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IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING AT MASTERTON.

(from our own correspondent.) A Public Meeting of some iraportanco took place in tho schoolroom, Masterton, on Saturday, tho 2nd inst., convened at the request of Mr Masters, to take into consideration the conduct of the Commissioner of Crown Lands in reference to the Hundred, aud other matters affecting the interest of the settlement. Messrs Crayne, V. Smith, and Renall, were Ruccessively proposed, and severally refused the office of chairman. Failing which, it was proposed by Mr Crayne, and seconded by Mr Bentley, that iMr Masters, as best understanding the objects for which the meeting was convened should take the chair. Mr Joseph Masters, having taken the chair, addressed the meeting as follows : — Fellow settlers, I have taken upon myself to call a public meeting, in order that you may become aware of, and understand tho recent decision of the Crown Lands Commissioner, in declaring thai the so-called Hundred of Masterton, had ceased to exist, and that the land should be immediately thrown open for sale. T am tho author of the letter signed "Settler." For four or five years, Mr Mathews anxiously desired to purchase a small strip of land adjoining his freehold, but both he and his friends were studiously denied this favor; always receiving for answer. " that it could not be sold, being within the Hundred. 1 ' And yet Mr Bridges is permitted to step in and purchase 400 acres, including that piece which Mr Mathews had applied for, and had been refused. Was this right ? Was this just? Should there be one law for the rich and another for the poor? Our representative, Mr Bunny, had before written to him on tho subject. Ho had himself obtained an audience and explanation from the Commissioner; accompanied by Mr Bunny. Major Cootes had been allowed to purchase land within the Hundred. Why should this be? Why should the rich man be allowed to step in and obtain with a breath that %vhich his poorer neighbours had been saving for, and striving in vain to obtain for years. M:ijor Cootes— lt is false, I have no land within tho Hundred, it is all a mistake. Mr Masters— Then there was Mr Chamberlain's application. He was refused, and his deposit returned. I referred to the Letter Book in the Land Office; and there I myself read his application. I have obtained the land for you. Mr Fitzherbert say's he'll hand it over at once, so that you and your children may reap the benefit. And "it now remains with you to decide what measures you will take for its proper apportionment. There will be some few hundred acres to subtract from the fine block which will be open to your selection. Mr Tankersley was permitted to gra«p v 2()() acres. Then there is Mr Bridges', and (;0 acres which Capt. Smith is to have, together with Air Mathews' 40 acres. But again, I enquire why should all" this hole and corner work have taken place? Why should the Commissioner have the power to screw the boundary towards the left for Major Coote or towards the right to thwart the interests of the settlers? In conclusion, my friends, rest assured that I have not exaggerated. The land is now in your power. Do not allow yourselves to bo misguided^ but act in the matter with consideration and judgment. Mr Dixon said — I cannot allow tho Land Commissioner to be calumniated without a word being said in his favor. It is the settlers' fault, not his, that the Ilundred was not long ago open. Some time ago, at the time of the fire in Mr Renall's wheat, Mr Fitzherbert, in conversation with me and others, on the main road, said, I will take upon myself to open for sale at 10s per acre, the land called the Hundred ; if such is the settlers' desire. But next week up came Mr McManaway from town, and informed us that merchants and others in Wellington would buy it all up immediately ; and to prevent its falling into the hands of monopolists and speculators, a memorial forbidding its salo was at once forwarded to the Superintendent. In reference to Mr Chamberlain's land ; he (Mr Dixon) had understood him to say that he did not care about buying it, as it was not worth the money. Thus, so much for Mr Chamberlain's letter. Mr Chamberlan — If I did make saeh an observation to you Mr Dixon, I must observe that I cannot recollect having done so. Mr Renall — Mr Masters, you in your capacity as Chairman of this meeting, have avowed yout • self the writer of tho letter in the Advertiser, signed " Settler." I have not the paper by me now, but if my memory serves me aright, you state that Mr Bridges has obtained the whole of the Opaki and Major Coote the remainder of the Hundred. If such is the fact, will you be good enough to elucidate and explain 1 to th^s meeting, whereabouts this splendid block of land is situated that you inform us is open for selection ? If those gentlemen have got the Hundred of Masterton between them, what is left for us? I consider that when a person publicly avows himself the author of a letter full of serious charges and allegations against individuals, he ought to bring forward proof of his assertions ; and of the truth which is in him; The Chairman—Have the kindness Sir to confine yourself to the business before the meeting. Mr Renall— The letter ia full of the grossest mis-statement and calculated to lead astray the minds of those "persons; unable to procure more cotrect information

"■The Chairman — Be good enough sir, to attend to the question before the meeting. A violent altercation between the Chairman and Mr Eenall now ensuing, Mr Valentino Smith rose to order, and said, that the meeting, including the Chairman, were placed in an entirely falsa position. The Chairman having avowed himself the author of the letter referred to, had rendered himself liable to attacks against which as Chairman, he was quite unable to reply ; and he (Mr Smith) could not sit by and see the usual rules for the conduct of a public meeting, so completely ignored and set aside. He therefore moved " that Mr Master's vacate the chair, in order to defend himself and afford explanations, and that the first proposed Chairman, Mr Crayne, should take his place." Mr Crayne still declining. In deference to the unanimous wish of the meeting, Mr V. Smith took the chair.

Mr Smith said he had attended for information, and not to take any active part in the meeting. He accepted the office of Chairman in order to allow tho business to be proceeded with.

