THE SETTLEMENT of NELSON & GERMAN IMMIGRATION to NELSON
Land shortage, disorganisation and a surfeit of labour hampered the early development of Nelson. Its eventual success was due to the high calibre and perseverance of those who stayed.
With the promise of continued Government support given by Lord John Russell on November 18 1840, the New Zealand company decided to embark on a second colony with even more ambitious provisions than those for Wellington. This second settlement, to be called Nelson, was to occupy 201,000 acres. It was to consist of 1.000 allotments, each allotment comprising of three sections: one town acre, 50 acres of accommodation or suburban land and 150 acres of rural land to be sold uniformly or at a cost of £1.10.0 an acre, selection to be made by order of choice decided by lottery before leaving England. It was hoped that the sale of the allotments would bring in a sum of £300,000 of which £150,000 was to be spent on emigration, £50,000 on selecting the site and establishing the settlement, and £50,000 on the company's expensive and profit. The remaining £50,000 was to be spent on improving the amenities of the new settlement: £15,000 for religious institutions, £15,000 for the establishment of a college and £20,00 for the encouragement of steam communications. One hundred extra allotments were to be set aside for native reserves.
Selection of Nelson
Captain Arthur Wakefield was chosen to head the settlement. In April 1841 he and the preliminary expedition set out for New Zealand to choose the site and commence surveys. At the last minute the Company endeavoured to get permission form Lord Russell to select a site anywhere within New Zealand. Russell declared that this decision must rest with Hobson, however, was prepared to grant a site only within the vicinity of Auckland. As the company was unwilling to have its emigrants labourers drawn off to the capital, Colonel Wakefield refused and Arthur Wakefield reluctantly set off to the district round Blind Bay. Here he found a desirable haven and what he hoped would be sufficient land. Upon the payment of additional sums to the resident Maoris, the expedition disembarked. Whares were built, the barracks for housing emigrants were erected and the work of surveying begun.
Meanwhile the main party of land purchasers and assisted emigrants were being assembled in London. Unfortunately the seeds of future trouble were being sown: the company had been able to sell only 371 of the 1,000 allotments and of these the great majority were to absentee owners. The number of labourers was not reduced as the funds thus spent would, under the Russell agreement, enable the company to claim further land. The balance between capital and labour, the key factor of Wakefield's colonisation theory, had already been broken.
The first ship the Fifeshire, arrived in Nelson on 1st February 1842. This was followed by numerous other ships so that by April Captain Wakefield considered that a sufficient number of land purchasers had arrived for him to proceed with the selection of the surveyed town sections. Once these were distributed and leases arranged, it was possible for people to erect more permanent homes. The accommodation or suburban surveys proceeded well, but it was not until August that the first half were ready for selection. It was January 1843 before they were complete. This meant that many people had spent the best part of a year in idleness in town, using up their very slender capital. One real gain however had been the building of a community spirit and the founding of several cultural institutions, some of which have long continued to influence Nelson social life. The Nelson Examiner, begun in England, was soon flourishing at Nelson. The Nelson Literary and Scientific Institution known as the Institute was founded on board the Whitby and by September 1842 was functioning with its own library and reading room. Schools and religious institutions were quickly established. Bishop Selwyn arrived in August 1842, bringing with him a clergyman of the Church of England. He arranged for the site of the church and purchased a small building previously used for immigration purposes. Other Christian groups joined together for regular worship and to organise Sunday schools for the children. A Methodist minister arrived early 1843. Selwyn also arranged for the leasing of native reserves, the proceeds to be used for the erection buildings for the Maori: school, hospital, church and a few dwellings.
As the selection of the accommodation sections was completed, the great majority of landholders departed to live on their farms. It was not long before they began to realise some of the problems of the Nelson settlement. Much of the land was useless. Ignorance of farming on the part of many land purchases meant they had made unwise choices, and once on their land, had very little idea how to make it productive. As early as September 1842 Frederick Tuckett had estimated that an additional 50,000 acres would be needed to complete the original scheme of the settlement, but he had no idea where this land was to be found. Other difficulties of the settlement arose from the failure of the Company to sell the 1,000 allotments on which the whole scheme had been based, and also the sale of the great majority of allotments to absentees. It is estimated that not more than 85 land purchasers had at any time come to Nelson before 1850, and these few had on the whole very little capital. They were certainly unable to support the large number of labourers which the Company thoughtlessly continued to send out. The lottery system was seen as the source of many of the difficulties. In its efforts to be fair to the subsequent land purchasers whom it continued to hope would eventually buy the remaining 500-odd allotments, the Company had included orders of choice for these sections and for those of absentees. This meant that large tracts of often superior land were lying idle while resident land purchasers struggled to make a living on their often poor sections, being forced to take on additional burdens for the building of roads and fences that were needed.
