HL Deb 01 April 1844 vol 73 cc1674-6
The Earl of Malmesbury

presented a petition from 700 inhabitants of the town of Wellington and the neighbourhood of Cook's Straits, New Zealand, calling the attention of their Lordships to the unprotected state of that colony, and praying that some measures might be adopted for their safety. The petitioners also prayed for a settlement of the disputed land claims. He should state to their Lordships, that the question appeared to be mooted in consequence of the massacre which took place in the colony on the 17th of June, 1843, arising out of those disputed claims; and as very great apprehension existed amongst the colonists, as well as amongst their friends in this country upon the subject, he wished to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they had already taken, or intended to take, in restoring the confidence of the settlers, by adding to the military force for the protection of the colony, and also what steps were in contemplation for the settlement of the land titles?

The Earl of Ripon

replied, that the commanding officers of the military forces in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land had been directed to forward a force from those two colonies respectively to New Zealand, for the purposes to which the petitioners alluded; and that the force so sent was deemed sufficient for the protection of the colonists by the commanding officer in New Zealand itself. The apprehensions of the settlers, it might easily be conceived, went beyond the actual necessity of the case; but, under any circumstances, the arrangements which had beers made would afford them the security they sought. At the same time, he must be allowed to remark, that it was impossible for the Government not to feel that the practice of removing troops in detachments from one colony to another, was liable to considerable inconvenience. Looking at the vast extent of our colonial possessions, there would be great inconvenience in the attempt to meet every case of this kind, unless a much greater military force was employed: and with regard to the detachment which had been sent to New Zealand, he could not say how long it might be possible to maintain it there. There were, however, means by which the colonists might provide for their own safety. The government of the colony was authorised to levy a militia, or a constabulary force, constructed upon the principles of the constabulary force in Ireland, for the protection of the colonists; and, seeing that there were 10,000 inhabitants in the colony, he should say there would be but little difficulty in providing, in the way he had stated, for their mutual protection. With regard to the other question which his noble Friend had put in reference to the titles of land, all he could say was, that Captain Fitzroy had been sent with instructions from the Secretary of State, for the purpose of bringing those matters to a satisfactory termination. No blame whatever attached to the Government upon this subject.

The Earl of Malmesbury

said, he had been informed by persons well acquainted with the colony that a very small force would be sufficient; but what the colonists particularly wished was that a small armed steamer should be stationed at Cook's Straits, as the most effectual means if protection. He was the last man who would impute blame to Her Majesty's Government on the subject, and the settlers themselves, in their petition, were very far from blaming the Government; on the contrary, they stated that the dispatches of Lord Stanley had given them every hope of a speedy prosperity, but they felt compelled to add, that the local authorities did not act up to the spirit or the letter of that noble Lord's instructions and dispatches. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) would not on that occasion trouble their Lordships with the particulars of the complaints of the colonists against the local authorities; but they asserted generally that very great blame rested with the executive of the colony, but not with the Government here.

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