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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Island Bay School - Te Kura o Tapu te Ranga


Island Bay School has a roll of over 400 pupils aged 5 to 11 years, in classes Years 1 to 6 (Standard 4) distributed over about 17 class rooms. Class sizes average around 20 in the junior school to 30 pupils in the senior.

The school is divided into two sections separated by a side street. The main part contains the junior and middle schools, administration, library, hall and dental clinic. The other part is known as Victory Park and contains six classrooms plus a grassed area and fantastic adventure playground.

The school is managed by the Principal Perry Rush and governed by the Board Of Trustees. The Home and School Association co-ordinates the fundraising activities to enhance the services supplied by Ministry of Education funding.

THE 'SCHOOL METAPHOR' (shown above)

The visual metaphor captures the school's learning ethic. The puzzle represents the challenge of constructing a successful life. The child does not build a predetermined puzzle but rather, shapes each puzzle piece in a unique way to build coherent pathways into the local community and ultimately the world.

Each puzzle piece represents the ideas, attitudes and tools necessary to successfully contribute in the world.

In practice, the school aims to produce children that:

1. are resilient, resourceful and self aware
2. have been exposed to a wide range of experiences
3. have imagination and are creative
4. are effective communicators
5. hold strong values and know how to act on them
6. are internally motivated by curiosity
7. have a civic sense of responsibility
8. can challenge, take risks and are prepared to participate
9. are happy and have fun.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s less than admiring father-in-law and the Great Reform Act


To round off my posts on Edward Gibbon Wakefield, I want to return to his Cheshire and English connections.

These bring us back briefly to his underage heiress Ellen Turner, before turning to the political context of the election of her father William Turner as Member of Parliament for Blackburn in Lancashire. This also gives me an opportunity to make a comment on the overlap between English and Kiwi history.

Well, first to Ellen, who was described by observers as ‘a fine big romping girl - very womanly for her youthful years’.

Prior to her abduction by the Wakefield family, there had been a rumour that Ellen's matrimonial destiny lay not in the peerage, but among the local gentry: Thomas Legh of Lyme Hall "who possesses immense estates in Cheshire ...was on the point of paying his addresses to Miss Turner when she was carried off".

Magnanimously, Thomas Legh put aside any notion of Ellen’s possible defloration at the hands of Wakefield and their marriage took place on the 14th January 1828.

She was apparently a "youthful and lovely bride" in a magnificent silk wedding dress, and The Times noted that, with the union, "Wakefield may bid adieu to her fortune".

Back in 1960, I remember running in the Northern Schools Cross Country race across Lyme Park. It is magnificent and I can imagine Ellen enjoying the fine prospects and hilly slopes. Sadly I came about 123rd out of a field of around 600 runners in the race (but from my current vantage point in time, this doesn’t seem so bad).

Of Ellen, it would be nice to report that having met her charming and wealthy ‘Mr Darcy’, she went on to populate Lyme Park with (as the medieval chronicles report of the family) ‘as many Leghs as fleas’.

The reality though was much more gritty and representative of women’s real lives in the 19th century. She died three years after her marriage, in excruciating agony as the afterbirth from her third pregnancy failed to clear and she suffered septic shock - just short of her twentieth birthday.


The Tory Duke of Wellington had become Britain’s Prime Minister in 1828 and served for two years, until the death of George IV on the 26th June 1830. The ‘Iron Duke’ as he had become known during his campaigns against Napoleon was an aristocratic authoritarian who had little respect for what he would have regarded as the Common People. He even called his long-suffering English soldiers ‘the scum of the earth’.

On the 23rd July 1830 Wellington dissolved Parliament and a General Election was called. After the counting the Whigs had gained 83 seats but that still left the Tories with a majority. The results though were badly warped by the peculiarities and inequities of the old parliamentary system where the constituency boundaries and electors lists were a ramshackle legacy from the Middle Ages.

On the 15th of November 1830 Wellington was defeated on a motion to examine the accounts of the Civil List, by 233 votes to 204, the following day he resigned and the Whig, Charles 2nd Earl Grey was asked to form a government.

In March 1831 Lord Russell outlined a Parliamentary Reform Bill to the House of Commons and on the 23rd of March the Bill was passed by just one vote. However, the House of Lords rejected the Bill and Earl Grey dissolved Parliament on April 23rd.

After fresh elections held between April and June the Whigs were returned with a majority of 136 and the Reform Bill was reintroduced, and again passed by the Commons by 367 to 231.

In October the House of Lords once again rejected it.

After this show of obduracy and defiance by the Lords, rioting occurred throughout the country.

For the third time on the December 12th the Commons passed the Reform Bill, only to see it fail once more in the Lords.

Drastic action was now needed if the Bill was to be passed and the King was asked to create enough Whig peers to see the Bill through. This however was not necessary, as the Tories who did not relish the idea of more Whig Peers the majority abstained and the bill was passed by 106 to 22, thus allowing the Bill to become law, and so, on the 7th of June 1832 the Reform Act received the Royal Assent.

This new Bill now gave men who owned or rented property with an annual rate of £10 or more the vote.


The Reform Act, by removing most of the rotten boroughs and creating new, larger ones such as Manchester - which up to then, like Blackburn, had no Parliamentary representation—gave the franchise to many more people and made Parliament more representative than it had ever been.

Initially it was recommended that Blackburn should send one Member to Parliament, but by the time the Reform Bill was passed it was decided that the town would be entitled to two MP’s.

The census of 1831 shows Blackburn to have had a population of 27,091, with 4,594 occupied houses and 208 empty giving a total of 4,802, there were 623 houses with a rateable value of £10 or more. When the list of electors was made in 1832 this had risen to 627.

On the 3rd December 1832 Parliament was dissolved, this was to be the first election under the new Reform Act. It would be Blackburn’s first chance to send two MP’s to the House of Commons.

On the day of the nominations, three principal candidates came forward, including:

‘William Turner of Mill Hill, Blackburn and Shrigley Hall, Cheshire Whig - proposed by John Hargreaves, coroner, seconded by Thomas Dugdale’.

As the day for nominations drew near William Turner entered the fray, “almost like a bomb shell, offering himself to the Free and independent electors of both parties”.

The Turner family was very popular in Blackburn and William was a much-liked employer at his calico printing mill.

