John Gorst


John Gorst
John Gorst

John Eldon Gorst arrived in New Zealand in 1860. He taught at a Māori mission school at Hopuhopu, Waikato, before being appointed Waikato Resident Magistrate by Governor Browne in 1862. He later became Resident Magistrate in the Waikato, and tried to work with moderate elements in the Kīngitanga (King Movement).

Gorst sympathised to some extent with the Kīngitanga and its political aspirations, which he felt stemmed from no more than a Māori desire to set up their own administrative structures in the absence of adequate legal and other institutions within which they could participate. He believed that under British law the King Movement would have little scope.

By the time Gorst become Waikato Civil Commissioner in 1863 the die was cast and war could not be averted. His efforts came to nothing, and he was later driven from the district by supporters of the King. Gorst then left New Zealand and returned to England, where he wrote a detailed account of his time in the Waikato. This book, The Maori King, is regarded as a New Zealand classic.

In 1884 King Tawhiao travelled to London in the hope of presenting a petition to Queen Victoria, protesting at the Waikato land confiscations. By that time Gorst was a Tory MP, and he tried to organise a meeting for Tawhiao with the Queen. Instead the King was received by Lord Derby, Secretary of State for the Colonies. The petition was referred back to New Zealand, where it was ignored. Gorst died in London in 1916.

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