Story: Ngāti Apa

Page 3. The impact of European settlement

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The arrival of settlers

In 1849 the Crown purchased nearly a quarter of a million acres (about 100,000 hectares) of land between the Rangitīkei and Turakina rivers. This was known as the Rangitīkei–Turakina transaction. When this was being negotiated, Ngāti Apa had not understood that European settlement would eventually lead to separation from their ancestral lands and loss of their authority. Settlement of the Ngā Wairiki and Rangitīkei districts began after 1849. Europeans from Wellington moved north and established farms.

Although the people of Ngāti Apa had been guaranteed ongoing rights to snare birds and catch eels across the entire Rangitīkei–Turakina block, they were powerless to stop settlers from felling the bush and constructing drains. These activities destroyed many traditional food-gathering areas, forcing dramatic changes to the Ngāti Apa way of life.

Crown land purchasing agents took advantage of continued friction between Ngāti Apa and neighbouring sub-tribes south of Rangitīkei. Between 1864 and 1867 the government bought the Rangitīkei–Manawatū block, another large tract of Ngāti Apa land.

Diminishing lands and resources

Ngāti Apa sought a partnership with the government. During the 1860s they sent men to fight in several government campaigns against tribes in the lower North Island. However, this support went largely unrewarded.

Ngāti Apa people increasingly found themselves confined to their land reserves, economically powerless and facing poverty. Land legislation of the 1860s, especially the establishment of the Native Land Court in 1865, disadvantaged them further because it undermined and exploited the traditional communal ownership of Māori land. Tribes wishing to sell land had to obtain certificates of title naming all beneficiaries, which was an expensive, bureaucratic process. Māori had no option but to participate in the land selling process. Those who boycotted court sittings risked being excluded from land titles. Many Ngāti Apa families were left virtually landless.

How to cite this page:

Grant Huwyler, 'Ngāti Apa - The impact of European settlement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 September 2022)

Story by Grant Huwyler, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2017