Primitive accumulation and the New Zealand Dairy Industry

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Chapter 3: Original Sin (1814-1880s)


Pastoral agriculture has been central to New Zealand’s capitalist economy since the middle decades of the nineteenth century. European settlers arriving in New Zealand at that time found that wool, meat and dairy could be produced in New Zealand with precious few resources (Steven 1989: 26).
The promise of profitable farming was a powerful motivating force behind the rapid increase in the European population of New Zealand during the mid-nineteenth century. Pastoral farming, however, requires one key resource, land, and much of the land in nineteenth century New Zealand remained in Māori hands. This chapter is concerned with the establishment of the pre-conditions necessary for profitable pastoral agriculture and dairy farming in particular in nineteenth century New Zealand. It begins in 1814 with the arrival of the first dairy cattle and ends in the 1880s by which time many millions of acres of land had passed out of Māori hands. The earliest phase in the development of the New Zealand dairy industry is chronicled in the section titled The first dairy cattle (pp 59-61). The central theme of chapter three is the systematic dispossession of Māori land, the process through which communal Māori land was captured and enclosed and brought into the cycle of capital accumulation.
This process began with large-scale settler land-grabbing in the South Island through which millions of acres of communally owned Māori land were swallowed up into vast estates by a small number of settlers. This process is detailed in the section titled Profits and Pasture: The settler land economy (pp 61-70). It is a process similar to that described by Marx in part 8 of Capital volume 1 through which those who produce and survive from the land are ‘suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence’ (1976: 876). This pattern of land-grabbing was not repeated in the North Island where Māori were far better placed to oppose settler hunger for land; a much greater use of force was required to separate North Island Māori from their means of subsistence. The section titled War and Peace: The dispossession of Māori land (pp 70-79) examines the role of war, confiscation and the Native Land Court in alienating North Island Māori from their lands. Chapter three ends in the 1880s with abundant land in the hands of settlers and the prospects for pastoral farming and dairying in particular beginning to look bright, two sections titled From the ashes of War: An industry emerges (pp 79-84) and The Chinese Connection: Chew Chong and the Taranaki dairy industry (pp 84-86) detail the rapid development of the dairy industry in the North Island in the 1880s on lands recently expropriated from Māori. Together this chapter argues that the initial development of the New Zealand dairy industry was predicated on the primitive accumulation of Māori land.

The first dairy cattle

On the last of his three voyages to New Zealand, Captain James Cook brought with him goats and pigs as well as a young bull and two heifers. Cook gifted breeding pairs of both goats and pigs to different Māori chiefs and intended to leave the cattle also, provided he could find a chief powerful enough to protect them or a place where they might be safely concealed (Clark 1949: 180; Philpott 1937: 13; Ward 1975: 1). Unable to satisfy either condition, Cook took the cattle away with him, eventually presenting the bull and at least one of the heifers to the king of Tonga (Philpott 1975: 13; Ward 1975: 1). As Ward puts it, the birth of the dairy industry in New Zealand was postponed until the early nineteenth century when Reverend Samuel Marsden ‘fulfilled Cook’s intentions and landed a bull and two heifers at Kororareka’ (1975: 2).
As mentioned in the introduction, Marsden arranged for the first dairy cattle to be sent to New Zealand in 1814. In the years that followed Marsden continued to send small consignments of cattle to his mission station at Rangihoua. It was his hope that by developing agriculture a greater degree of self-sufficiency could be achieved on the mission station (Warr 1988: 1). As Marsden himself put it, ‘my wish was that the missionaries in time should be supplied with milk, butter, cheese and animal food, which would in great measure render them independent of the natives for support’ (Marsden in Philpott 1937: 14). Marsden, who is remembered in Australia for his cruelty and materialism (Yarwood 1967), intended that European agricultural practices developed on the mission stations be introduced in due course to local Māori (Warr 1988: 1). Initially however, Marsden struggled to convince even the missionary settlers of the importance of cattle: ‘On one occasion he found that a missioner had shot three of his heifers and two bulls, and also one calf’ (Philpott 1937: 14; see also Ward 1975: 2). On other occasions the missionaries were less than enthusiastic in their efforts at mating the stock, thus checking any increase in herd numbers (Philpott 1937: 14). As Warr notes, Marsden often ‘chided’ and ‘admonished’ the missionaries for insufficient efforts in agriculture (1988: 1). Despite these and other setbacks, by 1821 Marsden had 23-25 head of cattle grazing on the missionary grounds. By 1823, 50 head were recorded, increasing to 95 by 1829 (Phillpott 1937: 14; Ward 1975: 2; Warr 1988: 1-2).
As Clark (1949: 226), McNab (1913: 71), Philpott (1937: 14) and Ward (1975: 2) all note, the second sizeable import of dairy cattle came on 30 March 1833, when John Bell set out from Sydney to establish himself at Mana Island, near the entrance to Cook Strait. Bell brought with him 10 head of cattle and 102 sheep from which he supplied meat and milk to the burgeoning ocean whaling trade. In May of 1839 Messrs Cooper and Holt, Merchants of Sydney, sent some bulls and heifers to Kāpiti Island as payment to local Māori for a cargo of flax (Clark 1949: 226; Philpott 1937: 15; Ward 1976: 2). The fate of these animals is unclear although Edward Jerningham Wakefield, son of Edward Gibbon Wakefield and future member of parliament, is reported to have seen wild cattle in the hills at the entrance to Pelorus Sound. Wakefield believed these to be descendants of the Kāpiti cattle.
Also in 1839, William Barnard Rhodes, another future parliamentarian, loaded around 50 head of Durham cattle (later known as shorthorn, the prevalent dairy stock in the earliest days of the industry in this country) aboard the barque ‘Eleanor’ and left New South Wales for Akaroa on Banks Peninsula. The number of cattle Rhodes brought with him has been disputed. The Rhodes family biographer puts the number between 30 and 40 (Clark 1949: 227n) and the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand has it that 40 Durham cattle were swum ashore at Akaroa (Gillespie 1966). As Eldred-Grigg notes, the first commercial dairy station in the South Island was launched when Rhodes landed his herd at Akaroa in 1839 (1980: 11).

