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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Superintendents of Hawke's Bay

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Superintendents of Hawke's Bay.

During the period that New Zealand was a Crown colony, it was under personal Government; the members of the Legislative Council, who aided the Governor, were his nominees. On the 30th June, 1852, the Imperial Parliament passed a Constitution Act for New Zealand, which was proclaimed in the colony by Governor Grey, on the 17th of January, 1853. Under this Act, six provinces were created, namely Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, and Otago. In later years subdivisions took place, and resulted in the formation of the new provinces of Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, Southland, and Westland. A Provincial Council, with a Superintendent at its head, was elected in every province. In the older provinces the Superintendents were elected by the people, but after the establishment of the new provinces, they were chosen by the Provincial Councils. The Superintendent had power to convene and prorogue the Council, and the Governor was empowered, on a petition of a majority of the Council, to remove the Superintendent. The Councils were elected for a term of four years, and to meet, at least, once a year. An elector's qualification was the possession of a freehold, valued at £50, or a leasehold of the annual value of ten pounds in a town, or of five pounds in the country. The Superintendent was the official head of his Executive; the proceedings were governed by Parliamentary usage, and all bills passed by the Council required the assent of the Governor. Within their respective provinces the Councils had the control of Crown lands, education, immigration, harbours, police, and hospitals, but their legislative powers were confined chiefly to the framing of laws relating to live stock and timber, drainage and fencing, though upon them devolved also the important duty of opening up the country with roads and bridges. Customs duties, the higher courts of justice, postal business, laws relating to bankruptcy, marriage ordinances, native affairs, criminal laws, and laws relating to the inheritance of property, were all dealt with by the General Assembly.

Guilliard, photo. Cape Kidnappers.

Guilliard, photo.
Cape Kidnappers.

While the settlements were so distant from each other, and the means of intercommunication so scanty, provincialism was of the greatest benefit to the country as a whole. Every district could attend to its peculiar requirements, and the pioneer work of colonisation was thereby helped more than it could have been by any other means. Ultimately, however, a feeling of dissatisfaction arose, and spread rapidly in some of the country districts, concerning the unequal distribution of provincial revenues. It was alleged that an undue portion of public moneys was spent in the chief towns, while the roads and bridges for the country were neglected in consequence. The agitation ended in the passing of a bill by the General Assembly in 1858, intituled “The New Provinces Act.” Under the new law, Hawke's Bay was the first district to claim the right to secede, and, by forming a new provincial Government, it reaped the full benefit of the revenues derived from its extensive area. It thus came about that 1,514 inhabitants—the population of Hawke's Bay at that time, and about one-tenth of that of the mother province—took over the control of the whole country from Wairoa to Woodville, about one-third of the area of the original provincial district of Wellington. The loss to Wellington meant a corresponding gain to the junior province. An election was held, and ten members were returned to the first Hawke's Bay Provincial Council, which held its first meeting on the 23rd of April, 1859, in the Golden Fleece Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Bank of New Zealand. About the year 1860 the Provincial Council Chambers were built, and became also the headquarters of the Magistrate's Court and other Government departments.

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Under the administration of the Council, Hawke's Bay made substantial advances. The first public works included the formation of a road to Meanee, and the building of Tareha's bridge. Other roads were soon formed—some through dense bush; more pastoral lands were taken up, and a healthy spirit of progressiveness opened up ways to a prosperous future. Some of the provinces's most important public works were authorised and completed during the superintendency of Sir Donald McLean.

Settlement progressed rapidly throughout the colony, under provincial rule, but when the country became more populated, and communication was made more easy, it was found that the political machinery was too cumbersome. Ten Provincial Councils could not always work in harmony with the General Assembly, and though they had done good work, a time came when their abolition was deemed advisable. Sir Julius Vogel was the chief champion of the change, and, at his instance, a bill for the abolition of the provinces was passed in the year 1876. Since that date there has been one central Government; the country has been divided into counties, governed to a limited extent by county councils, while municipal bodies control the local affairs of the towns.

During the continuance of Provincial Government in Hawke's Bay four Superintendents held office. Mr. T. H. Fitzgerald was succeeded by Captain J. C. Lambton Carter, who was followed by Sir Donald McLean. Upon the latter gentleman joining the Fox Ministry as Native Minister, the Hon. J. D. Ormond was elected to office, and held the position until 1877, when the Abolition Bill came into operation. The Hon. J. Wilson, Provincial Solicitor, and Mr. G. T. Fannin, Provincial Clerk, held their respective positions throughout the whole period of provincial rule in Hawke's Bay. Mr. Fannin was subsequently appointed clerk to the Hawke's Bay County Council, and held the position until 1906.

Mr. Thomas Henry Fitzgerald, the first Superintendent of Hawke's Bay, was one of the principal agitators for separation from Wellington, and worked in conjunction with Mr. H. B. Sealey, who wrote articles, and opened a correspondence in the columns of the Wellington “Spectator.” Mr. Fitzgerald also represented Hawke's Bay in the House of Representatives. He was a surveyor by profession, and upon resigning the Superintendency, resumed his practice. He subsequently left New Zealand for Australia, where he died many years ago.

