Richard Boast

Buying the Land, Selling the Land: Governments and Maori Land in the North Island 1865-1921

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Winner of the Montana New Zealand Book Award for History 2009

This book is a study of Crown Māori land policy and practice in the period 1869-1929, from the establishment of the Native Land Court power until the cessation by Gordon Coates of large-scale Crown purchasing. In the intervening period virtually the main function of the Native Department was to purchase Māori land, and, to the extent that the New Zealand state had a Māori policy, the focus was on acquisition of Māori land in the interests of closer settlement. Locked into complex legal structures which prevented them from turning their assets into capital and thus increasing their value, many Māori took the only realistic option available, and sold.

The story the book tells is in many ways a bleak and grim one of a tidal wave of Crown purchasing crashing over a people who were in very difficult circumstances. Yet it is important to recognise that government purchasing of Māori land was in its own way driven by genuine, if blinkered, idealism. This book is also something of a reaction to “'the-Crown-has-been-very-naughty'” school of New Zealand history. Much of the book is devoted to an examination of government purchasing policy. Many of the most idealistic and impressive politicians that New Zealand has produced, including Sir Donald McLean, John Ballance, and John McKenzie were strong advocates of expanded and state-controlled land purchasing. It is as important to understand their motives as it is to attempt to gauge the social and economic effects of purchasing on the Māori people.

'Richard Boast has completed a book which will foster the far-reaching reappraisal under way of the relationship between Māori and the Crown.' —Terry Hearn, Otago Daily Times

Richard Boast is an Associate Professor of Law at Victoria University and currently teaches property law, legal history and energy and resources law. Richard also practises in the area of Māori and Treaty litigation and represents several iwi groups in inquiries currently being heard by the Waitangi Tribunal.

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