Profits and pastures: The settler land economy

From the beginning dairy farming attracted ambitious and well-resourced operators. Rhodes, the so-called ‘millionaire of Wellington’ became one of the colony’s most successful entrepreneurs. As Patterson puts it, ‘in an age of grasping opportunism Rhodes was one of the most successful of graspers’ (2012: para.8). Rhodes was initially involved in whaling but turned to pastoral agriculture in order to augment his income. He later became involved in insurance and finance. He was responsible for the establishment of the New Zealand Shipping Company Limited and, alongside other prominent commercial figures such as Thomas Russell, to whom we shall return, also established the New Zealand Insurance Company and the Bank of New Zealand (Patterson 2012; see also Belich 1996: 358; King 2003: 225). As Gillespie puts it, Rhodes ‘was not distinguished as a public benefactor, despite his wealth, and was much criticised on that score’. He was, Gillespie continues, also ‘accused of a too highly developed self-interest’ (Gillespie 1966: para.2). This was a trait found also in Thomas Russell and one ‘not untypical of a certain kind of businessman in the colonial era who was prepared to take enormous business and investment risks and dabble in politics to help create the kind of environment in which they and their cronies were most likely to flourish financially’ (King 2003: 225). Great fortunes, King continues, were on offer in the years preceding tighter commercial regulation (2003: 225-226).
Another whaling magnate turned pastoralist and later financier was Johnny Jones who, in 1838 bought the Waikouaiti whaling station. Jones purchased large blocks of land in what is now South Otago and Southland from Ngāi Tahu. ‘He paid textiles and metalware for a vast subprovince of 2,000,000 acres reaching inland from Waikouaiti to Wanaka’ (Eldred-Grigg 1980: 11). Having established himself as a large landowner, Jones settled a number of families on his holdings. The lands around the whaling station at Waikouaiti became New Zealand’s first agricultural colony when disgruntled British migrants in Sydney took up Jones’ offer of sixty acre farmlets to working people. ‘A dozen or so families (a total of about forty people in all) were housed in wooden barracks at the station and set to labour in the fields’ (ibid). Jones sent a consignment of cattle to his settlement sometime around 1838-1840 (Clark 1949: 226; Philpott 1937: 15). In coming years the nascent town of Dunedin would ‘derive a great food supply from Jones‘s cattle and sheep’ (Philpott 1937: 15). As Eldred-Grigg notes, while impoverished British labourers were doing the hard work, the Jones family was accruing the profits, by 1844 the colony was flourishing and ‘the Joneses were employing thirty families as servants’ (Eldred-Grigg 1980: 18).
Jones, together with prominent New South Wales politician W. C. Wentworth, was also responsible for the most brazen, ‘fantastic and enormous’ land purchase of all (Eldred-Grigg 1980: 12). In 1840 a syndicate formed by Jones and Wentworth paid a few hundred pounds for the entire South Island, Stewart Island and all other adjacent islands (ibid). ‘Together with all seas harbours coasts bays Inlets Rivers Lakes Waters Mines Minerals Fisheries Woods Forests Liberties Franchises profits emoluments advantagements hereditaments rights members and appurtenances whatsoever…’(ibid). While Jones’s more extravagant claims were subsequently ignored by the colonial government, this kind of land-grabbing was typical of the colonial pattern in much of the South Island. As Rob Steven puts it profitable pastoralism required large landholdings that could be acquired at not too great a cost (1989: 28). This was possible to a far greater degree in the South Island than it was in the North. North Island Māori – although weakened by colonial impact – continued to resist the worst excesses of settler land grabbing. As Eldred-Grigg notes, North Island Māori defended their lands with blood but in the South Island a few favoured Pākehā were able to seize lands into enormous estates (1980: 10). The processes of colonisation that would eventually break up the Māori tribes in the North had, by 1840, ‘all but destroyed the Ngāi Tahu people of the south’ (Steven 1989: 27). Eldred-Grigg notes that the Māori population of Canterbury that had totalled about 4,000 in 1800 had fallen to 500 by 1840. ‘On the Kaikoura coast where 4,000 people had been living as late as 1827, despoliation was so complete that by 1857 only 78 Maori survived there…the strength of Ngāi Tahu had been permanently broken. Nothing stood in the way of Pakeha land greed’ (1980: 10).
Steven argues that as soon as it was discovered that the local climate allowed for year-round pasture growth and that wool, meat and dairy produce could be produced in New Zealand with very few resources then the acquisition of land became an ‘overriding preoccupation’ for settlers in the colony (1989:26). Settlers flooded in to the South Island ‘hoping somehow to share in the riches of the rapidly growing pastoral industry’ (Steven 1989: 28). As mentioned above however, much of the land in the South had been swallowed up into enormous estates, ‘monopolised by a small gentry class’ (ibid). Settlers arriving in the south would, henceforth, have to ‘rest content with the wages that could be earned in the region’ (ibid). As Eldred-Grigg argues a pattern of colonial settlement had emerged – large estates had been secured by a privileged few. ‘Poor English labourers were doing the hard work at Waikouaiti and penniless French peasants were breaking the ground at Port Louis-Phillipe, but the brains behind South Island colonisation belonged to rich men. The profits belonged to them too’ (Eldred-Grigg 1980: 13). Thus were the early land grabbers in the South Island able to ‘heal’ what Marx called ‘the anti-capitalist cancer of the colonies’ (Marx 1976: 938).
