The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUESDAY, JULY 13, 1880.
When Mr. Hugo Friedlander stood for the position of Mayor of Ashburton, lie put forward as two recommendations of his canditure,- his business experience and his ability as a financier, and these qualifications made available to the ratepayers just at a time when a business head and financial ability were so much wanted to conduct the affairs of the Borough doubtless weighed heavily in his favor with the burgesses. That he has not belied the hopes of those who supported him let the present state of Borough finance bear witness in a comparison with what it was when he took office. He has been energetic and attentive to a fault, and his success has been so marked, that we have heard one - or two of those who opposed his election heart and soul, confess their agreeable disappointment, and express their intention of giving him their cordial support should ho see fit to stand again. It may be honestly said of the Mayor that if his keen business eye can spy out a chance of increasing the borough funds, it will be a very hopeless chance indeed if he allows it to slip untried. He is now engaged in a steady warfare with the Longbeach Hoad Board and the County Council over a sum of nearly L3OO, which he feels thoroughly satisfied ought to come from the Longbeaeh Road Board to the Borough, and which the Longbeach Road Board and at least two members of the County Council are just as thoroughly satisfied he has no right to. Our readers are doubtless familiar with the grounds on which the Borough claims this money. The impounded land fund has become a sort of household word. Twenty per cent, of the proceeds of all lands sold within the province became the property of the districtin which these lands were situated, and the Countyof Ashburton having yielded a large sum to the colonial revenue from land sold within the County’s boundaries, became the recipient of not an inconsiderable sum, and remained a creditor of Government for what was still unpaid. Of this sum the old Ashburton Road Board, of which the township of Ashburton before its proclamation as a borough was a ward, received its share. When the Borough was proclaimed and, so to speak, swarmed off from the Ashburton Road Board, that i body without any demur, paid such share - of their funds to the Borough as they f considered belonged to it, and promised to ] make a further division when Government i made a further payment of what land fund | was still, owing. It will thus be seen that i when the township became a Municipality the whole of the land fund accrued to i that date had not been paid, and the I money now claimed by the Mayor is the c share that the Ashburton Road Board would a have paid to the Borough had the Board v remained united, and not been divided s into two—the Wakanui Road Board and a the Longbeach Road Board. When the I division of the Board took place there were d added to the new benches men who f “knew not Joseph,” and who did not n know the history of the township’s claim, a so that it is not surprising to find that s iiclaiia disputed. Perhaps -we may be ii forgiven for fancying, too, that were the c bank books of the Boards plethoric in v figures on the clVebt slue.the claim would t not be very bitterly opposed. But an b empty purse sharpens the wits consider- h ably, and we find the members of both the a new Boards looking narrowly into the w Borough's claim. Mr. Grigg> the Long- c
beach. Chairman, simply repudiates it, while the Wakanui Board has paid it under protest, arid with a condition that a refund be made should the claim turn 1 out to be not. well founded. So far as the Borough’s claim is concerned it appears to, be. perfectly sound, provided always ■that the Board’s claim upon the money in the first instance was sound. And it is just here that the Chairman of the County Council, supported by Mr. Grigg, differ from the Mayor. Both hold that the 20 per cent, of the land fund was not the property of the Road Boards, but of the County Council ; that They could distribute it as they chose, and in such proportions as seemed to them judicious; and that the sums from this fund given to the Boards by the County Council were only a gift. The Council might, if they had chosen, elected to give the money for. the Boards to spend, or they might have taken other modes of distributing it throughout the Country. They elected to give it in cash. If the Chairman and Mr. Grigg’s contention is correct, and the County Council had thus absolute control of the money, then clearly the Borough has no claim whatever upon the funds. But this is just the contention that the Mayor does not seem prepared to admit. If he can upset it—and we know he will not rest content until he has done so, .or satisfied himself that he cannot—then his claim, we should think, must be recognised ; but if he cannot, then the Borough must go without a sum of nearly £6OO, on the possession of which Councillors have built their hopes. We 1 may quote here a letter of the Mayor, which lays down the case- as clearly and as fairly for the Borough as it can be laid : “ When Ashburton was declared a municipality in September, 1878, a final settlement of accounts between the Borough and the then Ashburton Road Board (now the Wakanui and Longbeach Road Boards) could not be arrived at, as the impounded land fund was held in abeyance by the Government. I may state that this land fund accrued prior to 31st December, 1877, so it was the property of the various Road Boards in the Provincial District of Canterbury. The Counties Act was brought into force by the County Council on December 2nd, 1877, so that nearly all the impounded land fund must have been in the hands of the Government before the County Council took upon themselves the full powers under the Act. There can be no mistal e that this land fund was the property of the Road Boards and not of the County Council, who had no control of moneys coming to the Road Boards before they adopted the full provisions of the Act. It is clear, then, that. a portion of this money became the property of the Ashburton Road Board, and consequently a small share became due to the township of Ashburton, which formed then one ward of the said Road Board, and which’ body fully recognised the fact, as will be shown from a letter written by their Clerk to the Borough Council at the time of enclosing statement of accounts to date of separation. The portion of this letter referring to this matter is as follows : —“I informed Messrs. Friedlander and Saunders that the Borough Council would have a further claim upon subsidy and unallocated land fund, when such payments (which are retrospective) shall be made by the Government.” I have no doubt, were that body still in existence, it would have faithfully carried out the terms of the settlement alluded to, as was promply done by the Wakanui Road Board. It was also hoped that the Longbeach Road Board would have faithfully carried out the intentions of their parent Board, and that their present Chairman would not have repudiated a fair and just debt. As the matter now stands, nothing is left for the Borough Council to do but to avail themselves of the 33rd section of the Municipal Corporations Act, and get the Commissioners of Audit to decide the case in dispute.”