PUBLIC MEETINGS AT METHVEN.
THE COUNTY WATERWORKS BILL,
A largely attended meeting of ratepayers washeldat Methven on Thursday for the purpose of considering the Ashburton County Waterworks Bill, now before the General Assembly.
The Chairman of the Mount Hutt Road Board, Mr. Chapman, was voted to the chair, and introduced the subject by saying that to his mind two main points presented themselves for consideration. It would be for the meeting to decide, but he should like to know—or at any rate to have it more satisfactorily explained than it has been so far, what is the extent of the district which the Council purpose to provide water for. At present they had nothing to go upon—no plans or maps for their information; — and he felt sure those outside the area supplied would not care to pay rates for that from which they received no benefit. Further, he looked upon it as being advisable that legal opinion should be obtained upon the Bill in its entirety. As to whether the Council could levy rates on the outside districts, he was not in a position to state, but as some of the members of the Council were present, no doubt they would enlighten the meeting on the matter. It remained with the meeting to propose any resolutions hearing upon the subject. Mr. J. Jackson said the County Council proposed to publish in the various newspapers the numbers of all sections included in the district, so that all ratepayers could see for themselves, and would have the opportunity to object or otherwise to their property being included in the rateable district.
The following resolution was then proposed by Mr. G. H. Alington—“ That this meeting considers the Ashburton County Waterworks Amendment Bill unnecessary; that it is decidedly against granting any borrowing powers to the Council; and considers the Bill passed last session gives the Council sufficient power to supply the wants of the district with water.”
In seconding the resoulution, Mr. McMillan said he would like to ask why the petition sent to the County Council pointing out that if a proportionate share was granted to their district of the LIO,OOO already granted it would be sufficient for all their requirements, had not received any attention, and why they had heard nothing of it till the question of the LIOO,OOO loan was brought forward ? Mr. Julian Jackson, in reply, said he recollected a letter coming to the Council from some few ratepayers [A Voice—All the ratepayers were represented.] in Mount Hutt District, and as the original motion included the whole district between the Ashburton and Rakaia rivers, the Council could not see their way to take any notice of this, coming as it did from a minority. In reply to Mr. Patton, Mr. J. Jackson thought that confining the scheme to the amount of the money already voted, would be prejudical to the community at large. Mr. T. Jackson, though on a farm employing twenty-seven horses, and having to cart all their water from the Rakaia (which they all knew entailed a great amount of expense) would naturally be glad to see the water brought through the plains, but would rather remain as at present than see the district weighed down by borrowing such a large sum of money as was proposed to do. The scheme, so far as he could see, ought rather to be a very primitive inexpensive one, than one so expensive as the Council proposed to provide. They must be for the present satisfied by getting their horse troughs supplied, and he-thought they could all do that for less than sixpence per acre, while the County Council propose to borrow LIOO,OOO to do this, and he would venture to say that a large percentage of this money would be swallowed up in officialism. It was deemed necessary by the higher powers now in Wellington to give up borrowing, and why should the Council strive to take up the matter. The late reckless method of borrowing had brought the country almost to ruin, and he thought that if every one now swept their own doorstep, as the Jews did before there were scavengers in Jerusalem, they would be kept clean, and would get on all right. He would move as an amendment —“ That this meeting considers the Ashburton County Waterworks Amendment Bill unnecessary, and that it is decidedly against granting any borrowing powers to the Council for that purpose, and further, that this meeting is of opinion that further borrowing on the part of the country at large is antagonistic to the farmers of the community.” At this stage Mr. Alington, by consent, withdrew his motion, so that the amendment stood as the motion, and was seconded by Mr. McMillan. The motion was then put and carried, with but one dissentient.
Mr. Alexander Orr proposed, and Mr. G. Pannett seconded—“ That a copy of the resolution just passed be sent to both Houses of Parliament, also to the different Road Hoards between the Ashburton and Rakaia rivers, asking their co-operation in opposition to the Bill.” This was carried unanimously.
Mr. T. Jackson would like to hear from, one of the members of the Council present if, in the event of the district proclaimed being too small, and not raising sufficient money to pay interest on sinking fund, etc., -whether the Council would be able to rate those who had formerly dissented from the scheme.
Mr. D. Cameron could not give a definite answer, but was of opinion that such could be done—that a general rate could be raised if the area set aside at present be insufficient. In justice to the Council, he would say that, although they asked power to borrow LIOO,OOO, they only intended to borrow sufficient to complete the scheme.