Captain John Chilton Lambton Carter succeeded Mr. T. H. Fitzgerald as Superintendent of Hawke's Bay. He was elected on the 8th of April, 1861, and remained in office for two years. Captain Carter was educated and trained for the Imperial service, and subsequently rose to the rank of Captain of H. M. 53rd Regiment. After resigning his commission he came to New Zealand, and took up land in Hawke's Bay, where he carried on sheep-farming. Captain Carter died in Napier, on the 27th of May, 1872.

Sir Donald McLean, K.C.M.G., the third Superintendent of Hawke's Bay, was born in Scotland in the year 1820. He went to Sydney at seventeen years of age, and two years late came to New Zealand. In April, 1844, he entered the Government service as Protector of the Aborigines, for the Western district, which extended from Mokau to Wanganui, and included Taupo. Sir George Grey subsequently abolished the department of Native Protectors, but retained Mr. McLean's services for practically the same duties, under the designation of Inspector of Police. In 1850 he received a commission empowering him to acquire land for the Government, in both islands. He visited Hawke's Bay, and arranged for the purchase of between six and seven hundred thousand acres, which led to the settlement of the province. With Sir George Grey's sanction he organised a department, in 1853, called the Native Land Purchase Department, with officers allotted to the various districts. He himself held office as Chief Commissioner, and, in that capacity, in 1851, made large purchases of land in the Auckland province. During the period of Governor Gore Browne's administration he continued to hold this office, together with that of native secretary, and was the adviser of the Governor on all matters affecting the Natives. In 1863 Sir Donald McLean settled in Hawke's Bay, and in the same year was elected to the office of Superintendent. In 1866 he was returned for the first time to the House of Representatives, and during the following three years continued to be both Superintendent and member. He took office in 1869 as Native and Defence Minister, and held this position until he retired from public life, seven years later. For thirty-two years Sir Donald McLean was actively engaged in the public service, from which he retired just a month before his death, which took place at Napier, on the 5th of January, 1877. The “Lyttelton Times,” a few days before his death, in summing up a long article upon him, said: “As a public man, measured by the value of what he has done, he dwarfs everyone in New Zealand.” Sir Donald was knighted in the year 1874, in recognition of his public services.

The Late Sir D. McLean.

The Late Sir D. McLean.

The Honourable John Davies Ormond, who was the last Superintendent of Hawke's Bay, was born in the year 1832, at Wallingford, Berks, England, and is the youngest son of the late Captain Frank Frederick Ormond, a captain in the Royal Navy of England. He was educated in Plymouth, England, and came to New Zealand when he was sixteen years of age, by the ship “Ralph Burnell.” For two years Mr. Ormond was private secretary to his brother-in-law, Lientenant-Governor Eyre, but in the early “fifties” he settled in Hawke's Bay as a sheep-farmer, when the district was included in the province of Wellington, and when the settlers were less than twenty in number. A few weeks later he entered political life, and since then he has continuously taken an active and prominent part in the administration of the public affairs of the colony. He was a member of four Ministries: as Minister of Public Works in the Fox Ministry in 1872, and again in the Waterhouse Administration in the same year for a few days; as Secretary for Crown Lands and Minister for Immigration page 299 in the short-lived Atkinson Government of 1876. In the reconstituted Ministry that followed he was Postmaster-General and Commissioner of Telegraphs for a short time, but took his old portfolio of Public Works, which he held till the resignation of that Government on the 13th of October, 1877. On the passing of the New Provinces Act, in 1858, Hawke's Bay was constituted a separate province, and Mr. Ormond warmly espoused its cause. He held the office of Superintendent for some years, and, with the late Sir Donald McLean, made Hawke's Bay's interests a special care up to the abolition of the Provinces in 1876. Mr. Ormond also acted as Government Agent, having charge of the East Coast district up to East Cape on the one side, and as far as Taupo on the other. Throughout the trying time when Te Kooti threatened the inhabitants of Hawke's Bay, East Coast, and Taupo, Mr. Ormond directed operations, and was specially thanked for his services in the Governor's speech to Parliament. He describes this period as the “most responsible and trying time of his life.” Sir Donald McLean, the Native Minister, was his friend and associate. Except for one Parliament, Mr. Ormond has continuously held a seat in the Legislature since the year 1861, when he was first returned to Parliament as member for Clive. After representing this constituency and Napier for many years, he was called to the Upper House in 1891. He has been a member of the Napier Harbour Board, the Charitable Aid and Hospital Board, and almost every other local body in Hawke's Bay. In 1859 Mr. Ormond married Miss Richardson, and has three sons and two daughters.

The Hon. J. D. Ormond.

The Hon. J. D. Ormond.