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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Lands Office

Lands Office.

The Lands Office of the Wellington Land District, which is co-extensive with the Wellington Provincial District, occupies a fine suite of rooms in the second floor of the Government Insurance Buildings in Custom-house Quay. It is under the charge of Mr. J. H. Baker, Assistant Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands. The staff includes four district surveyors, a chief draughtsman, a receiver of land revenue, six draughtsmen and cadets, three permanent clerks, and about twenty temporary hands.

Mr. John Holland Baker, Assistant Surveyor General and Commissioner of Lands for the Wellington Land District, was born at Chilcomb, Hants, England in 1841. A son of the Rev. Thomas Feilding Baker, Rector of Cressingham Parish, Norfolk, he was educated at Yarmouth Grammar School, and in Germany, and came to New Zealand to his uncle, the Ven. Archdeacon Mathias, of Christchurch, in 1857 per ship “Maori,” landing in Lyttelton. In the following year Mr. Baker joined the Survey Department as a cadet under Mr. C. Davie, afterwards Chief Surveyor of Canterbury. Four years later he was attached to the Southland staff as sub-assistant surveyor, and in 1863 he was appointed assistant surveyor to carry out the Southland Triangulation. In 1864 he was promoted to the post of Deputy Chief Surveyor, and later on in the same year when the late Mr. T. Heale resigned he became Chief Surveyor, and a member of the Southland Waste Lands Board. On the free selection. Land Act coming into operation in 1865, Mr. Baker introduced a system of survey by District Surveyors, who were paid on a fixed scale of fees, which system remained in force until Southland page 340 was re-annexed to Otago in 1870. Mr. Baker then became Inspector of Surveys for Southland, and in the following year he assisted Mr. McKerrow in connecting Stewart Island with the geodesical survey of Otago. While in Southland Mr. Baker arranged the exhibits for the Otago and Melbourne Exhibitions. From the commissioners of both the received letters of thanks for his services. In 1873 he was appointed one of the commissioners under the Southland Waste Lands Act to classify the agricultural and pastoral land in that district. After the abolition of the provinces (1876) Mr. Baker was appointed chief surveyor of Canterbury, where he had commenced his professional career. He at once re-organized the staff, and introduced the present New Zealand system of survey, extending standard bearings and minor triangulation over the whole of the district. He became Commissioner of Crown Lands for Canterbury in 1884. Five years later Mr. Baker was appointed one of the commissioners to assess the Canterbury runs. He has occupied the responsible position he now holds since 1891, when he was transferred to the Wellington land district, and promoted to the position of assistant surveyor general for the Colony. Twice during his career Mr. Baker, in recognition of his services, has had leave of absence for twelve months, first in 1875 when he visited Europe, and again in 1885 to recruil his health which had become impaired by the great strain of his official duties. Mr. Baker was married in 1875 to Miss Isabel Strachey, of Ashwick Grove, Somerset, England.

Mr. James Mackenzie, Chief Draughtsman and Office Surveyor of the Wellington District Survey Department, was born in Edinburgh in 1849, and came to this Colony with his parents when only eight years old per ship “Robert Henderson,” landing in Dunedin early in 1858. His education was received at the Otago District Schools, and at the Dunedin High School, which institution he entered on its first day of opening. Later on, in 1867, having determined on following up surveying as a profession, he commenced Mr. James Mackenzie his experience in field life under the late Mr. John Cameron, an officer of the old Otago Provincial Government staff surveyors, his first work being to assist in the survey of Palmerston South. Mr. Mackenzie has had his share of the “rough and tumble” of early camp life in Otago, including two unusually rough survey expeditions to the West Coast of that province, which was then practically terra incognita. The first of these was to Preservation Inlet, when the surveyor-in-charge, Mr. Cameron, met his death through an accidental gunshot wound; and the other was to Martin's Bay, when an unsuccesful attempt was made to settle that part of the country under the Free Grant System. Having in 1871 gone through the usual course of training as a surveyor, Mr. Mackenzie passed the necessary examination before the Otago Board of Examiners, received his diploma, and shortly afterwards proceeded to Wellington. Here, in April, 1872, he obtained an appointment as an assistant surveyor on the Provincial Government staff. Two years later Mr. Mackenzie was promoted to a district surveyorship, and in 1879 was appointed to his present position. As a resident of the Wellington suburb of Karori, where he has lived for the past eighteen years, Mr. Mackenzie shows considerable interest in local matters, having been prominent in connection with the proposed electric tramway, and acting as chairman of the committee promoting the same. In school matters also he has for a long time taken a lively interest, having been continuously chairman of the local committee over a period of thirteen years. He fills in his spare time with tree-planting, gardening, etc., of which he is very fond, and, having a few acres of land round his home, he does a little amateur farming for the use of his family only. Mr. Mackenzie has been twice married. First in 1876 to Miss McKenzie, eldest daughter of Mr. T. W. McKenzie, who died in 1884, and secondly in 1887 to Miss Annie Wilson, daughter of Mr. F. J. Wilson, architect, of Timaru. His family numbers eight, five daughters and three sons. Mr. Mackenzie is a brother of Mr. Thomas Mackenzie, M.H.R. for Clutha.

Mr. William Girvan Runcie, Receiver of Land Revenue for the Wellington Land District, is a native of Kilmarnock, Scotland, and was educated at the Kilmarnock Academy. page 341 Arriving in Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in the month of October, 1862, per ship “Cheviot,” Mr. Runcie engaged in mercantile pursuits in Invercargill and on the West Coast of the South Island till 1878. For some years he was a member of the well-known auctioneering firm of F. A. Learmonth and Co., of Hokitika and Kumara. On retiring he joined the Civil Service of the Colony in Christchurch, as accountant in the Lands and Survey Office, remaining for four years. Mr. Runcie was then transferred to a similar position in Dunedin, which he retained till 1892, when he was removed to the head office in Wellington. After a short time he was promoted to the position of Receiver of Land Revenue for the Wellington Land District. While resident in Dunedin, Mr. Runcie took considerable interest in singing, and was a member of the fine choir of the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition of 1889–90. Although busily employed in the duties of his office, Mr. Runcie finds time to attend meetings of the Terrace School Committee, of which he is a member, In 1877 he married Miss C. A. Green, daughter of Mr. James Green, J.P., of Sydney, New South Wales, and has two daughters.