The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 1890. THE RICHARDSON LAND POLICY.
The Fergus Ministerial manifesto having proved a complete fiasco, the Minister of Lands has stepped into the breach to stem the current of popular disfavor. On Tuesday evening, in the course of his address to his constituents at Wyndham, the Hon. Mr Richardson made a final desperate effort to show that the administration of the public estate had never been placed in more competent hands than his own. He, of all Ministers who have ever had charge of Crown lands is the greatest friend of the small settler and the small farmer; the greatest friend. 0$ the squatter, the land monopolists, and loan and mortgage interests,. being Sir Robert Stout. If this is correct, we can only say the Minister of Lands is the victim of a set of most unfortunate circumstances, and these circumstances have been the means of misrepresenting him in the eyes of the public. Some settlers in the Oamaru district peti-' tioned and agitated • tbat a certain large run, known as No, 222; should, when the lease fell in, be sub-divided into small areas, and each of the petitioners stated his ; willingness to compete. The Ministerial friend of small settlers and small farmers " bluffed " these would-be applicants until the last moment, endeavoring to persuade them that the land was not suita-ble for " cutting-up." Being sorely pressed, he at last seemingly consented,. and a few minutes before the sale telegraphed to the Land Board to have the run withdrawn. It will be remembered, however, that this-.good intention frustrated by an admittedly stupid blunder of his own. He. telegraphed to have the zorong run reserved, and Run 222 was slaughtered in one" lot, and 222 a withheld." This was a serious mistake to make, and what made it look ugly was the fact that the blunderer had previously endeavored to persuade the intending settlers Against the cutting-up of the land. Another unfortunate circumstance is" that quite recently some small settlers in the vicinity of Waihemo petitioned the Minister of Lands to cut up a large run into several small grazing runs, but the "friend of small settlement" refused to do so, telling the petitioners
—although they were on the spot to see for themselves—that the land would not pay if worked in a smaller area. Some time since an artisan's co-operative land company, having in view the drafting of surplus and suitable labor from the over-crowded towns to the sparsely settled country, was inaugurated, but on application to the Minister of Lands, for land, the promoters were informed that it could not be granted, Then we have the Minister's constant sneers at village settle^ ments, and his effort to promote this class of settlement is confined to seeking out the most barren land in the coiony, .ar.d offering it to poor pei'sons, as at Upper Pareora, whprgon to make a living. These are some awkward circumstances which mace the H(» Mr Richardson's professions, as the the friend of land settlement look, to say the least of it, suspicious ; and will c xuse colonists to take the Ministerial boast of " settlement of the lands" with a large amount of reservation. Another peculiarity, it may be observed, is that the Minister is his own trumpeter, and not the colony, That the Atkinson Government has disposed of a large quantity of land, 4,448,000 acres in all, there is not the least doubt; but it i.s altogether another thing as to who are the purchasers. From no part of the colony do we hear of the breaking up of new land, the fencing in of small holdings, or the settlement of that industrious husbandry which the Minister would have the country believe is taking place. The land has been disposed of, but where are the settlers, and who are they? The general impression in regard to Mr Richardson's land disposal is that it has been portioned out on the principle, < To him that hath shall be given." The Minister of Lands has been educated in a school, being himself a large holder, wherein it is a cardinal doctrine that land, to pay, must be farmed in large blocks—and the larger the blocks the better. Coming from a class such as this, by whom the " cockatoo" or small settler is despised, it would indeed be strange to find the presant Minister of Lands a true friend of settlement; and, whatever his professions in the latter direction may be, there is the awkward fact that on every occasion, where possible, he lias blocked small settlement, and seems to take a special pride in sneering at the few failures that have occured in the village settlements, and the isolated cases where small holders have been unable to make headway.