The Southern Cross. PUBLISHED WEEKLY. INVERCARGILL, SAT., JAN. l9th. Town Extensions.
This is a subject of immediate interest izi New Zealand, where every year witnesses an expansion of our centres of population. At one time when the "sacred rights of property" commanded more respect than they do now, the owner of land could do as seemed unto him best—cut it up for sale or leave it uncultivated until the industry of his neighbours or the carrying out of public works added immensely to the value of his holding. This policy is still possible, although recent legislation, introducing new methods of taxation has made it less profitable. Large estates can be acquired by the State if required for public use, and when the owner of lands adjoining towns goes in for subdivision, he has to pay some regard to the width of streets and other matters o'f importance to the future occupants of the sections. It was not always so, as witness the lanes, unsightly and unsanitary, that disfigure some of fair InvercargillT suburbs. The subject is one that has received attention at the hands of every civilised country. In America the operation of what is known as the Betterment Law has done much to guard the health and beauty of some of the cities, and in Germany the authorities are invested with powers that would make New Zealanders —accustomed though they are to a large measure of govermental supervision—think that they were being unduly interfered with. Some interesting information regarding the. question as it is dealt with in Germany was lately given in a lecture delivered by Mr T. C. Horsfall before a meeting of municipal and county engineers in London. Comparing the effects which the movement from vilages and small towns intio large towns, and the movement from the central districts of large towns l intio
the suburbs, have had in Britain and in Germany, Mr Horsfall said that in Britain vast areas, on what were a few years ago the fringes of towns, had been covered with new streets, nearly all of them narrow 7 , which lay (between long rows of small houses all very much alike ; in Germany the new 7 town districts were so constructed that a stranger often could not tell when he passed through one of them whether it was inhabited chiefly by rich or by poor people. Ho pointed out that. Cologne, w 7 hich had about 375.000 inhabitants, had 285 tree-planted streets, the length of .which w T as 64 7 miles. But tree-pi anted streets are not the only feature of German town extension. As far as he could learn, said Mr Horsfall, German municipal authorities, in common with those of every other civilised country except Britain, and perhaps the United States, had the power to control the growth of their towns by making town extension plans with .which builders and landowners wore compelled to comply. In Frankfort the town council had been enabled to expropriate all the land in a new 7 urban district, to deduct from the whole the land needed for streets and open spaces, and, filially, redistribute the residue among the original holders for building purposes in proportion to the value of their original holding. The lecturer also stated that under an Act palssed in 1875 the authorities in all parts of Germany were able to exercise power over the creation, width, and direction of streets, and, in addition, to arrange the height of the houses, -and amount of open space and vegetation. so that the benefits of the prevailing winds should be felt equally in all parts of the town under treatment. Mr Horsfall thought that all German students of the housing problem knew 7 that town building plans should be supplemented by municipal ownership, and that, among other things, the cost of the necessary reforms should be defrayed by the rating of land cm its selling valtie, and by the rating of unearned increment. He said that no one connected with a German town, rich landownier or poor landless tenant, doubted that it was necessary for his welfare that such town extension plans should exist. Prom the foregoing summary of the lecture it is clear that New 7 Zealand does not posress a monopoly of systems for the protection of her citizens. Locally the promoters of "Greater Invercargill" may find food for reflection in the German method of dealing with the question.