William Spain was an attorney from Hampshire appointed to head the commission established to investigate all land purchases in New Zealand prior to British annexation. Described as ‘an honest, straightforward man, methodical and efficient in his work and sincere in his convictions’, Spain arrived in New Zealand in December 1841.
Governor Hobson instructed Spain that any guarantees given to the New Zealand Company were conditional upon the Company proving that Māori title had been fairly extinguished. To assist this process Hobson appointed George Clarke as the commission’s interpreter. Spain was to become dependent on Clarke in his work.