Challenging the history of New Zealand
Part two of Our Truth, Tā Mātou Pono: The truth about Aotearoa is a broad investigation into the history of our nation.
Every Stuff newsroom has been involved, from Auckland to Invercargill, discovering the stories of their regions from the Far North to Rakiura, Stewart Island.
Local stories are important to help people understand the history of their communities and the legacy or impacts of those events.
Our investigation found the accounts of historical events have been typically monocultural, delivered through a Eurocentric lens. But when we have sought other views, the context changes, adding layers of proper perspective.
We have found many cases of racism, xenophobia, and the disrespect shown to traditional burial sites and the dead.
History, like language it seems, continues to change over time. It is never fixed, there are always new angles and versions to add or denounce. Somewhere in the middle is the truth.
Whāia te mātauranga hei oranga mō koutou – seek knowledge for your wellbeing.
Over the next few days and weeks, Stuff will continue to publish more stories here about our past, to challenge the current perspective and inform our future.
In the 1880s, many Māori were selling their land interests to the Government and were following the Pākehā custom of banking the proceeds.
However, like many, they worked out the banks were making more out of them than they were out of the banks.
Iwi around Cambridge set up their own bank, calling it Te Peeke o Aotearoa, The Bank of New Zealand. The directors were well-known rangatira from various iwi.
Customers flocked to the bank despite it being apparent that some of the funds accumulated were going to support a more lavish lifestyle for those in charge.
Eventually the deposits were used to fund a trip to England for the directors and the bank was burnt to the ground, never to reopen.
Also during the 1880s, the Kīngitanga movement set up its own newspaper called Te Paki o Matariki o te Kauhanganui, The Girdle of Pleiades.
A large Gaveaux printing press was acquired from Mr J S Bond, printer and mayor of Cambridge, for £125. Bond also launched the weekly Waikato Advocate which was absorbed into the Waikato Times when Bond bought the paper.
The Māori King’s coat of arms, Te Paki o Matariki, was printed on every issue of Te Paki o Matariki o te Kauhanganui and circulated throughout the country, publishing from 1892 to perhaps 1935.
The paper reported on the important political issues of the time, such as land alienation.
In 1894 a separate newspaper, Ko te Panui o Aotearoa, was published by the Kīngitanga for proclamations, to fill much the same function as the New Zealand Gazette.
A printing press believed to have been used by the Kīngitanga, was donated to the Cambridge Museum by the Muirhead family.
It was salvaged from a swamp on their farm, formerly the site of the Māori Parliament, Te Kauhanganui, at Maungakawa near Cambridge.
At the Te Awamutu Museum stands the Te Hokioi press, which was part of the printed propaganda battle that preceded, and prompted, the Waikato wars of the 1860s.
It was used for several years to print a pro-Kīngitanga newspaper called Te Hokioi e Rere Atu Na – or The Soaring War Bird.
In the early hours of Waitangi Day in 1991, protesters smashed the immortalised soldier from atop the Marsland Hill war memorial in New Plymouth.
They erected a sign on the memorial which said: “In Remembrance of the Māori people who suffered in the military campaigns – honour the Treaty of Waitangi.”
At the time, media reports stated there were no Treaty of Waitangi commemorations held in the region that year, as Māori felt there was little to celebrate.
The stone monument was a tribute to those who served as government forces during the New Zealand Wars, including British Army regiments/corps, royal naval vessels, New Zealand-raised troops and Māori who fought on the Pākehā side.
Unveiled in 1909 by the governor-general, Lord Plunkett, it was one of many memorials erected across the province in the decades following the land wars, primarily telling the European side of history’s story.
To this day, the plinth remains empty as the soldier was never replaced and is believed to be stored in a garden shed in the city.
Inside an island cave on Lake Hauroko, in the Fiordland National Park, is the resting place of a Māori woman, thought to have been placed there sometime between 1550 and 1750.
She was discovered about 1967 on Mary Island by a man named Alan Moore. A metal grill was placed over the entrance of the cave to prevent anyone disturbing her.
A preliminary report by D R Simmons, of Otago Museum, from 1967, says the woman was probably in her 50s when she died. She had been placed in the cave in a sitting position, wrapped with a flax cloak, ornamented with weka feathers, and vines had been used to tie up the cloak and body.
A further archaeological investigation and the way the body was placed indicate she was high ranking, probably a rangatira or leader.
The Mackenzie country is renowned worldwide for its wild tussocks and snow grasses, yet they are not its natural flora. Researchers as far back as the late 1800s found the remnants of ancient totara forests that once covered the valleys and hillsides.
It is well documented Māori burnt forest to catch moa and used the light timber for carvings and to make waka. European settlers cleared large areas of trees to make runs and use the wood for house piles, fences and railway sleepers.
Totara charcoal remnants have been found, as well as logs 152 metres above the treeline. They could possibly have been destroyed before humans arrived in the country by a previous climate change cycle when drier weather followed moist, perhaps a thousand years ago.
Early settlers recorded much of the land was full of snow grass and blue tussock, which held the moisture and was thick and long.
By 2005, only 25 per cent of New Zealand’s native forests remained, according to the Department of Conservation.
A small concrete cross sitting on the edge of State Highway 7 in Greymouth is all that remains of a significant Māori burial cave.
Chiefs and their ancestors were buried in the cave but it was blasted by Pākehā to make way for a quarry in the 1880s. It was the burial site of Ngāti Wairangi – the original Māori tribe on the West Coast before they were defeated by Ngāi Tahu, who came from Kaiapoi and settled west in search of pounamu.
