The Annexation of Aotearoa

Rob Steven

Rob Steven, "Land and White Settler Colonialism," in Culture and Identity in New Zealand, ed. by David Novits and Bill Willmott, pp. 23-4.

The decision to [annex Aotearoa] was not primarily the result of commercial or evangelical interests, even though these had some importance. It was because of the discovery that if the Crown sold land to prospective settlers, subsidised emigration would be possible without any cost to the British tax-paying class. The only possible benefit which the Empire could derive from the annexation of Aotearoa was a free outlet for Britain's surplus population. And since emigration had become the only half-coherent solution to the crisis Britain was facing, a new settler colony could be of considerable value to the hard-pressed ruling class.

The conscious motives of the agents involved in effecting the annexation were naturally far more lofty, even if no less contradictory, than the pressures under which they acted. Their words, as uncovered by historians, do not therefore accurately reflect the real weight of what made the final decision possible, since their preoccupations centred on such matters as how best to protect the indigenous Maori population from the settlers. Imperialism already had a highly developed rationalising ideology.

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