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A public meeting was held last night, at the Town Hall, to consider what steps should be taken to secure increased representation for the electoral district of Coleridge in the House of Representatives. There was but a moderate attendance at the commencement of the proceedings, but as the meeting progressed the number present was largely increased. His Worship the Mayor was voted to thechair,andinopening the meeting briefly stated the object for which it had been called, urging the desirability of endeavoring to push the Government to bring their Representation Bill before the House without delay. They would see that at the present time the Government were in a delicate position, and in all probability the question of the re-distribution of seats would compel them to go to the country. They would notice that this district had increased 43 per cent, in its population since the previous census was taken. Taking this as a basis, the district ought to have two and a half representatives to be on an equality in this respect with other districts. If the district was divided properly, it ought to have at least three representatives. (Applause.) He would leave the gentlemen who were to move the resolutions to speak upon the question at greater length, and would now call upon Mr Purnell to move the first resolution. Mr Purnell came forward and said : Mr Chairman and gentlemen, the resolution it is my duty to propose this evening is as follows :—“That, inasmuch as it is shown by the census returns that the llectoral district of Coleridge is largely underrepresented In the General Assembly, as compared with the other electoral districts of the colony, and since, further, a general election will shortly take place, this meeting is of opinion that a grievous injustice will be done to the inhabitants of this district should the General Assembly fail during the present session to pass such measures as will place the Coleridge district on an equal footing in the matter of representation with the other rural districts of New Zealand. ” At a time of political excitement like that which at the present time is taking place in the General Assembly a very favorable opportunity presents itself to us to speak on the matter of redistribution of seats. I would like to point out to those present that as the general elections are shortly to take place, a great injustice would assuredly follow to the district' of Coleridge if the question #f Redistribution of Seats Bill is not brought down before the House and passed before the dissolution. 1 would like to impress upon you that the matter is not a party question but purely a political one, and one affecting other political districst besides our own, and as such I will confine my remarks thereon. Whatever our ideas on the matter may be, increased representation must have its desired effect with regard to the well-being and prosperity of our district. Even to those who wish to make Ashburton, in a manner, a political reserve, would see the justice of our claims to at least another member. I can prove that we have a good case by simply quoting the area. and population of our district in comparison with others. The Chairman has briefly spoken on the whole question, and it resolves itself into one which simply demands, for justice sake, the earnest attention of our representatives in Parliament. The fact is, the district of Coleridge has been very largely unrepresented. The town of Ashburton itself, with Tinwald and suburbs, contains some 3,000 inhabitants, and is piore numerously populated than a great many constituencies which return a member to the General Assembly under the present system. I shall read a list of electorates which have a smaller population than,Ashburton, and which now reap the benefit of their over representation, as compared with our own district. In Cheviot, for instance, there was only 2,449; in Collingwood, 1,645 ; Totara, 2,334, and in Nelson suburbs only 2,660. In Clutha there was a population of only 456. New Plymouth numbered 3,326 inhabitants, and Onehunga, 2,189. [The speaker then quoted further figures showing that the Borough of Ashburton and suburbs were better entitled to a representative than many other boroughs.] Taking the population as a basis of representation, it is perfectly clear that we have been for years inadequately represented. Of course the rural districts must necessarily embrace a large area, but when population, as well as area, as in our case, demands an increased voice, in the Government of the country, I think it our duty to bring the matter fully before the House by endeavoring to pass a resolution affecting our district, before it is too late. In Canterbury, 1 find that there are several districts, with less area and population now enjoying the privilege of one member. There are—Lyttelton with a population of 4,127; Selwyn, with a population of 6,196 ; Geraldine, 4,438 ; Akaroa, 4,338. These have each of them fewer inhabitants than Coleridge. Nelson, with about half the population of Coleridge, has two members. As I cannot make the case appear clear to you, without rather tedious figures, I hope you will bear with me, whilst I explain the unfairness of the present distribution as regards us. The total population of the colony is some 486,000, and the proposed increase of representation intending to be made by { present Government only amounts to six European members —namely, from 84 to 90. I consider that the rural districts should have increased representation. Before leaving this branch of the subject, I would like to speak upon the existing necessity for an alteration in the boundaries of this district. In the boundaries of many other districts in the colony they are geographically very badly framed. I think that the district north of the Rakaia has in no way an interest in common with that of Ashburton, and therefore ought to be taken out of it. As regards interests, oar