In the midst of this situation the surveyor Cotterill in December 1842 discovered an easy pass into the Wairau Valley; it seemed that here at last was the answer to their problems. In March 1843 Tuckett was advertising for surveyors. This was the signal for the arrival of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata to object to the occupation of this land by Europeans. The local Maori had already expressed their opposition but had not been taken seriously. Nevertheless the surveys were pushed ahead, with the Maori doing their untmost to delay progress. Eventually Cotterell's whare was burned down. This provided the Nelson settlers with an excuse, headed by Captain Wakefield and the Police magistrate, and armed with a miscellaneous assortment of weapons and a warrant for the arrest of the two Maori chiefs, a party set forth for the Wairau. Neither side intended to harm the other, certainly not the Maori, but tempers were aroused and the accidental firing of a gun was the signal for general strife to break out, ending in the death of a number of Pakehas and the capture and later massacre of a large number of Nelson's most capable leaders including Captain Wakefield.
The Wairau Massacre marked a low point in the life of the Nelson settlement. Fear of the Maori following up their victory, sorrow at the loss of so many of the settlements most influential leaders, Government antagonism and the need to accept, temporarily at any rate, that there was no easy solution to the land problem, dominated the scene. Economic depression which had begun to set in at the end of 1842 deepened. The plight of the surplus labourers worsened.
The lot of labourers had never been easy. Too many labourers had been sent out in proportion to the number and amount of capital to the resident land purchasers. Since they had been guaranteed employment at the rate of £1.1.0 a week, the Company was forced to organise relief work, such as building roads and draining swamps. By the end of 1842 it was estimated the 300 men were employed by the Company. Attempts were made to reduce the wages, to reduce the number of men on the dole and to induce the men to take up land on easy purchase terms. but there were many difficulties in the way. There was little land of sufficient good quality, many were to indolent to be prepared for the hard work required and many others preferred the Company's lenient employment to more rigorous work for private employers. The disappointment of the labourers led to a good deal of truculence, not to say disorder. To get the amount of work done for which it was paying, the Company attempted to introduce stricter supervision, but the road supervisor ended up in a ditch and the Company was unable to inforce its rules. With the arrival of William Fox in September 1843 to take up the post of Resident Agent, further attempts were made, this time in consultation with the labourers themselves. He introduced a half-week system on which piece work at a high rate was offered to all who would take on land. This somewhat mollified the men and rioting ceased. But the Company's slender resources were coming to an end. Rates of pay soon had to be reduced again and in August 1844 the Company ceased employing men on public works altogether. The fate of the labourers now depended on the land-owners who rallied effectively and more or less tided them over until the fruits of increased labour could be reaped in the harvest of 1845.
It was unfortunate that the New Zealand Company's brief attempt at colonising from Germany should have coincided with the Wairau massacre. At the end of 1842 a party of German emigrants set sail in the St. Pauli. They arrived three days before the affray. It is not surprising that they shared in the general depression and difficulties of the next two years, as did those on the Skiold, who left Germany on the eve of the cessation of the Company's operations in 1844.
One of the factors that appeared to make Nelson's lot even more difficult was what they regarded as government antagonism. In fact Hobson's apparent indifference was due to his almost complete lack of funds. He did appoint two government officials, Thompson, as Police Magistrate and Carkeek as Customs Officer shortly after the arrival of the first settlers, but they were hamstrung for lack of money and there were many limitations on their powers, particularly in the administration of justice and finance. Shortland, the acting Governor, made a more favourable impression when he visited Nelson in February 1843 and made further necessary appointments. but his popularity was short-lived. The Wairau Massacre brought down on the heads of Nelson citizens the disapprobation of government officials. Thompson was blamed for his illegal action and the Maori were excused for their reaction. Shortland also refused to give military aid. The same attitude was adopted by FitzRoy who, with his tactless manner, succeeded in antagonising the settlers, particularly with his high handed dismissal of several Justices of the Peace. The healing breach between the Government and the colony was left to George Grey who succeeded FitzRoy. He visited Nelson in March 1846 determined to conciliate the settlers and to try and solve their land problems.
