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THE SALE OF-BUSHY PARK.

THE ASSETS, BOARD’S DEFENCE,

AIR FRASER UNBURDENS HI3 MIND THEREON.

[From Our Pabliamentaby Reporter.)

WELLINGTON, October 2. ait portion of last, night’s debate on the Address-m-Reply was devoted to Bushy Park, 000 ot the contributions to the discussion being a defence of the action of the Realisation Board by

Mr Fraser, who said he proposed to set beforo the House-the real facta connected with the sale of the estate to the Minister of Land’s sons, and’to Jet the public fudge whether the criticisms Which had appeared in the Press were warranted. The reason he had so long kept silent . was that ,be did not think that the public prints ought to be availed of by himself;, as. a member of the Realisation Board, but that Parliament was the proper place for an explanation. Hebad intended making ibis explanation in the short April session, but no opportunity was afforded him then, and for any irritation the Minister of Lands had suffered the Premier was to blame in denying - him this opportunity. He now intended reviewing the sale of Bushy Park, of which a great deal had been heard during, the recess. He would deal the matter from the three standpoints on which it had been criticised. First, the question of price and the charge that the propertv had been sold belowuta value; second, that facilities had been offered to the sons of a Minister of the Crown to acquire the property that had not been generally given ; and- third, that it ought not to have been; sold in one block, but should have been purchased by the Government and cut up. As a test of the value of the property he would quote from the profit and loss account for five yeara previously, as shown in the books ° E ‘if In 1892 there was a profit 0t£1,749, m 1893 a loss of £1,660, in !894 a profit of 8!, 059 , j n 1895 a loss of £4O, and m'lß9y (the first year the Realisation Board had anything to do with it) a profit of £Bl7. ■This showed a balance of profit for the five years of £2,025, or an average profit of £405 per y ear. The average, on this at 5 per cent, would not give £8 per acre, nor even £4, and yet the price the Board' Had got from Messrs M‘Kenzie was £B., Taking this test, the price was.certainly not too low. In 1832 the profit from grain-growing was £1,525. in 1893 there was a loss of £1,763 (the reason being that they had over-estimated the yield and the price), in 1894 there was a loss of £229. and in 1895 a Joss of £556, owing to a flood coming down and sweeping nearly the whole of the crop away. Thus in five years there had been a loss on the grain crop of £1,023, or an average loss of £204 a year. These fi-mres were not such as would warrant one in putting a high price 'on the property. The test he had though a good one, was not infallible, but the figures were useful for another purpose. In March or Aptil, 1896 together with Mr Todd (the chairman of the Board), he visited the property. He had known the block for years, when it was in excellent heart and a wry fine grazing property. On visiting it in 1896 he was horrified to see the condition of the property. In most of the paddocES the grass had run out. Before it would keep 6,C00 sheep properly, a good deal of money would have to be spent in renewing the grass. Both of them put a value on_ the estate, and the estimate F « ser ) on it was from *“■ x a , P er aorei Prediction as to what effect the state of the gras? would have on the stock was subsequently verified. The profit for 1896-97 was under £IOO, . as the Board’s balance sheet (shortly to be presented to Parliament) would show. What did all these figures go to prove but that tho property was one to get rid of, and that to put it up to.auotion it was very doubtful if £8 per acre could he got for it. °

Mr Rolleston : What is tho acreage ? Mr Fraser : 2.200 acres. He now came to the allegation that opportunities were afforded to the purchasers which the general public did not get. What did that amount to but a thinlyveiled charge that members of the Board had conspired to give to a Minister’s sons something which they were not entitled to? What were facts? Although appointed in January, 1896, the Realisation Board did not take control °I, estates till March, and one of the first things they did was to insert in tho newspapers an advertisement that they were prepared to receive offers for the sale or lease ef their properties. This advertisement appeared in the newspapers in all the large towns and in the wellies from April 2to April 25. On January 18, 1897, a letter was received from Messrs Skerretfc and NVyHie, solicitors, offering £7 10s for the property, and this was the first and only offer made, to the Board for Bushy Park. Several persons wrote asking what was wanted for the property, but the Board absolutely refused to show, their hand, and required the applicants to state an offer. They absolutely declined to make publio their reserve. Mr Crowther: They hod another card to iplay.

