Victoria University College an Essay towards a History
(a) Memorandum on the Opaku Reserve
[This memorandum was written by Sir Hubert Ostler, when chairman of the Council, in 1914, as part of the abortive campaign to obtain the Taranaki reserve for the college. It was revised and shortened somewhat in a 1919(?) version. The case for Taranaki is put in J. A. Valentine and P. J. H. White, Notes on the History of the Opaku Reserve and the Taranaki Scholarships Fund (New Plymouth, 1930). The accumulated fund derived from the reserve is now (31 March 1948) £44,758 9s 4d.]
The Opaku Reserve, a piece of land containing 10000 acres In Taranaki, which had been originally confiscated from rebel Natives, was by section 6 of the University Endowment Act 1868 (together with other lands) set aside as a reserve for the endowment of such University institution as should by any Act of the Assembly of New Zealand be declared to be the Colonial University. By that Act this land was vested in the Crown, powers of leasing were given to the Governor, and the revenue arising from it was to be paid to an account called “The Colonial University Account”, and could be paid from time to time on the warrant of the Governor to the trustees of the Colonial University Fund: see sections 7, 8, and 9. In that Act the land was merely described as “10000 acres of confiscated land in the Province of Taranaki”: see schedule to Act. At this time no University had been established in New Zealand. In 1869 a University was constituted in Otago, and in 1870 a New Zealand University was constituted under the New Zealand University Act 1870. This Act was repealed in 1874 page 292 and the New Zealand University Act 1874 enacted instead. Section 30 of that Act provided that all lands within the Province of Otago reserved under the University Endowment Act 1868 should be deemed to have been reserved for the University of Otago, and should be granted to such University on such trusts as should be specified in any Ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council to be hereafter passed.
Section 30 then proceeded to enact that the black of land in the Province of Taranaki consisting of 10000 acres, and referred to in the schedule to the University Endowment Act 1868 (that is, the Opaku Reserve) should be defined by Proclamation, and should thereupon be deemed to have been reserved under the University Endowment Act.
Section 30 then proceeded to enact that the Governor in Council may make regulations for placing to a separate account the proceeds of all lands within any Province other than Otago reserved under the University Endowment Act 1868 for the purposes of a Colonial University; and such proceeds, and the proceeds from the investment thereof, after the payment of the expenses of the management of such lands, shall be dealt with for promoting higher education in the respective provinces in which such reserves are situate in such manner as the General Assembly shall from time to time determine.
By section 3 of the New Zealand University Reserves Act 1875 it was provided that the Waitotara Reserve of 4000 acres (which is now by section 38 of the Victoria College Act 1905 set apart as a College endowment) should be deemed to have been reserved under the University Endowment Act 1868, and should be dealt with as provided in section 30 of the New Zealand University Act 1874, for promoting higher education in the province in which such reserve was situate, etc. It will thus be seen that the effect of these enactments was to place the Opaku Reserve and the Waitotara Reserve in exactly the same position.page 293
No move was made for the purpose of promoting higher education in the North Island until the Royal Commission appointed in 1878 recommended the establishment of a University College at Auckland and one at Wellington, and suggested that the Government should utilize the reserves in the North Island set apart for higher education under the Acts already mentioned to provide endowments for these colleges. Following this recommendation a College was established at Auckland by the Auckland University College Act, 1882, and by the Auckland University College Reserve Act 1885, 30354 acres of land were vested in the Council as an endowment, these being lands set apart under the Act above mentioned for the purpose of higher education in the Auckland Provincial District. Those endowments now bring in to the Auckland College Council a revenue of over £700.
In 1894 the Middle District of New Zealand University College Act 1894 was passed to provide higher education for the Provincial Districts of Wellington, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Nelson, and Marlborough, and it provided for the establishment of a College at Wellington: but no provision was made in the Act for any pecuniary grant or endowment, and it was consequently a dead letter.
In 1897 the Victoria College Act 1897 was passed, in lieu of the above abortive Act of 1894. It also was designed to provide higher education for the above named middle provincial Districts.
