THE PROPOSED LEASING CONDEMNED. Fully 200 persons attended the public meeting of ratepayers held in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Rattray street, last evening to consider the proposal to lease the Triangle, Mr H. Gourley (Mayor) presided, and explained that he had received an apology from Mr Hallenstein, who entirely objected to the alienation of the Triangle for anything hut the purpose for which it was originally intended. Cr Leo Smith had written that a prior engagement in the country prevented his attending, and added that he should adhere to the course he had pursued in the City Council, Dr Fitchett had also apologised for his inability to attend, and intimated that he would oppose the alienation of the Triangle both in and out of the House,
Sir R. Stout, as the first signatory to the requisition asking the mayor to convene a public meeting of the citizens in connection with this question, briefly explained the history of the Triangle. The land was originally vested in the Superintendent for harbor improvement purposes, and on the constitution of the Harbor Board went to that body, but when the Dunedin railway station site was moved harborwarda an open space (now the Triangle) was left near the site of the old railway station, and under a clause inserted in the Special Powers aud Contracts Act, 1885, it was declared that this Triangle should be a reserve for ths recreation of the inhabitants of Dunedin. The land was vested as a recreation reserve, and nothing could alter that except an Act of Parliament. It was peculiar that an unknown syndicate should look with such jealous eyes on this bit of land and wish to gobble it up from the citizens for LSOO a year, on condition that they put certain buildings on it. Before dealing with the question as to whether the reserve should cease to bo a recreation reserve or not, he wished to say a word or two upon the peculiar method adopted of getting the opinion of the citizens about this matter. He had always believed in what was called manhood suffrage, and had always believed that in a Democracy the people who wore interested in a question were the people who should be asked to give their voice upon it. He denied altogether that the ratepayers of Dunedin alone were interested in this matter. Every man and every woman in the City had as much interest in tho Triangle as any ratepayer, and it was a monstrous thing that rateI payers only should he asked to vote. In I ordertotestthefeelingof the meeting, heproposed—“ That this meeting protests against the recreation reserve known as the Triangle being built upon.” In the first place, he would tell them frankly that if they declared the land was not needed for a recreation reserve, then in all honesty and fairness it ought to go back to the body to which it had belonged for that body to use for revenue purposes.—(Mr Fish: “They were paid for it,”) The Harbor Board were not paid for it, and the statement that they had been paid was absolutely incorrect. The only payment tho Board had ever got was payment for the filling in of the land. In all fairness this land should go back to the Board, and the citizens need not imagine that the reserve could be kept and applied for revenue purposes. The need of open spaces in cities was now generally recognised, aud such spaces were being made in large cities at Home at enormous cost. They must look forward to the time when the City of Dunedin might have 100,000 inhabitants, and say whether they could do without open span a in the City. If this reserve was once used for revenue purposes good excuses would always be found to keep it for the same purposes. Many of them might say that we needed a market. The fact was that the City Council had had a good many market places. The proposal to utilise this land as a market site he considered objectionable on the ground that a market there would not improve the appearance of the City, hut quite the reverse. It was necessary that we should do all we could to make our City both healthy and attractive. We possessed great advantages —a bracing climate, educational institutions equal to those of any city in the Australasian colonics ; and if our City was made first healthy and then beautiful the advantages would he enormous, for people of means would be attracted to make their home here, and their expenditure alone would ho considerable, and would greatly increase the wealth and the prosperity of the place. He would ask the citizens to remember that Dunedin was now in its infancy ; to remember those who were to come after us ; to look to the future; and, remembering that it was their duty to do what they could to make the Cicy healthy, beautiful, and attractive, to vote against the proposal to use this recreation reserve for revenue purposes. Mr A. Bathgate, in seconding the mo ; o i, mentioned that recently, through the efforts partly of Mr Lee Smith and partly of the Amenities Society, a sum of about L 220 had been subscribed for the improvement of the Triangle, and it had been arranged that the City Council should carry out the improvements at a cost, according to the estimate, of about LSOO. The reserve was to he fenced, ami tenders were invited by the City Council. On the very night on which the letter from Messrs Stanford and Milne came before the Council the tenders were received, and they would have been opened ; hut because of this bombshell iu the camp they were unopened, and nothing was done. He denied that there was an urgent necessity for a public market, and said be was confident that if the City bad a market to morrow it would not be a success, or, if it were a success, it would be the ruin of many small shopkeepers. Mr A. G. Kimbell said they had heard a great deal about sentiment; he desired ta appeal to them on the score of sense. SG Robert Stout was solicitous concerning their “ lungs” ; the speaker desired recreation for their brains. The question was whether they would have an open space for the 3 -- lungs or a partly covered space for their brains. —(Laughter.) The amendment be ■would propose did not seek to alienate the reserve