Don’t mess with my survey pegs


For almost 200 years, survey pegs have been the cause of trouble.

Wairau Valley, 1843
The New Zealand Company is desperate to find more land for settlers. Without making any attempt to establish whose land it is, they send surveyors to mark out parcels in the Wairau plains. Ngati Toa pull the survey pegs out and burn a surveyor’s hut down in protest. Police magistrate Thompson singles out Te Rauparaha as the ring leader and charges him with arson. During an attempt to arrest him, shots are fired, the fighting escalates and over 20 settlers (including the magistrate, a surveyor, and the brother of William Wakefield) and two Maori are killed. The settlers are outraged and see this as “the beginnings of still greater troubles”. The ‘Wairau Incident’ marks the start of the New Zealand Land Wars.

Manaia, South Taranaki, 2016
Multi-national energy companies are desperate to find new sources of oil and gas. Without consulting with the original land owners (who have long been dispossessed), they start surveying for oil wells near Manaia. 45 seismic survey pegs, allegedly belonging to Shell Todd Oil Service, go missing. The police single out Kylee and Patricia Green as the ring leaders and decide to charge them with theft (to a total value of $54). During the court hearing, the defendants refuse to recognise the judges authority and are taken to the cells. Supporters wrangle with police who use pepper spray to arrest a further 5 people. A police officer is reported to be slightly injured. Police say that they “would not tolerate illegal behaviour”.

173 years after the Wairau incident, survey pegs are still the cause of unrest. Has anything changed?


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