New Zealand's Forgotten Appellate Court? The Native Affairs Committee, Petitions and Maori Land: 1871 to 1900
37 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2015 Last revised: 25 Aug 2015
Date Written: 2013
The second half the 19th century witnessed one of the most complex and destructive chapters in New Zealand legal history. The Native Land Court, Land Laws and Crown purchase and confiscation policies combined to create confusion, uncertainty and grievance in Maori land ownership and transactions. In response, thousands of Maori, and some Europeans, petitioned Parliament. Around two thousand of these Maori land related petitions were referred to the Native Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, many of which involved complex disputes and legal issues in relation to Maori land. In several respects, the petitioners were treating this Committee as a de-facto ’Maori Land Appellate Court’. However, the Committee was no such court. Instead, this paper argues the Committee was effectively operating as a ‘Maori Land Ombudsman’. Using petitions, Maori and Europeans would put their grievances and law reform suggestions before the Committee. In turn, the Committee would usually investigate and make recommendations for action. Although the Committee was ultimately unable to resolve many of the alleged grievances put before it, in a system where Maori had little political power, it fulfilled an important constitutional role as a check on judicial and government power in relation to Maori land interests.
Keywords: Petition, Maori land, Native Affairs Committee
JEL Classification: K1, K19, K11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation