The Gazette Extraordinary
In the early 1840s, the government relied on the newly established newspaper industry to notify colonists of government business. When the same newspapers published material that was critical of the Colonial Administration, Lieutenant Governor William Hobson started a new publication, the Gazette Extraordinary.
Closing down freedom of speech
Hobson arrived in New Zealand in January 1840 with a Queen's commission that appointed him as governor general. Following the February signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Hobson declared sovereignty over the islands on 21 May.
In those early days, governing was a complex affair - just managing the competing interests of the colonial settlers was difficult due to the distances between the capital (Okiato, then Auckland from 1841) and the Wakefield settlements in the lower North Island and Nelson.
The Colonial Administration utilised the newspaper as a medium to notify colonists of government business. In particular, The New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette was the chosen vehicle for updates from the Lieutenant Governor, William Hobson.
However, the newspaper also published articles and letters that were critical of the governor and the Colonial Administration relating to land claims.
Hobson used the law to close the enterprise down; the last issue of The New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette was published on 10 December 1840.
Another means of notifying colonists regarding government business was needed. The first issue of the Gazette Extraordinary, published on 30 December 1840, was just four pages printed on the Church Missionary Society press at Paihia.
When reading the Gazette Extraordinary, we can see why the settlers were so concerned over land claims and the Colonial government. These concerns continued to be discussed in early newspapers in New Zealand, many of which in turn were forced to close by the administration.
The main articles in the first issue of the Gazette Extraordinary are notifications of the appointment of Frances Fisher, Edward Godfrey and Matthew Richmond as Land Commissioners and a notice of hearing of the claims before them. The claimants are seeking ratification by the Colonial government of lands they have purchased from local iwi prior to 1840. In all there are 27 claims; 11 were lodged by James Busby for 50,105 acres in the vicinity of Waitangi at the Bay of Islands. In total, cash and goods to the value of just £850 were paid by Busby to the iwi.
Gazette Extraordinary 30 December 1840
Preparing for the move to Auckland
On the last page is a notice inviting builders to tender to build 'Public Offices' in Auckland. This suggests that the governor and colonial secretary were already planning to move the seat of government from Okiato to Auckland. A clearly defined tract of land is identified as Crown Reserve.
We can see from the newspaper excerpt that there was the intent to recompense 'European Claimants' to land that fell within the newly defined Reserve and that the 'Rights of the Natives' would not be prejudiced. However we know from subsequent history, that right up until the events at Bastion Point in the 1970s, that this was not the case.
The Gazette Extraordinary continued to be published irregularly at Kororareka until the seat of government moved to Auckland in July 1841. The publication was replaced by theNew Zealand Government Gazette, which became an orthodox publication of government notices.
Cite this article
The Gazette Extraordinary. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 10 August 2015. Updated: 13 August 2015.