The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1881. The Otago Runs.
TOWN EDITION. [.lssued at 4.30 p.m. j maaESMEgai ■ iwfu
The question of re-leasing the Otago runs, as may be supposed, is creating : no little interest in our neighboring provincial district, and as the time draws nearer for dealing with its five million acres of land and the three million acres in Canterbury, public interest in both places will no doubt centre on the mode proposed by the Government, which affects the expiration of the present runholders leases of Crown lands. Mr VincentjPyke, the member for Dunstan, convened a meeting of the Otago M.H.R.’s last week for the purpose of considering the question, as it appeared to have been the impression of the Otago members that the leases of the runs were not to be sold until after the matter _ had been again under the consideration of the new Parliament. Apparently a hardship is expressed, as the runholders will not have had their “ notice to quit,” and that to give up their runs immediately would be strictly antagonistic to the recommendations of the Committee appointed by the House. The Committee had to report upon certain omissions which had been made by the framers of the Land Act, and which were said to be of so serious a character that an Act should be framed for their provision during the recess. The Committee say that those runholders whose leases expire in December, 1882, or in March, 1883, should have notice at the present time. The Minister of Lands says it is not necessary, and according to a reply given by him it was clearly understood that the matter was to be left over for consideration by the new Parliament. But the Otago members do not care about giving the notice to the runholders so much as not giving them the opportunity to get their runs back again very much more advantageously than the general public. It was pointed out that the Parliament was prorogued to the 14th of. February, and yet the leases were advertised to be sold at once. Now, as eighteen months will elapse before the leases expire, we think the whole question should be submitted to the new Parliament, as there seems a possibility of the Act allowing one man to secure a number of the sub-divided runs as well as a pre-emptive right over 320 acres of every such run. It certainly is a fact that there is no limitation as to area, but a difference of opinion exists as to whether the owners of sub-divided puns can take 320 acres of pre-emptive right for every run. We think the matter rests entirely with the Lands Board, and for this reason, if there was no other—The Government should be asked to refer the matter to the new Parliament in order to deprive the Board of this privilege before the leases are submitted to public competition. That such a power should be given to an irresponsible body like a Waste Lands Board, is absolutely injurious to the right conservation of the public estate. The Act, then,, is badly framed, and will never he found to work satisfactorily until it provides for the leasing of Crown lands with certainty of tenure, for pastoral blocks only, and that suitable for agricultural purposes to be withdrawn from lease altogether, and sold for what it will fetch. None of our Acts are perfect, add the land act is certainly no exception to the rule. Taking everything into consideration we think that no ■ harm can be done, and that no great amount of “ law ” will be broken if the Government will suspend operations in dealing with the lands in Otago and Canterbury until the new Parliament has fully considered the propositions made by the Otago members at the meeting last week.