New Zealand Dog News

Reviewing the dog news in New Zealand with editors comments. Someone needs to keep reviewing how our dogs are doing in society.

March 31, 2006

In the pawprints of history

If Federated Farmers are looking for a suitable date to stage their protest against the micro-chipping of farm dogs, they could do a lot worse than April 28. It was on that day, 108 years ago, that a large band of Northland Maori gathered to protest against the Hokianga County Council's hated "dog tax".

A lone policeman – Constable McGilp – had travelled from Rawene to Waima to enforce the tax. What he found put that idea right out of his head. The local Mahurehure people had armed themselves with rifles and were not in the least intimidated by Constable McGilp's little wooden baton. Their chief, Hone Toia, declared that the Mahurehure had not the slightest intention of paying the two shillings and sixpence per dog demanded by the council. They intended to march on the council's offices in Rawene.

Convinced that discretion was the better part of valour, Constable McGilp withdrew. Then, with considerable resourcefulness, this lone representative of the colonial government tracked down one of the very few operational telephones in the Hokianga, and ordered the immediate evacuation of all Rawene's women and children. Informed that Hone Toia's threats were growing more menacing by the minute, Constable McGilp extended the evacuation order to the entire town – and called for back-up.

It duly arrived a few days later in the form of a police inspector, five constables and a cannon. The Mahurehure were no more intimidated by this relic of the Land Wars than they had been by Constable McGilp's weaponry. Brandishing their Winchester repeating rifles, they advanced upon the policemen in a body. Once again, discretion triumphed over valour. The officers of the law, outnumbered and outgunned, jumped back on to the boat that had brought them all the way from Auckland, and fled. The cannon was left behind on the wharf.

By now, there were only two Pakeha left in Rawene – the parson and publican. Bob Cochrane, owner of the Rawene Hotel, with commendable presence of mind, pointed out to the Maori occupiers of his town that, since the last remaining representatives of the law in that part of the Hokianga were on a boat bound for Auckland, there was nothing to stop him opening the bar on a Sunday. The outraged parson thereupon decamped. Grog had triumphed over God.

The dog tax war was far from over, however. Outraged at this blatant defiance of Her Majesty's government, Prime Minister Richard Seddon ordered a mixed force of about 120 soldiers, sailors and police constables to march on Waima and crush the tax revolt by force. They were accompanied by two Nordenfeldt field guns, two Maxim machine-guns, and a government gunboat called Torch.

Riding north in hot pursuit of King Dick's punitive expedition was the Maori MP for Northern Maori, Hone Heke (grand-nephew of the Hone Heke who chopped down the flagstaff at Russell). It was a very near-run thing. Hone discovered the Mahurehure waiting in ambush for the government force at the crest of the Rawene to Waima hill road.

FIRING from cover with high-powered repeating rifles, there was every chance that the rebels would have inflicted a decisive defeat upon the Pakeha troops. Fortunately, they were persuaded by their MP to stay their hand, and the government force passed through the Mahurehure lines unmolested.

Hone Heke's intervention proved crucial in defusing the political tensions that had come within a few minutes of erupting into bloodshed. At a massive hui held over the next few days, he and a large number of Ngapuhi elders prevailed upon the Mahurehure to lay down their arms.
For his trouble, Hone Heke's parliamentary pay was docked for the days he had spent away from the House without leave. The leaders of the revolt were arrested and charged with insurrection. Sensibly, no one was hanged. Heavy fines were imposed, but quietly remitted a few months later. The dog tax, however, remained in force.

Newspaper advertisements for the anarchist political thriller, V for Vendetta, currently showing in New Zealand cinemas, boldly declare: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." I agree. And that is why I am as full of admiration for Federated Farmers' refusal to accept this new dog tax as I am for the Mahurehure people's resistance to the original.

Both groups offer New Zealanders a much-needed lesson in how free citizens behave.


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