Outside the Old Bull Hotel on Church Street in front of a large crowd of working men he set up his political stall as follows:

“Gentlemen, They said I wouldn’t come; but I am come, and will be here at the day of the election. I’ll stand the contest. It rains; it will wet you and will wet me. Good night. Give us three cheers.”

Turner then went into the Old Bull Hotel and bought barrels of beer for the crowds.

A local commentator observed that “barrels of beer were rolled into the yard of our ancient parish church, the ends were knocked out and the people were debauched with drink and over the very graves which contained our forefathers.”

At first the Tories resisted this type of electioneering but they finally succumbed to it and it was said that money was being left in pubs by the Tory Fielding and the Whig Turner to buy drinks for the undecided, amounts between £60 and £200 pounds were mentioned as being laid out.

As for the election, ‘the populace before the announcement was made [of the result] had exhibited symptoms of violence and several stones and other missiles were thrown from Tacket’s field in Ainsworth Street, by which many individuals were slightly wounded and some panes of glass broken’.

Whilst closing the proceedings at the hustings were going on, another portion of the populace were employed in breaking the windows of the old Bull Inn, and several skirmishes took place between the mob and the special constables; wherein some of the latter were seriously injured.

At his point the fourth and more Radical candidate Dr Bowring bitterly conceded his loss, noting of William that:

“Mr. Turner had absolutely no recommendation whatever, but that he had wealth and was willing to spend it to obtain the honour of a position which he was about as fitted to fill as to quadrate the circle, to calculate an eclipse, or to give a lecture on Plato.

He had (though) the distinction though of being the father of the young lady who was abducted by Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

His success was due, and could only be due, to a fixed purpose, to accomplish his objective by the drunkenness and demoralization of the people”.

However, the reality was that Turner was also a generous and public spirited man who was naturally popular.

For example, in 1833 William and his wife Jane erected Almshouses on Bank Top Blackburn for indigent women. They consisted of 6 single storey dwellings and Turner endowed them with 3s per week for maintenance. They still exist and were listed as being of historic significance in 1974.

William Turner died at his home in Mill Hill on July 17th 1842 and was buried in St. Johns churchyard Blackburn.


Most Māori chiefs signed the Māori-language version of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840 or further north and at Auckland.

A recent translation from the Māori version is as follows:

Article: The First
The chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs who have not joined that Confederation give absolutely to the Queen of England forever the complete government over their land.

Article: The Second
The Queen of England agrees to protect the chiefs, the sub-tribes and all the people of New Zealand in the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures. But on the other hand the chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs will sell land to the Queen at a price agreed to by the person owning it and by the person buying it (the latter being) appointed by the Queen as her purchase agent.

Article: The Third
For this agreed arrangement therefore concerning the government of the Queen, the Queen of England will protect all the ordinary people of New Zealand and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England.

It is a matter of some interest as to how far Maori really understood anything of the contemporary state of governance in England. Did they have any understanding that even the relatively recent Reform Act only enfranchised those holding property with ‘annual rates of £10 or more’.

Assuming that £1 (1840) = £85 (2000) and that £1 = $2, we have a rates threshold on the property franchise of $1,700, applying then to those with titles on houses worth more than $350,000 in today’s terms – not exactly generously democratic.

But there again, the Maori chiefs may have been all too well aware of these kinds of nuances and quite disinterested in the rights that they were signing away on behalf of other members of their iwi.

I do feel though that it is something of a shame that New Zealand was first settled by a land agent like Edward Gibbon Wakefield rather than an industrialist like William Turner. Under the latter we might have had a better start in generating the special 'X' factor that embodies innovation, enterprise and productivity.

And William seems a more genuine sort of man than Edward.

One can only surmise that if Edward had successfully married Ellen and her father had travelled out from England to see his grandchildren, William would have had little difficulty in making better friends with Maori chiefs like Te Rauparaha.

I imagine William toddling down from 90 The Terrace, escaping from his snobbish and egocentric son-in-law, off to the Thistle Inn in Pipitea Street to share a drink with his old mate 'TR' – and 'shouting' the rest of the Ngati Toa a barrel of beer or three on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Birthday.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wakefield - troubles with the 'Mechanics' and the Maori


As I previously quoted, Wakefield had already figured by the time he left England for New Zealand that it was ‘hard to get good servants there’ – or workers to do one’s bidding.

He had written of his imagined settlement in New South Wales:

‘I soon found (seeking an estate with a large domain, pleasure grounds, park and game preserves, and tenant farmers) that a (‘good’) house would, though stone and timber were to be had for nothing, cost three times as much as in England.

This was on account of the very high wages required by mechanics … the whole colony did not contain as many masons, carpenters, glaziers, painters, black and whitesmiths, and other mechanics as I should have required’.

So it is nice to know that his scheme to reproduce the rural English Class System of the early 19th century into New Zealand met some snags.

When the first settlers landed in Wellington Harbour, they did so in what is now Petone at the mouth of the Hutt River. This fleeting first settlement did not prosper as the immigrants had chosen the delta and floodplain of an unpredictable river for the site of their new city ‘Britannia’.

It was though the site of an interesting exchange over labour conditions and terms in the new colony.

Arriving on the English ship ‘The Duke of Roxburgh’, George Hunter who was a shipping agent, asked around on the beach for a carpenter, among those who disembarked, who could erect a prefabricated storehouse for him.

Samuel Duncan Parnell stepped forward. He had been born in London where he had worked in a large joinery shop.

Parnell’s words to Hunter have become immortalized:

‘I will do my best, but I must make this condition, Mr. Hunter, that on the job the hours shall only be eight for the day ... There are twenty-four hours per day given us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves. I am ready to start to-morrow morning at eight o'clock, but it must be on these terms or none at all.

'You know Mr. Parnell,' Hunter replied, 'that in London the bell rang at six o'clock, and if a man was not there ready to turn to he lost a quarter of a day'.

'We're not in London', said Parnell.

With few tradesmen in the young settlement, Hunter had little choice but to accept the carpenter's terms. As Parnell later wrote, 'the first strike for eight hours a-day the world has ever seen, was settled on the spot.'

Other employers in the new settlement tried to impose longer hours, but Parnell enlisted the support of fellow workmen and informed those arriving on incoming ships of the local custom. In October 1840 a meeting of Wellington workmen apparently resolved to work eight hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – anyone offending would be ducked into the harbour.

In the early 1840s Parnell bought land in Karori and established himself as a farmer (to the chagrin no doubt of the Wakefields).

