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James Busby


James Busby, British Resident 1833–40

At the time of Busby’s appointment as British Resident, Britain saw New Zealand as an independent territory. New South Wales Governor Richard Bourke instructed him to protect ‘well disposed settlers and traders’, prevent ‘outrages’ against Māori by Europeans, and apprehend escaped convicts.

As New Zealand was not British territory, Busby could not hold magisterial office and had no powers of arrest. Bourke disliked Busby and his council resented having to fund him. Responses to requests for money always fell short of Busby’s needs. Bourke advised Busby to utilise chiefly authority and guide Māori towards a settled form of government. Bourke hoped that chiefs would develop a sense of collective responsibility for the behaviour of both Māori and Europeans. Busby was provided with no means of coercion apart from an occasional naval visit.

Busby was in effect a race relations conciliator in disputes between Māori and Pākehā, and a mediator in matters affecting British subjects alone. He was not very successful in either role.


Private collection

How to cite this page

James Busby, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated