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Frontier Of Dreams

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James Busby

As the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum, poverty in Great Britain grew. Its greatest export became its people as they spread to colonies throughout the world looking for better opportunities. In the 1830s Britain felt obliged to protect its citizens living abroad.

In New Zealand the European population was less than a thousand. Maori numbered a hundred times that. Small groups of Europeans clung to trading outposts such as the notoriously lawless boomtown of Kororareka (Russell).

In 1830 one act of lawlessness made headlines in England when Ngati Toa chief, Te Rauparaha, paid a British sea captain to help him attack his enemies at Akaroa. Many Maori were killed and others enslaved.

In London this horrifying event caused deep concern and changed the "hand's off" policy towards New Zealand. They felt they needed to act, so in 1833 appointed James Busby as British Resident. Busby was to control any outrages British citizens might commit in New Zealand and establish some type of authority or government among the Maori.

Busby arrived at the Bay of Islands in 1833 and built what is now the Treaty House. His arrival marks the first step on the road to colonization. 

Busby knew that something had to be done about New Zealand's problems. There was inter-tribal fighting and land being acquired by dubious means. He also saw foreign flags around the coast. The United States were considering appointing a consol and the French whalers were treating Akaroa like home. Busby feared that if Britain didn't move on New Zealand, someone else would.

Although essentially a powerless mediator between Maori and Pakeha, Busby is remembered for two achievements. In 1834 he held a meeting of chiefs at Waitangi to choose New Zealand's first national flag - the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, and in 1835 he was instrumental in creating the Declaration of Independence recognising Maori sovereignty in New Zealand.

But these acts would soon be overshadowed by an event that would involve Busby's last official duty as Resident, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.