Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The New Zealand Company in Auckland

Yet another trivia fact about Auckland: once, for a brief time, parts of our region were owned by the New Zealand Company, noted for their colonising practices in the southern North Island and the South Island.

In “Documents appended to the twelfth report of the directors, April 26, 1844”, known as “the fat book” (Appendix B), a copy available for viewing at Special Collections in the Auckland City Library, four letters are to be found which set up the New Zealand Company’s period of land ownership in Auckland.

In a letter dated 8 May 1843 from Joseph Somes to Lord Edward George Stanley, the proposal was made for the Company to purchase £50,000 worth of land in Auckland and the vicinity, made up of £10,000 in the town, £25,000 at least in the country, and £15,000 made up from a mix of town, suburban and country lots, provided that there weren’t more suburban lots than town lots. The town lots were to be purchased at auction, at the upset price of £100 per acre in parcels of 10 acres each. The Company stated that they intended the resale of all of their town lands thus bought “on the same day at any one time,” as part of their colonisation policy. The suburban lands were to be purchased in parcels of 100 acres or upwards, at £5 per acre, while the country lands purchases were to follow the rules of the Land Sales Act.

This was a measure for the Company to abandon their claim to 50,000 acres of land elsewhere in the colony, and “… it is also their wish to advertise and sell the lands here, according to their usual plan, without further delay, so as to be in time for the emigration season of the present year.”

In a letter dated 12 May 1843 to G. W. Hope, Lord Stanley assented to this proposal.

The Secretary of the Company John Ward wrote to the Commissioners of Colonial Land and Emigration on 7 July 1843:
“The Directors suppose that Lord Stanley may … be desirous of knowing what progress they have made into carrying into effect their intention to promote colonization in Auckland.”
Ward went on to outline some of the Company’s concerns with regard to the May 1843 agreement. There was a great difficulty as they were unable to give any description whatever of the lands or give assurance that the land offered will consist of the “most valuable portions.” They felt it was unwise to send labouring emigrants to Auckland until the capital in agricultural employment had increased in that area, or was even known. Before the Company’s name was inked in beside the land auction lots, they knew that a scheme of New Zealand Company settlement in Auckland might not work. So, they proposed a guarantee, in case the Company was left holding onto the unsold lands for a long time.

If after the expiration of three years from the date of the agreement the Company had no means to expend at least £40,000 on “objects of public utility in Auckland”, half at least to be on emigration, the remainder on public works (on their own lands), of a kind as agreed with Lord Stanley in June 1842, “then the Government shall be at liberty to resume the excess of land of Auckland beyond the quantity of which the value, less the discount (20%) has been so expended or pledged to be expended.” In return, the Company were to get back the claims for which they’d offered to swap for Auckland land in the first place. Lord Stanley agreed, and directed FitzRoy to carry out the exchange agreement, in a letter dated 26 June 1843.

The May 1843 purchase agreement with the Company was duly gazetted in New Zealand on 13 January 1844, just before the land sales in Auckland. The first auction took place on 30 January 1844, with the Company buying up:-

Sections 9 (Alten Road area)
Section 10 (west of Stanley Street)
Sections 32 to 36 (Wakefield, Rutland, Mount, Lyndock Street areas)

Section 1 - 91 to 95 (Parnell area)
Section 2 - 9 to 12, 15 to 19, 21 and 22 (Parnell area)
Section 3 – 13 to 15, 17, 37 and 38 (Grafton area)
Section 4 – 1 to 3, 5 to 7, 9 to 16, 18 and 19, 21 to 23 (Parnell area)
Section 6 – 3 to 7, 15, and 24 (Epsom)

On 28 February 1844, they also purchased in the Parish of Takapuna:
Lots 1 to 20, 22
Lots 27 to 37
and Lots 39 to 70.

All up, a total value debited from their £50,000 account with the Government of £12,556 18s 8d. They may have made other purchases at other times to bring themselves up to the total – I haven’t had a chance to check out where else their name comes up, other than what is in the initial gazettes, and on the Roll 61 plan. The NZ Gazette & Wellington Spectator newspaper of 13 December 1843 reported (in turn, from the Auckland Times of 28 November), that the Company’s agent Francis Dillon Bell at that point had been visiting Papakura and Makatu districts, and that the Company were busily surveying and pegging out “streets and lines of frontages” at Mechanic’s Bay (which, in those days, also included much of today’s lower Parnell).

By early 1846, there had been little if any movement with regard to land sales to emigrants in Auckland by the New Zealand Company. Some of their misgivings expressed back in 1843 appeared to have come true – along with the depression of 1844-1845, and the bad publicity around the Northland War and evacuation of settlers from the Bay of Islands. The New Zealander was clear in its condemnation of the Company’s practices in Auckland. They called
“the attention of the local government, to the great injury inflicted on this district, by the retention by the company of so many town, suburban, and adjacent country allotments. It is well known, at least by those who understood the policy of the New Zealand Company, that when they selected land, at Auckland, and in its neighbourhood, to the value of £50,000, as part of the award of Mr. Pennington, it was solely with a view to mislead the government, with the idea that the company would send emigrants to Auckland; and it was also with an intent and hope, that by holding in their hands so much of the town and neighbourhood, the progress of Auckland would be retarded. It must be perfectly evident now, that Otago and the Wairarapa Valley will engross the whole attention of the company, and be the destination of all the emigrants that may come out under their auspices, for some years to come; therefore the Home government should revoke the sales of land to the company in this district, and order the local government to dispose of them immediately by public auction at the quarterly sales.“
(New Zealander, 17 January 1846)

Apparently, this came to pass, but a year later and for other reasons. The Company approached the Government for a loan and final claim, and one of the stipulations from the Government was “That the Company shall at once give up all claim to lands in the neighbourhood of Auckland, and take the whole amount awarded to it elsewhere.” (New Zealander, 6 October 1847) Essentially, this appears to have been just the final act of the 1843 guarantee agreement: the Company hadn’t sold the land, so the deal was off.

From 1848 through to 1850, the Crown then re-sold the allotments they had “sold” to the Company back in 1844, apart from any which appear to have been dealt with previously by either the Crown or the Company. A number of the endowment lands given over for the purposes of generating income for the hospital and grammar school in Auckland were part of this tidying up process. By 1858, the Company itself had finally ceased, and their brief impact on the history of Auckland became just a faded footnote.

All that’s left is the oddity of a map, Roll 61, showing Mechanic’s Bay as Some’s Bay (possibly in honour, on paper at least, of Joseph Somes of the Company), and the possibility today that Stanley Street was named not after Captain Owen Stanley who accompanied Felton Mathew – but perhaps after Lord Stanley, and so named by the Company who had so many dealings with him in the Colonial Office (and may have wanted to complement the man who had agreed to the Auckland deal in the first place). Stanley Street doesn’t appear to be named on any of Felton Mathew’s plans I’ve seen to date, and the earliest Paper’s Past reference I’ve found so far is 1849. That may be the last sign left of the New Zealand Company’s dabbling in our region’s history.

The “fat book” of 12th report appendices (1844), Papers Past references, New Zealand Gazette, Roll 61 from LINZ records, Fatal Success by Patricia Burns (1989)

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