The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, JULY 5, 1881. Non-Paying Railways.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 4.30 p.m.]
Mr Hursthouse’s motion, upon which which the Ministry were her ten, and which provided that the landowners and other residents along the lines of non-paying railways should bear the . annual loss upon their traffic, though brought forward at the wrong time and by the wrong man, was nevertheless the right thing in itself. It was brought forward at the wrong time, for clearly if the principle which Mr Hursthouse now proposes to adopt be the right one it applied with at least equal, if not greater, force when these political railways were first made. For years past the colony has had to pay annually so considerable a sura in maintaining these
railways, which yield no profit at all, or next to none, that the profit on the genuine lines which were really required, and were not constructed by means of log-rolling, side-winds, and jobbery, has been reduced to about two per cent, or less. All this money might and ought to have been saved if Mr Hursthouse is now in the right. The proper time, as was very justly urged by the Premier, was before the construction of these lines began, for then they would not have been begun, or if begun would have been no burden to the colony at large. The correct principle of railway construction would have been known before anything was done, and no one could reasonably complain. And then, 100, Mr Hursthouse was certainly not the proper man to bring forward such a motion as that he proposed. As Government “ whip ” in the House of Representatives, he could not properly assume the position of an independent member. It is quite true that, as even the organ of the Ministry in the seat of Government, the New Zealand Times , admits, there is no one principle upon which the present Ministry are entirely at one, siill the Government whip, whether paid or not, should receive his orders from the Premier, and in this case there was no doubt as to what was the nature of the Premier’s views, or if there had been that doubt could at once have been satisfied. A whip who upsets the coach he is driving because he thinks the passengers or the proprietors a lot of rubbish, is a fraud and deserves to be punished. If Mr Hursthouse wanted to be an independent member he could, and should have thrown up his appointment.
But the proposal itself was altogether a right one. At the time when Sir Julius Vogel’s Public Works scheme was proposed it was not merely understood, but it was also expressly stipulated that each province should bear the cost of the interest on its own works. This, however, was adroitly evaded, and numbers of works were constructed by log-rolling, and by deceptions of various kinds. For years past the colony has been annually paying interest on these, and the specially favored districts have not been paying their just debts. It is high time that this should cease, and the landlords in the districts referred to, who have profited enormously by the formation of these railways alongside of their own properties, should pay their just share for their maintenance. Even then they will not lose anything more than a mere fraction of what they have gained by the enhanced price of their land alongside of these railways. In a case like this their liability is not one which comes within any actual or moral statute of limitations, for the burden is one which the colony bears every year, so that it is not a bygone grievance. And it it be pleaded that the towns at both ends of these lines should also bear their proportion of the new taxation as well as the district alongside of which they run, we fully admit it, but then we would tax them to the full extent of their property also. They indeed have probably derived more profit than even the country districts jromtnese-worits.—-Tne-armngemem-is altogether a just one for both town and country. It has also the obvious advantage that it will prevent a repetition of such swindles as may be perpetrated in connection with the construction of other non r paying railways, for if the landowners and other property holders know that they have to pay interest on the cost of constructing non-paying railways in their own neighborhood, they will count the cost carefully beforehand, and will only indulge in the luxury when it is as abvious a benefit to them as a gravelled path from their gates to their house doors would be.