In giving the British Crown the exclusive right to purchase Māori land the Treaty of Waitangi put an end to the worst excesses of private land-grabbing. For a number of reasons, commercial, strategic and, ostensibly at least, also philanthropic, the British Crown bowed to pressure from various missionary groups, trading interests, settlers and Colonial Office evangelicals and issued orders for the annexation of New Zealand (Belich 1996: 180-187; King 2003: 151-167). In accordance with the principles of laissez-faire prevalent in certain circles at the time, British governments around 1840 were reluctant imperialists. They were reluctant because Britain already ‘had the lion share of world shipping and industrial trade goods; they got most of the profits from trade with far flung regions’ (Belich 1996: 182). So long as trade continued to flow there was little incentive for the Colonial Office, driven as it was by an overriding principle of parsimony, to go ratcheting-up intervention in New Zealand from cheap to extremely expensive (ibid). Nevertheless, in response to alarmist pleas for protective intervention and with a growing sense of disquiet in London regarding Wakefield’s scheme for systematic colonisation, the British government decided to act (King 2003: 155-156; see also Belich 1996: 182-183).
William Hobson, who became the first Governor of New Zealand, was dispatched from London in August 1839 with instructions to negotiate the willing transfer of sovereignty from Māori to the British Crown (King 2003: 156). The resulting Treaty of Waitangi would, King argues, turn out to be the most contentious and problematic ingredient in New Zealand’s national life (King 2003: 156-157). Central in this regard is the second article of the Treaty. Leaving aside discrepancies between English and Māori language versions of the Treaty and ignoring for now that only the Māori version of the Treaty is valid under international law, article two of the English language version of the treaty guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand ‘the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession’ (Treaty of Waitangi 1840). As mentioned above, the Crown received the exclusive right to pre-emptive purchase of any land Māori were willing to sell. As we will see in what follows, an unwillingness on the part of many Māori to sell or lease land would lead to war, confiscation and the abolishment of the ‘beastly communism’ of communal land tenure (Simpson 1986: 125), resulting in what Ward has called ‘the sordid, demoralising system of land purchasing’ (Ward 1973: 267) that would, in the decades that followed, allow for the expansion of dairying into Taranaki, Waikato and other regions that were once strongholds of independent Māoridom (Belich 1996: 250-251).
Ongoing Māori resistance to encroaching European colonisation led to a particular pattern of settlement in parts of the North Island. As Philpott puts it in his History of the New Zealand Dairy Industry, while European settlers in the South Island were safe ‘from molestation by the Maoris’, North Island Māori remained ‘hostile and a menace to isolated settlers’ (1937: 22). To guard against possible Māori attack, retired soldiers were brought in from Britain to serve as a settler militia. In 1846, in the wake of widespread fighting in both central and northern parts of the country (see Belich 1996: 204-211), Governor George Grey requested military assistance from his superiors in the Colonial Office in England. He was sent a detachment of retired British soldiers that would become the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps. Militia settlements were established to the south and east of Auckland in 1847 and 1848. Around 700 fencibles, ex British regulars, were settled at Howick, Panmure, Onehunga and Otahuhu (Warr 1988: 8; Stone 1973: 6). In exchange for seven years military service, each member was given free passage to the colony for themselves and their family and a two room cottage on an acre of land made ready for cultivation. Each member was also given an advance for furniture and stock (Cowan 1983: 450). As Cowan puts it, the settlements ‘formed a strong wall of defence for Auckland on the south, covering the routes by the Tamaki River and Manukau Harbour’ (Cowan 1983: 451).
The Fencible settlement at Howick is particularly noteworthy insofar as it represents the earliest recorded example of a dairying cooperative, an organisational structure that has long dominated the New Zealand dairy industry (Duncan 1933; Ward 1975). The United States has had dairy factories referred to as cooperatives since as early as 1810, although as Philpott notes, ‘these appear to be joint stock companies rather than co-operatives as we define the term’ (Philpott 1937: 31). For Philpott, cooperative dairying proper commences in 1855 in northern Norway. Cooperative dairy factories followed in Switzerland the following year, in England 1870, Germany 1870-1879, Sweden 1880, France 1888, Belgium 1894, Holland 1886, Russia 1897 and Siberia 1901 (Philpott 1937: 31-32). Dairy cooperatives were established in the U.S and Canada in the late 1870s, in Australia in the mid-1880s, in Ireland in the 1890s and in Scotland and Wales in the first decade of the twentieth century (ibid).
The Howick Pensioners’ Co-operative Cow Company was established on 29 May 1848. It consisted of 40 members, each holding a £10 share and its modest objective was to purchase one cow for each of its members (Warr 1988: 9; Philpott 1937: 18-19). The Company had an executive committee of 13 tasked with purchasing cows, selling dairy produce to members at a fixed price and selling any surplus produce to the public (ibid). In the end members of the cooperative were unable to keep up instalments and the enterprise failed. New Zealand’s next foray into cooperative dairying would be in the 1870s by which time war had dramatically altered the possibilities for dairying in New Zealand.
Governor Grey’s militia farmers, an important source of labour on nearby farms, were not called upon to serve in the ensuing wars. Grey preferred to execute his wars with Imperial soldiers and local militia, some of whom would be rewarded with confiscated land after the fighting had stopped (King 2003: 213; Simpson 1986: 153).

