Te Whare Taonga o Kororareka

Laws for the Lawless – #104

Laws for the Lawless – #104

Although James Busby, the British Resident, lived just across the Bay at Waitangi, lawlessness in the early 1830s was rife in Kororareka.  To be fair, the British Government didn’t exactly give him support.  The British Government didn’t quite know how to justly apply laws to regulate their subjects for at that time New Zealand belonged to Maori.  Instead, they directed him to entreat with local Maori Chiefs to track down offenders and escort them to British ships waiting in the Bay.

In the “absence of Magisterial authority”, 21 plus pioneer male residents and visiting ships Captains formed the Kororareka Association.  Meeting in ex-convict Ben Turner’s house on the May 23, 1838, residents subscribed £10 a head and visitors gave donations. The Association set 15 regulations which framed New Zealand’s first law.  Ben Turner sent a copy to the New South Wales government noting the area enforced by the Association was “from Matawai, Blind Bay, in a straight line across the Oneroa, on the long sandy beach, and all the land bounded by the coast from the beach to the Bay”.

Interestingly, “no lawyer could be a member; every member had to provide himself with a musket and bayonet, a brace of pistols, a cutlass and 50 rounds of ball cartridge” with the “Horsewhipping and Tar and Feathering laws” proving particularly useful.  Ben Turner explains.  “We had no other way of punishing offenders than only by horsewhipping or tarring and feathering them with three coats and drumming them off the beach, and never allowing them to return to Kororareka.  A good few underwent this punishment”.