The last chief to be buried at Māwhera Pā, in the cave under the hill overlooking Greymouth and the Grey River, was Chief Werita Tainui who died in 1880. Tainui was a signatory of a deed that sold the West Coast to the Crown for 300 golden sovereigns in 1860. The exceptions to the deed were the Arahura River and the Māwhera Pā where Greymouth now stands – an ownership that continues today through leases to Māwhera Incorporation and its now 1500 shareholders.
When Tainui died in 1880 he was reportedly buried in a zinc coffin and the dead were arranged on the walls around the cave.
Shortly after his death, the Pākehā settlers appointed to the Greymouth Harbour Board by the colonial Government ordered the burial cave be removed to make way for a quarry. The rock was needed to construct a breakwater in the Grey River to help the increased shipping of coal and gold.
Local Māori, a sub-tribe called Ngāti Waewae, were forced to exhume the bones of their ancestors and move them to a site in Blaketown. They were later moved to Arahura where Ngāti Waewae have their marae today. The blast was reportedly the largest ever fired on the West Coast, as more than a tonne of powder was used.
Māori Park – the symbol of broken promises by the Crown, less than a decade after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
The 20 acre (8 hectare) area of Timaru’s Caroline Bay, known colloquially as Māori Park, was supposed to be put aside as a Māori Reserve, part of an agreement to sell land to the Crown.
The area covered where the Trust Aoraki Tennis Centre and CBay aquatic centre are currently located.
For £2000, Henry Tacy Kemp purchased more than 20 million acres (8 million hectares) of the South Island (Te Waipounamu) from Ngāi Tahu on behalf of the Crown.
What became known as Kemp’s Deed was signed in 1848 with the promise of each person retaining 10 acres (4.4 hectares) to subsist on plus the Crown pledged to build hospitals and schools for Māori. The Crown reneged and gave Māori 4 acres (1.6 hectares) instead and retained some of their cultivated land as well as preventing access to their traditional food gathering sites (mahika kai).
It took the Native Land Court 20 years to confirm Māori ownership. Then in 1871 the area allocated was reduced further to allow for the railway.
In 1914, the remaining 16 acres was partitioned into 66 township sections giving Māori individual titles, in what was now Reserve no 884.
Rates on the sections were not always paid to the local body. So in 1916, the owners had little choice but to sell the land to the Timaru Borough Council which had been demanding back payment.
The reserve was finally sold in 1926 for £8000 and the council turned it into a park. The council called it Ataahua (beautiful place) but it is still known as Māori Park.
Not far from Lower Hutt’s city centre is the memorial to the Battle of Boulcott’s Farm.
The battle took place on the morning of May 16, 1846, when a Māori raiding party of 200 attacked a Crown military outpost.
Six British soldiers were killed and two died later from their wounds. Accounts of Māori casualties vary.
A much-repeated story from the battle is that of the brave Pākehā boy who died playing his bugle to warn his comrades during the battle. Generations of school kids were taught this despite the “boy” actually having been 21-year-old Private William Allen.
The memorial consists of a large stone supported by concrete, and three granite slabs. One incorrectly marks the corner of High St and Military Rd as the site of the Boulcott’s Farm stockade, another pays tribute to “The Glory of God” and the colonial troops who died in the Hutt Valley Campaign of the New Zealand Wars, and the final lists the Pākehā dead.
Historian Dr Vincent O’Malley says it is a monument to imperialism. Built in the 1920s, it reflects the attitudes of the time.
It provides no context about how the conflict started, and acknowledges Māori as little more than antagonists.
“In the Hutt Valley, Māori were driven off their land by Crown forces. None of that is explained at the site.”
O’Malley believes there is an opportunity for information panels or signage to be installed so a more accurate account of events can be told.
The first European craft to enter the Waihou River were two long boats from Captain Cook’s Endeavour at Waioumu Bay. On November 20, 1769, Cook and his sailors rowed into the shallow river mouth, and made their way into the deeper water.
At this time the Waihou flowed in two channels east and west forming a low island in the estuary.
Cook entered the river on the eastern channel and landed for a brief visit at Tōtara Pā, but did not stay long as they wished to catch the tide up the river.
At that point it appeared to Cook to be as wide but not as deep as the River Thames in Greenwich, England. He then bestowed upon the gulf and the river the collective name of “The Thames”, seemingly oblivious to the fact the river already had a Māori name.
After reaching a point of 12 nautical miles or 22 kilometres from sea, Cook then made a landing on the western bank for a closer inspection of kahikatea trees towering up out of the swampy growth of raupō, flax and rushes.
When ashore, Cook described the trees, “of being of great height and as straight as an arrow”.
Cook asked for John Satterly, his ship’s carpenter, for advice on what the trees could be. Satterly told him they were some type of white pine.
Filled with excitement at the thought of having discovered a source of mast timber that no other country in Europe could match, Cook hastened back to his ship to record the find, which he charted on a map.
The inland journey along the Waihou River was Cook’s longest in New Zealand.
His enthusiastic description of the Thames’ white pine trees (kahikatea) would bring other ships in droves.
Cook also wrote in his journal that the area would be a nice place to settle and that had a major influence on a pioneer settlement appearing in the region. Within a few decades, the towering and “noble” kahikatea forest had completely vanished and drainage was well under way to make the land suitable for farming, becoming the Hauraki Plains of today.
The river kept the name Thames until 1928 when it reverted to Waihou.
A memorial marking Cook’s landing on the banks of the Waihou River appears on the corner of Captain Cook Rd and Hauraki Rd, in Netherton, about 5km from the Historic Maritime Park near Paeroa, which has a replica of the Endeavour.
Blenheim’s Muller Rd stands as an ode to pioneer surgeon Dr Stephen Muller, but it’s perhaps his wife Mary Ann’s work for women’s rights that deserves the recognition.
“She may be a householder, have large possessions, and pay her share of taxes towards the public revenue; but sex disqualifies her.”
This is an extract from Mary Ann Muller’s pamphlet: An Appeal to the Men of New Zealand.
Born in London around 1820, Mary Ann Muller arrived in New Zealand in 1849.
She first worked as a teacher, spending two years in Nelson. She married her second husband, Stephen Muller, a surgeon and fellow immigrant from England, in 1851 after her first husband's death was confirmed.
The pair moved to Blenheim in 1857, after Stephen Muller was appointed to the Wairau Hospital.
In secret, Mary Ann Muller published pamphlets and wrote letters to the newspaper, something her husband never knew about.
She argued for women’s right to vote, but also, for women’s property rights.
Marlborough Museum director Steve Austin says it shows she was thinking far beyond women’s political rights.
While An Appeal to the Men of New Zealand was penned in 1869, it was not until seven years after the death of her husband in 1891, that she revealed her true identity.
William Ah Gee, from China, was one of Wellington’s earliest settlers when he arrived in New Zealand in 1868 aged 24.
By the late 1870s the well-known carver and furniture maker had relocated to Blenheim.
Ah Gee’s products were displayed at the old Government building on Market St, Te Papa in Wellington and the Marlborough Museum.
His work was well regarded in a time when Chinese immigrants were made to feel unwelcome to the country.
In 1888, his Blenheim studio was burnt down in an arson attack, suspected to be racially fuelled.
Discrimination against Chinese was not uncommon.
“They were industrious, frugal and orderly, but there was really institutionalised racism with the introduction of the poll tax for Chinese people in 1881, which was £10 per head and then in 1896 it was £100,” Marlborough Museum director Steve Austin says.
“This was a tax that only applied for Chinese people, who paid the ordinary tax and then there was also the poll tax. But they were not always eligible for a pension.”
Cabin boy James Caddell was a teenager when he and five sailors arrived off South Cape, Stewart Island, in a sealing boat in 1810. As they landed on the shore, they were attacked by a party of Māori, led by Oue chief Honekai. The sailors were slain but Caddell was spared.
In one version of this account, Caddell was saved by the chief’s niece, Tokitoki, who claimed his life by throwing a cloak over him. Another version says Caddell begged Honekai for his life and in the process, touched his kakahū (cloak) and was considered tapu.
Either way, Caddell was integrated into the Māori way of life. He married Tokitoki, submitted to tā moko (traditional tattoo), and due to his marriage and fighting capabilities, was made a rangatira or leader.
Caddell acted as an interpreter to Europeans and warned of impending attacks by Māori. It is believed Caddell and Tokitoki’s relationship was the first known Māori-Pākehā marriage in Southland.
Those visiting Waiheke Island, and even those who call it home, may not know a Māori urupā (cemetery) lies in Mātiatia Bay.
Kōiwi (human remains) lie beneath land on the southern foreshore, with ground penetrating radar revealing burials scattered from the sealed car park to the stream mouth.
In 2003, the then-Auckland City Council laid a gravel pathway through the urupā, splitting family members buried either side of it, and unearthing a skeleton that was exposed due to erosion.
The Waiheke Community Board in 2010, approved public demands for the protection of the urupā.
Some of the kōiwi are believed to belong to tīpuna (ancestors) of iwi Ngāti Paoa, described by historian Paul Monin in Waiheke Island: A History as the principal tangata whenua of Waiheke. It has two trust boards – the Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust and the Ngati Paoa Trust Board.
Haydn Solomon, kaiārahi of the Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust, says members wanted their tīpuna to be reinterred on Mātiatia’s northern beach, alongside other Ngāti Paoa tīpuna in an urupā near Mokemoke Pā.
Harley Wade (Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Huru, Ngāti Kapu) says picnic tables and rubbish bins the iwi wished to see removed in 2010 were still there and the gravel pathway had not been altered.
“It’s a big slap in the face and it’s quite hurtful and disrespectful of our ancestors that lay there and the kōiwi of other iwi,” he says.
“It is a total disregard for our cultural rights and burial grounds.”
Danella Roebeck (Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Kauahi), co-chair of the Ngāti Paoa Trust Board, says because the place where the remains lie is already an urupā, there is no need to uplift and re-inter the kōiwi.
But the board does want the gravel pathway redirected, so people would not walk over their tīpuna.
“Our only concern as a representative body for our iwi is the wāhi tapu is recognised for what it is – a significant and sacred site for Ngāti Paoa,” she says.
“The trust board’s position is it is wāhi tapu and should be left alone.”
The land rights advocate who went to the Privy Council and won, setting a legal precedent for customary title.
One of Manawatū’s most fierce Māori land advocates in the late 1800s won his greatest battle when he took the New Zealand Government to the highest court in England and won.
Nireaha Tāmaki, of Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu, fought for his people’s land interests as a young man from 1871. But his greatest victory was thirty years later, when he secured the acknowledgement of customary Māori title in a battle against land grabbing.
Tāmaki fought with words against the Government’s attempts to force him to pay for surveys of his land, believing it would be sold to European settlers who wanted to avoid the costs rather than him wanting to retain his land for tribal estate in the Mangatainoka Block in 1893.
He argued more than 5184 acres of the block were granted to him and others in 1871, and if that title were rejected, that the land never passed through the Native Land Court and was therefore held under customary Māori title.
Tāmaki lost his first court battle at the Court of Appeal on the basis that acts of the state could not be reviewed by that court, but won his case at the Privy Council in 1901, setting a precedent for the nation.
Peter Te Rangi, of Rangitāne, said Tāmaki challenged the land grab that was going on and the right of the Government to take land.
