Auction recalls sovereignty proclamation

Last Wednesday’s auction of possibly the only remaining printed copy of Governor William Hobson's original proclamation of British sovereignty over New Zealand is a reminder of exactly how Britain took control of New Zealand.

The single-page artefact, that was sold for $30,000 to a private collector at the Auckland Art+Object auction, was one of hundreds of items on sale as part of the Christopher Parr collection, described as one of New Zealand's finest print collections from the early-to-mid 1800s.

Some background is required. According to international law in the 1840s, sovereignty could be transferred in four ways – by proclamation, cession treaty, occupation, and conquest.

All of these manners of sovereignty transfer featured in the settlement of New Zealand in the 19th century.

First, from January 30, 1840, Hobson issued a series of sovereignty proclamations over all of New Zealand, over the North Island, over the South Island, and over Stewart Island.

Next, from February 6 that year, 512 chiefs agreed to cede whatever sovereignty they had.

This set the stage for a flood of settlers that, by 1859, had outnumbered the Maori population. Those settlers and their children acquired a right to be here by their continued occupation.

Finally, tribal rebellions from 1860 brought a substantial military crackdown that could be viewed as a conquest.

All of this was uncontroversial until revisionist historians and the Waitangi Tribunal started picking apart our history.

This came to a head in the WAI 1040 report in 2014, when the tribunal concluded that the chiefs who signed the Treaty in February 1840 did not cede sovereignty to the British Crown.

From the comfort of the 21st century we may find both 19th century British imperialism and cannibalism by Maori distasteful, but no amount of huffing and puffing will change what has taken place in the past.

Waka migrants came from Raro

Many of the 75,000 New Zealanders who visit the Cook Islands every year will know that a big sign and bronze plaques placed at a bay on the east coast of Rarotonga mark the spot where the waka migrants set off in 1350.

This raises the question why historians continue to refer to the vague and unlocatable  “Hawaiki” as the origin of the Maori who populated New Zealand.

A break in the reef that surrounds the island, located about 8km from the capital town, Avarua, is known as the Avana passage.

There were two marae located there, one on each side of the passage, according to Stan Wolfgramm of Te Ara Museum at Muri, who said that the occupants of one marae were tasked with farewelling departing waka and those in the other welcomed arrivals.

Seven bronze plaques arranged in a circle on the shore at that bay recall the names of the seven waka that departed for New Zealand -- Tainui, Te Arawa, Mataatua, Kurahaupo, Tokomaru, Aotea and Takitimu.

Reports that New Zealand Maori sailed from Rarotonga are not new. Surveyor and ethnologist Stephenson Percy Smith wrote in 1904 that this was well-known to Rarotongans. See http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-SmiHawa-t1-body-d7-d13.html

Our history is important, and should be recorded and taught accurately.

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