The Company has often been sharply criticised for its conduct of affairs, both in New Zealand and in England. It is true that the Wakefield plan of systematic colonisation proved impracticable in all the Company's settlements, that its agents were land hungry to the point of foolhardiness, and that too little regard was paid to the claims of Maori land rights. But it must never be forgotten that, in the first great phase of its colonising activity, from May 1839 to January 1843, the Company disposed of 244,619 acres of land for settlement; moreover, it dispatched to the colony 57 ships and 8,600 emigrants. Without Company propaganda and organisation it is doubtful whether these settlers, the majority of whom were of good stock and character, would ever have turned their attention to New Zealand. In this respect – the choice of settlers – the Company did well. Their grand object had been to create in a new country a balanced society, with men of capital to develop it and labourers to bring it into production. They believed it was possible to reproduce all that was good in the older society without its painful blemishes. In short, the Company's colonising theories were excellent; it was in practice that they fell down.
It is also important to remember that, in the years of its decline, the Company was able to perform another notable service for the colony. By means of powerful, if biased propaganda, the directors ventilated the grievances of the colonists in Parliament and out, and if their earlier strictures on the Hobson and FitzRoy administrations were unfair and prejudiced, they later atoned for this by the persistence of their attacks on colonial mis-government. No other colony had such compelling advocates. The New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, with its very generous provisions for self-government, owes much in spirit to the efforts of the Company to convince the Colonial Office of the importance and justice of the colonists' demands.
by Alexander Hare McLintock, C.B.E., M.A., DIP.ED. (N.Z.), PH.D.(LOND.), Parliamentary Historian, Wellington.
- Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, McLintock, A. H. (1958)
- The Colonisation of New Zealand, Marais, J. S. (1927)
- The New Zealand Bubble: the Wakefield Theory in Practice, Turnbull, R. M. (1959).