THE VILLAGE SETTLEMENT SCHEME.
At the time of the last general election candidates and newspapers In opposition, to the then Government were never weary of denouncing Mr Balance's Village Settlement Scheme, and so persistent were they m their denunciations that a great proportion of the general public were persuaded that it was a failure, at anyrate m so far as the settle ments located m the North Island were concerned. It was constantly asserted and came at last to be generally believed that although m the South the system had been fairly successful, the result was just the opposite m the North, and the reasons given for the alleged failure were glibly descanted upon, and as generally accepted, being the supposed unsuitability of the land, on the one hand, and, on the other, the unsuitability of the class of persons placed upon it. But time works strange revenges, and less than a couple of years has sufficed to utterly confound Mr Ballance's critics, and to justify his scheme and its administration out of the mouths of his strongest political opponents. About three weeks ago the present Minister for Lands, Mr G. F. Richardson, who was himself strongly prejudiced against the Northern settlements, went up to see them for himself, and came back entirely convinced that . instead of proving, as had been believed, a failure, they had proved and are proving a wonderful success, his testimony being a thorough justification of the policy of his predecessor. This is very clearly brought out by the " New Zealand Herald," which m the course of an able and exhaustive • article on the subject, says : — " Ab to the quality of the land chosen for the settlements, the Minister gives an important testimony. He says, ' There is very little bad land m any of the settlements, most of it ranging from fair to good, with a percentage of rich alluvial flats, admirably suited for fruit and vegetable gardens.' This should set at rest the frequent charges that have been laid by the enemies of the system, that the people were placed on inferior land. As a matter of fact the most scrupulous care was taken, and it was made the central and dominant principle of the system, that nothing should be given to the settlers but fertile land. But the Minister adds, ( Jn some instances there is first-class water access or by roads. In others there appears to have been a want of judgment iv the selection of the sites, some of the settlements being m remote positions, and extremely difficult of access.' This is the kind of statement of which we speak as evincing just a goupqon of unfair cavil. In the cases stated, the Minister is speaking of unfinished work, or rather work abruptly intercepted. Out short m their progress, as they are, some of the districts are isolated and difficult of access, But they would have been neither the one nor the other, had the scheme as originally conceived been carried out. Take Herekino as an illustration. No sane man woqld have put settlers there, to leave them as they were. It was to have been the doorway to a vast area of settlement extending op the magnificent valley and plain of fertile land that stretches away over to the other coast at Mangomri. Approachable thus from ports on either coast, it would, if filled with settlers, as intended, have commanded steamboat service on regular commercial grounds, and would have been one of the most accessible districts •—and perhapß most prosperous m New Zealand. In the meantime, and pending that extension, it was to have been served by a subsidised steamer for a fixed period. But alas I that intention was as an untimely birth that bath not seen the sun. The change of Government abruptly stopped the Government subsidised steamer on which the settlers had been counting for their supplies, and the extension of settlement over the great district behind was suddenly stopped. No wonder the settlement is isolated and "extremely difficult of access ;' but that is not because of ' want of judgment m the selection/ but want of good faith m the fulfilment of promises, and m carrying out the extension of settlement m the district. Thus it is that defects, though not very many— -have been found m the scheme ; »nd not from itself, but from departure from it, have any noticeable faults arisen. Again the Minister pays a pleasant tribute to the character of the village settlers. He says, 'the settlers as a class are a fine lot of men,' and he tells of their ' honestly endeavoring to make homes for themselves and their families,' and, indeed, presents quite an Arcadian picture of rustic happiness. ' But he makes the curious statement, 'with regard to the professional unemployed there are not half-a-dozen on the settlemeat.' But whoever said there were f The professional unemployed are men who m their hearts pray to Heaven that they may never get work. They are the loafers who dislike work for its own sake ; and the fact that these settlers left for the bush and engaged m the heroic work of building up homes for themselves and their families m the wilderness proved that they did not object to work, that they were not loafers, nor of the professional unemployed. . . But we who know the men and families who have nobly gone to the Village Settlements, know of a surety that the great majority of them exchanged the precarious existence of vainly seeking for leave to work for the prospect and the opportunity of heroically grinning independent homes for themselves ; and we know of a surety how the drafting off to the country of these, the worthiest of the classes that were craving for employment, gave an immediate and a sensible relief to those that remained ; and how for a considerable period thereafter, we heard nothing m Auckland of the cry of the unemployed. It may ( suit the book ' of some to have represented that relief was not given to the unemployed classes by the Village Settlements ; but the idea will be laughed at by hundreds of citizens of Auckland who personally know to the contrary." Our contemporary goes on to point out that the granting to the tillage settlers of their holdings m freehold, advocated by some, would end m the little homesteads finding their way into the mortgage melting-pot, and concludes a very able and interesting article by the following jost remarks ; — "Of course the perpetual leasehold with right of purchase, and the various other systems of deterred payment and the like, will suit and settle hundreds of farmers. But the .« ' /cessation, of the Village Settlement syotem wiU be deatf* ft the bones of poor
' men who have no money, but have ai earnest yearnings for a little piece o: God's earth as a home for their childrei as any capitalist m the colony. O: „ course Mr Richardson's sympathies ■ and the sympathies of those who think as he does, are not with such. Thej think that the impecunious should remain hewers of wood and drawers oi water to the end. The Village Settlement system may be doomed ; but it has been the best system yet conceived for removing the artificial barriers which our social system has unfortunately interposed between certain classes of mankind, and the land which the Creator gave for the sustenance of all his creatures ; and whatever may be the success of other land systems that are only opened by the key of wealth, the name of John Ballance should bo long remembered as the author of the only humane and righteous system of land settlement ever offered to the people of New Zealand."
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2057, 7 February 1889
THE VILLAGE SETTLEMENT SCHEME. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2057, 7 February 1889
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