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"NOT WANTED." THE WELLINGTON FIRE BOARD.

STATUTORY OPTION. EXERCISED BY THE 'CITY COUNCIL. A short report which evokpd a long discussion ua&, submitted to the City Council last night, regarding tbo Wellington Fire Board, by tho council's committee which has tho initial oversight of such matters for the city of Wellington. The report stated -. "That tho committee have given cnroful consideration to tho Firo Board Act, l£o7, and have to recoauneud the council to sanction the contiuuanco -oi tho Firo Board." \ ADVANTAGES AND. DISADVANTAGES. Councillor Crodber remarked* in moving: the adoption of tho report, that there wpre advantages and disadvantages in the matter, for decision, but the committee had ronis to the decision that tho great monetary saving of the City 'C-ounci' that would be effected by continuing the Fire Board's oxir-tence wab a Dufiicieiit justification for tho recommendation . made by^ lha committee. Taking as an illustration the present cost of working the brigade at £7000 per annum, in twenty-six years it would be £182,000. Under the old system this would have to be paid by the City Corporation alone, but if the Fire Brigade was under the contiol of a firo board the cost* \rould be distributed in a manner that would reduce the City Council's expenditure per annum to £59,000 under this head, and there would thus be a. caving to tho city of £122,000 m the twerity-six years specified in the Act. Vhere was tho further point that if branch firo brigades werp established the insurance companies would have to t ay half of the total cost of establishintr such branches, instead of the council naving to bear the whole cost, and in Wellington there was at present urgent need for the establishment of at least ono branch. Councillor Godber went fully into the question oi allocations of financial liabilities amongst the insurance companies and the City Council, with addition of Government subsidy in Wellington, nis figures being on lines of those set out in the special articles published in the Evening 1 Post, during December last, on this point. It might, ho said, bo held that the public would have to pay in any case, and to some extent this might be true, but there were many respects vn which the extra expense could "not be. passed on. Ho looked with disfavour on any attempt by any Government to usurp fho functions of a corporation, (hear, hear) but ho felt that in this instance this objection did not lie ; and in any case, if the City Council did not find tro experiment acting well after the rity had given it a fair trial it could apply for an Order-in-Council to ary the system, and no doubt a reversion to the old system could bo obtained' in that manner. It was the opinion of a majority of the committee that tho File Board should be continued, and he had pleasure in moving to that effect. , Councillor Cohen seconded the motion. Practically every other corporation entitled to' do so had, he said, adopted the Fire Board system. THE MAYOR'S VIEWS. The Mayor said he thought tho importance of the Bill might be taken 'as sii excuse for his speaking so early in the evenin". He only did so because of tho responsibility thdt he felt vested upon er6ry one of us in regard to a measure ' of e'i> gioat- importance as this. There were two ' matters' introduced mainly by this , measure. First, there "was the question of local mafiagenwnt; and! secondly, the question of ex pensa and taxation. There weie U'o things prominently placed br-forc the I council. First, that tbo insurance com- j ti.inies shall be contributor's to fire bri- | gades in an 'exceptional ilegies The other question was -who wa*. to manage our local affairs. He had always found during a pretty lengthy experience that_ here persons "were desirous of making" changes, and were not. too sure of the principles underlying those changes, they always tempted one paity or another to agree to the change by the wretched consideration of the saving of taxation or the saving of cost. That had been done unfortunately very often in this, country. Governments, for instance, had introduced the- monetary consideration, when tho only on© that should be introduced should have been tho question of the system of government. Ihey had nevtii got over doing that since the , Provincial Councils were abolished, when a piominent feature brought forward in favour of the change was the- question of tho monetaiy consideration arising out of taxation. * It was only an ondeavour in the present case" by certain parties to interfere with local management that had caused tho introduction of this'brirm —because it was nothing else — with tho View of shifting responsibility fioui tho weal body to other people. Was tho council ok a local ■ body goinc to ratify the introduction" of "The- Mir.iHri"' uito overy matter of "which tho council had now the management? If this was going to be dono in the case of fire brigactch tlm yoat-, it -would be tramway.** nest year, and electric light* and wattr • f.nother v y^ar. In "time, louVi bodies would bp reduced to cwntqmytibh* creatures — e waved by the centrAl authorities;.'. In considering this qucttion rhpy should not do' so from the. pctlv point of view that they were going- to have n, reduction in taxation during the next 26 years. He thought Councillor Oodbcr was wrong in his figures. Tho broad shoulders of Hie people generally had to be<iv tho taxation, and they had to do so whether it was put on the insurance companies or upon any one olfc — it cama luck upon the public generally. If they wcrcj putting on a local income-tax — which probably would come some, day fi.r local authorities — and if they were taxing thcs<; bodies upon theSr income — and a good deal could be Fnid in favour of that — ho submitted that nothing coulo ho said in favour of imposing special taxation on the insurance companies. Tim .adoption of tbo proposal was put to the council in Buh a way that the manhood of-mem-bers of the -council should causo them to resist it. To say to the council that tbey had only the power to tax the insurance companies upon condition that they surrendered their powei of local government, to the extent proposed — that wns utterly wrong, and ought not to be accepted for a moment Even if they \vere alone in refusing to ncrec; to this proposal, let Wellington City be the one soot in regard to which it could be said that the peop'.o preferred a proper system of locnl government, aid would not, accept a bilbo to allow the taking away of any of their powors. If councillors looked at the Bill, they would see that th<» estimatca under claus* 20 had to be submitted tt> "Tlii; Mii>i.«tei. v Tho Government possessed other extraordinary powera. For instance, after a fire it was thp fire boaid inspector who had the power to s,iy whether a building or portion oi a building should be pulled down. Where did the City Engineer come in '! Iho Fire Board had the power of regulating the storage of powder and other wnimianccs. Had~th« City Council no fctfierest in tlie?c matter 7 'Hie city oucht ttai to surrender these duties to anjbod}.