from its object of recreation, but to provide them with recreation in the highest sense. The amendment was—“ That in the opinion of this meeting the Triangle is best suited for the purposes of mental recreation and exercise—(laughter)—and should be utilised as the site and endowment of a public library and art gallery; also that, with this object, the reserve should be vested in trustees, of whom His Worship The Mayor of Dunedin ond the Chancel’or of the University shall be two.” If they waited for tho Corporation of Dunedin or any other public body to provide a public library, he was afraid they would wait till they were greyheaded—(laughter) —and for that reason he urged the acceptance of the amendment. It had been said that they should make of this small piece of ground a garden, a park, “ a thing of beauty and a joy for ever,”—(Laughter.) If they were to have a park he supposed it would require paths, which would leave about an acre of ground. Good gracious ! the people must have liliputian ideas of parks if they would make one of an acre of ground.—(Laughter.) In the city to which he had had the honor to belong—(laughter) —they had parks of 450 acres, and not one but many of them, but when ho came here he heard them talk about making a park of an acre of ground. He was d d if he ever before heard anything of the like.— (Roars of laughter.) The amendment was not seconded, and consequently lapsed. Mr Fish, M.H.R., said that the reason why he did not second the amendment was not became he did not think it had considerable sense in it, but because he thought a straight and direct issue should be put to the meeting. No person was more willing than he was to acknowledge that in anything that concerned the people as a whole the ought to be consulted. Sir Robert Stout, among many other platitudes that he had uttered, had told them that tho Democracy ought to bo appealed to. He was not quite sure whether his friend knew the meaning of the word—(laughter)—or if ho did he had on one occasion sadly forgotten it. He (Mr Fish) need not remind them of what occasion that was. Sir R. Stout: What was it? Tell me the occasion ? Mr Fish; When he accepted a title as the representative of Democracy.—(Groans, and cries of “Shame !” “ Mean !” “ Low !” “ Dirty !”) Sir Robert Stout said that on the present question they ought to consult every person—presumably meaning those on
the electoral roll. It was only those whose names appeared on the ratepayers’ roll whom the City Council could allow to express an opinion on the subject, and he took leave to say that the opinion expressed by them would be a fair reflex of the opinion of those who were not ratepayers. The question for the ratepayers to decide was not whether they would hand over the reserve to a syndicate or t > private people for building purposes, but whether the City Council should seek to obtain from Parliament power to utilise the reserve for public or revenue purposes. Sir Robert Stout had glibly to’d them that the people did not want a market, but if that was so the speaker misunderstood the people of Dunedin, for their cry for years had been for a market. If they agreed with him that a public library, saltwater baths, and a market were necessary, to his mind there was no place so suitable for them as that piece of ground which Sir Robert Stout desired to magnify into a park, but which contained only an acre and three-quarters of arid ground.— (Laughter.) Was it better to put up these three desirable objects on ground that was now useless, and that this should be done by private enterprise, or should they do without them ? He contended that to decline the offer would be a dogin-a-manger policy, and not a policy that would meet with the approval of sensible men. And again, Sir Robert Stout asked them in pathetic tones—and here they had the anxious parent with trembling accents on his lips—what were their children going to do?—(Hisses.) There were geese in every community, and so their hisses did not disconcert him.—(A Voice: “You’re too personal.”) Did they mean to tell him that any careful mother would allow her child to cross three broad thoroughfares to recreate himself on a small piece of ground known as the Triangle when they had the Belt on three sides of the town, the Oval at the southern end, and the Botanical Gardens at the northern end ? The bogey set up that the Harbor Board would get the reserve, if they attempted to legislate concerning it, was all moonshine. That the Parliament would not agree to the proposal to use the reserve for revenue purposes might happen, but to say that they would take it away and give it to the Harbor Board was pure bathos. Sir Robert Stout had stated that Parliament would be guilty of a gross piece of dishonesty if it handed over to the City Council any revenues arising from the Triangle, but he would tell Sir Robert to his face that never had a greater wrong been done to any corporate body than when his Governmentlfilchedthewharvcsand quays reserve from the Corporation and gave it to the Harbor Board. In conclusion, he (the speaker) expressed the opinion that a public meeting afforded no fair test of real public opinion, and he advised those present to refrain from voting upon the motion, so that they might not by a hasty vote prejudice the result of the plebiscite. Mr W. D. Stewart, M.H.R., thought the question was one eminently suited for public discussion. His opinion, however, was that this reserve should never be placed under the control of a syndicate. The proposal that had been made at first appeared to him to be a hoax, and he was surprised the Council had considered it seriously. In his opinion the Council had erred grievously in entertaining for a moment any application from a syndicate; and he thought that if the Triangle were utilised for other purposes than a public reserve, it should be done by the Council itself. They all knew what the Council had bad to pay to get the gasworks and waterworks into its own hands, and also for the Princes street widening. Mr Kimbell wished to have a pubb'c library and art gallery on the reserve ; but the place seemed to him (Mr Stewart) wholly unfit for those purposes. He hoped the citizens would declare absolutely against the present movement. Mr J. Allen, M.H.R., might say at once that, as a New Zealander, and one who expected his children’s children to be inhabitants of this City, he was entirely opposed to the amendment and strongly in favor of the motion. Mr Fish had said that Sir R. Stout had appealed to sentiment, but he (Mr Allen) would say that sentiment had much to do with our lives, and had so much effect on the formation of a national character that, unless we appealed to sentiment occasionally, we might as well bury ourselves.