New Zealand, 1861–68
Meanwhile, the first Taranaki war (1860–61) had broken out in New Zealand, and Grey was sent back in the hope that his influence with the Maoris might enable him to restore peace, or, if there were to be war, that he could win it quickly and dictate a humane settlement afterwards. The task proved beyond him. Certain tribes had lost faith in British justice and even Grey could not restore their belief. The settlers' demand for land was insatiable, and Maori resistance groups in the Waikato, Taranaki, and elsewhere were determined to prevent any extension of white settlement and white man's law. Grey wanted the Maori King party to recognise his authority as Governor, and offered them local self-government through their own runangas (councils). But he also urged them to open their lands to roads and white settlement, which made his offers suspect. And while he proffered peace, he prepared for war by moving troops into the lower Waikato and building military roads. His equivocal behaviour provoked renewed hostilities in Taranaki, Waikato rebelled, and the war spread through most of the North Island.
Grey was tired, overwrought, and too aware of his personal responsibilities. Moreover, he was now handicapped by having to deal with an elected General Assembly and a responsible Ministry. His efforts to retain direction of native policy and military affairs strained relations with his responsible advisers and produced complete deadlock during the Whitaker–Fox ministry (1864). He was on somewhat better terms with his next Prime Minister, F. A. Weld, but he became involved in a most acrimonious quarrel with the General Officer Commanding. When General Cameron set out deliberately to thwart the Wanganui-Taranaki campaign (1865) by “go-slow” tactics, Grey had the effrontery to come to the field of battle himself and capture Weraroa pa by means of colonial troops and friendly Maoris, after the General had said that attack would be too costly. Cameron criticised Grey and his Ministers in “secret” letters to the War Office, and the Home Government, accepting Cameron's view that the war was being fought at British expense for the profit of the colonists, ordered Grey to curtail the amount of land confiscation, stop the war, make the colony pay its share of the cost, and send the troops back to England. Grey believed that the colony was still in danger, and with the connivance of his last Prime Minister, E. W. Stafford, defied the Colonial Office and retained and employed the troops till the British Government had no option but to terminate his appointment (1868). “I do not imagine,” wrote the Duke of Buckingham, “he is likely to be re-employed!”