Back in England, things were not so dandy. There was a struggling eight-hour day movement, which had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories regimented working life and imposed long hours and poor conditions. The use of child labour was common and the working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week.

A shorter working day and improved working conditions were part of the general protests and agitation for Chartist reforms and the early organization of trade unions.

While the industrialist and philanthropist Robert Owen had raised the demand for a ten-hour day in 1810, and instituted it in his socialist enterprise at New Lanark, it was not until 1847 that women and children in England were granted the ten-hour day.

However, most employed people had to wait to the early and mid twentieth century for the eight hour condition to be widely achieved through the industrialized world through legislative action.

As the 50th jubilee of European settlement in New Zealand approached in 1890, the emerging trade union movement looked to its origins. Parnell was invited to write a short narrative of the introduction of the eight-hour day, and Wellington citizens formed a committee to honour him during the first annual Labour Day demonstration on 28 October 1890.

Seated on a brake drawn by four horses, he headed the march to Newtown Park where he was heralded as 'the father of the eight hours movement'.

Parnell fell ill a few weeks later and died on 17 December 1890.

A meeting chaired by the mayor decided to give him a public funeral and on 20 December a crowd of thousands, headed by the Garrison Band, marched in procession from Cambridge Terrace to the cemetery.


As recorded by the history books, Wakefield’s extended family descended on New Zealand hoping to make a quick quid. They included brothers William, Arthur and Felix and at least one nephew.

The most dangerous and possibly most despicable of these Wakefields were William and Arthur who set a pattern of double-dealing, fraudulent transactions and payment avoidance in their purchases of land from the local Maori.

Unlike the English labourer ‘mechanics’, local Maori were ill-equipped to contend with the unscrupulous settler establishment. The consequences of the patterns that the Wakefields developed remain a burden to New Zealand even today.

Let’s look briefly at a couple of examples.

In 1839 the New Zealand Company bought land in the Wellington Harbour area, Porirua and Queen Charlotte Sound in advance of the settlement. The Company was acting on its own behalf, with no backing from the British government.

The following year, English immigrants began arriving by the shipload prompting one local Maori chief to marvel at and regret their numbers and ability to collaborate.

The demand for land and pressure on the areas occupied by Māori pā and settlements therefore steadily increased.

The New Zealand Company had sold sections already occupied by Māori to the new settlers. To resolve this issue, Lieutenant Colonel William Anson McCleverty was appointed to obtain deeds from the tribes concerned, exchanging their settlements and cultivations for land elsewhere.

The McCleverty awards of 1847 were the final allocation of lands for Māori in the Wellington Harbour area. Pā such as Te Aro, Pipitea and Kaiwharawhara became less desirable as their food-growing areas were replaced by less productive and more remote land, mostly outside the town of Wellington.

The pressure on the Te Aro people was such that by 1881, a census showed only 28 Māori still living at Te Aro, and nine at Pipitea.

The New Zealand Company purchases were all investigated by a special commissioner, William Spain. He accepted some of the company’s claims to have purchased land (for example at Wellington and Nelson) and disallowed others (including at Porirua and in the Wairau Valley).

Where a claim was allowed, the governor then issued the New Zealand Company with a Crown grant, allowing it to complete the many transactions it had embarked on with private settlers. Both the Nelson and Wellington grants exempted Māori cultivations, villages and burial places.

William Spain also confirmed that Māori were entitled to the ‘tenths’ reserves, agreed by William Wakefield. These set aside one-tenth of all the surveyed sections in New Zealand Company settlements for Māori in the Port Nicholson Block, which stretches from Wellington’s south coast to the beginning of the Tararua ranges.

These 'tenths' reserves were rarely allocated in practice and Maori were essentially disinherited from much of the land.

In 2008, some redress was awarded in a Treaty settlement signed by Wellington Tenths Trust chairman Dr Ngatata Love. This ‘ended’ a 21-year legal battle over the Port Nicholson Block claims and closed over 160 years of grievance.

Part of the settlement includes an option to buy back 24 sites of cultural significance, including prime Wellington sites, and $25m in cash.

The Taranaki Whanui will also be given the opportunity of taking control of the former Shelly Bay air force base, as well as title to three islands in Wellington harbour, and Rimutaka forest park.

Dr Love says these are “iconic,” and the new owners will want to give the community more access to them. The Govt has high hopes Maori ownership of the Miramar peninsula, where’s NZ’s film industry is located will open up the prospect for development of a tourism project, perhaps in association with film industry interests, to showcase Maori culture which would be an international attraction.

This could be a model for Maori economic development.

But in the Wairua Valley things went even less well.

The New Zealand Company had built a settlement around Nelson in the north of the South Island in 1840. The settlement had been planned since its conception in April 1841 to be 200,000 acres (810 km2), but by the end of the year, even as allotments were being sold in England, the company's agents in New Zealand were having difficulty in identifying, let alone buying from local Māori, sufficient land to support a settlement.

In January 1843 Captain Arthur Wakefield, who had been despatched by the New Zealand Company to lead the first group of settlers to Nelson, informed the New Zealand Company, that he had located the required amount of land at Wairau, an average distance of 25 km from Nelson.

He held a deed to the land, having bought it from the widow of a whaling Captain John Blenkinsop, who in turn had bought the land from Te Rauparaha of the Ngāti Toa iwi at Tuamarina.

But Arthur acknowledged in a letter to the Company in March 1843: "I rather anticipate some difficulty with the natives."

Blenkinsop it seems had not even tried to take up possession. Like all land purchases at that time it is likely that the parties were talking entirely at cross purposes; with Captain Blenkinsop hoping he had purchased outright freehold, and the Tāngata whenua believing they had received koha (a gift) from him to simply use the land.

The source of the basic difficulty though was simple: Chiefs Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, who along with their kinsman of Ngāti Toa owned the land, had not accepted the bargain and had not been paid for the land.

In January 1843 Nohorua, the older brother of Te Rauparaha, led a delegation of chiefs to Nelson to protest about British activity in the Wairau Plains. Two months later Te Rauparaha himself arrived in Nelson, urging that the issue of the land ownership be left to Land Commissioner William Spain, who had begun investigating all the claimed purchases of the New Zealand Company.

Arthur Wakefield rejected the request, informing Te Rauparaha that if local Māori interfered with company surveyors on the land, he would lead 300 constables to arrest the Māori chief.

Wakefield duly despatched three parties of surveyors to the land. They were promptly warned off by local Māori, who damaged the surveyors' tools but left the men unharmed.