“He took the New Zealand Government to the highest court in England and won his case. So the Government had to do a double take and put in to any further legislation and land grabs, the right of Māori to be heard when it came to land sales.
“Nireaha Tāmaki made a big difference for Māori from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island by taking them to the Privy Council in England and winning.”
Tāmaki’s success established principles the court would recognise Māori custom, that customary title was not inconsistent with the idea all of New Zealand was under Crown ownership, and the customary relationship Māori had with the whenua existed and should be recognised in court.
However, as a result, the Government passed legislation which limited Māori rights to challenge the Crown’s land-purchasing procedure through the courts.
Porirua East state housing a cautionary tale for Government when considering social housing developments.
A shift towards multi-unit state housing saw Porirua East become a cautionary tale for future government developments.
The Government’s acclaimed housing scheme in Porirua East not only failed to deliver high-quality homes, it also created social stigma for the mainly Māori and Pacific families who eventually lived there.
The first state homes in the 1900s were supposed to be built to the highest standards budgets would allow for. No two houses were to be exactly alike – preventing people from being identified as state tenants – and to ensure England’s working class suburbs weren’t replicated.
But falling budgets, increased building costs and urban sprawl concerns in the 1960s saw Porirua East become one of the first places to see large-scale multi-unit development – and the backlash was swift.
The uniformity of design, the dominance of poorer households, and the lack of services and amenities, including libraries and community halls, effectively saw Porirua East characterised as a ghetto.
Despite growing numbers of Māori and Pasifika people moving into state homes, they weren’t designed with their prospective tenants in mind.
One Māori tenant, accustomed to separating food preparation areas from washing areas, was horrified to find the only place she could wash her family’s clothes was in the kitchen.
“These houses were designed by English people who are happy to wash their pants in the sink. Well, I wasn’t going to be happy washing my babies’ nappies in there,” the woman said.
When Queen Elizabeth II visited one of the homes with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1963, she asked developer John Dunlop: “Where do you put the prams?”
A 1963 Anglican Church report accused the Government of forgetting the social needs of the community when it formulated plans for Porirua East.
Urban historian Ben Schrader says there was a perception the shift away from standalone homes was “un-New Zealand” and an affront to the traditional Kiwi way of life.
“From the 1960s, Eastern Porirua was widely criticised as an undesirable place to live – a ‘failed experiment’ … popular prejudice is grounded in the fact that it has always been a low-income community and the poor are severely judged in New Zealand,” Schrader says.
In the late 1970s, an image of the suburb’s state homes was included in Housing Corporation publicity material as an example of what to avoid in future housing schemes.
On January 23, 1964, Charles Aberhart – better known as Allan – was killed in Christchurch’s Hagley Park.
Aberhart had recently been released from prison, where he served time for “indecent acts” – in this case a consensual relationship with another man, which at the time was considered criminal.
Aberhart lived in Blenheim, but was visiting Christchurch when he went to the public toilets near Victoria Lake in Hagley Park, which was a known cruising spot.
He was approached by a group of teenagers, and he started discussing possible sexual acts. They were baiting him; they had planned to assault a gay man.
As they started beating him, Aberhart pleaded for them to stop, and was said to have offered to buy them coffee. His body was found later that night, bloodied and bruised, splayed out by a cycle path. He had died of a brain haemorrhage.
The teenagers were charged with manslaughter, and pleaded not guilty. They did not deny assaulting him, and claimed Aberhart had propositioned them. An all-male jury acquitted them of the charges.
The result prompted outrage among the public, although the homophobic component of the killing was less scrutinised. The killing was a major factor in the formation of the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society, an influential group that successfully lobbied for law changes, including the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986.
Aberhart was one of numerous men who had their convictions expunged in 2018.
The truth behind colonial soldiers honoured for their service during the ‘Māori War’ but who all died tragically after the conflict ended.
“Māori War” is the headline inscribed on a monument dedicated to 11 men who died after serving in the colonial forces in the Waikato during the 1860s.
Most of the men were buried in the Leamington Cemetery, near Cambridge, but their names and indeed their fates were unknown when the monument was set up by the Government in 1927, to recognise their service in the “Māori War”.
Cambridge was settled in July 1864, months after the conflict was over in the Waikato. Research from the Cambridge Museum has uncovered more detail about how the soldiers actually died through tragic fatal accidents and suicide.
The first of the 11 colonial soldiers to be buried at Leamington was Jonathan Dann, who died on September 25, 1864. His inquest said he was very drunk and ordered to his tent. The verdict was apoplexy brought on by excessive drinking of ardent spirits.
The next to go was Frederick Higgins, on November 12, 1864. He was partially if not quite intoxicated, would bathe in the river although told not to do so, and drowned.
Ernest Hartman also drowned, December 4, 1864, while David Halliday’s body was found floating in the river having gone missing, December 12, 1864.
In 1865, George Commons died on January 8; Patrick Walsh on February 3 and Daniel Sharper Smith, July 23. Patrick Swan also drowned in the river, October 25 that year.
Another by the surname “Buckley” was found dead in a tree by a group of surveyors, while Michael Murphy was discovered moaning in a ditch and later died in hospital due to severe injuries to his spine.
In 1866, George Wilson killed himself on May 13, and left a note for a friend which blamed “mental distraction” for his surprise end.
Robert Wilson died on June 23, he was drunk and choked on a piece of steak. Wilson was the first to be buried on the right bank in the Cambridge cemetery at Hautapu.
During the first Taranaki War, the editor of the Taranaki Herald, Garland William Woon, launched a controversial publication reporting current events with a frequently racist, defamatory and slanderous tone.
