GOVERNOR’S BAY – Sir George Grey (1812 – 1898)

As the ‘Charlotte Jane’, the Canterbury’s Association first ship sailed into Lyttelton Harbour on the morning of the 16th December 1850, another ship – named the ‘Fly’ – sat at anchor at the head of the harbour belonging to the New Zealand Governor, Sir George Grey. He, like John Robert Godley – the Founder of Canterbury – wanted to be there to welcome the association settlers to New Zealand upon their arrival.

At the time the ‘Fly’ sat in the calm waters of Lyttelton Harbour; the nearby shoreline and the heavy forested hills that rose up from the water were known as ‘Ohinetahi’ meaning ‘the place of one daughter’. Ngai Tahu Chief Manuhiri had fathered many sons but only had one daughter. He honoured her by naming the Ngai Tahu gathering place after her.
With the arrival of the settlers, ‘Ohinetahi’ first began being referred to as “Dyers Bay” given that Dyers Pass (named after John Dyer 1828 – 1875) was close by. By 1856, a bridle path had been made through the thick bush to Governor’s Bay (in remembrance of Grey’s visit in 1850) from Lyttelton and was then continued to the Gebbie Flats of Teddington.

George Grey was born in Portugal in 1812. His mother (Elizabeth Anne Grey) had been taking in some fresh air on the balcony of the hotel she was staying at when she accidentally overheard two soldiers talking about the death of her soldier husband who had been fighting against Napoleon in Spain, under the command of the Duke of Wellington. The shock of this news brought her into an early labour and soon after George’s birth she moved her life to England.

Placed in a boarding school at a young age, George showed what he thought of that by running away. As a teenager he attended the Royal Military School and developed a dislike for anything army. As a young man, he traveled around Ireland and was troubled by what he witnessed – overcrowding and starvation. Through this experience he became interested in colonisation and he next traveled to Australia with a party of surveyors to look for suitable land for future settlements. These adventures earned him the title of being the first European to be able to speak the Noongan language of the south western Australian natives and a nasty spear wound to his hip to boot!

From 1841 through to 1845, he was the Governor of South Australia. As he had displayed in Ireland and would do so in New Zealand, he had a heart towards those who needed to be governed or were getting the rough end of the stick with things. At the end of his term in Australia, Grey moved to New Zealand to take up the post as Governor of New Zealand – which he did twice!
He first entered into New Zealand politics during one of the harshest decades concerning Maori land and their rights. He led the country through disputes such as the Flagstaff War, the Hutt Valley Campaign and the Wanganui Campaign – all the while keeping within the agreements of the Treaty of Waitangi and with the best interests of the Maori concerned.

Not always being liked amongst the Europeans, Maori had great respect for him. Grey had learned the language and quite often traveled New Zealand in the company of one great chief or another. Grey encouraged the Maori people to keep their culture alive and to record their legends and history.

He was one of the main driving forces behind the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 which saw New Zealand broken into 6 provinces that would be self governed. He was in fact the Superintendent of Auckland when the Provincial Government was abolished in 1876 as the central government scheme better suited the modern New Zealand; there was now the telegraph for communication and the railway was opening up New Zealand like never before. Grey did not approve.

Grey was able to add to his list of achievements by being elected the 11th Premier of New Zealand in 1877. His time with that title was considered a failure and he was so disliked that a new election took place just two years into his term.

In 1890, due to bad health, Grey retired from politics – well, for a while anyway. After a short trip to Australia, he was back in New Zealand and politics. In 1894, he journeyed back to England to live where he died 4 years later.

He is remembered today in the naming of Greymouth, the nearby Grey River and Grey Lynn in Auckland

*Image courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica –*

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