Masterton Trust Lands Trust and its assets are a legacy left to the people of Masterton by the pioneers of the Small Farms Association, founded in the 1850s.
Joseph Masters, a Wellington barrel-maker and spokesperson for the Wellington working men, met with Governor Sir George Grey to request 25,000 acres in Wairarapa be set aside specifically for small farm settlement so that working class people could purchase land.
If suitable land could be found and Māori owners were willing to sell, the Government promised to buy the land and make it available at a reduced price for small farm settlement.
Te Retimana Te Korou
No single area large enough to accommodate the proposed settlement could be found, so the Small Farms Association agreed to two separate blocks, one near the Waiohine River, later called Greytown, and one on the banks of the Waipoua River. This land, purchased with the support of Te Retimana Te Korou, became the site of Masterton.
Each town comprised 100 acres laid out in one-acre allotments. These were surrounded by 100 suburban sections of 40 acres each, and rural sections of up to 100 acres. Each purchaser of a 40-acre suburban section was entitled to a one-acre town section. By the end of the 1850s some unsold and abandoned allotments remained. The Association rules required this land to be auctioned and the proceeds applied for the benefit of the town, but the Masterton land didn’t sell, not even for two pounds an acre.
Charles Carter, as trustee for the Small Farms Association, arranged leases for the land, then set up a trust to manage the income. However, this caused dissension among the settlers, and in November 1867 a meeting was held to establish a new trust with three representatives from each town. Following more disagreement, interim trusts were created for each town. An Act of Parliament in 1871 legally separated the two settlements, and each was given its own Board of Trustees – the Greytown Trust Lands Trust and the Masterton Trust Lands Trust.
Through these Acts of Parliament, the ownership and control of the trust lands was restored to the people of Masterton and Masterton Trust Lands Trust was established in 1872. Except for some amendments broadening the interpretation, the Trust’s objectives have remained unchanged to this day.