The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 1889. LAND ADMINISTRATION
If there was one member of the new team selected by Sir Harry Atkinson when the task of forming the present Government was entrusted to him with regard to whom great anticipations were formed by members of the Honse and by the general public, it was the Minister for Lands, Mr G. F. Bichardson. We ourselves shared in these anticipa tions, and for some time were content to believe that they were well founded ; in deed, the introduction of the amending Land Act which bears his name, and which contained the excellent features of option to the Bettler of choice of tenure, and of power to the Government to olasuify the lands and reduce the price of those of second-class quality, confirmed us in the belief that the new Minister was the right man in the right place. It is, therefore, with sincere disappointment and great regret that we find that we have been all along mistaken, and that Mr Kichardson, however good a law-maker, is an exceedingly bad administrator. We do not quarrel with him for holding that the pastoral interest deserves every just consideration — may we concur with him in that view — and we concede that it is better for the interests of all parties to grant the runholders security of tenure, but we are satisfied that when Parliament agreed to the proposal that leases for the runs proper should be indefeasible for the long term of 21 years, it did so on the as- ' sumption that under the classification provisions of the Act all land such as was suitable for small holdings or which could possibly be required for settlement would be withdrawn from the operation of that provision. Further, the Act of last year clearly intended that before any fresh run leases were granted the classification of the land should be carefully carried out, in order to make sure that lands required for settlement should not be locked up against it. So particular was the House, or at least a large majority of members, in seeking to secure this that at the instance of Major Steward a provision was added in the House of Representatives requiring the Government on the I completion of the classification to issue maps (copies of which were to be sent to •11 the County Coanoile, Koad Boards, post offices and railway stations throughout the colony) showing in distinct colors the lands included in each class. That provision was struck out in the Council, but the Minister prevailed on the member for Waimate and those who supported him to waive dissent to the Council's amendments (so as to secure the passing of the Bill) by giving a distinct pledge from his place on the Ministerial benoheß that the Government would, as a matter of administration/ take care to give effect to the wishes of the House as expressed in the exoised paragraph. There can be no question whatever about this for Mr Richardson'B exact words were (" Hansard," vol. 63, p. 24) : " 7 assure the House that the intention of this portion of the clause struck out will be given effect to." Now we say distinctly that if the Minister desired loyally to carry out the provieiono--of-Bccfcions •» *n<riO~of hits owa Bill (the Land Acts Amendment Act of last session) and meant to fulfil the spirit and letter of the promise we have quoted he would have taken care that not only should all the lands comprised in the runs let a few days ago at Dunedin have been first properly classified by Commissioners appointed for the purpose, but also that colored maps of the country showing the classification distinctly were sent to every County Council and Road Board office in Otago at anyrate, together with notice of the date of the intended sale, particulars of upset prices, etc. That was the leaßt he could do, but in addition to this the sale ought to have been freely advertised throughout the colony, in particular in the districts immediately interested, and more than that, in Australia also. But was this done ? Not a bit of it. So far as we know there was no classification made, Certainly there were no planß issued such ay jyp have described, and the advertising was confined to the Government " Gazette " and one or two metropolitan papers. Still worse even, the' tardy withdrawal of one particular property which it had been asked should be subdivided, was blundered, so that the lease was sold for 2X years and the land locked up. All this is surely bad enough ; but what about the vast area comprised in the Canterbury runs ? All we have seen yet has been a paragraph in the " Press " of Saturday, which we here reprint. It runs as follows " The Buns Classification Commissioners, Messrs J. H. Baker, D. McMillan, and B. Foster submitted their report to the Canterbury Land Board on Thursday on the land south of the Bangitata river. The Board fixed the upset amount of rent the Government should be recommended to offer them at, and it ; was proposed to hold the auction sale of these runs in Timaru early in April. Plans showing the new subdivisions of the rnns, with particulars as to area, upset price, etc,, have been sent to Wellington to be lithographed, and copies will be available as parly as possible." If the sale is to be held early in April will these lithographed plan*: and particulars be furnished to the County Councils and Boad Boards (in accordance with Mr Bichardson's promise to the House above referred to) in time for the public to bcceme aware of , the matter? We fear not, and if not then the Minister will have broken a clear and distinct engagement. Most certainly ho is expected to fulfil his promise in this matter, and in order to this the sale ought not to be unduly hurried on, as one of the objects of having the classification thus submitted was to allow of errors being pointed out and the classification altered where desirable before the sales took place. Again, what about the runß 12 North Canterbury f Did not the Commißb. : ?B er & visit these or some of these before they T.kHed Southern Canterbury ? We feel sure they did, and if so what about the classification in that case? Altogether we are exceedingly dissatisfied with Mr Bichardson and ex ceedingly uncomfortable about the whole business, and greatly fear that he will do more mischief to the cause of settlement before Parliament meets than can be retrieved for a generation.