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Thursday
Mar142013

The Great Foreshore Debate of 1869

I was invited to talk on the Soapbox at Banker's Corner in Thames today on any subject as part of the Heritage Festival.

I chose to draw attention to the circumstances surrounding the Foreshore and Seabed argument that had its genesis here in Thames in 1870 when Judge Fenton overturned Land Commissioner Mackay's earlier ruling on access to the foreshore betwen the Kauaeranga and Tararu rivers. I was Albert Bartley - recently arrived from the Ballarat field, for the purpose of the 're-enactment', and a right little stirrer he was too!

The circumstances are not well known - and they should be - it places Thames front and center in the argument. It caused some raucous argument in the middle of town today, but I could not get a march organised on Mackay's office - it turns out that it was in Paeroa in any case. Get your facts right, Barclay!

this is the background 'flier' I handed out: 

"What was the Thames role in the foreshore and seabed argument that has exercised minds to such an extent over the last few years?

In 1868, Lands Commissioner Mackay summarily dismissed the first applications to mine the foreshore between the Kauaeranga and Tararu based on agreements he previously entered into that recognised Maori ownership of the foreshore.

The foreshore retained a mythical alluvial allure and inspired resentment amongst thousands of miners who crowded between the river boundaries earlier negotiated with Ngati Maru Chief Taipari and others

As the company quartz stampers pounded, individual miners agitated for access to the foreshore, but the Provincial Government remained ambivalent – Auckland depended on the gold coming from the Thames field, courtesy of Mackay’s Agreement, and was reluctant to claim the Queen’s Chain – un-recognised in the Treaty. 

Miner Albert Bartley arrived from the Ballarat field in Victoria in 1869 to seek his fortune on the thriving new quartz field at Thames, but found himself too late for the easy alluvial pickings. Along with many other individual miners, he convinced himself that the foreshore flats held the key to their fortunes – gain access, and the metal would be theirs.

Albert was used to a different culture at Ballarat, and could not understand the deference shown to Maori.  Gold was there, and he would have it - Mackay be dammed!  On the steps of the town hall he called for a march on Commissioner Mackay’s office. Out went his call “Join in and support our mining rights!” 

In 1870, Judge Fenton overturned Mackay’s ruling and upheld the Crown’s right to the foreshore - he ordered that Maori rights applied only to the fishing grounds, despite having accepted ‘that full and exclusive possession of the flats had been proved’. His judgment had been arrived at on the basis of the "Great public interests….."

The alluvial pickings were sparse - the quartz seams over 500ft down and inaccessible. Albert departed, but the foreshore legacy lives on…..."

(Loosely based on Paul Monin 'Hauraki Contested 1769-1875’ Bridget Williams Books 2001)

 

 

 

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