The first issue of Taranaki Punch, published under Woon's editorship and illustrated by local dentist Henry Rawson, ran on October 31, 1860.
In total, the magazine printed 16 issues before its last on August 7, 1861, when it folded.
It was named after its British counterpart, Punch, whose brand was adopted by other satirical publications around the world.
The British version was a weekly magazine first published in 1841. The name and masthead were taken from the anarchic glove puppet, Mr Punch, of the puppet show Punch and Judy.
According to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s NZ History website, it was known for its “sophisticated humour and absence of offensive material”.
But Taranaki's adaptation did not share the same qualities.
One issue, for example, printed a “nursery rhyme” which mocked imperial forces for being fooled into attacking an empty pā, using in it the offensive n-word when referring to Māori.
Another cartoon depicted a bishop shielding a Māori man, portrayed as an arsonist, from attack by the British military.
“This cartoon illustrates the common settler opinion that missionaries were interfering busybodies who mistakenly protected violent Māori. It suggests that ‘rebel’ Māori could only be controlled by force,” Te Ara explained.
In 1868, during a battle in Taranaki amid the New Zealand Wars, Ngātau Omahuru, believed to be 5 at the time, was snatched by colonial forces from his home near Hāwera, South Taranaki.
The mutual abduction of children between Māori and European dates back to the 1760s and on the occasion of Omahuru’s kidnap, two other Māori children were also taken.
One of the youngsters was murdered while the other’s fate remains unknown. Omahuru, however, spent a couple of years at a Wellington hostel before he came to the attention of Premier Sir William Fox and his wife, Sarah.
Though the boy’s parents, Te Karere and Hinewai Omahuru of Ngāruahine, were still alive, he was adopted by the Foxes and renamed William Fox, after the prime minister, according to Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
He was schooled in Wellington and remained with the Foxes until he was a teen. He was then sent to live and work with lawyer, Sir Walter Buller.
Omahuru went on to become a law clerk and, according to Te Ara, returned to Taranaki to live in 1878 and reunited with his whānau.
Omahuru continued a relationship with his adoptive mother, it recorded.
An advertisement from an 1893 issue of the Hāwera and Normanby Star, showed Omahuru as a licensed interpreter living at Hāwera.
In 1918, he died, aged around 50, however his cause of death has not been recorded. Omahuru lies in Lepperton Cemetery with nothing to mark his grave, Puke Ariki records.
INNER CITY AUCKLAND·1900s
Auckland’s inner city suburbs were once home to large gardens, planted by early Chinese settlers.
They grew cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower and more before auctioning them off at markets.
That was until the more influential Pākehā decided to replace them with a rugby field, state housing and a rubbish dump.
Experts on early Chinese settlers in New Zealand say many arrived in the country to work in Otago goldfields. When work dried up, some moved to Auckland around 1900 where they set up as market gardeners in Western Springs, Parnell, Grey Lynn and later, in Avondale, Panmure and Māngere Bridge.
But discrimination was rife, and as professor of Asian studies, Manying Ip, says: “They were tolerated, rather than welcomed.”
Author Ruth Lam says, in the early 1900s, there was a general dislike of the gardeners.
“Vicious rumours” were made up, claiming crops were fertilised by human waste. People living around the markets would say the gardens were unclean and unhealthy – all claims that were never substantiated.
Lam says Pākehā didn’t like that the gardeners sold cheaper, fresher vegetables, “undercutting” their businesses.
Ip says Chinese immigrants had no right to citizenship until the 1950s, meaning land could only be leased and not owned.
So when people with “more money, higher clout or more prestige” came along, the gardens were replaced.
In Parnell, Carlaw Park was created so Pākehā could play rugby. The land is now used for student accommodation.
In Western Springs, gardens were replaced with social housing, according to Auckland Council. Those houses were later removed and replaced by a landfill.
Chinese gardeners working in the gardens either stopped gardening all together, or moved further afield, bringing the practice to an end.
John Cracroft Wilson moved to Christchurch in the early 1850s, and later became a local MP and one of the city’s most prominent residents.
He emigrated from India, his country of birth, where he served as magistrate of Moradabad.
When Wilson arrived in New Zealand, at least a dozen Indians came with him to act as servants. There had been accounts of individual Indians in New Zealand before, but this would become the first distinct Indian community in the country.
Wilson – who had the nickname “Nabob” – bought large tracts of property south of the city. He named his estate Cashmere, after his favourite region in India – Kashmir. It expanded to comprise a large part of south Christchurch and spread over the Port Hills towards Governor’s Bay.
Conditions for most of his Indian servants were poor. They initially lived in huts along what is today known as Shalamar Drive, but were later housed in a servants’ quarters that still stands today, called the Old Stone House. The building, while large, was uncomfortable to its inhabitants, and some became sick.
The servants were lowly paid and struggled to adapt to the climate. Several tried to abscond, but faced Wilson’s wrath in the courts and were forced to return. Some, however, were given land and housing once their terms were up.
The Indian community were integral to the development of Cashmere. They helped drain the Cashmere Swamp, paving the way for housing in what is today a highly-sought after suburb.
The area retains some of its Indian heritage today: along with Shalamar Drive there is a Delhi Place, a Sasaram Ln, a Bengal Drive and a Nehru Place, among others.
MATIU/SOMES ISLAND·1860s-EARLY 1900s
Today Matiu/Somes Island is a haven. Free of rats, mice, cats, possums and stoats for more than three decades, it’s a utopia for native plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates.
But Wellington is full of surprising histories, and Matiu/Somes is no exception. In wartime, the island was more prison than sanctuary.
