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Thomas Gore Browne

Like all the early governors, Thomas Browne had a military background. He was appointed Governor of New Zealand in 1855, replacing George Grey. Continuing the implementation of the 1852 constitution was intended to be his major task, but race relations soon loomed large.

The growing number of settlers were demanding land, while many Māori, worried that they would be swamped by the rising tide of European colonisation, were very reluctant to give up any more territory. Māori expressed their concerns through the growing King Movement (the Kīngitanga) in the 1850s.

Browne tried to balance these competing interests. He continued to purchase land, but also tried to ensure that Māori retained land for their future needs and gained the benefits of schools and hospitals. He also fought hard to keep control of Māori affairs himself, rather than hand over this responsibility to the settler-dominated Parliament. He feared that unrestrained colonisation would inevitably lead to conflict.

His governorship was defined by his decision in 1859 to persist in purchasing land at Waitara in Taranaki, despite the opposition of the region's most powerful chief, Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke. War followed, and some Kīngitanga fighters from Waikato became involved.

In early 1861 peace was made in Taranaki. Browne resolved to invade Waikato, but his six-year appointment ended before this could happen. These plans were later carried out by the next governor, George Grey.

See also: biography of Thomas Browne in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 

How to cite this page

Thomas Gore Browne, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated