An ‘indefencible’ betrayal
How Paparoa became Howick
The deal caused further pain when Grey renamed the 300-year old coastal location to honour an English Lord who arranged to populate the area with retired soldiers from the United Kingdom.
Over 800 years ago descendants from the Tainui canoe took advantage of the sheltered coastal lands with a strategic outlook across the Hauraki Gulf, plentiful kaimoana (seafood) and volcanic soils to grow kumara and other crops.
The tangata-whenua or original people of Howick-Pakuranga were Ngai Tai of Tainui descent, who lived in the area at least 300-years before European settlement.
They knew the area as Paparoa (long place) and Owairoa “the place of the long river”; the view from Stockade Hill towards Waiheke looks “like a river, and established pa (fortified villages) at Ohuia Rangi (Pigeon Mountain), Te Waiarohia (Musick Point) and Tuwakamana (Cockle Bay).
This was a sought after part of a huge tract of fertile land that had been fought over for decades and where much blood was spilled during the Musket Wars.
Tainui chief, Potatau Te Wherowhero, later to become the first Maori King, had proposed Bay of Islands missionaries Henry Williams and William Fairburn help him work out a solution to keep the peace so he could leave the Manukau area and return home to Waikato.
Williams in particular had a reputation for negotiating peace among warring Maori tribes so Te Wherowhero sought a creative way to end to the invasions by Nga Puhi and the constant tribal skirmishes over borders between Waikato and Thames.
The Fairburn Purchase
At a large gathering of chiefs and their representatives at Otahuhu in January 1836 a deed was signed by 31 representatives of the various South Auckland hapu and tribes.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) would hold much of South Auckland in trust taking technical ‘ownership’ of one third of it; William Fairburn and his wife would own one third, around 80,000 acres, and the remaining third would be held in trust for the local iwi so they could continue to live there undisturbed.
This became known as The Fairburn Purchase; for his part William Fairburn invested everything he owned to complete the deal and in return he and the CMS agreed to set up a mission station and school at Maraetai.
In 1837 Fairburn signed back a third of the land (27,000 acres) to the five main South Auckland iwi.
A new regime
In 1841 Governor Hobson set up a Land Commission to look into all the land sales before the Treaty of Waitangi had been signed in 1840. He promised land taken unfairly would be returned to the rightful owners.
Individuals were only allowed to keep a maximum of 2600 acres and the Land Commission recommended a third of the Tamaki Block (Fairburn Purchase) be returned to the local iwi and hapu who were living on the land which would honour and be in accordance with The Fairburn Purchase.
However, Governor George Grey ignored all previous arrangements between the CMS, Fairburn and local tribes and took it all (75 000 acres, most of South Auckland) claiming it was surplus.
Grey had made promises to military settlers who were being bought out from the United Kingdom to help protect Auckland from a potential Waikato invasion and planned to sell the rest to other settlers.
One of his main motivations was to raise funds for Government coffers which had been severely depleted through the failure of the previous New South Wales-based Government to invest in the colony and bad management by the administration that Hobson bought with him.
On appeal Fairburn was allowed to keep 5400 acres (mainly in Otahuhu and East Tamaki) which was later further broken down. Distraught at the betrayal he began to drink heavily and his erratic behaviour saw him dismissed from the CMS.
His daughter Elizabeth, fluent in te reo, was sought after by Bishop Selwyn as a teacher and translator for his Maori Girls College. When missionary printer William Colenso sought ordination Bishop Augustus Selwyn said he first needed to be married.
It was suggested Elizabeth might be the ideal person. When the two met, however, they both agreed it was not a good pairing, but Selwyn insisted, telling Colenso he would not be ordained until he entered into what was eventually proven to be a loveless marriage.
European settlement began on November 15th, 1847 when the Minerva arrived at Owairoa (Howick Beach).
The Government had assigned land at Otahuhu and Howick to three companies of retired British and Irish soldiers who formed the Royal New Zealand Fencibles and their families.
The local tribes remained unaware of the sale of their land and the now doubly broken promise that it was being kept in trust for them until settlers took over and began working that land, felling their forests and working their traditional fisheries.
Between 1847-1854, eleven ships brought the 2,500 Fencibles and their families, which nearly doubled the population of Auckland at that time.
The Fencibles were offered a cottage and an acre of land in exchange for seven years’ service manning defence posts with a commitment to regularly attend church
The first building to be erected in Howick was All Saints Anglican Church, which remains the second oldest wooden church in New Zealand. The second building was a wet canteen that was subsequently improved to become the “Royal Hotel”.
Renaming and claiming
Governor Grey immediately imposed a new name for the area, honouring Viscount Howick, the English statesman Henry Grey who had recently been made secretary of state for war and the colonies who had been responsible for deploying the Fencibles.
Lord Howick, had under his father the British Prime Minister the second Early Grey, been a leader of the House of Commons and supported self-governance and free-trade for the colonies.
However, his attempt at a constitution for New Zealand proved unworkable so he gave his plans to Governor Grey.
When the Fencibles arrived most Maori could read and write the English language after attending. Fairburn’s Maraetai Beach mission school.
Later when the government was confronted with the betrayal it had perpetrated a small amount of compensation was paid to dispossessed iwi with 50-100 acre reserves granted including those at Ihumatao (Makaurau marae), Pukaki, Mangere Bridge and Ramarama.
In 1863, Maori supporting the Kingitanga movement with Te Wherowhero’s son Tawhiao now at its head, were forced to move away from the area into Waikato unless they swore allegiance to Queen Victoria.
When they moved south the land set aside as reserves when their own territory was sold out from under them was confiscated.
Many people continued to use the Maori names for the coastal area until the European name Howick was officially adopted by the town council in 1923.
On 7 Nov 2015, the tangata whenua, Ngai Tai ki Tamaki the people who had originally lived and farmed at what was now known as Howick and surrounding areas received a Treaty of Waitangi settlement of $12.7 million, had 16 cultural sites returned to them with $50,000 to revitalise them.
The Story of Wai O Hua – mana whenua of Tamaki-Makaurau, Frank Walton June 2016
Alan La Roche, Times Online April 2018.
Wikipedia-Howick and Howick Village website
Bible & Treaty – Keith Newman (Penguin) 2010