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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The myth persists past the period of early settlement and the achievement of self-government (that is, the 1840s and the 1850s) into the period of racial conflict (that is, the later 1850s and 1860s). Heroes need villains to provide contrast. Once the officials and the missionaries had been defeated, the native race itself came to occupy this position. Here the story may begin with George Grey.

Grey, in the 1840s, certainly held up the grant of self-government until he had, as he thought, settled the land and native problems. But he did not, as has been asserted, oppose self-government as such, nor was it wrested from him and from an obtuse Colonial Office by settler agitation. Rather, the settlers were agitating for what Grey and his superiors had already decided they should have in due course. Grey had, early in his administration, fought Maoris with signal success; nevertheless, he, together with Hobson and FitzRoy, were condemned at the time, and by some subsequent historians, for preferring the interest of doomed natives to that of heroic settlers. To some extent they did, but they were not quite without reason: the Maoris, as we know now, were not doomed; they were at the time both numerous and powerful, and many settlers were, at the very least, capable of avariciousness and fraud. Apart from his pro-Maori policy, Grey has been unrealistically castigated for a sinister design to perpetuate autocracy even in the course of implementing the 1852 Act conferring self-government. His chosen method, on this view, was to set the provincial governments in operation before the general, or central, legislature could meet. Indeed, he did this, but the fact that he did so cannot be made the cause for the dominance of provincial institutions in New Zealand government throughout the 1850s and even beyond. The social, economic, and demographic facts of New Zealand life postulated provincialism, and would have required it whatever arrangements Grey had made in 1852–53.