Member^ of th» council would Dot b* worthy of their position if they agreed to give away thoir powers as they were now asked to do. A few ycais ago it was considered the proper policy to reduce tho number of locxil bodies. It was now proposej. to. increase thorn. It I wouk 1 be ar exceedingly foolish thing if the council encouraged the idea that thpro should be any taking away of tho powers of local bodies in regaid to local administration. It was far more hnpoitant that they should preservo ' their powrrp, rather than have them taken away ns proposed, even if <*n the latlo<* cn.se it m,ea«t — which he denied— tjif .«-avmg of a littlo money in twenty-sis years, NEGATION AND COMPROMISE. Councillor Lnko supporfcsd the Mayor in his rontrntioiißj and. expressed hlmstlf that if tho Bill was ■ offect, to i 1 would result in Wellington's firn control becoming a system oi negation and compromise. He would always cast his voto against any proposal to any. thing in th<> nature of ' handing over tl^ municipal control of tho city to the Government. To talk about handing over the fire affairs of the city to a nominated body wns most undemocratic. 'He believed the citizens ox Wellington wero quite prepared to pay for wha,t they got, and that they did* not require any sop such as that whirh the Bill offered in return for the city parting with its rights. * Councillor M'Laren said he was very pleased thai the Mayor had given the council a lead on this important matter. Councillor M'Laicn agreed with the suggestion that any reform should Like ths shape of legislative sanction to the levying by the municipality extra taxes to allow of more effective fire services. it seemed to him that there was a call for Wellington to stand alone in this matter if needs were; it was, in fart, fitting that so important a city as Wellington should make a firm stand for principle, and for municipal rights. It ha*d been a mistake till along in New Zealand to have a multiplicity of- local bodies, and of bodies exercising delegated powers. The trouble, too, obtained in Australia, and steps were being taken there to remedy the trouble. The City Council, in regard to the question to bs decided that night, had a duty to consider to those people who were neither big ratepayers nor big insurers— to tho great mass of the people whose lives were to be protected as far as possible, and he believed that that could be best assured by tho council retaining tho direct control it had exercised in tho past. The gain offered was really imaginary, he thought ; tho insurance companies would pass on the extra cost to the in surers. He could not see his way to suppott the committee's recommendation s WHO WOULD PAY? Councillor Biss alro supported tho Mayor in his stand against the proposal. It was, he said, a foci that tho insurance companies fixed their premiums low for cities, where there were efficient fire brigades, and high for thoso places where rffoithe services did not exist. n j ia d been estimated that the cost to the insurance companies operating in New Zealand would be from £33,(300 to £35,000 per annum. That worked out at about £1000 per company, and it did seem foolish ,to him to suppose that this would not bo passed on to the insurers.. And that would be the" chief bad feature of it; the man »vho insured would bo paying • extratax for benefit of the man who did not insure. Doubtless, too, the increaso would be heavier than the actual cost When r a halfpenny extra cost was put on an article of commerce the merchants usually v rais6d the price three-farth-ings, and it might bo found that if the increased cost to the insurance companies was § per cent, the insurers would have 7i per cent, put upon them. OPPOSITION ON DEMOCRATIC GROUNDS. ' ■ ■ Councillor Hindmarsh opposed the committee's recommendation. He did so on demoeiatic grounds, holding as he did that the taxation for fire purposes j should be cast upon the land. It wq's | the only tax that ' did not tax | the producer, and it was an economically sound way