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[From Odb Parliamentary Reporter.]


From the annual Crown lands report, which was laid on the table this afternoon, 1 make the following extracts: — The Amending Aotof 1887 has daring the past twelve months had time to illustrate its full operation in the settlement of the country. It is unnecessary to do more than call attention to its distinguishing feature, which is that of placing in the hands of the selector the choice of tenure under which he shall hold his land. That this concession is a popular one is proved by the figures to be found in the various tables attached to this report. The returns for the past year bear out the anticipatory figures given in last year’s report relating to the first selections held under the Act viz., that the so-called perpetual-lease system is the most popular of those which are more strictly speaking the settlement clauses of the Act. It will be seen that, by including all the forma of perpetual lease, 828 selectors took up 206,716 acres under this tenure, with an average area of 248 acres each ; and that toe total area selected during the year amounts to not far short of two-thirds of the whole area held under this system within the colony. The increased popularity of the perpetual-lease system is, no doubt, due to two causes—firstly, to the facilities it offers in securing a freehold after the few and easy conditions as to improvements and residence are completed ; and secondly, to the low rental cl 6 per cent, on the capital value of the land, thus setting free the capital of the selector for improving his property. There are two other alterations in the land laws effected by the Act of 1887 to which brief attention should be drawn. The one is that under its provisions considerable areas of land have been thrown open lor selection before survey, thus avoiding some of the delays caused by making the surveys first; but there are certain well-known conditions which must be attended to before any land can be offered in this manner. It is, for instance, essential that a full knowledge of the character and value of land, the future lines of main roads, the location of town or village sites, and reserves for public purposes be acquired before it is safe to throw the lands open to selection before survey. Under the clauses of the Act providing for this system, 948,888 acres have been declared open, and 74,854 acres been selected under various tenures at the option of the selector. Settlement has no doubt been facilitated to a considerable extent by this change in the law. The other alteration Is the substitution of the ballot for the auction or tender system, excepting in cases which come under the heading of " lands of special value,” or town, village, and suburban lands, which are still submitted to auction. The result of the ballot system is no donbt in favor of the selector, who no longer has to compete at anction against the man with the longest purse; but at the same time he is met with another difficulty, which detracts very much from the advantages of the system, and this difficulty is contained in the fact that for choice allotments It is frequently fonnd that large numbers of applications are put in for the same section, some of which, it is often suspected, are not of the bona fide character that they should be. In the case of the Honowhenua block, for instance, where sixty-three sections were declared open for selection, 490 applications were lodged for the different lots. Many applicants were, therefore, disappointed in not obtaining the land they wanted. THE year's OPERATIONS. Commenting on the results of the past year’s transactions Mr Percy Smith, the new Surveyor-General, says: In soma respects these results are noticeable and also encouraging, as showing that the confidence in our resources is taking the direction of one of the most permanent of ail sources of wealth and wellbeing—viz., the settlement of the land; and this demand for land for settlement, far from exhibiting any signs of abatement, is apparently increasing, so much so that the resources of the department are considerably taxed to meet it. It is somewhat important, also, to note the sources from whence this demand for laud arises. The published returns for the past year wonld go to prove that the immigration does not exceed the emigration; on the contrary, there have been more people leaving the colony than have arrived in it. It seems to follow, therefore, that the lands are being settled by the younger generation of the colonists to a large extent, than whom no better class of settlers conld be found. The gradual cessation, also, of the pnblio works expenditure tends, no doubt, to Induce people to take advantage of the liberal tenure now offered for occupying the public lands. If the small grazing runs are included in the lands held under enforced settlement conditions, which they properly should be, 1,779 selectors took up 444,742 acres, a greater number and a larger amount than in any previous period for some years past. ,And if the eighty->one selectors of small grazing runs are excluded there will be fonnd 1,698 selectors, who have taken up 283,090 acres on conditions binding themselves to perform more or less improvements on their lands a result which compares very favorably with that of the previous year. Although not showing so many selectors as tho year 1887, when the village homestead system was In fnll force, the result must be considered a satisfactory outcome of THE TEAR’S TRANSACTIONS. The great increase, as already pointed ont, is in the perpetual • lease selections, though the deferred-payment selections total a number of 793, absorbing 75,306 acres, 209 of these being in special settlements where the holdings are small. The purchasers for cash numbered 756, of whom 244 were purchasers of town, village, and suburban lots; whilst 312 purchasers absorbed 68,498 acres of rural lands. LANS REVENUE. As to the land revenue for the year Mr Smith reports that the total of land and territorial revenue amounted to 1.3.10,06k 16s, whilst that for the previous year amounted to L 274.783 17s 7d, thus showing an increase of L 35,277 19s 3d, which is prin-, cipally dne to the larger of rural land disposed of last year. It is obvious that so long as perpetual leasing remains a distinguishing feature of the laud policy, no very great increase in the land fund caq take place; whilst the territorial revenue, on the other hand, will show o constant, tendency to expansion. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the land fund may so decrease that it will not meet the expenses of administration and survey, that is, so long as the whole cost of both services is charged to the one fund. Properly speaking, a due proportion of the cost of administration and survey of lands, the proceeds of which are credited to territorial revenue, should be a charge on that revenue. Had this coarse been adopted daring the period just passed, a sum of L17.C60 10s 114 would have oeen added to the land revenue, making a total of L 135,460 Is 34, The land is further reduced by the amount, of L 5.393 3a, representing scrip exercised in the purchase of land, ana which appears in the table as cash received. The sum of LI 17,899 10s 6d derived from the firstnamed source would have been materially augmented daring the period just passed but for the increase in the arrears of amounts due to the Crown principally from deferred-payment selectors. There is another cause, also, which is operating at the present time in decreasing the revenue of both funds, whilst it also is putting an efficient stop to settlement over a very large area of the Sooth Island- About 5,913,200 acres are withheld from sale or other dealing excepting lor pastoral and mining purposes in this part of the colony under the provisions of the Midland Railway Act. It is trne that no very large amount of land within this area is suitable for settlement in small holdings, but there is still sufficient, if it were available, to afford homes to a considerable population ; and many of those who are at present living within that area would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity of securing homesteads therein were sot this large holding so tied up that it is impossible for them to do so, RESERVES AND VILLAGE SETTLEMENTS. During the year there were 338 reserves, containing 30,032 acres, nearly one-half being primary education reserves, made in the interests of the public; while eighty-one small grazing runs, containing 161,852 acres, were taken np, thirty-nine of which were in

