By Bruce Moon

Following my recent foray into the pages of Waikanae Watch a commentator has asked what was the legal basis for confiscation of land following tribal rebellions?

Following consultation with John Robinson, I can now give you an authoritative answer.

Governments have always held the right to punish rebels.  That was true of British law and custom at the time.  Tikanga is irrelevant; this was a British colony. 

It was recognised that Maoris would take time to adjust to the new rule of law.  Governor Grey discussed punishment of Hone Heke with Tamati Waka Nene following the northern rebellion, sometimes termed “Heke’s War” and decided against confiscation, which both recognised was within the powers of the Governor. 

With such a precedent, it was sensible for the government to warn of confiscations should a rebellion continue.  John Robinson has written of this in The Kingite Rebellion (2016): 

Such confiscations, authorized by the New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863, were consistent with British and international law, and were also customary within Maori lore (which no longer applied) where ownership could be based on take raupatu – the conquest, subjugation and displacement of the original occupants.”

It does show, I think, that Grey was a reasonable, fair and patient man. (Grey worked very hard to get the second Maori “king” Tawhiao to accept the return or purchase of land confiscated in the Waikato, but after much prevarication he refused.)