of levying ;t. He was persuaded, too, that' tho insurance companies would pass on to the policy-holders any extra expense ■ levied upon the company. Councillor Shirtcliilo said he was always opposed to the Fire Brigades Act and the Fire Boards. He believed that nre control could bo best administered by the municipal bodies. It would bo vcuy dangerous for the,, city if the control of the fire brigade were delegated to representatives who would be, in part representative of the insurance companies, whose policy would be to cut down expenses as much as possible. Besides, lire protection was for the benefit, of the whole community, and it was unfair to cast special expense upon a portion only. "A BUGBEAR." Councillor Uailinger said he had no doubt, the local Urc board was going to be killed ; but if that was so he thought it a pity tho killing had uot been dono earlier. It aeemed to him that tho new Bill was much better for tho city than the old one was, and he was going 1o vote for the boaid, on the ground that at least £122,000 could bo saved to thn I city in 26 year?, as t-hown' in the special article printed in The Evening Post during December last. was all a bugbear to say th.tt the city was losing the property it was to be paid for; the j property would be retained solely for iire prevention purposos, and that wan all tnat the council could do with them, j , He was Mire that the board's control was likely t^ bo better than the city council's, for mjuler the council's regime they had been unob'e, despite years <jf striving, to obtain sanction for tho rieiting up of a branch brigade at Thorn- | don, where one was an urgent necessity. Councillor Smith supported Councillor Balljngei's remarks m regaid to Thorndon branch station. It as as a fact that if men were nearer to their work they would elect it more expcditiously. All the larger bbionghs had accepted the fire boards and wore working under them. (A voice: "Wo'U be the exception.') A great deal bad been UfiU?^ of tho fact that insurance companies' 'and iiifureiß would be specially taxrd, but that seemed to him commendable. If there wtio #100,000 in goods under one roof, qs whs sometimes the ca.»e, it was right that something extia'&hould bo paid by the owners and .those otherwise interested for piotcction. Ho was ({into iis&urcd that a poll of th«j citizens of Wellington would be given strongly in favour of the maintenance of the' luu board. Councillor Hales opposed the mairv^n. ance of the fire board, on the ground that it was taking out of tho hands of the municipality one of its most import/im functions. The city council '.ml inn the show" all right and al.vays h.id done, and yet thero was now a nominee '. boaid set up to run this most ;/npoitant , bianch of the civic administration. This [ board could rip up the city's ~water \ mains and practically do whatever it chose. [ Councillor Godber having replied to the arguments advanced, concluded by [ saying he was prepared, if tho city ' council decided to administer the iire brigade affairs of the city for itself to , do his be=t to work for the city's best interests in regard to fire prevention \ just as ho had done under the board's bhoit ipgiine. thj; voting. Ihe diw&ion war then tak;a those

who voted far tho retention in -'fiicc of the firo board were Councillor;; liaUinjjer, Cohen, Godber, and Smith. Those who voted (in effect) lor resumption ot' contyo 1 by the City Council were tne M&jor and Councillors Bi.-s, Fletcher, Vales, Hindmarsh, Lukc.M'Laren.-Morrah, and Shirtclifie. Tho absent councillors wore Councillors Carmicharl, Fisher, and Murdoch. Ayes wero thus four and noes nine. On tlie motion of tho Mayor, was agrrod that application be- made to ihe (iovcrnor-in-Counril for an order declaring that tho city of Wellington had ceased to be a fire district.

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"NOT WANTED." THE WELLINGTON FIRE BOARD. Evening Post, Volume LXXV, Issue 38, 14 February 1908

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