Things then went from bad to dreadful.

The Police Magistrate Henry Thompson was asked to issue an arrest warrant for Te Rauparaha.

On the morning of 17 June 1843, the Europeans approached the Māori camp, armed with cutlasses, bayonets, pistols and muskets. At the path on the other side of a stream, Te Rauparaha was surrounded by about 90 warriors as well as women and children. He allowed Thompson and five other men to approach him, but ordered the rest of the British party to remain on their side of the stream.

Thompson immediately adopted an aggressive approach. He refused to shake hands with the Chief Te Rauparaha and said that he had come to arrest him. He then produced a pair of handcuffs, angering the chief further.

Thompson called out to the men on the far side of the stream, ordering them to fix bayonets and advance, but as they began to cross, a shot was fired by one of the English (apparently by accident). Te Rangihaeata's wife Rongo was killed from one of the first volleys fired sparking gunfire from both sides.

The English retreated across the stream, scrambling up the hill under fire from the Ngāti Toa. Eleven settlers and two Maori were killed.

Te Rauparaha ordered the Ngāti Toa warriors to cross the stream in pursuit. Those Englishmen who had not initially escaped were quickly overtaken. Wakefield called for a ceasefire and surrendered along with Thompson, Richardson and ten others. Two of the English party were killed immediately.

Te Rangihaeata then demanded utu (revenge) for the death of his wife Rongo, who was also Te Rauparaha's daughter. All the remaining captives, including Thompson and Captain Wakefield, the younger brother of William Wakefield, were then killed.

Samuel Cottrell, a member of the original survey team, and John Brooks, an interpreter, were also killed.

Four Māori died and three were wounded in the incident, while the English toll was 22 dead and five wounded.

The news of a reported 'massacre' did not go down well with Edward Gibbon Wakefield's backers and investors in London, where the New Zealand Company was almost ruined by the news of "British citizens being murdered by barbarous natives".

Land sales almost halted and it became ‘obvious the company was being less than honest in its land purchasing tactics and that reports on the events in local newspapers were far from accurate’.

Wakefield's land development theories & that 'restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism’


As even the most casual reader will easily deduce, I am not exactly a fan of Wakefield. He was a parvenu toff, a property developer and a real estate agent. Well that’s a pretty good start. But he was also an abductor (and potential child abuser) who believed that the law could be bent by fraudulently obtained signatures and that ‘possession was nine tenths of the law’.

Beyond these basic imperfections, I also have some serious concerns about the errors and consequences of his land development theories, his views on working people (or ‘mechanics’ as he preferred), and his total disregard for native land rights. In all of these areas, there were consequences for New Zealand that continue to play out today.

I’ll deal with the second two issues in a subsequent post, and concentrate on land development and Wakefield’s invisible and dead hand on New Zealand society in this one.


As I showed in my previous post, Wakefield believed that it was dangerous to let a colonial society evolve naturally on an open frontier, noting that:

‘An abundance of land produced a people, like what the Canadians will be, and in the United States Americans are – a people who, though they increase in number make no progress in the art of living.’

His answer was to restrain the allocation of land, impose a threshold price, and release land in limited quantities to wealthier immigrants who brought capital with them.

Regardless of his apparent objectives, it was always clear that he had no understanding of practical farming, of the importance to farmers and pastoralists of variations in land quality or of the very different challenges posed to agriculturalists in environments as varied as those of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Like many a good bureaucrat, he plucked regulations and charges out of his hat.

In New South Wales, he successfully promoted raising the price of land from five to 20 shillings an acre but pastoralists began to squat ‘illegally’ farther afield, and settlement became more dispersed. In South Australia, he argued for a price of 12 shillings per acre and resigned when his recommendation was overruled.

In Canada, he opined that crown lands should be sold at $2.00 an acre although alternative American lands were available at $1.25.

Beyond that, his theories are of course nonsense in economic terms. So let’s pay a brief visit to a real economist – and one of my great heroes – Johann Heinrich von Thünen.


Johann von Thünen (24 June 1783 – 22 September 1850) was a Mecklenburg estate holder and practical farmer who had also studied at Göttingen university. He is credited with being the first in the field of spatial economics but he also developed the essence of marginal productivity theory (i.e. that successive increments of inputs are beyond a certain point met with successive decreases in unit outputs).

As if that is not enough, his ideas also have a serious claim to being one of the wellsprings of empirical econometrics (testing theories mathematically using statistical evidence).

In his book The Isolated State (1826), drew on the work of the English economist Ricardo and suggested that land development could be analyzed by assessing the respective influences of:

1. basic land productivity (what Ricardo termed the ‘original and indestructible powers of the soil’)
2. the combination of labour and capital in the form of a ‘production function’ for a commodity (that represented the most appropriate form of cultivation).
3. variations in effort, technology and management (what we can call for the purposes of this assessment ‘non-factor productivity’)
4. net received / farm-gate prices (that is the prices that famers actually receive)

Von Thünen then proceeded to develop a theory of what would happen during the settlement and development of a uniformly fertile and otherwise undifferentiated plain, if influences 1-3 were held constant but net received prices were allowed to vary as a consequence of the cost of transporting commodities to a single central market / city.

This state of affairs was not completely unrealistic in an era when the frontier of settlement in North America was continuing to move forward into open land that was suitable for cultivation using European techniques.

In the original Isolated State the model generated four concentric rings of agricultural activity:

1. Dairying and intensive farming lying closest to the city, as high value and recurrently demanded but weighty and perishable products like vegetables, fruit, milk and other dairy products had to be delivered to market quickly
2. A second ring producing timber and firewood for fuel and building materials. Wood was a very important fuel for heating and cooking and is very heavy and difficult to transport so its production was located as close to the city (an arrangement that still applies in many cases in the Third World)
3. The third zone consisting of extensive fields crops such as grain. Since grains last longer than dairy products and are much lighter than fuel, thereby reducing relative transport costs, they could be located further from the city.
4. Cattle production / ranching was forecast in the final ring. Animals can be raised far from the city because they are self-transporting and can walk to the central city for sale or for butchering.
5. Beyond the fourth ring lies the ‘wilderness’, which is too great a distance from the central city for any type of agricultural product.

Now it doesn’t take much imagination to see that as the population of the Isolated State grows, the frontier will be pushed back at first by the ranchers (as is currently happening in the Amazon Basin) and then by the cultivators.