Quarantine barracks were established on the island in 1869, and during wartime they housed “aliens enemies” – anyone from a country considered a risk to New Zealand’s security.
Alien enemy was defined as anyone who was “a subject of any State with which His Majesty is now at war”. During World War I, this included Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria.
From 1914 to 1918, the barracks housed around 300 prisoners, most of them Germans, some who were born in New Zealand, with families and businesses here.
These people were treated with little trust. According to correspondence between the town clerk and a city solicitor in 1919: “The position of Russians is doubtful, though you must give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Even after the war, “alien enemies” were not allowed to vote or hold positions as publicly elected officials, and their names were dutifully removed from electoral rolls.
Ousted from society, they were put to work gardening, fishing and building roads on Matiu/Somes, paid a small daily allowance, and earned extra money making wooden toys and pāua jewellery.
There were some attempted escapes, either by stealing boats or swimming, but none were successful.
Today, around half the barracks remain. The hospital built in 1918 for sick prisoners is now the Department of Conservation Field Centre, and five concrete structures are still on the levelled hilltop – a command post and four gun positions.
But the residents today are mostly feathered and scaled, and, unlike the “alien enemies”, free to go when they choose.
The social stigma suffered by hundreds of families when their men were imprisoned for refusing to go to war.
Manawatū is famous for its military might, but in Shannon, 30 kilometres south of Palmerston North, the foundations of World War II’s conscientious objector camps scar the earth.
Almost 600 men aged between 18 and 46 were arrested and imprisoned for objecting to the war. Seen as cowards and committing a crime against the Crown, fathers, brothers and sons were taken from their homes and sent to camps across Aotearoa to be put to work as the war raged overseas.
Between 1942 and 1946, Whitaunui, on the Shannon Foxton Road, and Paiaka, on Springs Rd were home to almost half of the men imprisoned.
Trapped behind barbed wire and placed in the prisoner-built two-man cabins, objectors tended to crops, flax, lugged coal and serviced vehicles under strict discipline throughout their imprisonment.
In testimonies, collected by Margaret Tate, the men’s children describe the financial, mental, and social toll that tore through their families, and lingered once their fathers had returned.
Families struggled to keep track of their men as the state shifted them from camp to camp at a moment’s notice.
The 6 to 8 shillings a week the men could send home to their families was not much to survive on. The stigma of being married to a conscientious objector meant some women were forced out of their jobs, making it even more difficult to provide for their children.
The last detainees were released in July 1946, 10 months after the war ended, with a train ticket and £80.
Upon their return, many struggled to find work, suffered from mental health issues, and withdrew or were not welcome in social circles.
Rod Bennett, son of imprisoned Quaker Norman William Bennett, wrote in his testimony he was excluded from activities as a child and bullied for defecting due to his religious beliefs.
But when he questioned his mother about his father’s character as a man, she replied: “What is the braver thing to do, to sign up and go to war like everyone else, or to stand up for what you believe in and go against the crowds?”
Sir Thomas Picton was a 19th century war hero celebrated for his part in the Napoleonic Wars, but later denounced for his treatment of slaves and the authorisation of torture while Governor of Trinidad.
Branded as “the Tyrant of Trinidad”, it was understood Picton owned slaves, and some sources say he acquired much of his wealth from dealing slaves.
He was also convicted of torturing a 14-year-old girl, though the sentence was later overturned.
His descendants in the United Kingdom had joined protesters calling for his marble likeness to be removed from Cardiff, leading New Zealanders to wonder whether the military commander was a worthy namesake for the entrance to the top of the south.
Prior to being named Picton, the area was known as Te Weranga o Waitohi, a name from Te Ātiawa, one of the eight iwi in the region.
Parihaka prisoners died of cold and malnutrition while confined on Ōtamahua (Quail) Island in Lyttelton Harbour in the late 1800s, and were buried in mass graves.
Four hundred and twenty Parihaka men were imprisoned for peacefully protesting the confiscation of their land by the Government in the late 1800s. About 380 were sent straight to South Island prisons in Dunedin, Hokitika and Lyttelton. Many died.
Some prisoners were also confined on nearby Ripapa Island.
There is a memorial in the urupā (graveyard) at Rāpaki village commemorating “the imprisonment without trial of innocent Taranaki and all other tribes taken to Dunedin or Hokitika”.
It states: “The prisoners who died on Ōtamahua Island were buried on the island, but Rāpaki people exhumed them and re-interred them, back at Rapaki urupa.”
The exhumation happened in the middle of the night, when local rūnanga members crossed to the island to bring them back for a Christian burial at the Rāpaki church.
Parihaka leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi were sent to Addington Prison in Christchurch. They were released 16 months later and returned home as heroes to lead the recovery of their community.
GREY LYNN AND PONSONBY·1950s-1970s
In the 1950s and 60s, Grey Lynn and Ponsonby was a hub for new migrants arriving from the Pacific. Pākekā families were shifting out to the suburbs, leaving cheap rentals in the city centre. At the same time, there was a concerted effort from the Government to encourage Māori to move to cities, and many ended up in the central suburbs.
But in the 1970s, attitudes soured towards migrants who had been brought in to fill a labour gap.
There was “moral panic”, sociologist, Professor Paul Spoonley says. Pasifika migrants were seen as responsible for urban degradation and regarded as a threat to law and order, notably in the National Party’s 1975 election campaign.
The decade saw a massive increase in state housing stock, concentrated in city-fringe developments such as Māngere and Ōtara. The policy of “pepper potting” – where individual Māori families were housed in Pākehā areas – fell out of favour, and Māori were instead allocated homes in these large housing estates.
Many Pasifika families were encouraged to move south because the new builds were in better nick – and cheaper – than the rundown villas of Grey Lynn and Ponsonby, Spoonley says.
