The first New Zealand land commissions, 1840-1845
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In early 1840 New Zealand was annexed to the Australian colony of New South Wales and William Hobson became Lieutenant-Governor of the new dependency. One of Hobson's first priorities was to sort out who owned what land in New Zealand. Thus a Commission was set up to investigate the land claims. The first New Zealand Land Commission was established under the New South Wales Act, 4 Victoria No. 7 (August 1840) and three Commissioners were appointed. They began examining claims early in the following year. Part One of this thesis deals with the origins of the Commission, the legislation which governed its activities and the work of the Commissioners - notably the difficulties which they encountered and what they actually achieved. A separate Commission was set up in Britain to deal with the claims of the New Zealand Company which held that it had bought some 20,000,000 acres of land centring on the Cook Strait in 1839 and to which it had already sent hundreds of settlers by the end of 1840. William Spain, appointed the Commissioner to investigate the Company's claims, began work early in 1842. The second part of this thesis is concerned with how his work progressed - particularly in the face of determined opposition from the Company's local officials - and how the Company gained a title to much of the land it claimed under an agreement made with the British Government in November 1840, in spite of Spain's finding that the company's 1839 purchases were hardly purchases at all. The epilogue summarises the Commissions' achievements and outlines what was done in the following years to finally settle the Land Question.