The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Spain, William
Spain, William, was appointed by Lord John Russell as commissioner to examine the land claims of the New Zealand Company in that colony. On the way out he was wrecked along with Surveyor-General Ligar (q.v.) at the Cape of Good Hope. The Governor, Sir G. Napier, sent them on in the Antilla, in which Mr. Spain reached Wellington on Dec. 24th, 1841, his arrival being welcomed by the natives "as a means of terminating their disputes" with the Company. Colonel Wakefield appealed to the home Government against Mr. Spain's jurisdiction, but to no effect; the Government declaring its intention of abiding by its commissioner's decisions. Mr. Spain found many difficulties put in his path, and was a long time engaged upon his complicated work. In the meantime the Wairau massacre occurred, concerning which the commissioner wrote: "I have arrived at the conclusion that the conduct of the Company's agents in forcing a survey of the Wairau can only be regarded as an attempt to set British law at defiance, and to obtain possession of a tract of land the title to which was disputed, and at the very time under the consideration of a commissioner specially appointed to report upon it." Mr. Spain subsequently had an interview with Rauparaha, the leader in the massacre. On June 12th, 1844, he delivered his award in regard to the purchase of land at Waitara in Taranaki. This he decided had been a legitimate purchase by Captain Hobson from the Waikato chiefs, and be therefore awarded the New Zealand Company a Crown grant of 60,000 acres. But the decision was much objected to by the Ngatiawa tribe, who claimed that the land was in reality theirs, and had only been conquered by the Waikatos, who, since they did not occupy, were in their Maori law not possessors. The clamour raised about this point was so great that Governor Fitzroy, fearing bloodshed, set aside the award, only giving the Company 3,500 acres. This caused great discontent among the Europeans, and even Mr. Spain was mortified that one of the few awards he had been able to make in favour of the New Zealand Company should be set aside. It was, it may be noted, this Waitara dispute that led eventually to the wars in 1863 and the following years. At the time, too, the various awards were the occasion of more or less trouble on the part of the natives. Mr. Spain left New Zealand after his work was over, and practised as a solicitor in New South Wales.