the South Island. Under the village settlement scheme there were 313 selectors who absorbed 3,029 acres, 143 of them being cash purchasers of village or suburban lota, and who are not bound by law to improve their holdings, whilst the remaining 170 settlers selected their lands under settlement conditions. In Canterbury the twenty-two settlements there established have,, from the presence of the necessary conditions—good lands, feasibility of obtaining employment in the near vicinity, and good access—been almost self-supporting from the beginning; whilst in other parts, notably in the North, assistance in the shape of road works has been a necessity from, the first, and will continue to be so for some time longer, THE RUNS. During the year 137 runs, of a total area of 1,767.787 acres, have been relet. Ninetyseven of these are in Otago, and moat of them are runs relet at reduced rentals. The opportunity haa been taken, wherever practicable, of adjusting the boundaries to a more workable form, in accordance with the features of the country. It is recommended that an attempt be made as soon as possible to lease some of the commonages in the South Island, in order to secure a more effectual prerogative of the rabbit peat, which is daily increasing in magnitude, and is difficult and expensive to deal with under the present arrangements. ARREARS. The total amount of arrears due to the Crown for rents and instalments on the 31st March last was L 44,553 —on increase of LIO.BBB over that of the previous year; whilst the number of selectors with liabilities to the Grown had increased from 2,306 to 3,862. This increase, we are told, is in great measure due to the expectation on the part of the selectors of some relief being afforded them by Parliamentary action, for which indeed they had some warrant in the introduction of the Fair Rent Bill of last session, and is not due entiiely to their inability to pay up; a fact which has lately been proved as the result of measures threatened to be taken in the law courts to compel payment, when some who had been in arrear for a long time edme

forward and paid np all that was due. Whilst there are many cases of undoubted hardship where selectors have, through comiietition during more favorable times, been ndnced to take up land at prices which are far above those at present ruling, there are also a large number who, but for the depression which has so lately prevailed in all agricultural matters, would have been quite equal to meeting their engagements. Under the more prosperous state of affairs which seem now to have set in, a large number of the arrears should be recovered without inflicting hardship on the selectors; whilst at the same time relief can be afforded in many cases by taking advantage of capitalisation or the extension of the licenses in the case of deferred payments for a further term of four years. By this latter means the deferred-payment settler spreads > his payments over fourteen instead of ten years. The Government have ordered a re-

valuation of most of the cases where payments were greatly in arrears, and this has proved that a certain measure of relief is demanded, but probably not to so great an extent as is generally supposed. The Commissioner of Grown Lands for Otago has furnished for his district a somewhat instructive return, which is briefly summarised thus Under all systems of deferred payment and capitalisation there were in arrear 163 selectors owing halfyearly instalments ; 75, two do ; CO, three do; 53, four do ; 37, five do ; 22, six do; 8, seven do. Under all systems of perpetual lease, 307 selectors owing one half-yearly instalment; 161, t.vo do; 106, three do; 74, four do; 40, five do; 29, six do; 10, seven do. STATE FORESTS. We are told that the efforts of the State Forests Department during the last year have been directed more to the preservation of what had already been done than to incurring farther responsibility in the matter. Concerning the great fire at the Puhipuhi forest in 18S7, Mr Smith says this fire

destroyed over 73,000,000 ft of fine kauri, all of which is yet available for profitable working if taken in hand soon. Setting on one side the actual monetary loss which may arise herefrom, the sight of this noble forest burnt, charred, and blackened, and utterly deprived of any green leaf, is one of the most melancholy sights possible to the lover of sylvan scenes. The ground is strewn thickly with a mass of fallen branches, with here and there a prostrate stem, over which the eye wanders through vistas of magnificent columns in countless numbers, whose beautiful symmetry cannot but strike the unobservant. It is in these fallen branches, saturated as they are with kanri resin, that the danger lies of future fires. Should the forest ignite again the result will be that the trees themselves will burn, the denseners ef the forest is something remarkable. It is not an nnoommon thing to find from thirty to forty-five trees to the acre, though •f course such a number cannot be taken as an average. The speedy utilization of the Fuhipuhi forest seems to be desirable on all accounts, for notwithstanding the constant watchfulness of the ranger, it is ever open to danger from fire, whilst at the same time the burnt portion is rapidly deteriorating in value through the action of the worm, Its sale would also enable the Government to redeem the LB,OOO worth of debentures Issued under the State Forests Act. The licenses to dig kauri gam within the State forests realised a sum of L 234 10s.

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THE CROWN LANDS REPORT., Issue 7954, 9 July 1889

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THE CROWN LANDS REPORT. Issue 7954, 9 July 1889

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