By section 38 of that Act the Waitotara Reserve was set aside as a College Endowment but not the Opaku Reserve. This reserve and all the accrued revenue therefrom was, by the Taranaki Scholarships Act 1905, in spite of vigorous protests by the Victoria College Council, diverted from the trust upon which it had been reserved to provide special scholarships tenable at any of the four University Colleges for Taranaki scholars only. The Waitotara Reserve, which was in the Wel- page 294 lington Provincial District was properly set aside as an endowment for the College which provided higher education not only for Wellington but also for Taranaki, Hawke's Bay and the other middle districts. Taranaki thus participated in the benefit of that Wellington reserve equally with Wellington and the other districts. But the far more valuable Opaku Reserve although in the district for which Victoria College provides higher education, and therefore set aside for that purpose by the University Endowment Act 1868 and the University Reserves Act 1875, was diverted from that trust to give an unfair advantage to a small part of the district served by Victoria College over the greater part of the district which is cut out by the Taranaki Scholarships Act from participation in the benefit of the trust.
When the Act of 1905 was passed there were considerable accumulations of back revenue from the Opaku Reserve, amounting to some £6000 and this sum also was diverted to provide the privileged minority of Taranaki with Scholarships.
Very little advantage has been taken, however, of the privilege that has been conferred by this Act on Taranaki scholars at the expense of the other scholars of the Middle District. In the nine years that the Act has been in force only eight scholarships have been won, and the fun from the reserve which by the Act of 1905 was handed over for administration to the Public Trustee, has gone on accumulating until now it amounts to a capital sum of £11,385 and the annual revenue from rents and interest amounts to about £1070. This capital sum and this revenue belong by all the canons of justice and equity to Victoria College. The lands in the Otago Province set aside under the University Endowment Act 1868 were vested in the Otago University, and similarly the land set aside in Canterbury and Auckland is now an endowment for Canterbury and Auckland Colleges. The land set apart in the middle District should therefore be an endowment for this College. The page 295 Otago endowments bring in a revenue of over £7000 and the Canterbury endowments a revenue of £10,000. The revenue of Victoria College from its one endowment is £74, and it cannot be increased before 1924 when the first term of the lease of a part of it expires. If tardy justice were done and this reserve and the accumulated revenue from it handed over to the College, not only would we have at once a fund which would go a long way towards completing our half-finished building which is rapidly growing inadequate for our requirements, but the College would be provided with a source of revenue which would enable it to start a properly-equipped school of economics (one of the country's greatest needs). Moreover it would be a source of revenue as every such institution should be provide with, as it would grow with the needs of the College, and render it more independent of constant Government doles. It would at the same time relieve the Government from the necessity of constantly increasing its annual vote, and at no expense to itself for the moneys at present are locked up, idle, and serving no useful purpose. Even if it were provided that Scholarships for Taranaki scholars should be a first charge on the fund (although there is no good reason why this unfair privilege should not be abolished except as to scholarships actually won) still these could be provided out or revenue, still leaving a handsome surplus for the College needs, and would set free the whole capital sum of £11,385 for building purposes.
The Inspector General of Schools in his Report on the University Colleges (Parliamentary Papers E–7A 1912) refers to this reserve in the following terms: “The higher education reserves in Taranaki now furnish the funds for the Taranaki Scholarships, which, however, absorb only a small portion of the revenue. The unspent balance of revenue last year was £663, which was added to the accumulations of previous years; the total accumulated balance is now over £10,000. page 296 the interest on which is sufficient to meet the amount required for scholarships. It is not likely that a University College can be established in Taranaki within the next quarter of a century. Meanwhile the work of affording higher education for Taranaki is carried on by Victoria College (though a few Taranaki students go to Auckland). It would be, in my opinion, a very just thing for Victoria College to receive £500 a year from these reserves until such time as a University College was established in Taranaki. This would not absorb all the revenue, so that the fund would still go on increasing. It must be remembered that every extra student throws an additional burden upon the teaching college, and scholarships although they assist the student, do not help the College.”
I would rather say that it is an exceedingly unjust thing that the trust rightly in favour of Victoria College has been diverted to an improper purpose, and this crying injustice should be remedied by restoring the reserve and the remainder of the accumulated fund to the trust for which it was intended.
H. H. Ostler
(b) Rents Derived from the College Reserves
|Total 1904–1947: —||£2448||18s||11d|
|Annual Average: —||£55||13s||0d|