For some years after 1843 the subject of the Wairau seems to have been dropped. In due course Spain completed his investigations, and with the payment of an additional £800 awarded the company all its lands at Blind Bay. No mention was made of the Wairau. On July 29th 1845 FitzRoy issued a Crown grant, but because it provided for the setting aside of one-tenth of the total land for native reserves plus other Maori Pas and cultivation's with no boundary of definitions, the Company rejected it. Grey also undertook to purchase the Wairau himself and to resell to the Company what it needed. He also reorganised the native reserves in larger blocks than the company's original plan of dispersing sections thoughout European land, but in the process he reduced the quality of reserves. Finally in 1848 a Crown grant was issued that included the whole of Tasman Bay and the Wairau.
The period 1843 - 47 was a lean one for the New Zealand company as well as for the settlement. 1847 was to prove a year of rebirth, permanent for the settlement, temporary for the company. The doubts cast on the validity of the title to its land by Spain's investigation had forced the Company to cease all land sales in February 1843. During Stanley's term at the Colonial Office several attempts were made to find a solution to the problem. In May 1843 he offered the Company a conditional title to their lands, which launched the Company into a short-lived burst of activity, but his contention that such a title must be dependent on the validity f the Company's purchases soon brought it to an end, and in March 1844 it suspended all operations. In 1845 Stanley offered to assist the the Company in the purchase of the disputed land and offered a loan of £100,000. Further relief was at hand. Earl Grey came to the Colonial Office in 1846 and in the following year negotiated an agreement which aimed at re-establishing the Company on its original footing. A further loan of £136,000 was to help pay off its debts. If the Company failed to re-establish itself within three years the Government would remit the loan and would then purchase all the Company's land at the rate of 5/- an acre, the sum to be fixed in advance at £268,000.
The Company was now free to act once more. The purchase of the Wairau in 1847 paved the way for completing the original plan of the Nelson settlement. What was needed in Nelson besides the distribution of the rural lands was the whole reorganisation of the town and suburban land. For several years settlers had been agitating for the right to effect exchanges of land. At first the directors were adamant in their refusal, but later they suggested some changes unacceptable to the land purchasers. In the end it was the purchases them-selves who found a solution to the problem. In July 1847 they adopted certain resolutions which the directors graciously agreed to accept. The resolutions provided for the cancellation of the unsold sections and the redistribution of all the town and suburban allotments. Those who wished to retain their sections were given the right of taking up rural lands contiguous to their suburban sections. The rest of the rural land was to be laid out in the Wairau as were some of the suburban sections. A new town was to be formed in the Wairau consisting of 1,000 allotments of quarter acre sections. Those who did not wish to surrender their lands for reselection might submit their lands to arbitration and receive compensation. Provisions was also made for the management of the Trust Fund. The Resident Agent immediately began putting these provisions into effect. those not wishing to surrender their sections chose rural lands on October 1847. This was quickly followed by the distribution of the rural sections at the Wairau, and the reselection of town acres in 1848 and the suburban sections in 1849. The new town was laid out in Waiohi (Picton) and selections were completed in July 1850. In the end compensation was granted to all the resident land purchasers for the period during which they were unable to take up their land.
Meanwhile the Company prepared to sell more land but they realised that the new terms were also required for the depasturing of sheep, which a growing body of colonist's were purchasing. The company made several attempts to change the regulations for the sale of land, but each time they failed to meet the requirements if the settlers. Francis Dillon Bell, the Resident Agent who succeeded Fox, eventually took the law into his own hands and operated his own system. Similarly there was a difference of opinion between settlers and company over depasturing of stock. While Fox was Resident Agent he had drawn up regulations in 1848 which continued in force in spite of the directors, who continued drawing up unsuitable regulations at regular intervals. the great battle here was whether depasturing licences should be available to all who could fulfil the conditions of grazing, or whether such rights should be reserved for land purchasers. The New Zealand Company had always been determined to prevent the kind of squatting interest that had grown up in New South Wales, but a growing body of opinion in the colony rejected the idea of a property qualification and this had been reflected in Fox's regulations.
