Sunday, July 18, 2010

An enigma beside the Otamatea River

My good friend from Mad Bush Farm has been chasing down info on the Queen Victoria bust at the Otamatea Marae for some time now,  longer than Timespanner's been in existence. So, I'm not posting this to steal thunder or other stuff like that, but -- this is certainly a mystery and a half. I'd like to know more.

The known facts are these: Dick Scott in his book Seven Lives on Salt River (1987) wrote:
A concrete plinth standing before the Ngati Whatua meeting house opposite the 'Cathedral of Gittos' at Tanoa is waiting for the return of a plaster and wood bust of the young Queen Victoria that Governor Gore Browne gave to the tribe as a reward for loyalty to the British during the wars for the land. Until the royal head is set in place, aluminium frame windows are the only feature of this unusually bare wharenui set in an empty paddock.
The plinth is outside a plain building Scott says was Aotearoa, a meeting house once at Aotea or Shelley Beach in South Kaipara, shifted by raft and bullock team from Shelley Beach to the mission village at Kakaraea (Tanoa). A shift which happened, according to Scott, in 1887. The bust had been store, Scott said, at Whare Maori, the "Devil's House" at Ratana Pa, then held on deposit at Auckland War Memorial Museum for the Otamatea Marae. Today, it appears, it has been restored to reside inside its aluminium and glass enclosure.

The enigma is the plaque applied to the plinth below the bust's latest home. Right now, I suspect that it is either a historical red herring, or an indication that the bust came from further afield than even Shelley Beach to begin with.


Scott provided a handsome photo of the bust in his book, sitting on and surrounding by the Union Flag. The photo was taken by David Reynolds, from the Auckland Institute and Museum Library, with permission of the Otamatea Marae Committee. I suppose the plaque pre-dated the move back to Tanoa, because Scott does appear to have used it as a source (reference to "young Queen Victoria", and that flag which is no longer in evidence at the Tanoa site.)

But ...

I have yet to find a reference to any meeting Governor Gore Browne had with Ngati Whatua chiefs at Shelley Beach. He did meet with them -- but at Kohimarama, here in Auckland, in the winter of 1860, at the first of the Maori Parliaments discussing the Land Wars issue. No record found, though, of the Governor reciprocating in the face of gifts given to him by the visiting chiefs, with a wood/plaster bust of young Queen Vic.

The earliest description of the bust in situ at Shelley Beach comes from a report in the Weekly News of 28 February 1885, two years before things were shifted up north. The report is that of a railway and steamer excursion to Helensville and surrounding districts:
At Shelley Beach the excursionists were speeedily and comfortably landed in two boats, and immediately spread out to do the "lions" of the locality, which consisted of the large Runanga House, or Native Parliament House of New Zealand, an obelisk, in the recessed faces of which (protected by glass) are inscribed the text of the Treaty of Waitangi in English and Maori, and the native settlement. The obelisk is surmounted by a bust of the Queen.
There's no mention there of union jacks, unless they were behind the Treaty of Waitangi plaques (which are not together with the bust today). Sadly, also, no mention of the Governor Gore Browne connection -- but this was just a smidgen of a longer report on the whole exciting day. Those plaques, though, might date the bust and obelisk. In 1880, another obelisk including memorial plaques to the Treaty was designed by Buchanan of Auckland and installed at Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. That one still exists at the Waitangi Treaty Monument. Perhaps the original plinth at Shelley Beach looked like that, without the surmounting obelisk -- instead, the bust of Queen Victoria? Maori worked to increase awareness of the Treaty in the period both immediately before and after the 40th anniversary of the Treaty's signing. Not hard to see why, after the land confiscation record and the activities at that time of the Native Land Court mopping up much of the remainder.

There is one event I have yet to look into: a Maori Parliament of some note held at Shelley Beach in late November 1884. Papers Past references sadly mention it only in passing (another one of those so-called 'Parliaments' the natives kept holding, in the minds of European settlers, hardly worthy of much note on the national scale). The only reference I found there was from the North Otago Times, 14 November 1884:
The Northern Maori parliament will meet at Kaipara on tho 22nd inst. This is a gathering of Ngawhatua under the auspices of Paoro Tuahera, and Tawhiao has promised to be present. 
 This is an echo of what the Helenville & Districts Historical Society have recorded on their website:
In 1884/85 Aotea, as it was formerly called, was the venue for an important meeting between Ngati Whatua and King Tawhiao of the Waikato. The issue was whether or not the local people should join the King movement. After much discussion they did not. At this meeting the Council Hall, Te Tiriti, was opened and a four sided memorial with a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi set under glass on two sides was erected with Government funds. It was surmounted by a likeness of Queen Victoria. It stood there for many years and was regarded with great reverence by Maori. Later the buildings and memorial were barged to Batley near Maungaturoto.
 So ... I need to see what the NZ Herald, Auckland Star, and Weekly News recorded, if anything much, about that meeting of the Maori Parliament. By that stage, however, there was little if any connection with Governor Gore Browne. 

So -- a red herring? Or something more ...?

Update 28 April 2011:

Liz from Mad Bush Farm has found the following on Papers Past about Shelley Beach and the bust. Thanks, Liz.

