The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, APRIL, 3, 1880.
For some time back, if we read the signs aright, there has been a tendency i n some parts of the colony to favor the levying of a poor rate, and a few dajs ago we read an article in the Wellington “ Post,” which not only favored such a rate for the colony, but advocated it —at least, so far as the larger cities are concerned. There are some men so thoroughly thorough that they must call a spade a spade, and cannot bear even the slightest mincing of matters. While we have a system of charitable aid that is unsatisfactory in its working, and a source of heart-burning between the Government and the public bodies, and out of which disputes are continually arising, these thorough men fancy it is just as well to be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, and would rather have a regularly imposed poor rate than dispense charitable aid from the Government coffers. They hold that charitable aid, as we know it in New Zealand, is only another name for the poor rate, or rather the poor rate raised in a different way, and like the drunken man on the road with a ditch on either side, who chose to go into the ditch at once and flounder along in the mud in preference to enduring the mental torture of keeping up an appearance of sobriety and putting forth his befuddled efforts to avoid the ditches, these very thorough men want to be into the poor rate at once, and have all the ills they now fear brought upon them. We confess to the existence of all they point to. A stone’s throw from our own township we have an institution called by the name of the Old Men’s Home, and there are other similar institutions in various parts of ths country. We may speak sentimentally about these institutions, and gloss over their character as we may, but they only hold the place that other institutions, with other and less pretty names would, were a poor rate the means employed to support them, instead of votes from the general funds of the colony. We confess, too, that the number of unemployed who now ask for Government aid, and clamor for work, brings the question of a poor rate very near to us ; but we are not satisfied that the time has yet come for us to consider the advisahleness of a poor rate. The unemployed exist and the Old Men’s Home exists, to be sure, but before we cast off the old system, with all its faults, we would do well to consider what effect the introduction of a poor rate would have. The little flutter has scarcely subsided that was caused by the tour of the Lincolnshire farmers’ delegates, and and we now cast our eyes longingly to the old country, and wish for men of the class of Grant and Foster to come and settle among us. W T e still keep agitating in the Home land the grandness of the colony as a refuge for the stalwart sons of crowded England, and we cease not to tell the people of Britain that we are a country without poor and without beggars. We boast of the room we have for thousands more of our fellow-countrymen, and point with pride to our fertile soil, the broad
acres of ifc the plough has not yet reached ; and when we invite our brethren to come we are not slow to tell them that in coming here they leave poverty and all its unpleasantness behind them. Notwithstanding that for the time being free immigration has been stopped and the introduction of even pas-sage-paying laborers discouraged, it is not intended that the avenues of immigration should be closed for ever, and that in better times we should not as heartily as we did in the past invite our countrymen at Home to join us the colony. True, the borrowed millions that brought free immigrants here, and found hundreds of them work have been spent, and those works that found them employment, have, to a large extent, ceased. A time of depression came upon us in common with all the world, and the slackness that followed upon the spending of all our borrowed money was heightened by the general dulness. But those very works that found the immigrant work when he first came over, have opened up for settlement a wide area of country, and that area is constantly extending It may be that we have imported more labor than we are able to employ at [this moment, but the time must come, with the prosperity that is returning to the whole world, when all the now idle hands will be busy, and the cry will be for more. 400,000 no more represents the mouths New Zealand is able to feed than its present population represents the utmost feeding ability of the great continent of America. Are we then to levy a poor rate and confess to the outside world that the halcyon days of our prosperity are gone, and that here the laborer is no better off than at Home ? Certainly not. Settlement truly does not progress at so fast a rate as we would wish it, nor do manufactures increase as they ought to do, but there’s a good time coming, just asbad times have come, in the ebb and flow of life, and when the cloud of depression has been thoroughly lifted, not only from England but from the whole world, then we must get a share of the sunshine of prosperity. New Zealand’s future is not a dark one. ' “ The poor ye have always with ye,” are the words of one wiser than any statesman that ever lived, but still in a young land, where only a small portion of the virgin soil has been broken, and not half a million people have settled on its ample bosom, it is not yet time to go back to the institution of the great teeming land where poverty and squalor beg for bread at the doors of untold wealth, and the relieving officer doles out a miserable pittance to keep soul and body together till the time shall come when the poor starved body shall be ‘ ‘ rattled over the stones, only a pauper whom nobody owns.”