At first relatively small ships – cutters, and ketches, and schooners – from New Zealand’s more northerly ports made up the bulk of the Kiwi blackbirding fleet, but as time went on, and the profits to be made from the trade in humans became clear, businessmen from New Zealand’s wealthy south funded larger ships. In 1871 JR MacKenzie, one of the richest men in Dunedin, launched a steamship called the Wainui, which was soon busy ‘recruiting’ labour in Melanesia.
Although missionaries like Coley Patteson produced detailed exposes of the trade, governments in Wellington were at first very reluctant to take any sort of action against blackbirding. Frustrated by their own failure to create prosperity in New Zealand, the country’s political elite hoped that the sugar and cotton booms in Queensland and Fiji would spread. Auckland might become a profitable ‘depot’ for Fijian exports destined for Europe, and the newly-wealthy planters of Fiji and Queensland might import large quantities of consumer goods from New Zealand.
BLACKBIRDING IN THE PACIFIC. A RAID.
OTAGO WITNESS, ISSUE 1934, 14 DECEMBER 1888
OTAGO WITNESS, ISSUE 1892, 8 MAY 1890
The Minister tor Defence
FEILDING STAR, VOLUME XII, ISSUE 124, 11 APRIL 1891
COLOURED LABOUR QUESTION.
AUCKLAND STAR, VOLUME XXIII, ISSUE 162, 9 JULY 1892
With thanks to the National Library of New Zealand.