And von Thünen went on to argue that the availability of virgin land would determine the ‘natural wage’ of the community. That is the floor wage that would have to be paid to prevent landless labourers from upping sticks and moving to the frontier to build their own log cabin or bough shed and knock down the Backwoods or the Bush or run some cattle or sheep in the wilderness.

A process which, despite the machinations of Wakefield, is still evident in New Zealand in the form of roads named after the ‘lines’ that the pioneers first cut to mark their boundaries.

So here we have a land development situation where enterprise can be rewarded and economics alone shapes the development of society. And we can now splice in the ideas of Frederick Jackson Turner (November 14, 1861 – March 14, 1932).

Turner was an influential American historian who is best known for his book, ‘The Significance of the Frontier in American History’, the basis of which is generally known as the ‘Frontier Thesis’.

It argues that ‘the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development’ ...

‘and that coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness; that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things... that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism’.

And Turner goes on to explain that:

‘the American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier -- a fortified boundary line running through dense populations. The most significant thing about the American frontier is that it lies at the hither edge of free land”.

“The Atlantic frontier was compounded of fisherman, fur trader, miner, cattle-raiser, and farmer. Excepting the fisherman, each type of industry was on the march toward the West, impelled by an irresistible attraction. Each passed in successive waves across the continent.

Stand at Cumberland Gap and watch the procession of civilization, marching single file-- the buffalo following the trail to the salt springs, the Indian, the fur trader and hunter, the cattle-raiser, the pioneer farmer --and the frontier has passed by. Stand at South Pass in the Rockies a century later and see the same procession with wider intervals between.

The unequal rate of advance compels us to distinguish the frontier into the trader's frontier, the rancher's frontier, or the miner's frontier, and the farmer's frontier. When the mines and the cow pens were still near the fall line the traders' pack trains were tinkling across the Alleghanies, and the French on the Great Lakes were fortifying their posts, alarmed by the British trader's birch canoe.

When the trappers scaled the Rockies, the farmer was still near the mouth of the Missouri.”

So there we have it really, Wakefield not only wanted to rule out free enterprise and the Kiwi battler at the stroke of a bureaucratic pen, he also would have been happy to snuff out the pioneer spirit. Whether this has inflicted any permanent damage on the New Zealand national psyche, I leave the reader to judge.


I will add a couple of things though. It is ironic but perhaps all too predictable that we as a nation are preoccupied with buying and selling property – such that we have borrowed upwards of $150 billion from foreigners to fund the buying and selling of houses and farms among ourselves. And that we constantly struggle to involve ourselves in more productive activities and to earn our way in the world through innovation and enterprise.

As I have commented elsewhere, there is an old saying to which I was introduced when I arrived in Wellington, which is that ‘if you want to run a small business in New Zealand, you had better start by buying a big one’.

So it was with considerable surprise that I found out, during PD Soccer one Saturday morning with Theo, from the Scots grandfather of one of the players, that he spent the better part of his retired life cruising the world on luxury liners.

He had made some money as a butcher in Silverstream and had begun to build up businesses that he then sold on. This led him into property investment and property development and a relatively opulent old age.

The trick he told me was simply to ‘buy and sell property in New Zealand’. Well, I have no doubt that Edward Gibbon Wakefield would pout a malevolent smile at this point if he were around to reflect on the society that he helped to procreate.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wakefield and 'The Art of Colonization'


So let’s continue our exploration of New Zealand’s earliest economic history, starting with a run-through of some flickering black-and-white frames of the dubious life of our first land agent, property speculator and founding father Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

As we have seen Wakefield spent three years in Newgate Prison from 1826 to 1829. Here he used his imagination and propagandizing talents to develop a new line of business.

In his cell, under the nom de plume Robert Gouger (a subliminal slip here?) and never having at that point visited any British colony, he wrote ‘A Letter from Sydney’ in 1829.

In this he argued that policies could be devised that would transplant British society without incurring the social evils evident at home.

The policy involved selling colonial land sold at a high, uniform price that would produce sufficient revenue to pay for the immigration of free settlers. Newcomers unable to afford land would constitute a laboring class.

In some miraculous way economic growth would result, and by concentrating settlement, a civilized society capable of self-government would evolve - albeit of course, a society within which the vote was tied to the ownership of property and the laboring classes knew their place.

Wakefield explains the problems faced by the ‘pioneers’ in New South Wales in the following terms:

“I did not, you know, intend to become a farmer. Having fortune enough for all my wants, I proposed to get a large domain, to build a good house, to keep enough land in my own hands for pleasure grounds, park and game preserves, and to let the rest, after erecting farm-houses in the most suitable spots.

My mansion, park, preserves and tenants, were all a mere dream. I have none of them.

When upon my arrival, I talked of these things to some sensible men, to whom I was recommended, they laughed in my face.

I soon found that a house would, though stone and timber were to be had for nothing, cost three times as much as in England. This was on account of the very high wages required by mechanics … the whole colony did not contain as many masons, carpenters, glaziers, painters, black and whitesmiths, and other mechanics as I should have required”.

His ideas had of course the great advantage that they appealed immediately to the English aristocracy and upper middle class.

For two centuries they had suffered the annoyance of religious dissenters, labourers, peasants, paupers and convicts disappearing over the horizon to the colonies, only to see their sons and grandsons return to London with wealth, swagger and unfortunate accents.

With the possible exception of the Cavaliers who settled in the Southern States and the West Indies on plantations as slave owners, the rich and established in England had gained little in terms of profits on land from the colonies. Wakefield finally offered them an opportunity to clip the ticket.



On his release from prison Wakefield returned to London and founded the Colonisation Society to spread his ideas, which appeared to be borne out by the disappointing results of the Swan River colony, founded with Government support in Western Australia in 1829.

Wakefield's influence on Lord Howick, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, was largely responsible for the introduction of sale as the sole method of disposing of land in New South Wales in 1831.

The Ripon Regulations (1831) discontinued free land grants in Australia, and a land fund was put in place to encourage a better class of immigrants. But when the price of land was raised from five to 20 shillings an acre, pastoralists began to squat farther afield, and settlement became more dispersed.

In 1833, he published another tract ‘England and America’ having argued that:

‘An abundance of land produced a people, like what the Canadians will be, and in the United States Americans are – a people who, though they increase in number make no progress in the art of living.’

Wakefield then became intimately involved in many private schemes to promote new colonies. In 1834 the South Australian Company secured a parliamentary act whereby control of a proposed colony was shared by the Colonial Office and a board of commissioners responsible for land sales, immigration, and public finance.

Settlement began in 1836, but the decision of the commissioners to fix the price of land at 12 shillings per acre, which Wakefield thought too low, caused him to break with them.

However overall, Wakefield was less than positive about the future of Australia. In his 'Letter from Sydney' he comments on the early settlers that:

'Some generations hence, their descendants will probably be as uncouth, and ignorant, and violent as the great mass of North Americans', with the potential for them 'remaining equally barbarous till the year 3000, and becoming afterwards equally civilized - if the world should last so long'.


Canada was cited By Wakefield as an illustration of the effects of bad land policy, on the evidence largely of Robert Gourlay’s Statistical account of Upper Canada. . . (1822). Gourlay had written that dispersed settlement in Upper Canada produced a people “who retrograded in civilization and moral worth.”

Wakefield’s solution was concentrated settlement achieved through the sale of land at a sufficient price. He was aware, however, that the system would not work so easily in Canada because an increased price for land would simply divert settlement to the United States.

In May 1838, Wakefield finally left England to actually visit one of the colonies, as an aide to an investigation of Canadian grievances by Lord Durham.

Before he left Canada on in October 1838 Wakefield had completed an evaluation of public lands and emigration policy, subsequently attached as Appendix B to Durham’s Report. He attempted here what he earlier had said could not be done: to fit his system to British North America.

Past policy, he argued, had alienated vast tracts without any comparable advance in settlement, thus undermining the market whatever the price of crown lands.

Wakefield’s answer was a tax of 2d. an acre on 'wild' lands, and a programme of public works financed from the proceeds. He believed crown lands could be sold at $2.00 an acre although American lands were available at $1.25.

Reform of the old system, he argued, should be the responsibility of the British parliament, the imperial government having created the problem. His recommendations bore no fruit.

Although Wakefield became increasingly interested in New Zealand from 1839 onwards, his interest in Canada did not lapse completely. In 1838 he had visited the Beauharnois seigneury of Edward Ellice (a Whig politician and father of Durham’s private secretary) and in 1839 he negotiated its sale as agent for the North American Colonial Association of Ireland, a joint stock company.

His connection with this company took Wakefield to Canada briefly again in 1841 to lobby for Beauharnois as the site of the next section of the St Lawrence canal system and plot and scheme in land development and French Canadian politics.

Wakefield’s activity in Canada had embarrassed some and antagonized others, but it had produced a tidy income for himself: between 1841 and 1844 his agency on behalf of the North American Colonial Association of Ireland earned him £20,000.


In 1837 the British government had refused to charter the New Zealand Association because New Zealand was not then part of the Crown's dominions and because missionaries sought to protect Maori land rights.

Though he did not become a director until April 1840, Wakefield took up his residence at the Company's headquarters and devoted his energies to organizing the preliminary expedition, under his brother William, which sailed in May 1839.

Thus prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the reformed ‘New Zealand Land Company’ managed to establish settlements, after acquiring land on easy and unscrupulous terms and dispatching immigrants without parliamentary sanction.

When its land titles were subsequently questioned by the government, Wakefield and his brothers campaigned for local self-government, a proposal which the governor, Sir George Grey, successfully opposed.

Wakefield was active in England in 1844 in preparing evidence for the Select Committee on New Zealand following the death of his brother Arthur Wakefield in the Wairau Affray of June 1843. The majority report of the chairman, Lord Howick, was favourable to the Company and critical of Government policy; but the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley, held it would be dangerous to act on this report.

A fierce controversy then raged over settler and indigenous rights and the role of government, in which Wakefield undoubtedly had a hand.

In January 1846 Wakefield suggested to Gladstone that the Company’s settlements should be granted local self-government and that the Company itself should be entrusted with the entire business of colonizing New Zealand and the right of the Crown in its soil.

In July 1846 Earl Grey (the former Lord Howick) became Colonial Secretary. Early in August he and Wakefield had an interview which clearly disappointed Wakefield, though according to Grey it was “very amicable”.

However, on 18 August Wakefield, overstrained and ill, suffered a paralytic stroke.

During this illness Earl Grey and Wakefield's close friend and associate, Charles Buller, came to terms with the New Zealand Company, but Wakefield, even after his recovery, took no further responsibility for the management of the Company's affairs, resigning his directorship in 1849. He retained a sense of grievance against Lord Grey.

He made a new friend, however, in J. R. Godley, whom he met while taking a cure at Malvern Spa in the autumn of 1847. Together they elaborated the plan for a Church of England colony in New Zealand, which took shape as the Canterbury settlement.

Wakefield's other main interest after his recovery was the preparation of the book published early in 1849 as 'A View of the Art of Colonization'. The book restated Wakefield's principles and bitterly but unfairly attacked Lord Grey's policy.

Towards the end of 1849 Wakefield organized the Society for the Reform of Colonial Government to agitate in Parliament and the press for colonial self-government, accompanied by self-defence and a delimitation of imperial and colonial powers.

The Liberal colonial policy announced by the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, early in the session of 1850 placated the colonial agitators and their attempt to secure a statutory demarcation of Imperial and colonial powers in the Australian Colonies Government Bill was unsuccessful - but the Society probably helped to convince British opinion of the need for eventual colonial self-government.

When the Canterbury settlement had been founded in 1850, Wakefield turned to agitation for self-government for New Zealand. As soon as the Constitution Act of 1852 became law Wakefield, who had been living at Reigate in Surrey (see English Census image for 1851 below), left England for New Zealand. He arrived at Lyttelton on 2 February 1853.

A month later he proceeded to Wellington and offered Sir George Grey his help in bringing the constitution into operation on the ground that “my experience in this sort of work … is greater than any other man's”. Sir George Grey declined the offer.

The “cheap land” regulations issued by Grey in March were denounced by Wakefield.

But when he became a candidate for the Hutt, a constituency of struggling farmers, he declared that “exceptional circumstances demanded exceptional remedies – viz. free grants of land to workers”.

He was elected in August both to the House of Representatives and to the Wellington Provincial Council. But exposure to a cold wind after a densely crowded meeting in December brought on an attack of rheumatic fever and he never recovered his health. He retired from the House of Representatives at the general election of 1855 and from the Provincial Council later in the year.

He took some part in the provincial elections of 1857, but afterwards lived quietly at the house built by his brother Colonel William Wakefield in Wellington, where he died on 18 May 1862.

