
Mantell began his negotiations in April 1851 and, by 31 March 1852, following his investigation into all the Maori titles, had arranged to buy the entire block, with the exception of seven native reserves, for £2,000. The Government, however, neglected to send him the money necessary to conclude the transaction. The matter dragged on until 17 August 1853 when he was obliged to negotiate a new price with Taiaroa, Karitai, and the other Ngai Tahu chiefs. This was necessary because the Maoris, who had been under pressure to rent their lands to squatters in the district, had put an extra £600 on their original price. Mantell paid over the price in three instalments, the last payment being made on 25 November 1854.
It is of interest to note that in 1857, when the settlers of the region petitioned Parliament for separation from the Province of Otago, they described themselves as belonging to Murihiku, not Southland.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.