The founding of Auckland

In 1840, Ngati Whatua of Orakei invited English settlers to share the land with them. Te Kawau, their paramount chief, wanted to offer hospitality, but he also wanted to gain some security against other tribes, especially the northern tribes which had muskets. So, in February 1840, Te Kawau and six other chiefs travelled to the Bay of Islands to invite Governor Hobson to come and live with them, partly to seek protection from their enemies. On 20 March, Te Kawau and other chiefs of Ngati Whatua of Orakei signed the Treaty of Waitangi. By September, the British flagstaff was raised at a point which is now the top of Queen Street, and Auckland became the capital of New Zealand.

Ngati Whatua of Orakei agreed to hand over approximately 3000 acres of land for a township to be established. The details of the sale of the land were to be worked out later. In the following years, the peaceful, loyal, and law-abiding hapu defended the new Auckland settlement many times against invading tribes.

Ngati Whatua made other gifts of land. In 1858, they gave land at Orakei to the Anglican Church for a chapel and school. The following year, they gave a headland at Orakei, Takaparawha Point, to the Crown for a defence post against a feared Russian invasion. The land was given on the condition that if it was no longer required, it would be returned to them. This was part of the Māori custom of giving gifts to friends.

As more settlers arrived, more and more land was required. Thousands of acres were sold by Ngati Whatua of Orakei to the Government and, over a couple of years, to private settlers. The tribe probably believed that these sales meant that both parties, themselves and the buyer, then belonged to the land together. Later, Governor Grey decided that much of the land should not have been sold to private settlers, so most of it was bought or simply taken by the Crown, without compensation.

The Crown paid £341 for the original land handed over for the settlement (3000 acres). Six months later, just 44 acres of that land was resold by the Government to settlers for £24,275. The money was used to build roads, bridges, hospitals, and other services for the new town. The early development of Auckland was paid for by profits made from the sale of tribal land of Ngati Whatua of Orakei.

Te Kawau had always made it clear that the 700-acre Orakei block, the papakainga of the hapu, was not for sale. It was to be reserved in tribal ownership for Ngati Whatua of Orakei forever. By 1854, only 14 years after their initial offer of land for Auckland, it was all the land the hapu had left. Orakei was their 'last stand'.

Next: The Loss of the Orakei Block

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