The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]
Superintendents Of Nelson
Superintendents Of Nelson.
The Provincial system of Government was brought into operation by a proclamation of Governor Gray, dated 28th of February, 1853, one month after the introduction of Representative Government in New Zealand. Fifteen members was the number fixed for the Nelson Provincial Council, and the province was divided into the following districts: Town on Nelson, five members; Suburban Districts, one member; Waimea East District, two members; Waimea West District, one member; Waimea South District, two members; Motueka and Massacre Bay District, two members; and Wairau District, two members. There were three candidates for the position of first Superintendent of the Province; namely, Mr. E. W. Stafford, Mr. Fran cis Jollie, and Mr. J. W. Saxton. The elections were held on the 1st of August, 1853, when the returns were: Stafford, 251; Saxton, 206; Jollie, 130. For the five town seats, Dr. Sinclair, Dr. Renwick, Mr. W. Hough, Dr. Bush, and Mr. H. Adams were elected. On the 3rd of November the first meeting of the Provincial Council was held in the Court House. The first business was the election of a Speaker, and this honour fell to Mr. Donald Sinclair. On the 6th of January, 1854, the first Executive Government was appointed, when Mr. Poynter was made Provincial Treasurer, and Mr. Henry Adams Provincial Solicitor. No provision was made for a Provincial Secretary. The Superintendent appointed Mr. John Sharp to be a member of the Board of Audit for the province. During the Council's second session, which opened on the 22nd of November, 1854, the number of members was increased from fifteen to twentyfour; and Amuri was brought in as a new district, with one member. Mr. S. I. Muller was appointed Provincial Secretary during the same session. The chief result of the third session, which lasted from the 22nd of January to the 5th of April, 1856, was the passing of the Education Act. During the next session the County Roads Act and the Nelson Improvement Act were brought into operation, and on the 30th of July, 1857, the first Town Board was elected. Mr. Stafford resigned the Superintendency of Nelson, in October, 1856, in consequence of his having accepted the position of first Minister in the General Government of the colony. He was succeeded by Mr. J. P. Robinson, who had contested the position with Dr. Monro, afterwards Sir David.
An agitation for the separation of Wairau from Nelson was set up by the Wairau settlers, who com plained that their country districts were left without roads and bridges and that they were insufficiently represented in the Provincial Council, whilst the greater portion of the revenue was spent in the districts nearer Nelson. This led to the passing of the New Provinces Act, in 1858, and resulted in the creation of the province of Marlborough, of which Mr. William Adams, of the Wairau, became the first Superintendent. After this, with a view to making up the loss caused to Nelson by the separation of Wairau, attention was turned to the West Coast. Three expeditions were organised in 1859–60 to explore this territory, and very favourable reports were sent in by the explorers. Unfortunately, the Superintendent, Mr. Robinson, who paid a visit of inspection to the district, was drowned in the Buller on the 28th of January, 1865. Mr. Alfred Saunders and Mr. J. W. Barnicoat then stood for the Superintendency, and the former was returned by 454 to 434.
On the discovery of gold at Collingwood the Provincial Government laid out the township there, erected Government offices, and appointed a Resident Magistrate and Government officials. By the end of April, 1866, the Provincial Government had made 115 miles of tracks on the Grey goldfields. On the 28th of March, 1867, Mr. Oswald Curtis was elected Superindent of the Province in place of Mr. Saunders, who resigned in order to visit England. Mr. Curtis held the office from that time up to the abolition of the provinces. In October, 1867, Mr. John Sharp, who was then Provincial Tieasurer stated that the Government had already expended £55,000 in necessary works on the West Coast. The Nelson waterworks, costing about £20,000, were inaugurated in 1867. In that' year the membership of the Provincial Council was increased to twenty-six, of whom three represented the Grey, and two the Buller districts. Two years later, however, the number was reduced to nineteen, with Buller and Grey each returning two members, and Charleston one.
The Executive Government Act was passed in 1870, and provided that the Executive Council of five members and the Superintendent should administer the Government of the Province. This Act held good until 1874, when it was repealed, and another Act was passed making the Executive responsible to the, Provincial Council; but next year the provincial system was abolished by the coming into operation of the Abolition of the Provinces Act, 1875. During the period the Nelson Provincial Council existed there were only two Speakers; Mr. Donald Sinclair, who resigned in 1857, and the Hon. J. W. Barnicoat who succeeded him.
The system of purchasing Crown lands on deferred payments was first introduced by the Nelson Provincial Council; to which the city of Nelson owed its first water and page 25 gas works, and the whole district, the roads and bridges constructed up to the time of the supercession of the system.
Sir Edward William Stafford, who was three times Premier of New Zealand, and twice Superintendent of the province of Nelson, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1820, and reached New Zealand soon after the Wairau massacre in 1843. In 1846 he married a daughter of Colonel Wakefield, and was thus brought into close connection with the Now Zealand Company. The Nelson settlers, led by Dr. Monro, were at that time endeavouring to enforce their claims against the company, and Mr. Stafford was at first somewhat unpopular. However, his high character and sterling abilities rendered him the most suitable candidate in the province for the office of Superintendent, and he was twice chosen for that high position. The institution of a system of education, afterwards extensively imitated in the other provinces, and the establishment of Road Boards, were among his more important local achievements. In 1856 he gave up provincial for colonial politics, and accepted the office of Premier in New Zealand's first Government. He displayed marked political ability, and great energy in his conduct of public affairs; and in 1859 he visited England to arrange for the Panama steam service. On his return, in 1861, his Government was defeated, chiefly on account of its native policy. Mr. Stafford was Premier again from 1865 to 1869, and again in 1872. Some years afterwards he went to England to spend the evening of his life in retirement in that country, where he died on the 14th of February, 1901, and was buried at Kensal Green, London. A wreath was sent by the Government of New Zealand, on behalf of the colony, with the inscription: “New Zealand to her Statesman,”
The Late Sir E. W. Stafford.
