FIRST NEW ZEALAND COMPANY
It is one of the minor enigmas of New Zealand history that so little is known of the origin and plans of the first New Zealand Company which was formed for the purpose of colonising this country. Its promoters were men of wealth and distinction and included such names as John George Lambton (later, Lord Durham), Colonel Torrens, Russell Ellice, Lord Hatherton, T. Marjoribanks, and G. Lyall. Twenty thousand pounds were raised to finance the preliminary scheme. According to a claim made many years later, the aim of the directors was to set up “agricultural and commercial” settlements at Hokianga and the Thames. Apparently the Colonial Office raised no objection to a purely commercial venture, though it was made clear that the Government was not pledged to give military assistance. The preliminary expedition, which was under the command of Captain Herd, consisted of the ship Rosanna and the cutter Lambton (Captain Barnett), along with some 60 artisans and mechanics. They reached Stewart Island on 25 March 1826 and spent a month there in general refitting, already uneasy at the thought of meeting the ferocious savages of the north. Their fears were justified, for when at length the expedition arrived at the Bay of Islands and Hokianga, the reception was so unpromising that they moved on to Sydney. Later, a few of the bolder spirits returned to Hokianga, where they engaged in shipbuilding. A tight money market in Britain thwarted the promoters' hopes of organising another expedition on a larger scale, and the Company dissolved. In the late thirties its land holdings at Hokianga and Kaipara were taken over by E. G. Wakefield's New Zealand Company. It is of interest to note that in 1837 a number of the old promoters submitted a plan for setting up, under the protection of the Crown, an “Independent Native Government” in New Zealand. There was to be an incorporated company invested by Royal charter, which would maintain a regular form of government over the islands, with the King as “Parent and Protector” of the infant state. But the proposal was too fanciful for serious consideration and the Colonial Office would have none of it.