THE LAND ACT.
There are some curious and unsatisfactory features < in' connection with the disposal of Cr6wn Lands of which we should be glad to have an intelligible explanation,, in order that, their raison d'ttre being understood, it might be possible to devise means which should prevent their recurrence. To begin with, it has been remarked that the" system of ballot which is now in force works out with a singular i persistency in favor of large holders. > What,we mean is this. - A number of J sections are advertised as open for J application on and after a given date; j by the date named a number of applications is received in excess of : the number of allotments, or at anyrate for each of certain particular allot•ments there are several, it may be numerous, applications; some of the are landless persons, others [holders of only-^mall areas, and yet others holders of large areas. The ballot i takes place as between all the applicants and almost invariably—certainly in the large majority of instances— '.■the result is that neither the landless \ applicants nor,the small holders draw rthe lucky numbers, the sections falling !to the third class, viz., those applicants ; who are already holders of large areas. It would indeed seem that the principle of "to him that hath shall be given" .in.some mysterious Avay controlled the wheel of fortune or the marbles; of, the ballot-box. This.has been noticed in Otago as-well as Canterbury.^ and .our public-spirited contemporary, - the Oamaru " Mail," boldly declared, its belief that there was a screw* loose, and that somehow the balloting must be manipulated. It was at once—and very properly—challenged 'by the authorities to put the matter to; "the test, and promptly accepted, the , challenge, its editor proceeding to Duhedin and inspecting the apparatus used and the mode of using it, with the result that , r the •' Mail" at once ' freely and handsomely acknowledged that it could detect no unfairness or manoeuvring. Yet the fact which it, had noticed' has been noticed^ in Canterbury also,- and it is an exceedingly odd one, and, given that it .comes about by some-mysterious operation of chance, the result "which it brings out needs nevertheless to be guarded against. If it be a fact, as would seem to be the case—odd as it is—that ipso facto of his being a large owner, the man of many acres has a better chance of success in the ballot than the man of few or none, then the Act must be amended so as to ensure the exact reverse of this. We would suggest that this might be done by irequiring every applicant for land "to state on his application the acreagehe already holds. Then leb the applicants be classified into .four • divisions' as follows, viz., (I)'those who have no land, (2) those holding less than 100 acres, (3) those holding less than 200 acres, (4) those holding more than 200 acres. This done, if there be only one i'applicant in class 1 let him be entitled to succeed, if more than one applicant I in that class let. the ballot be restricted I to those applicants, but if there be no applicant at all in class 1 then proceed similarly with class 2, and so on up to class 3 or 4 as the case may be.
JSTexj),, it has been asserted to us that there are instances in which the law is evaded or broken by applications beingput in in the names of children or person's below the age of seventeen, manifestly for the purpose of extending the area of the holdings, beyond'the limit' allowed by -law, of adult persons who use these young people as dummies. If this.be really the case, then we invite any of our readers who know'of any such instance to make it known to us, giving the names of the parties, and we will not hesitate to expose the matter, feeling sure, as we do, that the Government will at once do their duty by cancelling any sale or lease made or given under such circumstances. But we decline to take any steps whatever upon mere unsupported assertions, or hints not backed up by provable facts. "J f^gain^-and here we write ftlfe'facts 4-upon which, we base our remarks being patent—it is beyond all doubt, that of the" land which has recently been gazetted as open for application in Canterbury on-certain fixed dates, block after block has been bought up before the date fixed for application. Not, of at the reduced prices—which range' variously from 10s to 30s per acre, but at the price at which the land has always been open to: be.purchased j viz., £2 per acre. These blocks have, without exception (Aye believe), been purchased by large- landowners, and the. sale of the land" 'to them is in defeat of the policy of settlement, and ■is unfair to the bona fide applicant for settlement purposes, while the enhanced price does not in the long run pay the State, Avhich would -reap more, in. revenue by the extension of settlement, .thereby ,-prevented,",than is [represented by the annual interest upon the additional few shillings per acre raked: into the Colonial-coffers ; by selling the land at the full fiprjii'p of ,C 2 per acre. The moiivejof ilie pui-oiia-iTs at^that price is easily understood, this being either to push back settlement as far as' possible from their borders, to square their properties, or it may be to sell again at the enhanced value which surrounding settlement may confer on a particular block, that particular block being often the very pick of the area which has been, with a flourish of trumpets, declared open to the intending settler. Now this sort of thing also should be put a stop to—and it might very easily be done—by enacting that ' when, a block "has been declared open for application on a fixed date it should be ipso fa cto withdrawn from salewn^Y, and -should not be purchasable before, the date so fixed. Lastly, we have reason to- think ■ that the purpose of Parliament in liberalising vthe land laws with a view to the encouraging and extension of bona fide settlement is being defeated by the acquisition of the land.by person'^ and companies who are adding acre to acre, or rather thousands of acres to thousands of acres,; an.cl -thus intensifying, the bigblock evil, by means of a-system of dummying, and -in" order :to prevent this it is necessary that we should take a leaf out of the Victorian book, and require actual settlement upon and improvement of the land before the issue of a Crown grant to the purchaser. AH liicse mutters require immediate! ;ukl ciu-eful attention, and we hope th;it before the close of tlio approaching session of Parliament an Amending
Bill will be passed which will cure these and other obvious defects of the present Land Act. / ;
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THE LAND ACT., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2424, 8 May 1890
THE LAND ACT. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2424, 8 May 1890
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