GERMAN SETTLERS IN NELSON
As early as 1839 the company resolved to "take steps to procure German emigrants". Later that year a Mr Bockelman was appointed agent of the Company in Bremen. At this stage the Company envisaged selling land, already acquired, to the German migrants, but in 1840 news was received from one of its New Zealand agents, D. R. Hanson, that the government would investigate all land claims, that he was having difficulty in buying land and had thus confined his purchases to the Chatham Islands. Quick to seize on the commercial value of these claims the Company published Hanson's communication, omitting passages which cast doubt on the legality of the purchases. In October 1841 the company met with representatives of a proposed German colonisation company and approved in principle an agreement to sell the Chatham Islands to the Germans. The New Zealand Company was first to seek the British Government's attitude. The arrangement was pretentious and absurd. Mr Somes, the Governor of the Company, wrote to Lord Stanley at the Colonial Office claiming the Chatham's were a foreign country, acquired by bona fide purchase from the natives. The Germans would make "useful neighbours" who would be "little likely to be animated at any time by political hostility to Great Britain" Lord Stanley's personal response, immediate and discouraging, was backed up by a ruling from the Crown law officers: the actions of the Company were illegal and an interference with the Royal prerogative. The Company's directors humbly backed down.
Meanwhile the German's has proceeded in the ignorance and issued a prospectus stating that the New Zealand Company had secured to the German Company legal possession of the islands. The Germans were to buy the islands for £10,000 and colonise them as soon as possible. They also proclaimed that it would be fitting for the New Zealand company to offer to the Hanseatic towns sovereignty over the Chatham's. There is no other would but deviousness for what happened next. The British Government officially proclaimed sovereignty over the Chatham's. The New Zealand Company disavowed the actions of its secretary, Ward, and said that it had not instructed him to make the German agreement. Years later, when the Company's minute books could be scrutinised, it was found that minutes instructing Ward to act as he had done had been deleted from the books but were still quite decipherable. The impetus toward a German settlement in New Zealand remained strong, in spite of the Colonial Office vie that a foreign settlement with foreign allegiances was a potentially disastrous development " I am for having the Australian world as completely and exclusively English as possible", wrote the Under-Secretary of State, James Stephen. "It will be an accession to our national strength, wealth and glory........".
In the early 1840s the tide of emigration from Germany to the Americas and colonial territories elsewhere was running strong. Since the German Company's plans for the first shipload of emigrants to New Zealand on the vessel St Pauli were so well advanced, the New Zealand Company agent in Hamburg, John Nicholas Beit, persuaded both organisers and prospective colonists that the migration should continue on the basis of having the Germans absorbed into the Nelson settlement. Thus Beit applied to Lord Stanley in April 1842 for permission to take his settlers to Nelson on the condition that they became British subjects on arrival. They were to be vetted by the British Consul in Hamburg. Stanley, though later angered to find most of the emigrants were labourers and Beit himself the only "capitalist" on the St Pauli agreed to allow Hobson to naturalise the Germans.
The emigration was conducted according to New Zealand Company regulations covering such things as rations at sea and land allotments on arrival, except that Beit proved to be a mean and dishonest guardian of the flock, which by and large fitted the company's description of a "very eligible" socio-economic class of settlers. Most of them were Lutheran Protestants with a small number of Bavarian Catholics. The Beits, the three missionaries of the North German Missionary Society and some of the steerage families were well educated people who spoke and wrote high German. The rest spoke Low German dialect and some were illiterate. They were not antagonistic towards the Britain since the Hanoverians had given England a royal family and they were freeman.
The Skiold arrived two years after the St Pauli and her passengers were possibly less accomplished than those of the first ship. Between the two, Nelson got hardworking, knowledgeable farmers with a bent for agriculture, which complemented the English settlers accent on pastoral farming, as well as vine-dressers and wine-makers, carpenters, shipbuilders, smiths, shoemakers and former soldiers. Socially the Germans settlers showed the same desire as their English counterparts to throw off the shackles of social segregation which had thus far ruled their lives. On the voyage out they dropped the old form of address and called each other Mister, Madam and Miss as if they had been born to it. The Lutheran missionaries like Wohlers encouraged them in this process of social levelling which, he said, "awakened a self respect in them". They were to find the colonial working day of nine hours a further benefit.
