Daniel Pollen was born in Ringsend in Dublin, June 2 1813. His father, Hugh Pollen was a dock master who according to some accounts helped build the United States Capitol.
When he returned to New Zealand, he bought a seven acre farm at the Auckland land sale as well as a section in the Rosebank area where he built a homestead. At this time he was living in Parnell, practising medicine and his land acquisitions signified a decision to remain in Auckland. Like many early settlers, he had an eye out for the opportunities his adopted land offered. In 1855, he bought Pollen Island and land at the end of the Whau Peninsula, where he started a brickworks, the first in the region. The island is now a marine reserve established in 1995 to protect the inner reaches of the Waitemata Harbour. It has gained permanent protection as a conservation and scientific reserve and is now managed by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.
Pollen was appointed a coroner in 1844, a post that he held for the next four years. In 1846 he married Jane Henderson and a year later he became medical officer to a copper mining company. The couple then moved to Kawau Island where they lived for several years during which time Pollen contributed articles to The New Zealander, supporting the agitation for responsible government. He also supported New Zealand’s temperance, scientific, and library movements. From 1852, when the New Zealand Constitution Act became law, Pollen was increasingly involved in the colony’s legislative affairs. He forsook medicine and after being appointed chief clerk in the Auckland Superintendent’s Office he quickly rose through the ranks to become Commissioner of Crown Lands for Auckland. By 1870 he held four positions, Receiver of Land Revenue, Commissioner of Confiscated Lands, Commissioner under the Native Land Act of 1870, and Immigration Officer.
After his appointment as Commissioner of Crown Lands for Auckland, he began to champion the Maori cause in The New Zealander and remained a supporter from thereon. During the Maori Wars being waged in the central North Island, Pollen advised the land baron Josiah Clifton Firth to use his best endeavours to persuade the renowned warrior, Te Kooti to surrender. Te Kooti repeated an earlier pledge that made it clear if “left alone”, he would “remain at peace with all”. Firth travelled to Auckland to plead Te Kooti’s case but the government, mindful of settlers’ interests, refused to negotiate and rejected Firth as an interfering fool. Premier Fox even referred to him as “that meddlesome sweep”. As a consequence the war was renewed. Pollen was censured and he resigned as the Auckland agent, but then withdrew his resignation at the Government’s request.
Pollen sat on the Legislative Council no less than four times. First in 1862, before he resigned to become agent for the Central Government. He returned to the Council in 1868 to represent the Stafford Government then resigned in 1870 to be agent in Auckland again. The Vogel Ministry recalled him to the Council in 1873 and he stayed till he formed the Pollen ministry which he led, but it collapsed after a few months. He then became a member of ‘the continuous ministry,’ administering the Colonial Secretary’s department under Vogel and Atkinson. For a short time he was Native Minister and from then on was appointed yet again to the Legislative Council, serving on it for 23 years until his death 18 May 1896.
By all accounts, Pollen had a very engaging personality: cultured, genial and open-minded. Politically he made swift, perceptive decisions and his debating style was forthright and compelling. He was a Tory who worked for women’s enfranchisement and championed the rights of Maori but didn’t engage himself in public affairs apart from politics. He died at his home in Avondale at the advanced age of 82. (DEIRDRE ROELANTS)