Credited by conventional historians as a flawed hero, he nevertheless receives some harsh words from them:

‘Doctrinaire and uncompromising, Wakefield frequently quarreled with his disciples. Lacking firsthand knowledge, he often had impracticable ideas’.

‘His love of power was almost pathological; more than once he sacrificed principle for power's sake. He was jealous of those who held the positions he could not gain’.

His one incontrovertible merit from the settlers' viewpoint was that he was a dedicated proponent of self-government (with a franchise tied of course to land holding).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Edward Gibbon Wakefield – New Zealand’s Seedy Founding Father


My previous posts on the re-development of Wellington’s waterfront have kicked me into writing about New Zealand’s early settlement – and the attempted imposition by the founding fathers of shabby gentility and conformity at the expense of enterprise and innovation.

When I kept a workplace in town, I used to regularly walk up from Lambton Quay (the shoreline in 1840) by way of Woodward Street to my office in Wakefield House on The Terrace. The existing 8-storey Wakefield House stands on the site of the house that was built by one of the city’s earliest and ostensibly illustrious citizens 'Colonel' William Wakefield.

It was he who commanded the first fleet organized by the New Zealand Company and, having been a soldier with Portuguese & Carlist armies in the period 1832 - 1837, he built his house on the sandy heights that commanded a direct view of the comings and goings in the harbor. It was also strategically placed opposite the Maori Pa at Kumutoto but separated from it by a ravine and stream (the line of which is now followed by Woodward Street).

The house was as near as Wellington ever came to having its own fort or castle knoll.

Whether by accident or design, the local Maori did not take to the new building or their new neighbour and their numbers soon became depleted.

And it was in the house though that William’s brother Edward Gibbon Wakefield died on 18 May 1862. He even trumps his brother in reputation and has been credited as being New Zealand’s ‘Founder’, no less.

So I was walking in the footsteps of a great man, up from the old beach at the harbour’s edge to the sandy terrace above – at least according to the conventional history books (and I have to say that the New Zealand histories appear to lead the way here searching desperately for a hero - albeit a reputedly repentant kidnapper).

Well, I have at least two gripes about the hagiography. In the first place, it seems to me that he was an unreformed swindler who merely substituted virgin lands for virgin heiresses. And secondly, I have a strong objection to the shoddy land development policies that he espoused, which purported to deliver structured societies in settler colonies at the expense of battler backwoodsmen (and which rode slipshod over native land rights).

There again, I have to admit also to a certain amount of animosity stemming from a Northerner’s distrust of parvenu toffs from the South of England, as the heiress that he abducted was a Cheshire wench.

And it is perhaps remarkable that first-footer Northern Lad and Whaler-Trader Dicky Barrett piloted the first ominously-named settler ship ‘Tory’ past the reef that now bears his name - without deliberately wrecking it.

Dicky could, I feel, have been forgiven for regaling Colonel Wakefield with the words that were overheard back in a pub in Melbourne in the 1960s, as a Northerner responded to an effete Southerner fronting up to the bar with:

‘I’ve come twelve thousand bloody miles to get away from bastards like you – and I still can’t!’

So let’s start by getting the kidnapping on the table.


Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a London land agent's son (good start eh?), was born on March 20, 1796.

Even his grandmother Priscilla had her doubts from the start, writing in one letter: “My mind is painfully engaged with the perverseness of dear little Edward – his obstinacy if he inclines to evil terrifies me’.

He was unsurprisingly a poor student and was expelled from his school in Edinburgh, with influence being exerted to get him a job in the Foreign Service in 1814. However, his sponsor wrote:

“I can tell you very little respecting Edward Gibbon Wakefield; his conduct is wholly inexplicable. He despises his father’s advice, he laughs at his opinions; he talks largely of being in his own hands, and independent of his father…. I wish his father could make up his mind to see only a common man in him”. [Francis Place, (1815)].

At the age of twenty he eloped to Scotland with a 17-year-old heiress, Eliza Pattle. Luckily for him, her parents accepted the marriage and settled £70,000 on the young couple. However, Eliza died four years later after giving birth to her third child in 1820.

Then Edward tried to break his father-in-law's will and was suspected of perjury and forgery.

In February of 1827, 31-year-old Edward then conspired with his brother William Wakefield to get his hands on the person and inheritance of a 15-year-old schoolgirl Ellen Turner by lying to her and her guardians at her school in Liverpool.

He apparently based his plan to marry Ellen on the expectation that her parents would respond as Eliza's had.

Ellen was the daughter and only child of William Turner, a wealthy resident of Pott Shrigley, Cheshire, England, who owned calico printing and spinning mills in Blackburn, Lancashire. At the time of the abduction, Turner was a High Sheriff of Cheshire. He lived in Shrigley Hall, near Macclesfield (see pictures below).

Ellen was told that her father William Turner had become paralyzed and wished to see his daughter immediately. Later Wakefield informed Ellen that there was an agreement between two banks that some of her father's estate would be transferred to her or, to be exact, her husband.

He also said that his banker uncle had proposed that Wakefield marry Ellen, and that if she would agree to marry him, her father would be saved. Ellen allowed them to take her to Carlisle. There they met William Wakefield, who claimed to have spoken to Mr. Turner and that Mr. Turner had also agreed to the marriage.

Wakefield then married Ellen at Gretna Green and took her off to France, telling her that she would meet her father there.

But unfortunately for Wakefield, William Turner was made of sterner stuff than Eliza Pattle’s father. He had apparently expected that William Turner would accept the marriage rather than face a public scandal. Instead, Turner went to London and asked for help from the police.

There he learned that his daughter had been taken to the Continent. Turner sent his brother to Calais, accompanied by a police officer and a solicitor. There they soon found the couple and Ellen expressed pleasure at seeing her uncle, subsequently discovering the truth of the whole affair.

However, Wakefield claimed that since they were legally married, she could not be taken from him by force. In spite of this the French authorities interviewed Ellen and finally let her leave the country with her uncle. Wakefield, trying to make the best of his situation, wrote out a statement that Ellen was still a virgin and left for Paris.

The consensus of society was that:

“His sole motive was of the most sordid and vulgar description. In order to possess himself of the fortune of a mere girl, whom I had never seen, he did not scruple to employ falsehood, fraud, cruelty and the vilest hypocrisy, in feigning a passion he could not have entertained” [‘The Kaleidoscope’ (1827)].