But the pull of affordable housing was matched by the push of racism. Pacific people attempting to rent came up against discrimination and, as the inner city gained popularity with young Pākehā professionals from the mid-70s, Pacific families were costed out of the market.
When the mutilated bodies of Lieutenant Robert Snow, his wife, Hannah, and 6-year-old daughter, Mary, were found in their burnt-out raupō home, suspicion immediately fell on local Māori.
The frigate HMS Dido was anchored off Devonport in the early hours of October 23, 1847, when those on watch spotted flames at Snow’s home. A short time later the grim discovery of the bodies were made.
Some on board had noticed two canoes leaving a nearby beach at the time of the fire.
The ship’s captain sent armed men to round up 22 Māori men, women and children, believed to be from the Ngāti Pāoa settlement at nearby Te Haukapua, or Torpedo Bay.
The newspaper, The New Zealander, was irate when the prisoners were released. They had not been charged and their freedom came only after an unknown clergyman promised they would attend the inquest.
“There can be no doubt that natives were perpetrators of the foul deed,” accused the newspaper, before repeating a detailed description of the mutilated bodies.
“What was done with that flesh, we leave our readers to suppose. We hope most earnestly that we may be shown to have been mistaken; but, for the present, our conviction is firm.”
Eight months later, former naval carpenter Joseph Burns was revealed as the true killer, who carried out the triple murder in order to steal Lt Snow’s money.
He mutilated the bodies to make it appear local Māori had carried out the killing.
He was found guilty at the Supreme Court in June 1848 and was later hanged near the site of the Snow murders.
Ngāti Pāoa historian Morehu Wilson told Stuff the Snow murders increased the fear amongst the settler communities of Tāmaki Makaurau that invasion from the north was imminent.
“It is fortunate that Ngāti Pāoa did have a tangible relationship with the Missionaries and a history of lucidity and honourable dignity, that prompted the support of many. Thankfully, the real perpetrator did not escape justice.”
In the semi-rural town of Pukekohe, known for its horticultural and dairy farming industry, racial segregation between Māori and Europeans was rampant until as late as the 1970s.
It’s an uncomfortable and ugly truth which saw Māori forced to sit in designated sections of the town’s cinema so as not to “offend” European patrons. Barbers, bars and taxis would refuse to serve Māori patrons, and they were allowed to use the school pools only on Fridays, after which the water was changed.
Sociologist Robert Bartholomew, who wrote a book on the issue called No Māori Allowed, says the suburb was home to the only Māori-segregated school in New Zealand at the time, which opened in 1952 and operated for nine years.
The Māori population in the area grew from 45 in 1926 to 180 in 1945. By 1961, it hit 663 as more Māori people moved to the area to work as labourers on market gardens.
Māori were confined to an area known as “the reservation” which was separated from the houses of Europeans, Bartholomew says.
“It baffles me how little is known or said about the way Pukekohe was at this time,” Bartholomew says.
“It was way behind the rest of Auckland in terms of tolerance.”
The segregation ended only because the Government put pressure on local officials to make a change, Bartholomew says.
“As more Māori entered the residential areas of Pukekohe, Franklin Council and many of the local European residents were forced to accept the inevitable march of progress and integration.”
The grey, single lane of Haining Street is surrounded on both sides by nondescript apartment buildings and office blocks. There’s little evidence of its storied history as Wellington’s Chinatown.
Tong Yan Gaai (唐人街), or Chinese People’s Street, was a vibrant area where immigrants banded together to create a sense of community in a foreign land.
It was also home to decades of discrimination, police profiling, scaremongering, and a brutal race murder.
The immigrants who populated the street were almost entirely single men, often living in cramped quarters and squalid conditions.
There was significant European pressure to keep the Chinese settlers confined to the area.
The Anti-Chinese League, a significant political force at the time, wrote to the Wellington mayor and council in 1896 urging them to support a policy to push “the location of Chinese in[to] one-quarter of the city”.
Many Europeans were afraid of the street. Wild (and false) rumours that young white girls would be kidnapped if they went down the street were particularly damaging.
In his book Old Wellington Days, historian Pat Lawler wrote, “We were told that even if we went near that drab, narrow, little street with its congestion of tumbledown houses, we might be kidnapped, boiled in a copper and made into preserved ginger.”
Police aggressively targeted the area, raiding houses on the streets almost every weekend on suspicion of opium possession and gambling.
The darkest period of Haining Street’s history was the murder of 70-year-old Joe Kum Yung in 1905 by white supremacist Lionel Terry.
Terry was obsessed with what he called the “yellow peril” and hoped the murder would send a political statement.
Terry was sentenced to death, but had his sentence commuted. He spent the next 47 years in a range of psychiatric institutions.
A World War II incident in Featherston has gone down in history as one of the worst wartime shootings in New Zealand. It was caused by a misunderstanding between two very different cultures.
On February 25, 1943, a party of Japanese prisoners was asked to participate in a work detail at the prisoner of war camp just outside the Wairarapa town.
Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are allowed to perform work. But the Japanese went by a different guide, the army code Senjinkun. This states that you must never become a prisoner of war and that you must also never do anything that could be of help to the enemy.
For the Japanese, they had already suffered the shame of being captured, now they were being asked to help the enemy.
They staged a peaceful protest, sitting down in a large square, their officers among them. A move was made to remove the officers, which was resisted.
When Adjutant James Malcolm fired a warning shot from his pistol, the Japanese responded by throwing stones. They stood and rushed the guards. The guards opened fire.
It lasted less than a minute, but 48 Japanese prisoners were killed and many more wounded. One New Zealander, Private Walter Pelvin, was also killed by a ricocheting bullet.
