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We have long; ago given up being surprised, at anything the. present Government may do or attempt, but astonishment must needs be felt at the Cabinet backing up the action .of Mr John M'Kenzie in the matter of the Horowhenua Block,. which. is •so manifestly dictated by implacable hostility towards Sir Walter Buller.- The Prime Minister must be : . very confident of his influence over the Legislature if, he'-brings in the repudiation Bill indicated "by his colleague and expects to place it on the Statute Book. The circumstances which have led up to the present situation,'so.far -as, they are vital to the ; main issue, may be briefly explained. In 1895 a_-R6yal Commission was appointed: to inquire into,the sale or disposition by jibe Natives of any or the whole of the L blocks contained in the Horowhenua. Block, and as to the purchase money paid for the same, and as to what ■- trusts, if any, the same respectively were subject to. The-Commissioners, who were all de facto officers of the Government, stated in their report' in regard to block 14 that the only conclusion- they could come to was that Sir Walter Buller knew, prior to his leaving in 1886 for i England, that the whole block was held by Kemp (the Native chief) under one title in trust for the tribe, and on ,his ; return ;to\New Zealand he, without making inquiry to ; ascertain that the trust was .extinguished, -purchased part_and leased other parts of the trust property. ■ The Commissioners recommended that proceedings be initiated on behalf of the tribe to test the validity of the transfers-and leases given by Kemp to Sir Walter Buller of. parts of subdivision No. 14, and if the Court shall set aside these transactions then that this subdivision be acquired by the Crown. In pursuance of the report of the Cpmmission the Horowhenua Block Act, 1896$ which makes general provision respecting the lands- included, was passed; which, inter alia, directed the District Land Registrar to issue a certificate of title for any portion of division 14 of which any valid alienation in fee simple had been made in the name of any person or persons entitled by virtue of such alienation, "provided, that no certificate of "title, as last mentioned, shall be "issued, except - pursuant to final "judgment in the proceedings hereinafter directed to be instituted, by " the Public Trustee." For the purpose of testing the validity of the alienation referred to, the Public Trustee is directed and empowered to. institute on behalf of the original registered owners of the block such proceedings in the Supreme Court at Wellington as may be necessary for that purpose, and "every dealing the validity " whereof is established by final judgment " in such proceedings shall be entitled to "be registered on any new certificate "of title issued under.-the provisions of "this Act for the land the subject of such " dealing." Public Trustee, in accordance with this statutory direction, took proceedings to test the validity of the transfers from Kemp to Sir Walter Buller, which it was nought to set aside on the grounds that Sir Walier was fully, aware .when he mads the purchase that Kemp only held the lands in trust for. his tribe—had, in fact, a guilty knowledge: of the fraud alleged to have-been perpetrated. At an early period of the case, however, the counsel for the Public Trustee absolutely withdrew any imputation whatever as to the conduct of Sir Walter, and the Court gave judgment in favor of himself and Kemp, with full costs, amounting to over £600; and under the Act 0f'1896 Sir Walter is therefore entitled to a certificate of title. The Government have, however, virtually declined to pay these costs, and proceedings are now being'taken to recover them from the Public Trustee. Mr John M'Kenzie, who considers himself above all law, is not, however, to be baulked, and is now bringing in a Bill to set aside the legislation of last year in regard to division 14 of the Horowhenua Block and repudiate what has been done under it, his pretext being that there has been a "failure.of justice in the" Supreme Court" in not deciding the case according to his wishes. This is amounts to. The Bill declares that this particular division of the Horowhenua Block shall bo declared Native land, and provides that there .shall be an investigation into the title and the registration of all dealings therewith that have been made by the true owners and are " in accordance with equity and good conscience." The explanation of the motives which have induced him to introduce" the Bill is set forth by Mr John M'Kenzie in a long memorandum laid on the table of the House, the substance of which appeared in our issue of yesterday, - Upon this truly extraordinary document we defer comment for the present

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Bibliographic details

HOROWHENUA., Evening Star, Issue 10450, 21 October 1897

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HOROWHENUA. Evening Star, Issue 10450, 21 October 1897