If the first Germans in Nelson had one handicap it was John Beit who had been appointed the New Zealand Company's agent to represent them. Heine, the missionary, wrote in his diary that "this fat, arrogant man" was a most unsuitable leader. In search of his own commercial advancement Beit was a petty despot, rude, unscrupulous and untruthful - an exploiter of the people in his care. He fined people and kept the proceeds. He put them on bread and water diets. A riot was narrowly averted and the emigrants killed Beit's grape vines with salt water. Beit neglected the settlers who then sought the Company's charity. They had landed "in a state of extreme discomfort" for which everybody blamed Beit. Colonel William Wakefield, however, who acted in place of Arthur Wakefield after the Resident Agent's death at the Wairau, declined to deal with anyone but Beit, who remained intractable. The examiner, rallying to the settler aid, wrote that "unless Mr Beit promptly exerts himself in a forgiving and conciliatory spirit to regain his former influence with his countrymen the majority of those who have the means and who are consequently desirable settlers will proceed elsewhere". Colonel Wakefield at last intervened and forced Beit to redress the settler's grievances. But even this was hardly enough. This German agent - the only "capitalist" among the immigrants and therefor the only one with immediate offers of employment for the settlers continued to exploit his countrymen by paying low wages and refusing them access to land. At one stage German wives went to Beit's house to stone. finally, the Colonel released land for them at Moutere. Beit continued in his post until the new Resident Agent, William Fox, Caught him out on breaches of civil law and had him dismissed. Beit must have been the most hated man in the Nelson district: he was nicknamed "the German Snake".
The German's sojourn in the Moutere hills was hardly a relief from the hardship though it must have been less emotionally distressing. They had to fight physical adversities, and even though the first settlement attempts failed, the district was to become a focal point of their social and family interests. The missionaries led the onslaught. Deprived of a sizeable and heathen Maori population among whom to preach, they turned towards more practical skills such as advising the settlers in science and agriculture, teaching children and adults and putting their community living on a firm social foundation.
Four missionaries led the Germans across the Waimea. With no Maori to be converted, life in the damp Moutere Valley was a time of great frustration. The missionaries lived "like peasants" but, as one said, "I have never worked so hard as a peasant in Germany as I have worked as a missionary in New Zealand". They were pioneers in the typical sense, making the materials of food, shelter and agriculture from the natural resources at hand. Floods washed away their houses and destroyed their pastures. After two years the Moutere Valley settlement was abandoned and a more permanent, prosperous and hopeful beginning was made near Appleby on the western coast of the Waimea Plain. They had the seeds to plant. Fish and eels were abundant. They discovered edible native vegetables.
Though the New Zealand Company was soon to crash, the Germans continued with plans to send settlers to Nelson and the Skiold immigrants had been selected, had paid their deposits on allotments, and had been appointed their berths in the chartered vessel. While the Company remained "in communication with the Colonial Minister on matters of great moment" the arrangements, as far as the Company was concerned, could not be completed. The Skiold expedition could not be cancelled and so sailed, in effect, at its own risk. Seven allotments of land were made without title being granted. In the light of the St Pauli settlers difficulties with the agent Beit this could have been construed as a better arrangement, especially since the "no responsibility" issue of allotments meant that the rural and town sections could be grouped together, thus making it easier to assist the families in the initial years of settlement. Two weeks after this arrangement was made, the Company had to suspend its colonising work.The immigrants would arrive in a new land in which nobody held or accepted any responsibility for their futures. The wealthy German nobleman Count Rantzau was the sponsor for this venture.
Europe was hungry in the 1840s and doubtless the Skiold migrants believed that they could only better themselves. Perhaps it was so, but the suspension of the Company meant a slump for the Nelson economy. There were no company funds to spend on items like public work when the ship arrived. Some of the Germans moved on to the South Australian colony and Tasmania. The remainder were able to contribute to the farming of the Waimea development where a thriving agricultural practice was soon established. In a year there were 100 acres under cultivation yielding good grain. There were barns, stables, smithies, a great house and workers housed of thatch-roofed clay brick. The Kelling brothers, at the financial core of this development, were enterprising landowners and laid the basis for the modern land use of the Nelson district with particular success in orchard plantings of a variety of fruits, as well as early experiments with hops and tabacco, now staple crops of the Tasman Bay area.
Certainly the Germans were good settlers.
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