University Continues to Benefit From Colonial Land Confiscations

I was shocked today to read that Victoria University is set to sell the Karori Campus for $20million. What is shocking is not only the sale, but the fact that the government sold the land to the University in 2014 for $10.

Numerous media outlets have covered this story, with Radio NZ stating “The Karori campus was acquired from the government for $10 in 2014. It covers 3.7ha and includes 20 buildings.” (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/312117/victoria-university-to-sell-$10-karori-campus). Some are advocating that the council should buy the land (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1608/S00856/city-should-buy-victoria-universitys-karori-campus.htm). Concern has been expressed about the loss of an educational facility to the community (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/83697513/victoria-university-decides-former-teachers-college-in-karori-is-surplus-to-requirements). Not one of those reports has raised the history of the land, the issue that if the land is ‘surplus to requirements’ that it be returned to the Iwi or the broader issues related to Treaty processes which demand that in similar situations Iwi are forced to pay $millions for the return of stolen lands.

The sale by the Government to Victoria university for $10 in a context where Iwi are fighting to have stolen lands returned is atrocious. It highlights that successive governments assertions that Iwi must buy back lands at inflated prices reeks of systemic racism. It also reinforces a system that maintains and reproduces its own privilege. What this act points to is a contemporary repeat of the confiscation of Iwi lands in the 1800s to benefit the establishment of Pākehā driven and defined Universities on Māori land. In 1996 Linda Tuhiwai Smith highlighted this in her Phd Thesis ‘Ngā Aho o Te Kākahu Mātauranga: The Multiple Layers of Struggle by Māori in Education’ and yet we see that there remains little consciousness about this issue in the current land dealings being done between the government and Universities.

Universities within Aotearoa are, as with other Pākehā dominated institutions, founded upon a history of colonial oppression. We are often denied real knowledge about such a history. Maori are made invisible in the historical discussion of the development of colonial university systems on our land.

Andrea Morrison (1999) informs us that the ‘official’ history of The University of Auckland written by Keith Sinclair for the 1983 centenary only gives scant discussion of Māori involvement with the university. She finds that from the outset the university was a place for Pākehā settlers not for Māori. The University of Auckland Calendar tells us nothing about the involvement of colonial imperialism in the establishment of the university, rather the history given in the Calendar bemoans its financial difficulties stating:
“The College was poor: its statutory grant was for many years only £4,000 a year, while land reserves, set aside by government to provide an income, brought in very little.” (https://www.calendar.auckland.ac.nz/en/info/about/history.html)

We are not only made invisible as the Indigenous People of the land, but the process of land confiscations upon which the University system in our country is founded is also well hidden in historical discussions.

The University of Auckland Calendar does not inform us of the Auckland University College Reserves Act of 1885 where confiscated land from the Waikato area and in Whakatane was utilised to fund the development of The University of Auckland (Mead 1996). Linda Tuhiwai Smith notes that in concrete ways The University of Auckland has benefited directly from the losses suffered by one of her iwi, Ngāti Awa. The apparent insignificance of these events to Pākehā historians is evident in the documentation. As Linda Smith notes;
“The first paragraph of the history of Auckland University written by a prominent New Zealand historian Sir Keith Sinclair, for example, immediately connects the history of Auckland’s university to the establishment of other universities in the ‘English-speaking countries’. The official history acknowledges that land was indeed vested in the university but focuses more on the inability of the rent to provide a decent income for the new university because the land was ‘poor and heavily forested’. There was scant official knowledge, even in hindsight that these lands belonged to Maori people”. (Mead 1996, p.98)

The Auckland University College Act 1882 established the University of Auckland, and the Auckland University College Reserves Act 1885 saw lands stolen from three tribal groups in the upper North Island, Ngāti Awa, Tainui and Ngā Puhi, vested in the Council of the Auckland University College (New Zealand Statutes 1885).

The University of Auckland was not the only university founded from colonial imperialism. Other universities were developed as part of attempts to increase settlements in those areas (Morrison 1999). Legislation was also passed, by the colonial settler government, for the confiscation of lands from ‘rebel Natives’ (Beaglehole 1949) for the benefit of other universities and therefore for the benefit of generations of Pākehā academics. Both Otago and Canterbury universities were developed as part of attempts to increase settlements in those areas. The first university was established in 1870 in Otago and it was deemed in Section 30 on the New Zealand University Act 1874 that lands in the Province of Otago reserved under the University Endowment Act 1868 would be granted to the University of Otago.

The Victoria College Act 1897 brought the establishment of Victoria University in Wellington, which Ostler (cited in Beaglehole 1949) notes was to provide higher education for Wellington, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Marlborough. In regards to the establishment of Victoria University, Beaglehole (1949) includes in the appendices to the publication ‘Victoria University College: An Essay Towards a History’, a memorandum on the Opaku Reserve from Herbert Ostler the chair of the College in 1914. The memorandum outlines issues regarding the Opaku Reserve and Waitotara lands in South Taranaki. The Opaku Reserve was essentially 10,000 acres of confiscated lands that is located near the town of Pātea. Ostler (cited in Beaglehole 1949) notes that the land was confiscated from ‘rebel Natives’ and was through section 6 of the University Endowment Act 1868 set aside as a reserve for the endowment of a colonial university. Section 38 of The Victoria College Act 1897 set the Waitotara Reserve of 4,000 acres aside as an endowment with those lands being included in the schedule of lands via the New Zealand University Reserves Act 1875. The Opaku Reserve was not included, instead the Opaku Reserve was in 1905 diverted to the Taranaki Scholarships Trust to provide scholarships for Taranaki scholars to any of the universities in the country.

The denial of history and the invisibility of the ways in which universities have benefited from colonisation through the confiscations of our lands continues to be reproduced in 2016. These acts of colonial oppression are seen as marginal to the wider discussion of the history of the academy and as such are reduced to the appendices of University histories. This is often the way in which Indigenous issues, and Indigenous Peoples traditions and epistemologies are treated within the academy.

The government sale of the Karori campus to Victoria University highlights that while our Iwi continue to struggle to have our lands returned, these dominant Pākehā institutions continue to benefit nearly 120 years later from the confiscation of our Iwi lands. There should only be one true discussion on the table in regards to the Karori campus, and it should be to return the lands to Iwi.
Me riro whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai.

Auckland University College Reserves [1885:1], New Zealand Statutes 1885,Government Printer, Wellington: 411
Beaglehole, J.C. 1949 Victoria University College: An Essay Towards a History, New Zealand University Press, Wellington
Mead, LTR, ‘Nga Aho o Te Kakahu Matauranga: The Multiple Layers of Struggle by Maori in Education’ Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Thesis, Education Department University of Auckland, 1996
Morrison, A. 1999 Space for Māori in Tertiary Institutions: Exploring Two Sites at The University of Auckland, Unpublished Master of Education book, University of Auckland, Auckland:22

About Te Wharepora Hou

Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tāmaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.
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2 Responses to University Continues to Benefit From Colonial Land Confiscations

  1. Makere says:

    Reblogged this on The Spiral Turns.

  2. Makere says:

    Great piece, have reblogged on The Spiral Turns. Nga mihi, Makere

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