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Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s Tenths’ Policy

Mantell, Walter Baldock Durrant (Hon), 1820-1895. Mantell, Walter Baldock Durrant, 1820-1895 :Moeraki. Ye hatte after havynge beene satten onne. Cruelty to animals. [October 1848]. Mantell, Walter Baldock Durrant 1820-1895 :[Sketchbook, no. 3] 1848-1849. Ref: E-334-089. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23225090


Tenths' Policy

By the middle of 1844, Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s tenths’ policy had already undergone several transformations. Wakefield’s original idea had been to acquire title to large areas of the country by purchase from Māori. The company would then sell the land at a very considerable profit to settlers and British speculators. When the land was surveyed, it would be distributed to the company’s investors by ballot. The company would select every tenth or eleventh section for Māori. It was assumed that Māori would shift off their existing pā and cultivations and resettle on these tenths blocks, scattered randomly throughout the whole settlement. This would include a tenth of all land in the towns, in the suburbs and in the country areas. Although Māori would be paid very little for the land initially, they would benefit from the dramatic increase in the value of their tenths reserves as settlement developed. 

The reality of the tenths scheme in New Zealand bore little relationship to Wakefield’s theory. Māori were voicing concern that they had not sold the land claimed by the company and they were also resisting attempts to move them off their kainga and cultivations. Although some tenths had been allocated, Māori were receiving little benefit from them. 


Various Ngai Tahu have argued that their tūpuna were promised that a tenth of the land purchased would be returned to them. The policy of reserving for Māori a tenth of the land purchased was part of the company scheme and was only partially applied to land sales throughout New Zealand.  


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Portrait: "Edward Gibbon Wakefield." J Edgil Collins 
R. Ansdell, 1850. One oil painting of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Canterbury Museum. 

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