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The Land Commission.


At the sitting of the Land Commission in Christohurch yesterday, Wilfrid Hall, farmer at Glenroy, Rakaia Gorge, owning 1073 acres of freehold, said he had prepared a statement in answer to the enquiries of the Trades and Labour Council. He had been appointed by the Executive of the North Canterbury branch. of the Farmers' Union to give evidence, but no formal dis* cussion had taken place a3 to the nature of the evidence to be given. -He urged that the State would lose nothing by celling the land at a fair price, as the unearned increment was so small as to be little more than a negative quantity and hardly worth taking into account. The increase in land values, owing to increase of population, amounted to only a farthing per annum per head, and even that would decrease as time went ou. The recent rise in land values, was not due to increase of population, was not likely to continue, and would probably be followed by a decline which would operate for a considerable time. Land in England was not increasing in value for agricultural purposes; during the past forty or fifty years it had been quite the reverse, Did not that mean that the unearned increment was at present inoperative ? During the past fifty years the " margin of cultivation " had increased, owing to developments of steam power, and especially the process of freezing, and consequently the "economic rent" had fallen. JThat process, he thoughts might be described as a reversal of the process which created the unearned increment. Briefly, the increase in land value was not due to any increase of population, but to industrial inventions. It did not seem at all likely that any invention in the near future would place the colonies in a still more advantageous position, as compared with agriculturists In England, but it did not seem extremely likely that the same impetus which had benefited the colony would before very long operate in the aame way with regard to other lands which were more favourobly situated geographically. There were immense areas of land in many other parts of the world which only required a better form of Government and an energetic population to place them in ft position to compete successfully with this colony, to bring down the price of products, and so reduce the value of land here. Then they would be in the same position as the British farmer now found himself. He therefore thought it would be an exceedingly wise policy for the State to sell as much of its land as possible, at present prices, since everything seemed to point to the probability that present prices would not be maintained much longer. As to money made out of the land, he urgad that when a man took risks he earned any profit he made, even if it were as much as Major Bulkeloy was said to have obtained. The risk Major Bulkeley ran was very great indeed ; ha came very near to loßing his investment, for the Canterbury Association was, witness believed, atjone time on the verge of bankruptcy. When a man took long odds like that he deserved to win a big prize. There was not and could not be any real security for a State tenant. A long lease from a private owner was almost as good aa the freehold, because the law would compel the landlord to observe the terms of the lease. But whan the State was the landlord, it couldlalter the law as it pleased, and there was no power which could compel it to stick: to its bargain. He went on to combat the assumption of the land nationalises, that the State would always be a just and considerate landlord, and quoted the experience of India, Egypt, Rome, and Turkey, in support of his own contention. The State in New Zealand had acted unjustly in many instances in the past; and there was no ground for thinking that it would always treat its tenants [fairly. It seemed likely that under a system of universal] State tenant it would squeeze the utmost possible amount out of itsits tenants, especially those who wer& so foolish as to be opposed to the party in power. The greatest drawback, however, to the universal State tenancy was the immense opportunity it would offer for political corruption. Also the independence and self-reliance of the freeholder would be lost, and national character would deteriorate greatly. Mr McCullough said he did not see how the aggregation of large estates could be prevented under freehold; witness thought that oouldbe done with the utmost ease. As soon as a large estate was formed, the Lands for Settlement Act could be brought to bear, and the estate reacquired and redivided. If there were not enough, a clause might be inserted in the title deeds of lands disposed of under the Aot, prohibiting the holding, by their owner, of more than a specified area of land or the Act might be extended so as to provide that if more than one holding created under the Aot should come into the possession of any one person, the Crown might give notice that it would acquire, under the conditions laid down is the Act, all sections in excess, if not disposed of within a given time.

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Bibliographic details

The Land Commission., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXII, Issue 6554, 26 April 1905

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The Land Commission. Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXII, Issue 6554, 26 April 1905

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