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Surveying Māori land

Surveyor's steel band measuring tape.
Surveyor's steel band measuring tape. about 1930, Bolt and Sutherland, New Zealand. Purchased 1990. Te Papa

Surveyors' tapes like this helped turn Maori land into a commodity in New Zealand.

During the early 20th century, Maori could not sell land until it was transferred into individual ownership through the Native Land Court process. A survey, at the owners' expense, was the first step, and these measuring tapes were used in the process.

The Native Land Court had been set up in 1865 to encourage Maori to sell land to private buyers, but the British Crown remained the biggest buyer. It on-sold most Maori land, often for a profit.

The Crown also took land for roads, railways, and other public works well into the century. Maori land was often preferred because the Crown could avoid compensating Maori owners.

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