portion of the district has strong claims for demanding further representation* The grain and wool-growing interests of

this district are alone considerable, and, to make our claim still stronger, the populate n basis is one that cannot fail to make

the claim which we are endeavoring to establish still stronger. And whether we look for population or interests, we are

clearly entitled to three members. I consider that the question is a general one, and not only Coleridge but other districts have equal cause for complaint, on the same grounds. As a matter of fact, the present representation of Hew Zealand \ has not been adjusted for eleven years. Taking into consideration the strides the colony has been making since, I consider that the re-adjustment of electorates should be done every five years. The Government of the day have always had a difficulty in dealing with the question of increased representation. It is not that it requires a very great deal of trouble to bring a Bill down for the purpose, nor is it a very complicated question at aIL There is always a fear on the part of the Government that if a Bill is passed bearing on this question some few of their supporters would, in all probability, lose their seats. In some parts of the colony many of their supporters would of necessity lose their seats, and on this ground re-distribution of representation is always found a difficult matter for any Government to meet. Mr Bowen brought down a measure of this sort, but on being pressed, towards the close of the session, he said that it would be no use to tackle the subject until they had passed the Counties Bill, which would be found to form the boundaries of electoral districts! That Bill was never passed. Since then the several Governments have promised to bring in a Bill on the subject, and the consequence is that up till now we have had no Bill passed to regulate it when required. Evidently the present Government are intending to go out before any measure is passed affecting the representation of this district, and if so the consequences of insufficient representation will place us at a great disadvantage. Under any circumstances I think we should be prepared during the coming election to elect a representative whose views on this matter are perfectly distinct. The local government question is a matter which will have to be fought out at the forthcoming elections. lam one of those who opposed the sweeping away of provincial institutions at the time they were abolished, and I for one would like to see men returned pledged to restore those institutions, or something of a similar kind. The English Government is at the present time of a purely local nature. The geographical , position of the colonyjis one that demands local government in every way, and on another occasion I will prove, if necessary, that this is the only system that will suit the colony as a whole. At the present moment there are several Counties which have now brought the Act into force—the Ashley County is one of them. In some parts, particularly the Ashburton County, the system had worked very well; but this was mainly due to the Road Boards and the Council having plenty of money at their disposal for the formation of public works. The subsidies, however, have been taken away, and whatever the views of the electors may be, those views , should be determined at the next elections, and local government made the chief £of questions. I will now refer to a matter of great importance, and one which has created a strong feeling—viz., the education question. It is found that | the whole system must be remodelled. Such a large and important question as i education should receive the earnest attention of the electors, and should be made a ’ special point for the consideration of s Parliamentary candidates for all districts. ! I have been asked what good we could possibly do by discussing these questions at the present moment. In reply, I would like to point out that if reform is required, we must do the same as a great and eminent politician had recommended, which was to agitate, to agitate, and agitate. It will be found that any quesi tion affecting the district must be brought persistently before the notice of the Government, and unanimously backed by i the public expression of the electors. I should like to see public meetings held throughout the district, and resolutions i assed bearing upon the question of local , goverment, education, and increased re- | presentation, in order that we may fully impress upon the present Government the necessity for carrying these measures before the dissolution takes place. (Applause.) The speaker concluded by moving the resolution which he had read. , Mr James Bradley seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously. Mr Rudolph Friedlander said—l have great pleasure in proposing a resolution which has been placed in my hands, and which it will be necessary to carry in order that effect may be given to Mr Purnell’s resolution, namely—“ That a copy of the foregoing resolution bo sent to Mr Wright, M.H.R., and that he be requested in the event of the Government neglecting to bring down a Bill for re-adjusting the representation of the colony, to introduce himself a Bill into the General Assembly for increasing the representation of the Coleridge ■ district. ” Mr J. R. Steel seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously.