Mr. J. Jackson thought the meeting was unanimous against the scheme, yet he saw several in the room who, when the County sent round voting papers, voted for the Bill. . He should like to know what had caused them to change their opinion. Several present explained that they had signed the paper, but understood it was for an open course, and had no idea of giving assent to the passing of a Bill to borrow more money. Others expressed their opinion that there had been some ratepayers neglected in the matter, as many had not received any voting paper. Mr. T. Jackson, preposed—“ That the Chairman of this meeting write to the Chairman of the Ashburton County Council, asking whether the Council considers it has the power at this moment, or are likely to have under the amended Bill such power, to levy rates on land outside the district proposed to be supplied with water, and to apply such rates towards the general expenses of their scheme.” This was seconded by Mr. C. S. Ailington, and carried. Mr. Coward asked if the Engineer of the County had given an estimate of the cost of the scheme proposed.
Sir. D. Cameron replied that the whole matter, even after the passing of the Bill; would rest with the ratepayers; and therefore the Engineer did not arrive at any conclusion as to the cost of the several schemes which had been brought before them. The cost of the pipe scheme would be L 75,000 at the most.
The Chairman then read the following petition, which was signed by the greater number present : To the Honorable the Legislative Council of New Zealand. We, the undersigned landowners and ratepayers in the Ashburton County, being strongly opposed to the Bill for amending the Ashburton Waterworks Bill of last session, desire to petition your Honorable House against the said Bill, on the following grounds : First—That there is no general desire among landowners in the defined district for any water supply requiring a large expenditure, and that we believe that there this a general feeling against entrusting the County Council with the large borrowing and rating powers applied for. Secondly—Because the signatures obtained by the travelling agents of the Council were so obtained without the persons signing understanding the question at issue, and that, in fact, the agents were canvassers. And also, that many signatures have been obtained from people not permanently interested in the land ; and we consider that those only on whose shoulders the burden of the rates will ultimately fall should decide as to the desirableness of such borrowing, and that being a new district, only partially occupied, no means exist for deciding who should be entitled to vote. Thirdly—That a great part of the district proposed to be supplied with water is of such a nature that it would be unwise to burden it to the extent of 6:1. per acre, in addition to the local and general taxation to which it is liable, and the private burdens which exist upon it; and that the time has not arrived when any conclusion can be arrived at as to « hether the land will repay sucli expenditme, fourthly—On the ground of the general want of equity shown in the defining of the district, which can only be explained by reference to the map. Fifthly—That, as the amount of the rate is limited to 6d. per acre, and, as explained publicly by the Chairman and members of the County Council, any balance required will have tc come out of the general County funds, and as it is possible, owing to the nature of the land, that a considerable part of the rate might not be paid, the burden on the whole district is indefinite, and all the ratepayers in the County are entitled to vote on the question of raising the money. And we pray your Honorable House to take evidence on these points. Upon these and other grounds we pray your Honorable House to reject the aforesaid Bill- And furthermore, your petitioners will ever pray. On the proposition of Mr. D. Cameron, seconded by Mr. J. Jackson, a vote of thanks was accorded to the Chairman, and the meeting closed. A NEW SCHOOL. A meeting of those interested in the establishment of a school at Methven was held in the Road Board office, on Thursday. Mr. Edward Chapman was voted to the chair. The Chairman read a letter from JColborne Yeel, Secretary to the Board of Education, stating that .at present the Board had not funds at their disposal for building purposes ; therefore, until additional supplies were received, the application from Methven would have to be held over. In the meantime, the Chairman was requested to furnish a tracing of the district, with the ages of children able to attend school, for the future guidance of the Board. * The Chairman stated that he had interviewed the Chairman of the Board, who had informed him that if the district would provide accommodation the Board would find the salary for a master or mistress, as the case demanded. A memorial to the Board was then read and signed by those present. The memorial requested the Board to form an educational district for the township and district of Methven. It showed that there were fifty-one children in the district, of whom, twenty-seven were of an age to attend school ; and that, while the children were sufficiently numerous to entitle Methven to the advantage under the Education Act of being an educational district, the residents were not in a position to bear the expense of putting up a school. It pointed out, also, that the Board drew from the district no less a sum than L6OO jier annum in the shape of rentals of reserves, and that there are several sections in the township available at once for school purposes. The Chairman was of opinion that on receipt of this memorial the Board would do what they could to meet their wishes. A NEW LIBRARY. The meeting took into consideration the necessity of forming a Library for the township and district. After some discussion on the matter, the following gentlemen, with power to add to their number, were appointed a committee to solicit subscriptions for this purpose—Messrs. Patton, Morgan, O’Hara, Johnston, Hibbs, McMillan, and Alington. After the customary vote of thanks to the Chairman the meeting closed.
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