Home' Greymouth Star : March 21st 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
ext Friday, about
150 members of
the Taranaki iwi
Ngaruahine will travel
far from home to distant
Hokitika, specially to
gather at Seaview, a
nondescript empty site straddled between the
site of the old gaol and the cemetery. There,
where their ancestors toiled and cleared bush
while incarcerated in gaol for no crime and
without trial, they will receive an official
apology from Crown officials.
It is the consummation of the tribe’s Treaty
of Waitangi settlement, and it happens far
from their Taranaki homelands, confiscated
by the colonial Government.
Ngaruahine lead Treaty negotiator
Daisy Noble said it was decided the most
appropriate place to receive that apology was
Ms Noble helped negotiate the
$67.5 million Treaty deal, which was signed
off in August last year.
The grounds for the claim are rooted firmly
in Taranaki soil. In 1840, agents of the New
Zealand Company purchased land for the
future settlement of New Plymouth. Some
tribal members sold land against the wishes
of the majority.
Tensions spilled over in 1859, when a
faction of Te Ati Awa offered to sell land
at Waitara to the government, and other
members of the tribe with an interest in the
land objected. In 1865, combined colonial
and British forces marched north from
Whanganui, establishing forts and destroying
the villages and cultivations of all south
From the mid-1860s Parihaka, a Maori
settlement in the Taranaki tribal area, became
the centre of a peaceful resistance movement.
In 1879, when the government started
sur veying confiscated land on the Waimate
plain, followers of Te Whiti-o -Rongomai
began disrupting sur veys, and ploughing
and fencing land occupied by the European
settlers. Close to 400 of them were arrested
and held without trial in the South Island,
but the protests continued and only
No court proceedings were conducted
by any Supreme Court trial and special
legislation was passed, first to defer the rebel
Maori and then to dispense with the trials
It was then decided they would place the
‘troublemakers’ as far as possible beyond
the reach of Te Whiti’s influence, so they
were roused at 4 o’clock in the morning and
marched down under strong escort to the
Colin Townsend’s book on Seaview, Misery
Hill, says that in 1879 it was suggested the
near-empty Hokitika gaol could receive a
batch of prisoners. They were sent south
aboard the Stella.
“ It would be gratifying to the feelings of the
Pakeha here, to see 30 or 40 of Te Whiti’s
deluded followers gradually coming to their
senses while levelling Cass Square,” the West
Coast Times reported at the time.
They arrived in January 1880, accompanied
by 20 guards and an interpreter, the paper
reporting them to be “fine specimens”.
A few days later the paper talked about
the “ injustice” of their incarceration, though
A Maori day room was constructed at
the gaol to make the task of guarding them
easier, as they could not be forced to work,
having not committed any offence.
However, some of them volunteered to clear
much of Seaview Terrace.
Prisoner Raika became ill and reportedly
died in the gaol, and two more were released
in March 1881, one suffering consumption,
the other to accompany him home. Others
went to Dunedin, where 18 died. The
decision to release the rest was not made
until May 1881.
Te Whiti had prophesised that his disciples
would never be tried, and the signal for their
discharge would be the moon turning red.
The night before their release coincided with
an eclipse of the moon.
Ms Noble said about 150 people would
make the journey to Hokitika next week,
mainly on buses. A much larger hikoi of
700 people visited Hokitika in 2000, when
a monument was unveiled on the Seaview
“ Hokitika has a very strong Ngaruahine
relationship,” Mrs Noble said. The bulk of the
prisoners were from the iwi.
“The D unedin gaol was full so people were
dispersed around different areas of the South
“ I’m only making a summation, but they
went where labour was required. The whole
of the South Island was being prepared for
One story associated them with Hau
Hau Road, as Hau Hau was a name for the
Taranaki rebels, but in fact this name is a
corruption of Hou Hou, which is the name
for Three Mile and relates to the five-finger
plant, or houhou. Hou Hou (or Hau Hau)
Road originally connected with the Three
Mile goldfield, via Blue Spur.
The official record about the Maori
prisoners’ time in Hokitika is surprisingly
scant, but they are thought to have cleared
the site of what is now Cass Square.
After two and a half years, the bulk of
their people were returned home. Now their
descendants are coming back to hear for
themselves as the Crown apologises on the
very site where the injustice occurred.
“ It ’s knowing our people were actually just
in the gaol at Seaview,” Ms Noble said. “ It ’s
very significant. ”
Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 7
Atop Seaview Hill 135 years ago, Hokitika played its part in a shameful chapter in New Zealand history. About 40
Maori men from Parihaka, arrested while objecting peacefully to European land seizures, were bundled up and sent
far from home, incarcerated in the dank and draughty gaol at Hokitika for two and a half years, without trial. Next
weekend their descendants from the Taranaki iwi Ngaruahine will embark on a special hikoi, following in the footsteps
of the arrested men, all the way to Hokitika to receive an official apology from the Crown for the unlawful and unjust
arrests. LAURA MILLS takes a look at this near-forgotten chapter of West Coast history.
Inside Hokitika gaol, 1905
The gaol stands, fortress-like, surrounded by
its grim high walls which it would seem vain to
attempt to scale on the commanding eminence
at the north entrance of the town.
On the morning of our reporter’s visit,
standing in the trim well-kept garden which
fronts the prison, bright sunshine made the
outlook seaward a particularly cheerful and
From this view we turn to the heavy double
door, at the prison entrance which suggests
a battering ram, if it was to be taken by
storm, and ringing a bell, whose sound loudly
reverberates inside, a warder appears at a small
We encounter some of his (governor’s)
In their arrow-stamped motley array, engaged
in executing their tasks with more or less zeal.
In goal there are only two seasons in the year
instead of four, and as at the poles they have six
months of summer and six months of winter.
Working hours for those sentenced to hard
labour are regulated accordingly in winter from
8am to 4pm and from 8am to 5pm in summer.
Prisoners sentenced to three months and over
with hard labour get an allowance of tobacco,
but only while showing genuine industry and
When they have finished they have two hours
and 45 minutes to pass as they like in their cells,
it being 7.45pm when lights are ordered out.
It should be stated a small colza oil lamp is
allowed in each cell. The gaol has a library of
selected books which are by the best authors, if
they are somewhat too well-thumbed.
Besides book a slate and pencil is also supplied
if asked for.
During the year the following holidays are
allowed the prisoners, when labour ceases:
Christmas Day, Good Friday, New Year’s Day,
King’s Birthday and Labour Day.
The present gaol has been erected nearly forty
years and in many respects it has a history. The
cells are lofty and roomy.
In 1880, thirty-eight Maori prisoners, who did
some unlawful ploughing and were other wise
belligerent in the Taranaki district, were sent to
West Coast Times, May 1905
The memorial erected at Seaview in 2000, in the grassed area between the monument and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
The Hokitika gaol’s original (incomplete) list of prisoners.
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