Topic: The Rule of Law , Tauranga's early history

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From Armed Constabulary to Police Force 1867 - 1886 Local Government 1860 - present

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Tauranga, although still a fledgling settlement, was seen as the focal point for the control of the Bay of Plenty district when the Armed Constabulary was established in 1867.  There was a good harbour, which was a centre for shipping up and down the coast, strongly fortified redoubts, the Maori "rebels" had been brought under control, and land was being surveyed and made available for settlement.  The central plateau country around Taupo was still isolated and difficult of access, with no military presence there until the hunt for Te Kooti made it necessary. 

The departure of the Imperial soldiers marked the beginning of a new era.  No longer were outsiders responsible for maintaining law and order in the Bay of Plenty.  That duty devolved upon the 1st Waikato Militia, military settlers committed to making a life in the colony.  They wanted not confrontation but peaceful co-existence.  Many took up positions with the Armed Constabulary.  Gradually it became clear that the wars in the Tauranga district were over and that the greater need was for civilian policing. 

Opotiki replaced Tauranga as the headquarters for the Bay of Plenty in 1877.  The Armed Constabulary amalgamated with the provincial police, and then divided into two organisations: the New Zealand Constabulary Force, responsible for civil policing, and the Constabulary Field force, which continued to carry weapons. 

Four native constables were appointed, with responsibility for maintaining law and order among Maori. Gradually the idea of separate policing for Maori and European died out, although the position of Native Constable was abolished only in 1945. 

The final transition to the present day situation with totally separate police and military structures came in 1886, when the New Zealand Police Force was established by statute. 

Local Government 1860 - present

Before the government-driven settlement of Tauranga in the late 1860s, civil administration in the Bay of Plenty had gone through three stages, all designed to deal with a predominantly Maori population.  First was a Protector of the Aborigines, a position established in 1842 and based at Maketu.  By about 1850 the position of Resident Magistrate was considered appropriate.  This was replaced in its turn by that of Civil Commissioner. 

The Tauranga Highway Board was gazetted in 1870.  The naming of the local body in this way shows clearly what its main focus was: the ability to strike a rate and apply a levy to householders in order to form and maintain streets within the settlement.  The outlying districts were controlled by several separate Highway Boards, and much dissension arose from concerns about equity of funding for road works. The Tauranga County Council was finally formed in 1876. 

In 1882, in response to a petition from residents, the township of Tauranga was judged to be of sufficient size to be made a borough, and elections were held at the end of February, with George Vesey Stewart of Katikati elected the first mayor.  Tauranga gradually incorporated suburban areas into its jurisdiction, achieving sufficient population to be named a city in 1963, when Greerton was relinquished by the Tauranga County Council.  The name change to Tauranga District Council occurred in 1989, when the boundaries were extended to include Mount Maunganui. 

Tauranga Borough Council 1914 
Tauranga Borough Council 1914

The establishment of separate councils for other settlements occurred as they grew in population.  Te Puke elected a Town Board in 1913 and a Borough Council in 1934.  Mount Maunganui petitioned successfully to become first a Town District within the Tauranga County (1931), a separate Town Board (1937), and a Borough in 1945.  Given the determined early moves towards autonomy it is not surprising that the amalgamation of the urban areas of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui in 1989, as a result of major reorganisation throughout New Zealand, was met with a great of opposition.  The name change from the Tauranga County Council to the Western Bay of Plenty District Council also occurred at that time.

See also:

Mayors of Tauranga (636kb pdf)
Street Directory (2.5mb pdf)

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Archived at Perma CC in October of 2016: https://perma.cc/V3XB-6RYU

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