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Evening Star, Issue 15665, 2 December 1914
As Minister of Lands the Right Hon. W.
F. Massey, Prime Minister, An Alloged Is charged by Lilxual canScandal, didates and others who are
not seeking a place in Parliament with having played a double part in respect to the proposal to subdivide the Omarama ruu, which is described officially as being admirably suited for cutting up into small grazing runs—a class of holding now in keen demand. Mr Massey has already denied the charge, and announced his denial in the very heart of tho "enemy's country"—at Kurow. He apparently considers that that refutation should end the matter, and that the public, and especially those who aro not blinded by tho burnished political purity of the Opposition, will believe that land settlement under Reform administration is above suspicion. His answer to tho allegations then made was acceptable, although it Jacked absolutely convincing details. But since the Prime Minister's visit to Kurow last month the charge that the Ministerial arrangements and attitude in respect of the Omarama run represent an administrative scandal has been repeated with more vigorous insistence, and with more circumstantial detail. It ia clear that those Liberal candidates who are featuring, the question in their campaign believe that the Prime Minister is hypocritical in his expressed deeiro to promote land settlement to tho best advantage—to provide small holdings for " small" men.
Tho case against the Minister of Lands is presented most effectively by Mr J. A. Macpherson, the Liberal candidate for the Oamaru electorate. It has
been said that Mr Macphereoo is a man with a grievance against Mr Massey on account of the non-renewal of the former's membership on the- Land Board. That allegation need not be entertained seriously. Mr Macpherson discusses iri an impersonal manner the question as to the subdivision of the Omarama run, and is entitled to be considered as an honest, fair critic of political administration. He stated the position from his point of view very clearly at Oamaru on Monday night, and gaid definitely that although the Land Board's Classification Committee inspected the run and recommended it& subdivision into small grazing runs, the Minieter of Lands turned the recommendation down, and suggested that if the board made a recommendation that tho estate (which is held under lease by an absentee lessee) bo cut up into pastoral leases bo would endorse it. The board (Mr Macpherson said) agreed to this, provided a residential clause was inserted. Tho amended recommendation was sent to Wellington, and the Minister showed visitors to Wellington from Oamaru that he had signed it. Later the board saw that the Act passed during the recent session was going to give absentee lessees a preferential section, and found they were trapped, so they notified the Primo Minister that they withdrew their recommendation, and wont back to tho original suggestion. The board had since been waiting for the Minister to reply, but without avail. Thjs is a definite cbargo of shuffling on the part of the Minister of Lands, and certainly calls for an equally definito Ministerial reply. Mr Macpherson went further, however, and stated that tho attorney for the tenants informed him in the presence of members of the Land Board that on July 6 last a notico was received from the Land Board stating that the lessees had been granted an extension of lease for 12 months. Tho tenants, it is stated, acted ori this notice, and made certain arrangements. To tho attorney's amazement a letter arrived early last mouth advising the tenants that as tho Land Board had not considered the matter an extension of lease could not bo granted. Tho attorney asserted that, despite Mr Masscy's statement to tho contrary, he had not approached tho board for an extension of the lease. Tho representative of the lessee affirmed that the extension had been granted, while Mr Maseey denied that ho had granted it. Such, in effect, is tho Opposition indictment. It is for Mr Massoy to meet it or ignore it, according to his assessment of the value and effectiveness of public opinion. Opposition representatives assert that the Minister of Lands has not been thorough in his plain duty to arrange for the sulxlivisiou of an estate into the most profitable form of settlement, that ho ignored the recommendation of a body appointed to determine tho value and utility of land, and that he has introduced and enacted legislation which is described as preventive of pron'tablo land settlement from a democratic point of view—the only viewpoint in New Zealand. We do not .-support the contention that there has been ecandalous administration in connection with tho proposed subdivision of Omarama run, but wo agree with tho demand for a complete refutation of the allegations.
Evening Star, Issue 15665, 2 December 1914
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