The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/McLean, Sir Donald
M‘Lean, Sir Donald, K.C.M.G., fourth son of the late John M‘Lean, of Kilmonaig, Tiree, Argyllshire, and Margaret, daughter of the Rev. D. McColl, was born on Oct. 27th, 1820. At the age of seventeen he emigrated to Sydney, and entered the office of a merchant there. Going to New Zealand, two years later, he was appointed clerk and interpreter in the office of the Chief Protector of the Aborigines, and soon gained a thorough acquaintance with Maori affairs. He became Protector of the Aborigines in Taranaki, and as such came into relation with the chief Te Heu Heu; in 1850 he was made resident magistrate for a native district. In 1847 he was instructed by the Governor (Sir George Grey) to secure the land at Waitara, which Commissioner Spain had decided was the property of the Government (an account of which will be found in the biography of Sir George Grey). After a varied experience as Chief Commissioner of Land Purchases, Mr. M‘Lean was made Native Secretary in 1856, as a permanent officer under the control of the Governor. This dual arrangement, by which there was a Native Secretary outside the responsible ministry, led to much confusion, but Mr. M‘Lean agreed that the Governor should retain the control of native affairs. In 1866 he was charged by Mr. Weld, then premier, with the task of reducing to order the hostile natives on the east coast. On June 28th, 1869, the Stafford Government went out of office, and Mr. Fox formed a ministry in which Mr. M‘Lean was Native Minister and Minister for Colonial Defence. He held these positions till Sept. 10th, 1872, when the Government was defeated. Shortly after entering upon office he succeeded in making peace in the Waikato with the king party. At this time the colony was troubled by the outlaw Te Kooti, and Mr. M‘Lean hit upon the idea of handing the chase over to the friendly Maoris, under Major Ropata; and subsequently adhered to a stedfast policy of peace, arranging for the return of Te Rangitake, one of the figures in the Waitara trouble, to Taranaki. So successful was he, and so trusted by the Maoris, that, upon the resignation of the Fox Ministry, in 1872, Mr. Stafford, in forming a Cabinet, offered to take over Mr. M‘Lean as Native Minister. The Stafford Government had but a brief life, and on Oct. 11th, 1872, Mr. M‘Lean became again Native Minister under Mr. Waterhouse. While in power he carried through the House a valuable Land Bill, which gave satisfaction to Maoris and colonists alike; and also a Native Reserves Bill. Mr. M‘Lean continued in office through successive reconstructions of the Ministry from Oct. 1872 to Dec. 1876, when he resigned from ill-health. He died in Jan. 1877, and after his death his honourable policy was continued. He was the first Superintendent of the Province of Hawkes Bay, and was created K.C.M.G. in 1874.