Mr. John Perry Robinson was chosen to be Superintendent of Nelson on the resignation of Mr. Stafford, in 1856. He defeated Dr. Monro by a narrow majority, but so successful was his administration, and so highly were his honesty and impartiality esteemed, that he was twice re-elected to the office by large majorities, and held his position for eight years. He had been a member of the Provincial Council before his election as Superintendent, and he was remarkably well versed in English polities. As Superintendent of the province Mr. Robinson paid a visit to the West Coast to inspect the new goldfields and the coal deposits on the Grey and Buller, While on this official visit on the 28th of January, 1865, he and three other men were drowned by the upsetting of a boat in the Buller river, and his body was never recovered. Mr. Alfred Saunders was chosen to serve the remainder of the term for which Mr. Robinson had been last elected. Mr. Robinson was born in Surrey, England, in 1809. He was brought up as a wood and ivory turner, and afterwards established a large business of this nature in Birmingham. Shortly after arriving in Nelson by the ship “Phoebe,” in 1842, he opened a school in the township under the Nelson School Society, and was its master for some time. Mr. Robinson then removed to Auckland, where he entered into business, and carried it on for several years. Then he returned to Nelson, where he established himself, and subsequently went to Motupipi, where, with three other partners, he erected the first sawmill in the district. At that time a deputation went over from Nelson and requested him to contest the Superintendency, to which he assented. Mr. Robinson always evinced a great interest in education. While residing in Birmingham he was a member of the committee of the Mechanics' Institute, and he was afterwards a member of the committee of the Nelson School Society for many years. From early life he took an interest in politics, and occupied a prominent position in Birmingham during the agitation that preceded the passing of the Reform Bill. His Liberal political principles were formed during the struggle for just rights; and from intimate intercourse with some of the leading minds of that great district, he became imbued with a just and practical theory of enlightened Liberal institutions. Before leaving for New Zealand some of the directors of the New Zealand Company discovered in Mr. Robinson a man of superior judgment and good intellect, and the colonial officers of the company frequently resorted to him for assistance and advice in the early days of the settlement. Once when the works of the company were stopped, and many persons deemed themselves unjustly treated, Mr. Robinson's judicious influence with the people was enlisted; and by a wise use of his experience, at a time when men threatened to break open the stores of the shopkeepers, he saved Nelson from the disgrace of a riot. Mr. Robinson was married, in the Old Country, to Miss Gaskell, of Derby, and at the time of his death he left a family of two sons and seven daughters.
The Late Mr. J. P. Robinson.
Mr. Alfred Saunders was the first colonist to land from the “Fifeshire,” the first of the vessels that reached the colony with the “Pilgrim Fathers” of Nelson. Mr. Saunders was for some years member for Waimea in the Provincial Council; and in 1859 passed through a contest with District Judge Travers, which led to his temporary imprisonment on a charge of libel. He was re-elected to the Provincial Council while in gaol without opposition; on his release, the same district chose him as its representative in Parliament, and he was offered the position of Colonial Treasurer in the Fox Ministry. In 1866 he was re-elected Superintendent, but in 1867 resigned for the purpose of visiting England. After his return to the colony, in 1872, he page 26 resided in Canterbury, and represented Cheviot in Parliament for several sessions, and also sat afterwards, successfully, for Lincoln and Selwyn. Mr Saunders was an enthusiast in several subjects—among others, temperance, education, and Civil Service reform. He wrote a “History of New Zealand,” and several works dealing with the practical side of colonial life— “Our Domestic Birds,” “Our Horses,” and others; and his ability as a writer and speaker, as well as his honesty and courage, were freely acknowledged even by his most determined political opponents. His biography appears at page 370 of the Canterbury volume of this work.
Mr. Oswald Curtis , who was the youngest son of Mr. Stephen Curtis, a London merchant, was educated at private schools and the Hackney Grammar School, and matriculated at the University of London. He arrived in Nelson, in June, 1853, and two years afterwards he was elected to the Provincial Council. In 1867 he succeeded Mr. Saunders as Superintendent of the province, and in the same year was elected a member of the House of Representatives for Nelson city. He held his seat in the House for eleven years, and maintained his position as Superintendent till the abolition of the provinces. Mr. Curtis was Commissioner of Customs in the third Stafford Ministry, but apart from this, his public experience was confined chiefly to Nelson, where his practical ability and his zeal in the cause of education always commanded the respect and esteem of his fellow colonists. He was a Governor of the Nelson College, Trustee of the Nelson Savings Bank, a Fellow of the University of New Zealand, and a member of its senate from 1870 to 1878. Mr. Curtis died at Nelson on the 1st of March, 1902, aged eightyone years.
The Late Mr. Oswald Curtis.