The Ashburton Guardian. Manga Est Veritas et Prevalebit THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 1881. Local Government.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 4.10 p.m.]
If the rumor be true that a few days hence Sir George Grey is going to bring forward in Parliament a Local Government Bill of his own, it speaks much more for his courage than for his discretion. For Sir George has not been a success in dealing with this matter, though it has long Jjeen before his notice. His progress has not been from less to more light, but from light to darkness. Pin 1852 when this colony was parcelled out into nine provinces, mainly at his suggestion, he acted wisely in so doing, but acted also wisely in defending the arrangement as one temporarily necessary on account of the distance between some parts of the colony from the seat of Government, and also because of the want of proper facilities for travelling to and fro. But when the time he had himself foreshadowed at an earlier date had actually arrived, when ,in 1876 the rciisonsdtire for the existence of the provinces were no longer present, and their abolition had been resolved upon by the New Zealand Parliament, and approved of by the Home anthorities in England, the sagacious politician of 1852 had begun to pass into his second childhood, and was guilty of the folly of hinting aUa colonial rebellion, because England "had sanctioned the very change he himself had predicted as necessary. Now that abolition of the provinces after the fullest discussion of the change has actually taken place, to attempt to revert to that old condition of clumsv management, extravagance, jobbery, and local pauperism, and embody it in an Act of Parliament would be little less absurd than to restore the Heptarchy in England, merely because kings and queens sometimes blunder. It is obviously not in that direction that the remedy lies —though those who had the honor of being tinpot provincial officials in esse or in posse may Itng ever so much for the fleshpots of Egypt, its leeks and its garlic. We have not the cash to make the experiment; “ the times won’t run it,” and if the General Government is to be saddled with another two or three millions of provincial liabilities besides its own, the colony had better file its schedule in the Insolvent Court at once to save all trouble. We admit fully that there is a wide-spread demand for some alteration in our present system of Local Government, but neither provincialism, nor anything like it will help us to dofanything but jump from the frying pan into the fire. . Were it true that qur system of local government by County Councils instead of by Superintendents, Provincial officials, and Provincial Councils, were actually as rotten as some foolish people would have us believe, how is it that in Victoria, from one end of the colony to another, and no matter what the politics of the respective localities, County Council government on almost exactly the same lines works so well, that any attempt to supersede it would be opposed everywhere by an overwhelming majority of the residents? The question is one worth considering. And the answer is very simple ■; it is, that we have copied part of the Victorian local government system, but not die whole, though the circumstances of the two colonies are in this respect precisely the same. We have established County Councils on the Victorian basis, and side by side with them have retained our old Road Boards, so that the residents in the country districts are constantly subject to double taxation by two local bodies, while they only derive the benefit that might be conferred by one. In Victoria the case is different. The method of local Government there varies according to the status of the district, just as a tailcr cuts his coat according to his cloth, and builds a different kind of suit for a boy from that he deems fitting for a child, and a different and more enlarged clothing for a man from either. In the earliest stage of progress in any district of Victoria the tract of country remains under the paternal care of the Central Government until it is able in some degree to take care of itself. As settlement gradually takes place, and hamlets and villages are formed, on petition to the Government, a Road Board is formed with certain limited powers not widelydifferent from those of our own Road Boards. At a subsequent stage of progress, as population increases, two or three of these neighbouring Road Boards again petition to be united into a county council, and unlessstrongobjcctiontothecontrary exists the petition is granted, and the county supersedes the previously existing road districts. This is the system of local governments which works so well in Victoria that it is universally popular. Why it should not be adopted in New Zealand, we are at a loss to conceive.