Treaty gunpoint threat and other lies

Hawke's Bay elder Jerry Hapuku spoke to the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper for a Waitangi Day story this year. Maybe the excitement of being interviewed blurred the line between fact and fiction so he told a story about his ancestor, chief Te Hapuku, being forced to sign the Treaty of Waitangi at gunpoint.

That’s news to me I thought when I saw the headline, having read a lot of regional history, so I checked historian Angela Ballara’s description Te Hapuku and the treaty in her biography of him in the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ballara is a current member of the Waitangi Tribunal and her writings are very pro-Maori.

Ballara’s account shows that because Te Hapuku had signed the 1835 Declaration of the Independence in the Bay of Islands on September 25, 1838, Major Thomas Bunbury deemed it important to obtain his agreement to the treaty so visited him at the Tukituki River in Hawke's Bay.

"At first Te Hapuku refused to sign, saying that Nga Puhi were now slaves through the treaty, but Bunbury convinced him that his assent to the treaty could only increase his mana; he gave it on 24 June 1840”, Ballara wrote.

No gunpoint threat there! Ballara did write that Te Hapuku was threatened by British Resident James Busby at some time in the 1830s with a visit by a warship to stop him bullying whalers at Mahia.

“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies”, the chorus of the old Fleetwood Mac song, could be the chorus of every Waitangi Day, as such imaginative accounts like that of Hawke's Bay elder Jerry Hapuku.

These little lies fill newspapers in early February every year, along with the turgid prose of academic treaty troughers telling us that we should keep shovelling cash to tribes despite grievances being settled. These lies include:

1. That Ngapuhi never ceded sovereignty, another lie trotted out this year, this time with the backing of a report from the hopelessly conflicted Waitangi Tribunal. Claimant logic is simple: The Waitangi Tribunal said so; the Waitangi Tribunal is official; therefore it must be true.

But the claim is a bare-faced lie: Article 1 of the treaty says the chiefs cede to the Queen of England for ever the entire Sovereignty of their country. Missionary William Colenso records the debate that shows the chiefs understood what ceding sovereignty meant. Chiefs at Kohimarama 20 years later reaffirmed their commitment to this deal.

2. “The wicked white coloniser” stole 25.2 million hectares of Maori land. This lie was incorporated into a stunt by Nga Tamatoa protesters at the 1971 Waitangi Day event.

New Zealand has 26.8-million hectares of land. Around 1.2-million hectares were confiscated during the 1860s wars (much of which was returned at the time). There is approximately 1.47 million hectares of Maori land. Everything else, being 24.13-million hectares, was sold.

Chiefs sold the land. They did not lose the land.

3. South Island tribe Ngai Tahu lost 12 billion dollars worth of assets and generously accepted as compensation $170-million.

A closer look at the facts shows that fewer than 2000 people occupied the 15 million hectare South Island in 1840, so few that the British thought it was uninhabited. Nevertheless, a handful of Ngai Tahu chiefs sold most of the South Island in 10 deals over 20 years from 1844 for a total of ₤14,750.

Between 1868 and 1995, Ngai Tahu had received five settlements of what started out as a single complaint. What is more, Ngai Tahu, like Waikato-Tainui, negotiated a top-up relativity clause, which means their latest settlement just keeps on giving. Moreover, Ngai Tahu had sold much of the South Island before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and the treaty commitment to investigate pre-1840 sales enabled chiefs to sell the land all over again while keeping the proceeds of the earlier sales.

4. General Cameron rode into Rangioawhia, near Te Awamutu, on February 24, 1864, rounded up all the Maori, locked them into the church, set fire to it, and anybody that tried to escape was shot, and 144 Maori were burnt to death.

The truth is that for many years afterwards all the churches in the village were still standing! One wooden church had bullet holes in it from the troops' fire at armed rebels firing from within it. Other rebels were firing from inside a rush whare that caught fire - whether from their own guns or those of the troops is not known.

Figures for the rebels inside vary from five to 12. In any case their bodies were recovered afterwards along with that of Sergeant McHale who had been killed by a bullet and his body dragged inside. Colonel Nixon was also killed when leading his troops.

Total casualties on both sides did not exceed about 20, thus achieving Cameron's objective of minimizing casualties by a surprise attack before dawn. The myth-makers give him no credit for that.

5. That Kereopa Te Rau, who swallowed the eyes of missionary Carl Volkner at Opotiki on March 2, 1865, was totally innocent of his murder.

Te Rau was found guilty by a properly constituted court of law and hanged the usual penalty for murder in those days. There is ample evidence in the nature of his involvement in this killing. (See Mary Tagg: "The Martyr's Crown"") Nevertheless, in June 2014, Te Rau received a statutory pardon from a craven government.

6. That there was no cannibalism of crew members of the "Harriet" wrecked near Cape Egmont, Taranaki, in 1834..

This was declared in video at the falsehood-ridden exhibition by the New Plymouth museum, exhibited in Nelson, 2013. Evidence from eyewitnesses Jackie and Betty Guard, the latter being captured, including the names of most of those slaughtered and eaten is incontrovertible.

The list could go on.

If it was merely a matter of “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies”, as the chorus of the old Fleetwood Mac song tells us, there would be not issue other than academic debates over history.

The lies are dressed up as "oral history" the Waitangi Tribunal gives precedence to such oral history which is not cross-examined, over substantial written proof - legal documents and written eye-witness accounts.

But these lies form the basis of a grievance industry that has already transferred more than $2-billion to tribal entities that largely pay no tax. These lies help claimants within universities and the government push for this transfer of wealth to continue long after all land grievances have been settled.


In an attempt to suggest a thuggish, overbearing Crown trampled down a highly advanced and evolved community, a Taranaki kaumatua told one of the Hobson's Pledge members that the illegal Parihaka Commune closed down by the Crown in 1881 generated and reticulated its own electricity.

Must have been aliens in a space ship that dropped off the generator and hooked it up, since the first town in New Zealand to get electricity, Levin, didn't achieve this until 1888.

Nor was there any way this mythical electricity could have been hydro, because closest dam to the former Parihaka Commune, the earth dam at Patea some 64km away, wasn't completed until 1984.

Perhaps this electricity at Parihaka more than 100 years earlier was wind-generated - the flatulence coming from local kaumatua probably being the most reliable source.

Our guy was also told that the illegal Parihaka Commune was extensively shelled from a British man-o-war moored of the Taranaki Coast before colonial troops moved in to close it down.

Quite a feat using smooth bore cannon (short-range ship-to-ship ordnance) firing more than 16km with no line of sight to the target!

By Peter Hemmingson