This was a dark mark on the camp’s history. For the rest of the war the relationships between guards and prisoners were reportedly quite good.
In fact, Featherston is one of the few places Japanese returned to after the war. Whereas most want to leave wartime experiences in prison camps behind them, in Featherston they came to remember.
Mark Pacey, Masterton historian
In 1980, consensual sex between men was still illegal in New Zealand and some men took to meeting at clubs, saunas or public toilets as a way to express their sexuality in a safe place.
The meetings prompted police to organise undercover raids to catch the men who frequented them.
On February 1, 1980, Victoria Spa and sauna in Auckland central was raided, resulting in the arrests of six men who were charged with committing an indecent act on another man.
The venue’s manager, Brett Shepherd, was also charged with assisting in the management of the sauna while it was being used as a place of “indecent acts” between males.
AUT professor Welby Ings was part of a protest outside the Auckland courthouse opposing the entrapment of gay men.
Ings says the raids frightened many people and led to suicides, divorce, depression and people losing their jobs.
“These places were especially good for men who were still in the closet. You could go to prison for up to seven years for being gay and, during the trial, often names and photographs of the man would be splashed across front pages.
“It destroyed lives.
“We formed an impromptu march to the bottom of Queen Street amidst an intensive police presence. This event saw the start of major public protests against the police raids.
“It was a terrible and outrageous thing that police did. This was a safe place for men who couldn’t be seen going into gay bars or clubs to be themselves.”
Taking part in the protests could have cost the men their jobs, Ings says, so many dispersed as photographers appeared.
“I got a letter of reprimand from the South Auckland Education Board for being there,” Ings says.
The gay community never received an apology from police over the raids, Ings says, even after homosexuality was decriminalised.
On December 20, 1951, a group of men decided to fundraise to help blind children in the Wellington suburb of Thorndon.
Their chosen form of “entertainment” was a blackface minstrel show.
It was not the only time Wellingtonians participated in this form of racist entertainment. Wellington City Archives holds photos showing members from the Island Bay Life Saving and Surf Club dressed in blackface, some dating back to the 1890s.
Victoria University associate professor Dolores Janiewski, who specialises in American history, says the United States has been exporting its culture, both good and bad, around the world for a long time.
This extends beyond blackface.
In 1917, several Wellingtonians rode through the streets dressed in white sheets, promoting the film The Birth of a Nation, a film that makes heroes of the Ku Klux Klan.
Blackface minstrelsy formed as a mockery of African Americans, and was often performed by Irish immigrants as a way to integrate themselves into American society.
It is difficult to know what New Zealanders who performed and watched minstrel shows were thinking, or whether they understood the context behind it, Janiewski says.
Wellington City Council chief digital officer James Roberts says the archives date back to the mid-19th century, and there would be confronting content among the documents and images.
He considers it essential to retain records, rather than to censor the past, but content is flagged with warnings when necessary.
When a settler walked free after killing a Māori woman and her child, it had deadly consequences for other settlers during the infamous Wairau Affray.
In June 1843, a group of European settlers led by Captain Arthur Wakefield hoped to acquire land in the Wairau plains.
They attempted to clear off Ngāti Toa Rangatira who were living there at the time, by arresting their rangatira Te Rangihaeata and Te Rauparaha, when a battle broke out. It was the first serious conflict between settlers and Māori after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
It’s believed 22 settlers and four Māori were killed including Te Rangihaeta’s wife, Te Rauparaha’s daughter Te Rongopamamao. Some of the Pākeha men were executed after surrendering.
Although the land grab, arrest and battle is well documented, the reason for utu by the iwi leaders isn’t as widely known. Utu is a customary practice related to mana and is used to maintain and restore balance such as a gift exchange or offence.
According to the Prow, a website featuring historical Māori and cultural stories from Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough, weeks before the Wairau incident, a settler raped and murdered Rangiawa Kuika and her child, a son, at Port Underwood.
She was married to Blenheim’s first storekeeper, James Wynen, and was a close relative of Te Rangihaeata and Te Rauparaha.
At the time of her murder, the iwi was persuaded by the local missionary to seek justice through the Pākehā courts.
Richard Dick Cook, the accused settler, was tried for the killing.
Cook’s wife, Kataraina, was the key witness in the case and said her husband killed Kuika. As his wife, however, she was unable to give evidence and Cook walked away free, without a conviction or imprisonment.
Six months later, after the Wairau Affray, Te Rangihaeata said one of the reasons Arthur Wakefield was killed was because Cook had not been punished.
Words: Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland: Edward Gay, Melanie Earley, Kendall Hutt, Josephine Franks, Danielle Clent, Torika Tokalau; Te Karere o Murihiku / Waikato Times: Lawrence Gullery; Te Karere o Taranaki / Taranaki Daily News: Tara Shaskey; Hau Rewa Manawatū / Manawatū Standard: Maxine Jacobs; Te Upoko-o-Te-Ika / The Dominion Post: Mandy Te, Katarina Williams, Sophie Cornish, Brittany Keogh, Laura Wiltshire, Joel MacManus, Matthew Tso, Kate Green, Georgia-May Gilbertson, Mark Pacey, Masterton historian; Te Karere o Whakatū / Nelson Mail: Skara Bohny; Te Karere o Wairau / Marlborough Express: Maia Hart; Te Matatika / The Press: Jody O’Callaghan, Joanne Naish, Hamish McNeilly; Te Karere o Te Tihi o Maru / The Timaru Herald: Esther Ashby-Coventry; Te Karere o Murihiku / The Southland Times: Georgia Weaver; National Correspondent: Charlie Mitchell
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