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The other day the WWington " Evening Post " had a leading article animadverting very strongly on the administration of the Lands Department by the Hon G. F. Richardson. Among other things it said " there is great and growing dibsatisfaction, m the country districts of W ellington at least, regarding the administration of the Lands Department by the Hon. G. F. Richardson. Complaints are made on all sides of the manner land sales are conducted, and of the obstacles m the way of bona fide settlement which the Minister of Lands seems to delight m setting up. He is also accused of over-riding and ignoring the Land Board m defiance of law, and it is stated that this accusation will be strongly urged against him at the next meeting of the Board by Mr M'Cardle, who will i probably adduce strong evidence m support of his caee." Our con tern porary then proceeds to quote the I details of an instance of alleged mal administration complained of by the Woodville " Examiner, which, m an article headed " Government Land Jobbing — A Ministerial Scandal " Bets forth that " a large block of land was recently opened for Bale, and two gentlemen named Bailly were desirous of purchasing m it. They consulted Mr Horace Baker, late Chief Surveyor of Hawke's Bay, on the subject, and he went with them to explore the and. Mr Baker then came to Wellington and saw the Commissioner of Crown Lands (Mr Marchant) as to the area which could be taken up under the amended Land Act. Mr Marchant agreed with Mr Baker that the applicants could take up 640 acres 6f first-class and 2000 acres of second class land, and applications were accordingly lodged. There was, however, Another person eager to obtain the land, the Hon. H. J. Miller, of Oamaru, and he protested against Messrs Bailly's application, asserting they could only take up 2000 acres each of second-class land, or 640 acres of first-class land, Mr Marchant referred the question to the Minister for Lands, who decided m favor of the honorable member of the Legislative Council. Mr Baker protested, and, after some difficulty, obtained an interview with the Minister, contending that his and Mr Merchant's interpretation of the law was the correct one, and that the Minister's decision was biassed by political considerations. Mr Baker finally threatened an appeal to the Supreme Court, and then the Minister gave m and reversed his former decision." Since the publication of the foregoing, the correctness of that part of the story which represents the Minister as having given way m deference to the Hon. Mr Miller is absolutely denied, it being asserted that it was not Mr Richardson who yielded at all, but the intending purchaser, Mr Bailly, who is represented as having been convinced that Mr Miller's inter pretation of the law was correct, and as having withdrawn bis application m respect of 640 acres. If the latter version of the case be the correct one, then the Minister for Lands is not open to tbe charge of favoritism, and partial administration — we should have been grievously disappointed m Mr Richardson had it been otherwise — but if he has finally decided that no person can take up 2000 acres of second-class land m addition to an area of first-class land not exceeding 640 acres, then most certainly he stands convicted of ignorance of the provisions of the land law which it is his special duty to administer. Section 11 of the Land Act Amendment Act, 1887 (introduced and carried through the House by Mr Richardson himself) reads as follows : — " No person shall be entitled to purchase for cash within any one land district more than six hundred and forty acres of first-class land and two thousand acres of secondclass land under this Act. And every person applying for land for cash shall . . . . make and lodge a statutory declaration," etc. Now, the wordswhich we have italicised show clearly that tbe limit set by the Legislature as the maximum purchasable by one person is not 2000 acres, but 2640 acres, of which not more than 640 acres may be firstclass land, and not more than 2000 acres may be second-class land, within one and the same land district, the like area being purchasable by the same person m every land district throughout the colony. Had it been intended to prescribe the limitation which the Hon Mr Miller contends for, then instead of and the word or would have been used, and the clause would have read " No person shall be entitled to purchase . . more than six hundred and forty acres of first-class land, or two thousand acres of second-class land." This is so plain that a fourth standard schoolboy could be at no loss to understand what seems to have been incomprehensible to Mr Miller, who, although a first-class classical scholar, appears to be unable to construe a very simple sentence m his own mother tongue. But the inability of a Legislative Councillor to understand the Queen's English is not by any means so serious a matter as the administration of the law by the head of the most important department of Government m a manner contrary to the intentions of Parliament, nay m opposition to the express provisions of the law. The wording of the Act admits of no doubt whatever, nor is there any doubt that Parliament intended exactly what* the Act expresses. There are large numbers of farmers whose agricultural holdings lie on the fringe of areas of pastoral country which could be worked to most advantage m conjunction with the former, and, now that the runs * are falling m, opportunity should be afforded for the taking up of blocks of the latter, m areas up to 2000 acres, by those farmers, who would utilise them as summer country for their sheep. In winter their flocks would be brought down to the low country, or fed upon the produce of the low country, and by 1 working their holdings m this way the number of sheep carried would be immensely increased, and the results would be speedily seen m the large expansion of our frozen meat export. All this would be impossible if the holder* of 640 acres of first class land were exoluded from the right of purchasing any second-class land, as would be the case if Mr Miller's interpretation of the law is to be the guide of the Land Department instead of the terms of the law itself. The matter is one of vital interest, for it has everything to do with the question as to whether when the runs fall m the opportunity of promo ting settlement is to be taken due advantage of, or whether the interests of monopoly gre fo to paramount m the

futnre, as, unfortunately for the colony, they have too often been m the past. If the Minister for Lands has decided, as he is said to have decided, then he has committed himself to a most grievous mistake, and the credit of having proposed liberal land provisions, which has hitherto been accorded him, will be entirely wiped out by an illiberal administration diametrically opposed to the letter and spirit of his own measure.

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Bibliographic details

A SERIOUS MISTAKE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 1885, 1 November 1888

Word Count

A SERIOUS MISTAKE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 1885, 1 November 1888