—(Applause.) But apart from that, the appeal had been made to people’s common sense. Anyone who had had experience of la’ge towns must know that open spaces were necessary to health, and health was more than a matter of sentiment, One gentleman had urged that they should devote the Triangle to the improvement of their brains; but there was an old proverb, Mens sana in corpore saiio—to have a healthy brain they must have a healthy body, and they must provide for sound bodily health before producing mental vigor. It was all very well to say that at the present moment the Triangle was not needed, but if they looked at the plan of reclamation they would see that when it was carried out, and when the land was perhaps covered with smoking chimneys, the Triangle wouUl be practically in the cent'c of the town, so far as the number of buildings was concerned, and then it certainly would be needed as an open space. It did not follow that they were not going to get a market if they did not give up this reserve. The question of a market was one that wou’d not be affected one way or tho other by their dea’ing with this reserve. Was it for the sake of the ratepayers or for the s„ke of the Council that they were asked to vote in favor of the proposal ? No ; it was for the sake of the syndicate.—(Mr Fish : “I beg your pardon.”) Mr Fish said he begged pardon ; but, so far as he gathered, according to Mr Fish the Council would make an entire mess of it if they attempted to put up a market, and the impression left upon his (Mr A'len’s) mind was that outsider' - , would have to undertake the work, and that meant the syndicat 3. He earnestly hoped that the ratepayers would decide against the proposal to use the reserve for building purposes. In any case the matter would have to go before the Legislature, and he might say that he knew of a similar instance where there were nothing like such strong arguments against the proposal. In that case the Bill passed in the House of Representatives on the casting vote of the Speaker, but it did not receive one moment’s consideration In the Legislative Council, the whole thing being thrown out. He would tel! them candidly that, in his opinion, if the matter were not thrown out from the Lower House it would in the Upper Chamber not have a ghost of a chance of passing. Cr Cohen would not have spoken but for tho purpose of emphasising the contention that a public meeting was the proper place in which to ventilate this question. He considered that the question had not been put «n a proper form to the ratepayers, and that had it been known it would have been put in this form the majority against Cr Fish’s motion would have been as great as the majority against the proposal to hand the reserve over to a syndicate. That was his opinion, and it was also the opinion of some of his brother councillors. When the matter was under the consideration of the Council they thought they had killed the syndicate, so to speak ; but the fact was they had only “ scotched ” it, because, however innocently the matter had been put befsro the ratepayers, there was reason to believe that there lurked behind it the probability that the syndicate would come in again. Unless there was a substantial majority of the ratepayers in favor of the diversion of the reserve they might depend on it that the Council would not proceed any further. Cr. Fish had referred to the dog-in-the-manger spirit displayed by some of the councillors, and he (the speaker) had been represented as a fox-terrier just outside the manger.— (Laughter.) Well, he felt rather proud of the post, and as long as he occupied a public position he would not only bark but bite at syndicates and all their surroundings. Cr Solomon said that, as the object of the meeting was to influence the voting, he would draw attention to what Cr Fish had said: that, if the Council were not in a position to erect the build ings proposed on this reserve, they should be erected by private enterprise. He was not reflecting on Cr Fish, but would assert that this proposal to gee Parliamentary sanction to buildings being put on the Triangle reserve was simply the thin end of the syndicate wedge again. He was of opinion that it did not really matter much what the voting was, as he did not believe it would ever pass the Council. Unless it
was clearly and distinctly shown that the majority of the ratepayers were of opinion that Parliamentary permission should be granted to use this reserve he did not imagine the Council would apply for it; and by a majority of the ratepayers he meant an absolute majority of those on the roll, not merely a majority of those who voted. Sir R. Stout, as the mover of the motion, having replied, The Mayor explained that he had given all the publicity he could to the meeting, and that the largest building available had been secured. Referring tr the remark made by Cr Cohen, that he was surprised at the way in which the question had been submitted to the ratepayers, His Worship said that the question had been put in the words of the resolution that had been adopted. On Sir R. Stout’s motion being put it was carried by a very large majority ; only four hands being held up against it. The usual compliment to the chairman concluded the meeting.
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THE TRIANGLE., Evening Star, Issue 7930, 11 June 1889
THE TRIANGLE. Evening Star, Issue 7930, 11 June 1889
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