Prendergast: Legal Villain? by Grant Morris (VUP, $40)
Parihaka Invaded by Dick Scott (BWB Texts, e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana
I have reviewed these two recently published books together as they share so much in common as regards subject matter, given that the latter is but a small extract from an earlier and far more significant book by Dick Scott, namely Ask That Mountain, originally published in 1975.
This commonality pertains to Parihaka and the – for all Māori at least – illegal invasion of this most civilised settlement in 1881; an invasion most desired by the then Minister of Native Affairs, John Bryce, and given legal sanction by Sir James Prendergast in his role of Acting Governor of Aotearoa-New Zealand. More, Wi Parata, MP, was also at Parihaka, some years after Prendergast had declared Parata’s chances of reclaiming his Poneke whenua (Wellington land) impossible, because the Supreme Court did not recognise native title, thus inaugurating further repressive parliamentary Acts which further diminished Māori land holdings.
Grant Morris never sanctions Prendergast’s rather nefarious role in the entire Parihaka blot on our country’s history – as so well delineated in the brief BWB Text booklet – and he also makes it clear that Prendergast had no empathy whatsoever for Māori. Indeed, it all seems rather fortuitous in hindsight that Prendergast authorised the Parihaka invasion during the time then Governor Gordon was overseas in Fiji. In other words, for this reviewer, Prendergast was as culpable as Bryce for the unwarranted rape and pillage that took place there. Whether he was manipulative and deceitful at worst, or merely somewhat of a tool of similar-minded politicians, at best, remains for the reader to ultimately decide.