Mr Joseph Ivess said —I was not aware until a few minutes ago that I should have been asked to propose any resolution or to speak on the subject now under consideration, so have not come prepared with data. For my own part I consider that it will be useless to discuss the question now at great length, because the previous speakers have almost exhausted the subject of increased representation. You, gentlemen, have been told of the next general election, and no doubt it is apparent to you all that another Richmond is in the field, and will seek your suffrages. (Applause.) We shall soon be in the throes of a new election, and then will be the time for you to look out which candidate deserves your support. There can be no question as to the necessity of increased representation for the Coleridge district, and it is fairly entitled to three members, instead of one as at present. There are several questions which require the earnest consideration of those who represent us, and one is the extension of the Ashburton and Mount Somers line of railway. (Applause.) I agree with the previous speakers that the position of the Ministry would be precarious if the Bill for increased representation was brought forward at once, but still the electors have a right to stir themselves in the matter so that their claims in this direction shall be forcibly represented at the present time in order that justice may be done to this district before the House is dissolved. I believe the Coleridge district has increased about 3,700 since the last census, and that alone entitles it to another representative.

I feel, gentlemen, that you know fully as much about the questions of the day as I can tell you, because they have been so fully reported in the newspapers. I think that there are different interests in the Methven part of this district, and unless something fis done we shall iind that our northern neighbors will get the line of railway extended to Mount Somers instead. If wo are properly represented I think there will be no difficulty in getting a fair division of thg public funds for the Mount .Somers line exten-

sion. Most likely the Government will look upon the Redistribution of Seats-Bill as a rock which they are likely to split upon, and consequently nothing will be heard of it until the end of the session,

and if it is not passed this session its provisions cannot take effect at the next election. I would impress upon all

electors here to secure the registration of

' -gbeir votes in time as there will soon he ft contest; and I would not like to see so many persona unable to vote, and thus 7 present such a humiliating spectacle as not to be able to vote for their particular member as they had done on . a previous occasion. The system of registration is now so simple that any working man can secure a vote by signing a form which can bo had at several offices in this town, provided he has resided in the colony six months. Now is the time to secure this grand privilege, and I want you not to lose the opportunity through apathy. T think that we could have no better representative than our present ope, yet I feel that he is unable to do Justice to such a large constituency as the interests between the northern and southern portion of the Coleridge district which are so different. I think that the Ashburton County should have two members, and Malvern one for itself. (Applause.) The resolution I have to move is—- “ That, in the opinion of this meeting, the County of Ashburton should be created a separate electorate, returning two members ; and that special provision should bo made for the representation of that portion of the Coleridge electorate which u north of the Rakaia, either by constituting it a separate district, or attaching It to some other electorate than the Coleridge.” Mr B. Hughes seconded the resolution, and in doing so said—l would like to point out one 'circumstance omitted by the previous speaker. The North Island is a “ beggarly ” one as far as their ..products are concerned, and the South Island is rich, and the former look upon it as a cow to be milked in respect to the division of funds out of the public purse. There are lots of little paltry constituencies in the North Island, and they have no wealth like the Ashburton County. The former has only a little timber, but the real 1 wealth is in this island, and they in the North can see that money is made in Ashburton, and they want to get some - of it. (Laughter.) We produce fully one-fourth of the whole grain in the colony in Ashburton, yet we have only the same representation as one of these ( ' petty districts—that is to say that one of these “ fellows ” had an equal voice in ] the House as the member for Ashburton, t (Laughter.) If there had not been so many small constituencies, the public money would not have been frittered away on political railways, whilst £ our line to Mount Somers, Which ~ • would open up timber, coal, and stone is almost neglected: The Ashburton „ people ate so intelligent—in fact there is no place equal in point of energy and intelligence (laughter)— that I am sure they will watch the political situation, and en* t deavor to get their just rights and in- g creased representation, and so prevent c their being swamped. The Bishop of Meath fence entered into a political convernation with a countryman by the road I side, and at its conclusion, the Bishop -r was astonished to find that the man knew ae much about politics through reading the.penny paper, as he did himself. I y will say the same of the people of Ashbur- u ton. (Applause). p The resolution was put and carried unanimously. . Mr G. Cates stepped on the platform, tl and in a somewhat cloudy way, alluded A to the similitude between a diamond and 5 Sir Julius Vogel, comparing the latter with the brilliancy of the former, and - winding up amid much laugher and cheers, with expressing a hope that Sir Julius would never come back to New Zealand. The Chairman thanked the audience for their attendance, and said he would at once -i forward the resolution to their member, J Mr Wright, who would lose no time in seeing that they reached the proper place. After a vote of thanks to the Chairman, p the meeting adjourned. w

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Bibliographic details

PUBLIC MEETING., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 407, 28 July 1881

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PUBLIC MEETING. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 407, 28 July 1881

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