The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1879.
The history of The Ashburton Waterworks Bill, when it comes to be written, will present to the public some peculiar features in legislation. But as that history is as yet incomplete, from the fact that the Bill is still struggling, like a patient with a multiplicity of doctors, to get through the House, and the prospect of water getting down the plains, is so far as distant as ever, we have only a few bare outlines of its progress ; and wo must say that from statements made at the meeting of the County Council on Wednesday, and from information received from our special correspondent in Wellington, some very peculiar, and we may add, suspicious, transactions have been negotiated over this measure. We have taken the trouble to investigate the mystery surrounding the petition forwarded to the Upper House, and presented by the Hon. W. S. Peters, and there is not the slightest doubt but that a deliberate swindle has been committed. The petition itself was described by most of the members of the County Council as being untrue in all its alleged statements of facts. We have been since informed that at least two, and probably many more of the signatures to the petition have been attached without authority. It is always dangerous ground to tread on, to accuse any man or body of men of dishonorable conduct before patent evidence is at command to confront them. But of the duplicity of those who promoted the petition in question there can be no doubt; for we find them going to the House with statements so palpably at variance with what they must have known to be the truth, that we cannot too strongly condemn the course of action taken. Against an honest and straightforward opposition to the Bill no right-thinking man can cavil, for every ratepayer and every individual likely to be affected by the measure has a perfect right to differ from the County Council and the ratepayers who support the measure, and has every freedom to go boldly to Parliament if he likes and state the reasons of his opposition. But when a man, or body of men, take it upon them to lay a petition before the House, replete, not only with misrepresentations, but with what the members of the County Council stigmatise—not too strongly, we fear—as deliberate falsehoods, then the promoters of that petition are deserving the execration of their fellow men. It was bad enough to misrepresent the facts, but it was a good deal worse to adhibit to the petition the names of men who never put their hands to it, and who are wholly opposed to its tone and spirit. We have no wish to condemn any one unheard, and though it is broadly hinted that the signatures to another petition altogether have been by some mistake or other attached to this one, we will reserve our judgment till the full facts are before us. The terms of the petition itself there is no resiling from, and there can be no doubt whatever as to their falsity. Of that any man knowing the history of the measure will at once be assured, and will know how to estimate the underhand procedure of those who have thus sought unfair means to undo the very laudable work of the County Council. Rumors, too, are afloat that the new Bill engineered by Mr. Wright, is vastly different in its provisions from that introduced by him in the Lower House, and that by it the powers of the County Council will be far greater than they themselves ever meant to have taken, and that when its full provisions are before the County, as it will be at an early date, it will meet with a far wider and stronger opposition than that given to the first Bill, but in the absence of a copy of the new measure, we cannot speak definitely of its clauses beyond the meagre outline given by Mr. Wright at the last Council meeting.