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Old Time Echoes., Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 47, 19 January 1907
Old Time Echoes.
REMINISCENCES OF LAND LEGISLATION. (By Andrew Kinross). No. IE 'As I had never received any payment; for my services, my colleagues decided that I should receive £3O for attending thirty meetings ol Executive. I had advocated economy and self denial, to extricate the province, so I gave £lO to the hospital. If I had known that I would afterwards spend hundred of pounds on elections and give a great deal of gratuitious services to the public I would not have beeh so generous. I have felt annoyed when I saw Sir Julius Vogel and other spendthrifts squandering millions. The land fund was Provincial revenue, and the colonial Parliament passed separate Land Acts for each province, based on Bills or resolutions of Provincial Councils. After the Southland Government had wasted its resources, it was willing to sacrifice the future to provide more revenue. In compliance with its .wishes, the Southland Land Act, 1875, was passed. This was the worst Land Act I have known, and provided that all rural land could be selected before survey at £1 an acre, and without any conditions. Large blocks were sold, and the Superintendent (the late Mr J. P. Taylor) engaged aMr Eccles for two years at '£looo a year salary, and £SOO a •year travelling expenses, to proceed to Australia and Britain to sell the land in large blocks. He was to get '£l per cent, on all he sold over 200,000 acres. Fortunately the General Government would not allow Mr Eccles’ salary to be paid out of the land fund, and the Provincial Council would not vote it.
My residence was in the Mat aura electoral district for the House of •Representatives. It then extended from the sea beyond Campbell town to the Mataura beyond Gore, and Mr Bell (afterwards Sir Francis) was member for it. He was an experienced politicion, a member of the Government, and had, in conjunction with Dr. Featherstone, successfully negotiated a guaranteed loan for a million pounds. I had watched his career in the House, and I saw that he was Chairman of Waste Hands Committee, and leader of Otago runholders and land monopolists, and had been instrumental in passing an 'Act most prejudicial to, settlement. Solely on- account of his action on the land question, at an election in 1871 I opposed him. The franchise was confined t.o land-owners and leaseholders, but the ownership of a section nominally worth £-5§ conferred a vote. Most of the commercial, financial, and professional classes in Invercargill have always been Conservatives, and cared more for local expenditure than the welfare of New Zealand. Mr Bell had received thousands of pounds of public money, so had plenty to spend, and got lots of assistance, and little interest was taken in the land question. I had to play a lone hand, so Mr Bell beat me easily for the House and the Provincial Council. In June, 1873, I was elected member for Oteramika in the Provincial .Council of Otago. The Council met on Ist Jeily , in Dunedin, Mr Turnbull being the leader of the Conservative .Government. Soon after the arrival of the Southland members Mr Macandrew. the Superintendent, requested ns to meet- him. In the i terms of ■Re-union between Otago and Southland. it was provided that they should have separate land laws. Mr Macandrew informed us that he had received a Hand Bill, drawn up toy the Southland Commissioner of Hands and the solicitor. He said it was too long, and he could not pass it through the House of Representatives. of which he was a member. He asked us to draw up a short Bill, and as I took more interest in framing a Hand Bill than in farm work I 'drew up a Bill of eight clauses. I had to consider that the Government, and a majority of the Council were Conservatives, and that revenue must be provided, so I proposed a compromise in my 'draft Bill. It provided that rural land in Southland should be classified as agricultural and pastoral—that pastor- 1 al should still be open for selection at twenty shillings an acre. The Superintendent, with the consent of the Council was empowered to set aside blocks of land for sale on deferred payments, not exceeding 30,000 acres in one year, the remaining agricultural land to be dealt with, as provided in Clause 4, which read—" Before a Crown -grant shall be issued to the purchaser of any section, there shall toe expended on
the improvements thereof a sum of not less than twenty shillings for each acre contained therein, and not less than one acre out, of every ten shall have been cultivated ; and if the purchaser, or owner of any section of agricultural land shall not have complied with the above conditions as to improvements, within five years from the granting of the application, then a yearly rent of two shillings and sixpence per acre shall bo charged till such conditions shalf have been fulfilled.”
After my draft was agreed to by my Southland colleagues, it wa & given to the Superintendent printed, and circulated in the Council. It was all agreed to except Clause 4, in which all the improvement conditions were struck out, and the price of agricultural land was - raised from twenty shillings to forty shillings an acre, before the “Otag'o Waste Lands Act, 1873,” was passed by Parliament. If I remember rightly, Mr Pearson, Chief Commissioner, Sir John Richardson, Member of Southland Board, and Southland Chief Surveyor, were appointed to classify the land, but I cannot say whether the work was well or ill done. I do not know how much land was sold at forty shillings an acre. In my address to the electors of Mataura, dated 24th December, 1870, I stated—- “ Southland’s chief want is a liberal land law. I shall endeavour to have the laws assimilated so as to secure to bona fide settlers depasturing rights, and deferred payments,” so that when I got the deferred payment system included in the Otago Waste Land Act, 1873, I secured a long-, cherished wish. (To be Continued).
Old Time Echoes., Southern Cross, Volume 14, Issue 47, 19 January 1907
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