Mr PHASER; Yes ; to got the best price they ooald for the property.’ That was the only card. u hen, the letter came on January 18 he advised a meeting of the Board to be convened. It was his own opinion that the sons of the Minister of Lands would have beat consulted their father's feenngs. had they apt made the offer. Howwas not liis duty to consult Mr MKenz.es feelings, but to consider how to obtain the host price for this estate. He deemed it his;. diitj to consult those who had appointed him , to -the Board. Who were they? Not the Government, but the directors of the ; Bank of New Zealand. He saw Mr Booth, and the Hon. Walter Johnston, both of whom had visited-the property the year before. He told them of the offer that had been made, and gave it as his opinion that it would be a mistake to refuse it. They confirmed his opinion that it would be to the interest of the Bank to sell at the . price named. He was not endeavoring to defend himself, nor to get himself-whitewashed at the expense of his colleagues. ■ Hepcceptedfull responsibility for his share in this, transaction. He had nothing to thapk the Government for.. He had always opposed-their administration, and a few weeks bofore this sale to M'Kenzfts took place they had tried’ to ; keep him out of Parliament, Ministers, had given him a great deal of trouble and had cost him a lot of money - of. course within the prescribed amount stated , in th» Act.—(Laughter.) He merely mentioned thess facta to show how idle it was to say that he had conspired to benefit Ministers sons—charges that were made on the irresponsible chatter of the man in the street. At the next meeting of the Board the general manager reported: advising that the estate should be sold at £8 per acre, and he (Mr Fraser) expressed the opinion that the best thing they could do was to conclude the sale at that price. All the part the Premier took at the meeting was to say that,, as a general rule, it was advisable to act on the report ot their general manager. The sale was completed, the conditions of lease being 4£ per cent, per annum, payable halt-yearly, the purchase money to be paid at the end of three years, but if the tenants then pay £I,OOO cash the balance of the,purchase money may be left over for two years more. The premier was not present when these conditions were drawn up, Mr Todd and himself being solely responsible therefor. He had not the lease with him, but it could be arranged for any member of the House to see it. The last thing he desired was that there should beany concealment in regard to the matter.— (Cheers.) It had been said that the terms were too easy, but, under the circumstances he had detailed, he wasdeairous of selling the property even on exceptionally easy terms so as to get rid of the responsibility of working it, A good deal kai be§n said about a telegram sent to Mr Todd at Auckland in 1895 as a fishing inquiry as to what price was wanted for the sale or lease of Bushy Park, Mr Todd had replied that the property was to be sold,about March, and that the Board would not leaks it. , Mr Todd had since admitted to him that he had made a mistake in sending that telegram. . .It had been said that it had been sept by Mr Todd for the deliberate and set purpose of bluffing off any other would-be purchaser, but- he had Mr Todd's word that until Messrs Skerrett and Wyllie, on Jannkry 18 last, sent in their offer he had ho idea that the MEenziea were intending‘purchasers of the estate. He (Mr Fraser) believed the word of Mr Todd, who was a man of undoubted probity and honor. He had now detailed what; took place with regard to Bushy Park, and he had only to add that the allegation that there , had been jobbery in connection with its sale, was the grossest slander ever uttered against any public body. The Board’s general manager had recently repotted that the estate was. being well managed by the present tenants, and such land as was under cultivation was being thoroughly worked and .cleared, and that the rent had been paid up to date.—(Cheers.) So long as he (Mr Fraser) .remained a. member of the Board he would see that the conditions of.this lease, were enforced.It was absolutely; untfue that the property was sold to the.McKenzie brothers because they were the sons of the Minister' of Lands. On the contrary, it a legitimate transaction legitimately carried out,. V„V. Mr G. Hdtchison, who followed, proceeded to criticise the member for Wakatipu’s position m, respect to;-the Bushy Park transaction, going hack.to 1891, when the estate was in the hands of the; Estates Company in connection with the Bank of New Zealand, and leased at 14s an acre.." A .neighbor of the Minister of Lands wrote offering; 13s an acre rent, but his offer - was refused. Then an offer

i? 3 ’ ® dame binding. to purchase at the_end. .of fire .years- at £lO an acre,and also, another offer of £lO were received, the latter from a man prepared to eo £ls in auction. In 1891 a petition from eightynine persona was sent in to have this estate out up, and the Minister of Lands had a map or plan ot it drawn up, and gained much credit for his proposal to carry out the wishes of the petiturners. Tho Blue Book value of the estate assessed m the last session of the last Parlia™en.*j £23,969, The advertisement of April, 1896, was vague, as it pointed to no particular case, Tho Farmers’ Association at Dunedin telegraphed to know if Bushy Park was for sale or to be leased, and tho reply from the chairman of the Board was that it was to be auctioned in March, but not to be leased. But two months before the expiration of the time stated the estate was sold to the sons of the Minister of Lands at £8 per acre, and the money was left on as mortgage at per cent., although the Advances to Settlers Act charged ° cent. This preference was willingly or S' veQ by the Board to the sons of a Minister of the Crown, and the price obtained was probably less -than might have been expected.

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Bibliographic details

THE SALE OF-BUSHY PARK., Issue 10435, 2 October 1897

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THE SALE OF-BUSHY PARK. Issue 10435, 2 October 1897

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