Wairau Massacre in New Zealand 1843

(Wairau Afray)

[ 1843 ]

When New Zealand first began to be settled in 1840, William Hobson (d. 1842), lieutenant-governor of the New Zealand colony and consul to the Maori chiefs, wished to avoid the outrages caused by the British East India Company. He wisely developed the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi under which Maori chiefs ceded sovereignty in return for British protection; the chiefs were guaranteed possession of their lands, which they agreed to sell only to the Crown. An important provision was the right of senior chiefs to veto any proposed sale. The New Zealand Company, however, proceeded less morally, entering into sales agreements with subchiefs and illegally acquiring other tracts. The Maori became alarmed and resisted attempts to seize their lands. Their hesitation, however, led to the Wairau Massacre on June 17, 1843. Fifty Europeans, associated with the company, reported that Maori chiefs had refused to allow surveying of "purchased" areas; tehy wanted the chiefs arrested. Coming upon 90 Maoris and two chiefs (who refused to be arrested), the Europeans conceded to the chiefs' request that the government investigate the matter, but shots were suddenly fired; one of the chiefs' wives and 22 Europeans were killed. Later the company was found to be in erro, and the Maoris were not punished, but the air of hostility contributed to the Bay of Islands War, also called the First Maori War.

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