Mr Masters then proposed tho following resolution : — " That a Committee be formed of tho intending purchasers, to examine the blocks and have them surveyed. They could at once go and purchase in the West Block at 5a and 10s per acre, and the block on the Opaki would bo free to selection at 10s per acre. Mr Crayne said they had permitted a certain latitude to Mr Masters in his opening speech as Chairman, but he now enquired from him what authority had he for coming before them and making such important statements ? How was the Committee to bo constituted? What power would be delegated to them ? And to what extent would their decisions be binding on the Land Commissioner ?

Mr Masters said he was accompanied to the Land Office by Mr Bunny. Major Coote was also present at the interview. He • had brought bo documents. Mr Fitzherbert offered to hand over the entire inanagemet of the land him, To this he demurred, feeling that the wishes and opinions of the settlers should first be consulted. All land on the west boundary was^to be put up at ss, and 450 acres on the Opaki &i 10s. Ho did not want the land. He was no land speculator, but he desired to see the settlers have their rights and their land free and unfettered.

Major Coote said he was certainly present at a portion of the interview, but had paid little attention to what did not concern him. Mr Bridges' name had been called in question. Ho (Major Coote) had bsen given to understand that upon Mr Bridges having concluded his purchase, a

small balance remained, in lieu of which, he pointed out on the map a piece of land near his own, requesting Mr Fitzherbert to grant it to him. This was refused, and Mr J. Bridges' money was returned. And why ; simply because the Commissioner thought it was within the Hundred, and that the wishes of the settlers should first be consulted. Mr Cray ne was no believer in Mr Fitzherbert's veracity. Four or live years ago the boundaries as arranged by Mr Carter, were treble their present extent. Mr Fox had clipped and cut off bits here and there, until now we were shorn of two-thirds of the Hundred. And if a poor man was a claimant for a portion of this, he only got snubbed and insulted, while the man with the " open sesame*' of gold could walk away with his hundreds of acres. He knew of numerous claimants — some of them personal friends— to whom had been denied the very ncies now held by Major Coote ' and Mr Bridges, &c. Mr Dixon be thought was a great advocate for Mr Fitzherbert. Mr Dixon was no special advocate for Mr Fitzherbert, but it seemed hardly fair not to stat« both sides of the question. Mr Dixon here moved an nmended resolution, the principal object of which was the apportionment of a certain moiety of bush land, for such 40 acre section holders as were not provided with sufficient limber &c. The resolution was lost on a show of hands. . Mr Masters said— Fellow settlers, let me advise you not to be led away. They will deprive you of your land. Keep it in your own hands. If you depute me I shall immediately go to town and purchase blocks for you. And those who think they have not money enough, should apply to me and I will lend it to them without interest. The Chairman here offered some explanations relative to the 60 acres, which ho understood from the various speakers, were to become his property. He had applied some time ago, and the information derived from Mr Masters, was the first intimation of his success in the matter. Major Coote then rose and said, that as his name had more than once been mentioned, ho wished to say a few words. He denied that he had bought any land whatever within the Hundred, not a single acre. He had bought a block of land from a Mr Burnett, and it seemed that as long as the land was Mr Burnett's no one raised any objection, but when he became the purchaser, he was looked upon as an intruder, and his name most unjustifiably dragged before the public. Ho considered that he had just cause to complain of the treatment he had received, and felt deeply hurt at it, as he had hoped that instead of such treatment he would have been welcomed among them, as a fellow settler. So far from having been favored by the Land Commissioner the very opposite was the case, and he had threatened to take the Commissioner into the Supreme Court to compel him to sell land to him, which ho considered Mr Fitzherbert had no legal right to withhold. He stood upon his rights as an Englishman, and called upon the settlers for their sup. port. He stated that Mr Fitzherbert appeared anxious to arrange matters to the satisfaction of the settlors, and with regard to the portion of land for which he had applied which seemed to bo included within the supposed or imaginary boundary of the Hundred, ho had not been able to purchase it. but was told by Mr Fitzherbert that this piece of land would bo laid off in sections, and sold by auction. Ho concluded by energetically calling upon the settlers present to assist him in obtaining his just rights. Mr Ilenall then proposed the following resolution, which was seconded by Mr Crayne — " That in order to put an end to the uncertainty at present existing as to the disposal of the remaining lands in the Hundred of Masterton, this meeting is of opinion that his Honor the Superintendent should immediately issue a Proclamation under the Amended Land Regulations of 1855, empowering his Honor to set land aside for small farm associations ; and place the management under the Committee already formed, the nameS of whom have been forwarded to the Government." This resolution was carried on a show of hands, and that of Mr Masters negatived. Mr Eenall proved by quotations from existing Acts of Assembly, that Mr Fitzherbert's assertion that Maaterton "ia no Hundred, 1 ' was quite correct, and that it had been and was a Hundred in name only. During the Superintentendent's risit to Mastertouhe had suggested to his Honor, the advisability of issuing a proclamation closing the Hundred, and thus preventing the ■ Land Commissioner from committing errors and mistakes in the disposal of the land. Mr Masters was fully entitled to the thanks of tho meeting for ventilating the subject. The next resolution was proposed by Mr Kibblewhite, and seconded by Mr Dngg — " That his Honor the Superintendent be re- , quested to rectify the present Hundred Boundary , by continuing the Northern boundary in a straight \ line till it meets the Tararua ranges " It was then proposed by Mr Crayne, and ' seconded by acclamation — " That the thanks of this meeting are returned to Mr V; Smith for his conduct in taking tho chair, and courtesy in presiding. 1 ' The meeting then broke up.

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Bibliographic details

IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING AT MASTERTON., Wellington Independent, Volume XIX, Issue 2085, 9 July 1864

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IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING AT MASTERTON. Wellington Independent, Volume XIX, Issue 2085, 9 July 1864

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