The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, JULY 22, 1890. SETTLEMENT OF THE LAND.
Land for settlement is being eagerly taken up in all parts of the colony. Competition for small grazing runs and small agricultural holdings is keen ; and the majority of those who compete are a most desirable class of settler. Unfortunately there is grave room to fear that the competitors do not meet upon an equal footing, and that the hoim fide applicant has his chances of securing a slice of the public estate greatly reduced by the process of " dummying" applications. Several applications, in the name of different individuals, are put in for one or more allotments, and all these are on behalf of one individual. The individual himself is debarred from applying, owing to the land regulations, but he sends his creatures forward, and is, we fear, too often successful in thus driving a coach-and-four through the land laws. The small pastoralist or agriculturist is thus kept off the land, and while the name of the purchaser or lessee appears as John Brown, a shepherd, the real holder is a neighbouring squatter, a Banking institution, a Land and Mortgage Association, or similar institution. The names and occupations of those who are now taking up land is no guide to the class of persons who are availing themselves to the fullest extent of the manner in which the public estate is being slaughtered. The Government, however, point with pride to the fact that the land is being disposed of in small areas and to small holders, totally ignoring the fact that the reputed buyers, in too many cases, are but the creatures of their employers or friends. The large land-holders, financial institutions, land and mortgage companies, are, it would seem, determined to filch the public estate at any cost, and grooms, shepherds, servants, sisters, cousins, and aunts are put forward to do the work the principals dare not undertake themselves. At the sale of small holdings at Timaru on Friday last competition was so keen that the auctioneer, so says a contemporary, was compelled to pause, and ask those present not to become excited or offer more than the actual, value of the land submitted. At that sale 3764 acres were disposed of in eleven lots, and the New Zealand and Australian Land Company acquired 1074 acres (two allotments) while a gentleman named A. Hayes secured four allotments totalling 1539 acres. Of the 3764 acres offered, therefore, two purchasers secured 2613 acres, leaving only 1151 acres to be divided among five other buyers, one of whom alone secured an allotment of 520 acres. The foregoing land, being an Education Reserve, was offered in the open market, and buyers were not hampered by stringent settlement conditions. After the sale above referred to of the Education Reserve at Hakatercmea, 20,600 acres situated in the same locality were submitted, being divided into eight small grazing runs. Tiie runs were from 1005 acres up to 3862 acres, and were disposed of at, iv almost every case, double the upset price. The purchasers are variously described as shepherds, farmers, graziers, contractors, etc., and each purchaser only secured one allotment. If the purchasers in the latter case are buyers on their own account, we have here a direct evidence of the popularity of the small-grazing run system, a system which the present Minister of Lands freely condemn?. Only ojie . purchaser secured his allotment at the upset price, a fact which is significant of the keen competition at the sale, and the consequent disappointment of many unsuccessful applicants. The latter fact is also a clear indication of the value put upon the public estate by practical pastoralists and agriculturists, and is a clear refutation of the Ministerial statement that only second and third-rate land is now in the hands of the Government for disposal. What object the Government and ■Government supporters can have in depreciating the value of the public estate we are at a loss to understand. If the depreciatory statements are made with the intention of keeping the people off the land, the procedure is not a success, as the numerous applications prove ; if, on the other hand, ridiculously low values are placed upon the land with the object of allowing it to fall into the hands of large holders, we are pleased to see that competition in the open market is compelling land buyers and speculators to pay a good figure for the monopoly which they seek to hold.