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Although the Government especially pride themselves on their land policy, the Treasurer was obliged to admit, in his Financial Statement, that "there,had: been a considerable felling off, as compared with the previous year, in -the number of selectors, andalsb in the area of the land selected. "The decline has been, on "the: whole, general throughout the "several classes of settlement." This, he explains, is- due to the fact that little Crown land of really good auality could be placed before the public. There was also reluctance to accept applications from associations until. the obligation to open roads to those lands already dealt with had been fulfilled. The annual report -on ther"* Department of Lands and Survey, which covers the twelve months ended March 31,1897* is, however, as tersely put by Mr George Richardson in his speech on the Addressin - Reply, " nothing more than an " apology for a large - mistake—a large "failure"; and it is made clear that the empirical theories of the Hon. John M'Kenzie have proved anything but successful; "Whilst they have swallowed up for purposes useless and unproductive enormous sums of money, a large proportion of which has been borrowed. The number of selectors under all headings was 2,173, against 2,865 in 1896 and 2,547 in 1895. The decline was principally in the lease-in-perpetuity selections under various systems. Deducting from the total number those who took up suburban, pastoral, and miscellaneous lands, there were 1,391 selectors who may be said to have taken up allotments for . homesteads or . farms, in most of which residence and improvement are compulsory. A considerable number of forfeitures took place during the year through want with the conditions under which the lands were taken up. The forfeitures comprise 493 cases, covering an area 0f'211,502 acres, including 12 pastoral runs. The principal items which make up the total are: Special settlement associations, 133 cases, covering an area of 26,296 acres; and improved farm selections, numbering 115 cases, comprising 10,392 acres. It has been pointed out before, the Secretary for Crown Lands says,' that in the eagerness to obtain lands, through the facilities offered • by the association system, many people joined them who were unfitted, either by capacity or monetary means, to carry out the obligations they undertook when becoming members. Many also were actuated no doubt by the belief that money was to be made by selling out to others at a profit. With respect to the improved-farm settlements, it is, the Secretary states, undoubtedly the case that many people took up land under this system, not at all in the spirit in which the regulations were intended, but rather with the view of obtaining employment in the improvement of the lands and concurrent road works. "Therefore, directly the employ- " ment ceases, even for a time, having no " heart, in the matter, they make'default, "and their holdings are forfeited. The " final .result of the forfeitures is that, as "a rule, the lands are selected by "those who are better able to com- " ply with the law, and who have "a better chance of succeeding in " the end." On March 31 last there were 43 settlements under this system, covering a total area of 70,196 acres, held by 646 selectors. The amount advanced for houses, bush-felling, and other works was £36,092 13s Id; whilst the value of the improvements of the lands, including the above figures, was estimated at £49,690, and there were 1,229 persons in residence. The Secretary does not commit himself to an opinion as to the ultimate success of the system ; but, he says, amongst those who have taken up the lands there, are a large, number who evidently intend to settle down and will do their best to make permanent homes for themselves. With a little assistance from road works, and where the settlements are judiciously distributed among larger holdings, there is no reason, he thinks, why this class of settlement should not answer the expectations of the Minister. In regard to village homestead settlements, which are under the able administration of Mr March, we find by the returns that 123 new selections were made during the year, the aggregate area of land allotted having been 1,725 acres. On the other hand, 88 allotments were forfeited or surrendered, representing an area of 2,469 acres, and the number of settlers in arrears was 268 out of a total of 1,543. The total amount advanced for dwellings, bush-felling, etc., was £25,849, but of this amount £1,911 had been repaid. The value of all improvements made by the settlers and now on the land is stated at £109,529. As indicated above, no very large area of land was selected under this system during the twelve months when compared with previous years, the figures being 142 selectors for 28,084 acres, the number of new associations being three, one in Auckland, one in Taranaki, and one in Wellington, number of selectors holding under deferred payment, perpetual lease, or lease in perpetuity has been 2,594"; but owing to forfeitures through non-compliance with the residential and improvement conditions, by exchange or purchase, there remained on March 31 1,204 selectors only holding 214,559 acres. Most of the blocks selected by. the associations, the report states, were remote and difficult to open up with roads ; in other cases the selectors found their sections too small an area (the average size bejng 200 acres) for .the nature of the country! ""But " the chief reason of failure in many of " these settlem'ents is due to the want of " means and experience on the part of the " selectors, which renders them incapable "of undertaking the work of pioneer settlers "—a .work which in the remote districts "is an arduous one. Notwithstanding " this, however, the rangers report a large "amount of improvements having been "made in the settlements where the conditions are favorable. The forfeited! " lands are being taken up in larger hold- " holdings more suited to the general " character of the lands." In addition to forfeitures, it may be noted that 55 selectors surrendered their holdings during the year. .

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LAND SETTLEMENT., Evening Star, Issue 10454, 26 October 1897

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LAND SETTLEMENT. Evening Star, Issue 10454, 26 October 1897