TOKAANU MAORI CONFERENCE
HON. A. T. NGATA INTERVIEWED. A SUCCESSFUL MEETING. MILLION ACRES INVOLVED. (By Telegrapn.—Own Reporter.) HUNTLY, Friday. The Hon. A. T. Ngata arrived at Huntly from Rotorua this afternoon, after attending the Maori Congress which has been in progress for some days at Tokaanu. In the course of a conversation with a "Star" representative, Mr Ngata gave an interesting resume of the work of the conference. "The meeting," he said, "was one of the most important events of the kind held in the North Island for some time past. It was convened by the wellknown chieftain, Te Heuheu Tukino, and some 500 or 000 natives were present, including representatives from Taupo, Upper Wanganui, Lower King Country, Otaki and portion of the East Coast, as far as Wairoa, in Hawke's Bay. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Native Affairs were unable to attend, and the Hon. J. A. Millar, who was on the western side of the lake, intended being present, but was prevented from attending by the wet weather. On Saturday last I reached Tokaanu, and was received in the customary manner by the natives there assembled. Te Heuheu and his committee then went into conference with mc upon the varioiis proposals which had been brought forward by the Ngari-te-wharetoas for consideration by the A QUESTION OF OWNERSHIP. Speaking of the objects of the Tokaanu meeting, Mr Ngata stated that the first proposal was to obtain a declaration in regard to the ownership of the Taupo lakes—whether they were still the property of Maori lake landowners or whether they had passed into the hands of the Crown. This question, Mr Ngata added, had been exciting the minds of the natives in the thermal regions for some time, and the people of Rotorua had alrady taken steps to obtain legal opinion. It was urged at the Tokaanu conference that it would be advisable to join forces with Rotorua, and assist by contributing to the expenses of proceedings. DESIRE FOR SPECIAL ADMINISTRATION. Another object of the meeting was to urge that their district should be detached from the King Country, so far as the administration of the Native Land Board is concerned. They complained that since the constitution of that Board the desires of their people had not received due attention, the time of the Board having been devoted to consideration of matters affecting the King Country. "In regard to this petition," said Mr Ngata, "I promised to refer the matter to the Native Minister, but pointed out that the present was not an opportune time for asking the Government to appoint a separate board of appeal for the Taupo lands. In reply, Tβ Heuheu expressed the opinion thai their district should be incorporated and administered by the Native Land Board of the Thermal Springs Districts. Te Heuheu thought that it. would be more convenient for the Board to operate from Rotorua rather than from Auckland or from the King Country." PROSPECTING AROUND TAUPO. A third objection was that prospectors were operating on certain papatupu lands south of the lake. The lands there were not subject to the Miniilg Act, and till they were declared to be so the Government should see to it that indiscriminate prospecting was not allowed. "In this case," said Mr Ngata, "I reminded them that the Urewera people were throwing their lands open to prospecting and mining. The Taupo people, if they thought there was any gold in the district, should not wait until titles were declared before allowing prospecting to go on." NATIVE LAND QUESTION. As far as the native lands round Taupo are concerned, the position seems to be this," declared Mr Ngata. "To the west of the lake, running out to the dividing range between Taupo and the King Country, is forest containing valuable milling timber. Timber land to the north is under option to the TaupoTotara Timber Company. South of. that the Tongariro Timber Co. has large areas, and the total area estimated to be covered by options is 180,000 acres. East of the lake, and north of it, are poor pumice areas. There does not appear to be any crying need for settlers here. South of the lake is the Kaimanawa range, running back into the Kawhia country. Here there are 120,000 acres, the title of which has never been ascertained. Between Tokaanu and AVaiouru are the Rangepo-Waiu plains, carrying rough grazing for stock. Altogether in this district, subject to the ownership of Te Heuheu and his people, there is xa area of over one million acres. The timber area is the most valuable at the present time, and with this taken out, there is no crying need to settle the rest. Nor is there likely to be any great demand for land of that character in the near future. The committee of Tokaanu desires to bring before the Government certain proposals with a view to future legislation. They agreed that in the existing legislation there is sufficient provision for immediate needs. They approved of the proposal to consolidate the native land laws, but asked for certain improvements to the machinery and administration of the Native Land Court. It was agreed that the individualisation of titles might be. defeated in many cases by the native custom of succession of landed interests. As ■ an instance, they brought under my notice a case where an interest in a small block of land, which had been for many years a subject for litigation, was ultimately mm dividualised and awarded to one Maori, who died soon after. On his death without issue, the hind was awarded to 43 successors. Cases of the kind were becoming more and more frequent, owing to inter-marriages in tribes. They wished to restrict validity, ami force all ■wills of deceased Maoris to immediate relatives, and have made invalid wills by Maoris in favour of Europeans. This last," added Mr Ngata, "is a very big order." ■ INDIVIDUAUSATION AND ALIENATION. With a view to facilitating individualisation, they put forward a scheme so that claims for partition could be confirmed by registrars. They did not approve the Native Minister's proposal to abolish: thek Native Apellant Court and revert to rekearrngs, this having been found costly and inconvenient , to litigants, and any reform should take place'in the procedure of the court and perhaps'of its personnel. In the matter of exchanges, they suggested that the j procedure of the Native Land Court .should be amended so- that in districts
where blocks were, held by, tribes the Government 'should. appoint a conimis-.. sion to carry out exchanges as between various sections of the tribes. IProceeding, then, to deal with*the settlement and alienation of lands, the committee ■ insisted -that the Government should perfect a system of settling the Maoris themselves uponi,their own lands. If the ordinary procedure by partition and individualisation were found too cumbersome, then some administrative body should, intervene, take over the -areas, subdivide--to - suitable allotments, and lea.se to suitable "farmers, giving!"preference to Maori owners. In cases where land has only been recently brought under the laws of the Dominion, or where the land is held communaUy, alienation restrictions should remain. At the same time, the committee at Tokaanu was of the opinion that where the native lias his land as a separate holding, he should for all purposes be on the same footing as a European. They concluded their deliberations by expressing an ardent wish that ample provision would be made for the survey of native lands, and that such work would be vigorously proceeded with.
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