THE CURSE OF VAIMAANGA
The Curse of Vaimaanga
Source More Taunga 2011
The shooting of More Uriatua
On Sunday 12 March 1911 More Uriatua was shot dead by William John Wigmore following a bitter argument over ownership of the land, known as Papua 4 on the land titles but commonly known as Vaimaanga.
Situated on the land in 1911 were the Wigmore homestead and plantation as well as More Uriatua’s home, where he lived, which was positioned approximately 1 kilometre from the Wigmore homestead on the left side of the track that leads to what is known today as Wigmore’s waterfall. Also situated on Papua 4 are some of the Ngati More sacred heritage sites, viz the Marae; Etu Rere Ki Te Rangi, the Umu; Kai Toto, the Puna Vai; Vai Orei and the Streams; Te Vai Tanga O Te Maanga which still holds its mana today says More Taunga.
More Taunga believes that William Wigmore entered into a lease agreement with his Great Great Grandfather More Uriatua in 1891. Whilst the original documentation was destroyed by fire and water, the contents of the lease would’ve read similar to the following;
1 January 1891
This is an agreement between More Uriatua of one part and William John Wigmore, Planter of the other, that the piece of land belonging to More Uriatua situated at Vaimaanga, boundary between the two streams Te Vai Tanga O Te Maanga from the sea to the hills. More Uriatua agrees to lease this land to William John Wigmore for the term of twenty years, at fifty (50) dollars per annum and renewable on the same terms at the expiration of the said twenty years if agreeable – and if not all fixtures upon with the land shall be returned to the above mentioned owner.
Signed by More Uriatua (His mark)
Signed by William John Wigmore
Witnessed by Tepou (or similar)
Certified by Francis Nicholas (or similar)
On that fateful Sunday afternoon More Uriatua went to Wigmore to ask for his land back but More Uriatua was told by Wigmore that he was no longer the landowner and furthermore Wigmore had a lease of the same land from Pa Ariki. A bitter argument developed between More Uriatua and Wigmore over the ownership of the land. Wigmore shot More Uriatua dead with a 303 riffle.
How did the ownership of the land transfer from More Uriatua to Pa Ariki?
In 1898 Lieutenant Colonel Walter E Gudgeon was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court and in 1899 Pa Ariki was appointed Judge of the High Court. April 1902 Edward Blaine Esq. was appointed Registrar of the High Court. In November 1902 the House of Representatives of New Zealand enacted Rules and Regulations of the COOK AND OTHER ISLANDS LAND TITLES COURT.
The new rules and regulations created land titles, an environment where land owners had to make applications to the High Court declaring their interest(s) in lands and where pioneering Europeans could secure title to land by leases.
As a consequence of the death of Ngamaru Ariki the first sitting of the Land Titles Court which commenced on the 2nd April 1903 was adjourned to the 14th April.
On the 9th July 1903 (MB1/42) Pa Ariki; “I claim this piece of land (Vaimaanga 4) as mine. I claim it for myself only”. On the very same day (MB1/43) the Land Titles Court confirmed a lease dated 6 July 1903 for a portion of the land (Vaimaanga 4) between Pa Ariki the lessor and Edward Blaine Esq. the lessee. On the 25th November 1906 (MB3/14) the Land Titles Court confirmed a lease dated 8 October 1906 for part of the land Vaimaanga 4, and 4A between Te Tia Nui Teariki Upokotini Pa the lessor and William John Wigmore the lessee. The lease dated 6 July 1903 between Pa Ariki and Edward Blaine was on-sold by Edward Blaine to William John Wigmore on the 1st August 1913.
The Trial and Sentence of William John Wigmore
William John Wigmore was tried at Rarotonga on the 16th June 1911 before his Honour Robert Stout the Chief Justice of New Zealand and a common jury of six with the offence of having murdered a native called More. The defence set up was that the deceased was killed accidently. The jury found a verdict of manslaughter coupled with “a very strong recommendation to mercy”. The Chief Justice sentenced William John Wigmore to six months imprisonment with hard labour in Rarotonga and purporting to act under a local Act known as “The Offenders Punishment Act 1899”, ordered Wigmore to leave the Cook Islands, and failing his compliance with such order, to be deported. Wigmore served his full term of imprisonment and in compliance with the order; he left Rarotonga after completing his term of imprisonment. Chief Justice Stout in making his orders made no provision for Wigmore to be able to return to Rarotonga, in other words Wigmore could not return to Rarotonga. On 24 July 1912 Legal Counsel for Wigmore commenced exploratory correspondence with the Minister in Charge of the Cook Islands, Wellington New Zealand for the process of granting Wigmore unhindered consent to return to Rarotonga so that he could operate his plantation, unquestionably the largest plantation on Rarotonga. This process continued for time and Wigmore eventually returned to Rarotonga.
The Curse of 1913
Metua A More was the daughter of More Uriatua. Sometime after the shooting of More Uriatua in 1911, Metua visited Wigmore a number of times to ask him to return her father’s land Vaimaanga 4 to her and on each occasion Metua’s request was declined. Following Wigmore’s departure from Rarotonga in 1912 and on learning in 1913 of Wigmore’s wish to return to Rarotonga, Metua carried out the act of sorcery by cursing (tauma’a) the land Vaimaanga 4 which would remain in effect until such time the land was returned to Ngati More and the rightful owners. The curse itself was simple and direct to the point; “no business (kimi’anga puapinga) activity operated on the land Vaimaanga 4 would succeed unless the land was returned to Ngati More and the rightful owners”, “any business activity operated on the land Vaimaanga 4 will fail unless the land was returned to Ngati More and the rightful owners”. The objective of the curse was not to cause physical harm but to cause financial ruin to any person including body corporate that established and operated any business from the land Vaimaanga 4.
The Curse of 1990
On the 25th May 1990, Metua’s Grandson More Rua reinforced the curse of 1913 when he entered the land Vaimaanga 4 dressed in his Kaka’u and Rakei Taunga (High Priest traditional dress) (Tapa) fully adorned in warlike regalia and struck the commemoration rock housing the memorial plaque marking the commencement of the Sheraton Hotel Project between the Cook Islands and Italian Government with the butt of his spear, and cursing the land again. The point of impact of the spear was to the left of the plaque which caused the rock to shatter at the point of impact and crack from that point all the way down into the earth. Earlier in the day, in front of the Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Henry and hundreds of guests, More Rua protested at the official launch of the ill-fated Sheraton Hotel Project and proclaimed it would never succeed. More Rua also reminded people of his grandmother’s curse. More Rua knew his actions on that day would mean death to himself. More Rua passed away shortly after.
Failure’s post 1913 Curse
More Taunga today remembers many failures on Vaimaanga 4, those that were told to him by his grandfather Mare and mother Tekura, and those he has witnessed himself. Pointing to the eventual failure of William John Wigmore, one of New Zealand’s food giant Greggs, some Cook Islands businessmen who attempted to run a 68 acre citrus orchard on the land before surrendering it to Pa Ariki in 1989, the failure of the Sheraton Hotel Project, two Italian Companies contracted for the Sheraton project going broke, the Government of the Cook Islands becoming insolvent in 1996, many Property Developers suffered losses, the last being the McEwan and Tepaki partnership, both who are now declared bankrupt and Strategic Finance now in liquidation.
Any questions can be emailed direct from this website to More Taunga. Use send email at the top left of this page.
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