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Albertland – a brief history of the settlement of Albertland in northern NZ through the Forty Acre Scheme and William Brame, whose concept Albertland was.
John Williamson, an Irish immigrant who became active in New Zealand politics from 1853 on, instituted the Forty Acre Scheme.
The Forty Acre Scheme
The Forty Acre scheme was set up to encourage settlers to populate Northland. Sourcing settlers from England, the scheme offered potential settlers forty acres each per adult, and twenty acres per child, freehold, but they were obliged to pay their own fares out to the new country.
Sourcing Pioneers for the Forty Acre Scheme
Towards the end of the 1850s, William Rawson Brame put forward a proposal to bring pioneering settlers out to NZ to populate two large tracts of land. He would source the settlers and the blocks would be known as Albertland, named after Prince Albert, who had died on 14 December 1861. The Albertland blocks included a parcel which reached from Wharehine, to Wellsford and took in at its northernmost point, Te Hana. It also included Port Albert, Hoteo, and Wayby (Oruawharo Block). The remaining parcel was made up of land at Pahi, Matakohe and Paparoa.
At the time in England, the bicentenary of the expulsion of Non-Conforming Ministers from the Church of England was being celebrated. Brame was a religious man but also a clever businessman and an exceptionally good promoter. Because he had made a commitment to the NZ government to provide settlers for Albertland, he went to considerable trouble to encourage potential emigrants. He held afternoon teas, and garden parties, and hired halls and at these festive affairs introduced the Forty Acre Scheme, especially to a variety of non-conformist religious groups. Albertland should be a god-fearing colony.
To ensure adequate interest, Brame used his imagination and exaggerated somewhat the situation being offered by displaying a map which clearly showed a broad arrow painted in red leading ostensibly from Auckland to Port Albert, and thereby suggesting a road. Since he was stretching the truth, he took it just a tad further and promoted the blocks as farm land.
Albertland Pioneers Arrival
Most emigrants disembarked in Auckland in 1862 and 1863. Instead of the road, which was non-existent, they were obliged to take a cutter at extra expense from Auckland to Riverhead. From there they had to walk to Helensville and board another cutter on the Kaipara Harbour, to Te Wheau (Stables Landing Wharehine), and finally, walk to Port Albert. On the Kaipara, a contrary wind could mean that the voyage from Helensville might take two weeks. Occasionally ladies could ride on the bullock dray from Riverhead, but the drays only left twice a month.
The pioneers arrived finally at their much touted blocks of land only to discover wild bush-covered land. Because the average pioneer had come from English cities, they had no concept of how to tame land, much less find food or shelter and ultimately they realised their dire position, one in which starvation was virtually assured.
In earlier years local Maori had been befriended by Reverend Gittos. They provided food and shelter and helped the duped pioneers to build their own shelters. The influx of Pakeha (white people) suited Maori. They saw the settlers as defenders since it had only been thirty years earlier that the Musket Wars had raged in the Kaipara, killing most of their kin. In Auckland, the growing population was likewise relieved. For them, the Albertlanders provided a buffer from the ferocious tribes of the far north.
By 1863 the Oruawharo Block had been settled by eighty families. They included Wesleyans, Baptists, Anglicans, Independents, and Christians. The pioneers began to grow fruit and became experts at drying it for shipment south. They also took up dairying, and in their heyday produced butter under their own trademark.
Albertland Fails to Thrive
Brame’s scheme eventually foundered, for a number of reasons. Landed emigrants, having heard stories of the difficult pioneering life simply opted to stay in Auckland which could provide them with comfort and well paid work. Further schemes to tempt settlers to Albertland included the auction of planned town lots. The lots sold but were never built upon. William Brame died, beaten by circumstance and vilified, alone, at the age of thirty in Auckland.
Only two of the original pioneer families remained at Port Albert in 1880; the Hindles, and the town Constable’s family, the Ingers.
Today the settlement of Port Albert consists of a few homes, which belong mainly to retired people. The original Albertland blocks remain populated by descendants of the early Forty Acre Scheme settlers who arrived in 1862.
- ‘WILLIAMSON, John’, from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 23-Apr-09 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/1966/williamson-john/1
- The Albertlanders – Brave Pioneers of the 1860’s – Sir Henry Brett and Henry Hook
- Albertland Museum, Wellsford, Northland, New Zealand