Monument at Tanoa references

The party, shortly after arrival of the train, proceeded by the s.s. Aotea to Dargaville, being accompanied as far as Shelly Beach by Messrs Jas. McLeod, J. A. Wilson, Jas. Hand, and F. Tucker (acting Town Clerk). Mr McLeod pointed out the improvement that had been made to the Kaipara River by the removal of rocks in the channel, and asked for a landing stage at Shelly Beach, where he intended to offer a reserve of 26 acres to the people of the district as a pleasure resort. He also pointed out that the monument erected on the beach in honour of the Treaty of Waitangi, some 25 years ago by the Government, was sadly in need of repair, and that the copy of the Treaty which was let into the monument and mounted with glass, was almost obliterated by exposure to the weather. Mr Massey, who seemed pleased with the outlook of Shelly Beach as a camping ground, said although it did not come within his department, he would do what he could in the matter of forwarding the project and getting the monument put into repair.

Kaipara & Waitemata Echo 15 January 1913

There is not the least doubt of the suitability of Shelly Beach as an ideal camping ground and pleasure resort and a reserve there of 26 acres offered free to the people of the district should be accepted without hesitation. The proposed area takes in practically all the beach including a large piece of flat ground on the top of the cliff which could be made into a very nice park, having near the edge old Maori redoubts and rifle holes, which with very little expense could be reserved. The face of the cliffs are covered with native bush which affords excellent shelter, and on the beach there still remains the old Maori Church and a Monument in commemoration of the Treaty of Waitangi. Mr Jas. McLeod who is offering the gift to the people, informs us that it could be invested in three trusts representing the Helensville Town Board, and Kaukapakapa and Maratahi landings of the Waitemata County Council. In his opinion the area, although large enough at the present time, may be found a small reserve in the future and that if the people of the district took the matter up, it would be to their advantage to acquire another fifty acres, which could be done, at a very low price, and therefore have a suitable reserve for all times. What makes the proposed reserve of more importance is that a read could be brought from the main road right on to the Beach, allowing of easy access by land as well as by water, and with a suitable landing stage erected by the Government, people for all parts should be attracted to this spot.

15 January 1913

30-Acre Public Reserve.
At Shelley Beach
Given by James McLeod
Reporting to the Waitemata County Council on Friday, the Engineer (Mr R. G. Jackson), in. reference to the South Head road deviation, stated that when surveying this road some time ago he also laid off a branch road to Shelley Beach—the only deep water in the district. This road crossed a block of Maori land known, as Aotearoa, and it was intended to take the road by warrant. The block had now been acquired by Mr James McLeod, and there is some prospect of a portion of it being re-sold. If the block was sub-divided there would then be trouble and expense in getting the road. He had persuaded Mr McLeod to offer the road to the Council, and be recommended the offer be accepted.

Cr McLeod said that ever since it had been intended, to put that road there it had always been argued that it was at the only deep water between there and South head. It was in the interests of district residents that dedication of this road should be taken. If he parted with portion of the land another owner may want compensation for a road, but he was prepared to give it at the present time, his only stipulation being that a gate should be left on the boundary; otherwise it would cost him a good sum for fencing. Besides the road he was also giving Shelley Beach Reserve, a piece of land comprising 30 acres, for a public picnic ground. The only question was as to whether the Council was prepared to take the road, which would prove useful, although the people of Helensville had access to Shelley beach by way of the river. The Chairman said the offer was a generous one. The Council decided to accept dedication of the road; and on the initiative of Cr Poynton passed a further resolution expressing the Council's appreciation of the generous gift.
Kaipara & Waitemata Echo 2 July 1913

Update 6 June 2011:

Liz found the second item, which made me dig for the first, of the following:

(At the Orakei Parliament)
Te Keene Tangaroa said he would build a Parliament House for next year at Kaipara. As the preparations would occupy all his time, he would not be able to go to Te Kopua.
Auckland Star 6 March 1879

Another old and loyal Maori chief has just passed away in the person  of Te Keene Tangaroa, of Shelly Beach, Kaipara. This chief was a  consistent friend of the Europeans, and his loyalty to the Queen led  him to oppose successfully the proposal to shift the venue of the  Maori Parliament to the Waikato. He had an obelisk erected at Shelly  Beach in honour of the Queen, and to commemorate the Treaty of  Waitangi. He was a Government Assessor, and was in receipt of a Government pension.
Auckland Star 8 December 1885

Which puts the bust as dating (possibly) somewhere between 1880 and 1884 at Shelly Beach.


  1. I don't think Gore-Browne ever went to Shelly Beach. Nothing seems to fit. I could be wrong but the only way to know is if I can somehow sight Gore-Browne's Diaries. Like you I could not find any record of the presentation and something like that would have been an important event. It doesn't mean though it did not happen but...I think I will have to talk to the elders at the Marae and ask them what they know.

  2. If the governor had anything to do with the bust, Liz -- it seems more likely it would have been during his term of office, and that seems to point to the Kohimarama conference in 1860. But, then again, as I said, mention of him could well be a red herring.

  3. Thanks for putting those in Lisa. It's interesting that they say in the report "erected by the government"

  4. Erected by the government, or with government funds (the latter is according to the Helensville historical society website). Time may hopefully tell -- still intriguing, though. Thanks, my friend.

  5. If you guys really want to know go to the marae and get the answers. Theres an expression maori use kanohi ki te kanohi ie face to face. You will get your answers that way rather than Dr Google.

    1. Before you go turning up your nose at research just because you think it's "Dr Google" -- try checking out Papers Past yourself, including the newspapers in Te Reo from the period. You're welcome. ;-)