The English police issued warrants for the Wakefields' arrest and William was arrested in Dover a couple of days later. William and the Wakefield’s stepmother Frances were taken to Cheshire and then committed to Lancaster Castle to await trial.

The trial of William Wakefield began on 21 March 1827 with great publicity - but without Edward Wakefield, who was arrested later. On 23 March 1827 all three defendants were put on trial in Lancaster. The jury found all of them guilty the same day. They were committed to Lancaster Castle a day later.

On 14 May the Wakefields were taken to the Court of King's Bench in Westminster Hall in London for sentencing, where William claimed that he had been working under the guidance of his brother. Both were put in prison for three years, with Edward being incarcerated in Newgate prison and William in Lancaster Castle.

Since the marriage apparently had not been consummated, Parliament annulled it immediately.


Somewhat subdued by his experience, Wakefield appears to have transferred his affections from maidens to the virgin lands of the colonies (of which more later).

However, he did pause to write about prison reform and the desirability of abolishing the death penalty, noting the succession of prisoners at Newgate who were executed for minor offences.

From a modern stance, one can only marvel at the blatant bias in the judicial system that condemned men to death or transportation for offences like petty theft or poaching while the wealthy and influential suffered minor sentences. Wakefield did not comment on this anomaly.

It is perhaps something of a shame then that he was not transported for seven years to New South Wales to gain some first-hand colonial experience. And that he did not then settle as a trader like Dicky Barrett and become a friendly ‘Pakeha’ who abducted but then successfully married one of Te Rauparaha’s daughters. Wow that really would have been a risky venture but it would have given him a sounder claim to have been New Zealand’s 'Founding Father'!

As it was, I fancy that Edward spent his declining years at 90 The Terrace mulling over his various falls from grace. I suspect that he would have happily swapped his bungalow in a colonial backwater for Shrigley Hall but that would have required an altogether more fortunate outturn from this “tale of anguish, deceit and violation of the domestic hearth”.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pioneer Man on the Beach in Norfolk


As I am planning to follow up on my posts about the Wellington Waterfront with some articles on the history of the 'European Settlement' of Wellington, the extract below from the UK Independent may be of interest.

'Making contact with the Natives' is of course an entirely subjective activity.


[by Steve Connor, Science Editor, UK Independent, Thursday, 8 July 2010]

Mammoths trampled the undergrowth, giant elk stalked the land, and hyenas and sabre-toothed cats took no hostages. This was normal for Norfolk 800,000 years ago, according to scientists who have found the earliest evidence of human settlement in Britain.

Excavations on a Norfolk beach near the village of Happisburgh have unearthed more than 70 flint tools that had been honed by the first-known prehistoric people to live in Britain. The stone tools have been dated to between 1 million and 800,000 years old.

Scientists said the flint tools were probably used by these early Britons for cutting meat or piercing animal skins. Until the discovery of the tools, there was little evidence to suggest that prehistoric humans of this period lived further north than the Alps and the Pyrenees.

No human fossils have yet been uncovered from the site so scientists do not yet know which species of prehistoric human lived there, but they believe the most likely candidate was homo antecessor, or "Pioneer Man", who was living at about the same time in caves on the Iberian peninsula.

Other fossilised remains from the Norfolk excavations showed that the area was on the edge of a cool, northern "boreal" forest within walking distance of a nearby estuary where the ancient River Thames emptied into the North Sea, many miles further north than the position of the present Thames Estuary.

The land mass, which was still connected to mainland Europe, would have teemed with an array of plants and animals, from tiny voles to giant elk with ten-foot antlers.

"The flood plain would have been dominated by grass, supporting a diverse range of herbivores, such as mammoth, rhino and horses," said Simon Parfitt of University College London, who was the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

"Predators would have included hyenas, sabre-toothed cats and, of course, humans."

Fossil beetles and pollen suggest the summers were slightly warmer than today but the winters were considerably colder, similar to those of southern Scandinavia now.

This implies that these early Britons were likely to have used fire, clothed themselves in animal skins, and used food stores to see them through winter.

Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, and director of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, said that the discovery of man-made stone tools in the Happisburgh excavations suggested a much earlier occupation of Britain than previously supposed.

"These finds are by far the earliest known evidence of humans in Britain, dating at least 100,000 years earlier than previous discoveries," he said. "They have significant implications for our understanding of early human behaviour, adaptations and survival, as well as when and how our early forebears colonised Europe after their first departure from Africa."

Whoever made the stone tools, they were not the direct ancestors of present-day Britons. Professor Stringer said that there were at least nine separate colonisations of Britain over the past 1 million years with the eight previous colonisations dying out with each subsequent ice age.

Nick Ashton of the British Museum said that the discovery shows that early humans were capable of coping with the cold winters and short winter daylight of a northern climate. "This demonstrates early humans surviving in a climate cooler than that of the present day," Dr Ashton said.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Fine Expanse of Water


On the 20th September 1839, the English ship Tory passed through what is now known as the Tory Channel into Wellington Harbour, as the vanguard of what first became a stream and then a flood of settlers landing from the literal ends of the earth.

But it was fortunate for the imperious immigrants that there was already a rough and ready 'Pakeha' available to guide the first colonists past treacherous reefs into the harbour. All landed safely thanks to the renegade Geordie whaler-trader Dicky Barrett.

Charles Heaphy, an altogether more refined Englishman who was artist, draughtsman and later explorer to the expedition, wrote of the intrusion:

‘As we worked our way up the anchorage, the noble expanse of water, surrounded by a country of the most picturesque character formed a scene of almost indescribable beauty – certainly far surpassing that of our English lakes’.

Colonel Wakefield, the leader of the frock-coated freebooters, was more prosaic and saw instead:

‘a fine expanse of water over the whole of which is anchorage ground and where no inconvenience could arise to any vessel taking the usual precautions’, and he predicted that it would become ‘a great Emporium of trade’.

So the continuing stoushes between Wellington City Council’s Development organization ‘Wellington Waterfront’ and the citizens’ watchdog Waterfront Watch on the trade-offs between profit and public space could have been foreseen even 170 years ago.

But the recent re-emergence of Wellington Harbour’s beauty is something that is in its own way quite remarkable. Changes in commercial patterns and imperatives have allowed the landscape to recover – and have turned what had become an industrial eyesore in a Dirty Old Town into a jewel.

Interesting though to look back to see what things used to be like.