RESIDENT MAGISTRATE'S COURT.
ASHBURTON. Friday, October 10, ISTO. Before Mr. Frank Guinness, R.M. civil CASE. Stevens and others versus McQuilkin. Claim £35 10s., balance due on a contract for clearing flax. Mr. Branson for plaintiffs ; Mr. Crisp for defendant. Mr. Branson said the case was that the plaintiffs had engaged to cut the flax on 70 acres at Longbeach, they were subsequently told that they must burn the flax, and objected to do so unless a number of cattle being depastured were removed, as treading the flax into the ground, which was of a swampy nature. William Stevens, deposed that he had contracted with Henry Whi tty, manager for McQuilkin, to cut 70 acres of flax, and agreed to do it for 13s. per acre. He believed he had only to cut,andnot toclear the land. Had no partners when he entered into the contract, but took Brooker and others in as mates subsequently. Started work on May 18th, and about 4 or 5 days afterwards Whitty called their attention to the fact that they were not burning the flax. They undertook to bum it provided the cattle were removed. About a third of the section was very swampy. There were about 300 head of cattle on the land. The cattle followed them about so as to get something to eat, and strewed the flax about and trod it into the ground. Asked Whitty frequently to remove the cattle, but they were still allowed to wander. Had burned some of the flax, the rest was so trodden into the ground that it would not bum. Made application for payment, but had only received £lO on account. Cross-examined by Mr, Crisp—When I took the contract nothing was said about clearing the ground. Noticed the cattle the first day we started. Was told by Mr Whitty that we could rake the flax in heaps instead of burning. Could not rake it, as it was so trodden in. John Curry and two other witnesses corroborated Stevens’ evidence. For the defence, Henry Whitty deposed that as manager for Mr McQuilkin, he contracted with Stevens to have 70 acres of flax land cleared. Did not tell them at the time for what purpose it was to be cleared, but did so afterwards, when witness said that they would have to bum the flax, as the land was to be ploughed in about six weeks. The land could not be
ploughed owing to the flax encumbering it. The cutting was not well done, and / will have to be done again. They may have asked witness to remove the cattle, but he didn’t remember. They raked about 15 acres and burnt one acre. Extra men have to be employed to keep the plough clear. John McQuilkin saw the men on the ground. He thought that they then had all the flax cut, the weather was very wet, and he told them he wanted the land cleared, and would let the lake the flax into rows instead of burning itlfond would afterwards bum it himjgfif' 'Vhey only raked a small strip oijfiry land, about 10 acres. Have had to employ other men to do the work. The cutting was badly done. It will cost now as much to clear the land as if it had not been touched. By Mr Branson —Noticed that some of the flax had been trodden in. There were less than 200 cattle on the land. Did not think they could get on to the swampy land.
Arthur Hewson, fanner, knew McQuilkin’s land, Had seen the work done by the plaintiffs. It was very inefficiently done, as only the standing flax had been cut. It could not be raked, as a lot was not cut. It would cost 13s per acre now to clear the land properly. The price for cutting alone is about 8s 6d per acre. Clearing flax means making the land fit for ploughing. By Mr Branson—Have had offers to cut and stack flax at 8s 6d, and knew of three cases where it had been done at that figure in the neighborhood. John Smith, who described himself as a flax-cutter, was called to give rebutting evidence, and said he had received 10s per acre for cutting on easier land. He thought 13s a low price for clearing on McQuilkin’s land. The Magistrate, in giving judgment, said there had been two contracts. The evidence for the defence showed the work had not been completed. It • was sufficiently proved that defendant had allowed his cattle to tread the flax in, and thus do the plaintiffs an injury. As to the manner in which the work had been done, if not in so complete a manner as it might have been, the small quantity of flax left uncut would not affect the working of the land to any extent. He would give judgment for plaintifis with costs, and recommended that all contracts should be in writing, to save litigation, police CASE. After the adjournment, James Moore was charged with stealing 30 fowls, valued at £4, from the residence of James Perham, Burnett street, and a second charge of stealing 14 fowls from James Hefford, Tancred street. Sergeant Pratt asked for a remand, to enable him Obtain evidence as to the ownership of the poultry, as well as further evidence as to other thefts. The prisoner admitted having committed the thefts he was charged with. He was remanded till Monday next.
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