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Table of Contents
1: Introduction
Sources used in this thesis
Primitive accumulation and the New Zealand Dairy Industry
Chapter summaries
Chapter 2: Letters of Blood and Fire 
Agrarian questions
Primitive accumulation: The historical premise of capitalism
The persistence of primitive accumulation
New enclosures
Destruction as dispossession: Primitive accumulation and the environment
Debates and tensions within the literature on primitive accumulation
Chapter 3: Original Sin (1814-1880s) 
The first dairy cattle
Profits and pasture: The settler land economy
War and peace: The dispossession of Māori land
From the ashes of war: An industry emerges
The Chinese connection: Chew Chong and the Taranaki dairy industry
Chapter 4: Liberty or Leviathan (1891-1912) 
Toward a greater role for government
Land for the people
The small farmer’s friend: John McKenzie and the breaking up of estates
The Liberal government and the marginalisation of Māori
The Department of Agriculture
Chapter 5: The Coldest Monster (1912-1926) 
A new government
Massey’s Cossacks
The First World War and the influenza pandemic
Imperialism in the Pacific: Massey’s gift to the farmers of New Zealand
Absolute control
Chapter 6: Bust and Boom (1927-1939) 
Hard times
The government responds
First Labour
Negotiating the fixed price
Chapter 7: Summer’s Bounty (1939-1969) 
The war economy
Maintaining productivity
The golden age
Pleasant Island
Chapter 8: Happy Ever After in the Market Place (1960s-1984) 
The European Economic Community
The quest for on-going access to the British market
The end of the golden weather
The last hurrah: Muldoon vs the free market
Chapter 9: The Neoliberal Revolution (1984-2001) 
Shock therapy
Cold Turkey: The removal of state support for agriculture
Neoliberalism and the Dairy Board
Land use changes: From sheep to dairy
And then there was one: The emergence of Fonterra
Chapter 10: The Fat of the Land (2001-2014) 
The New Zealand advantage: Lowest cost production
The dairy boom
Intensive dairying and the environment
The age of grasping opportunism: Primitive accumulation and the freshwater commons
PKE and the New Zealand dairy industry
11: Conclusion 
12: References
The Price of Milk: Primitive accumulation and the New Zealand Dairy Industry 1814-2014
The Price of Milk: Primitive accumulation and the New Zealand Dairy Industry 1814-2014

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