The Jubilee History of Nelson: From 1842 to 1892.
Sir George Grey's Regulations.—The Constitution Act.—First Elections for House of Representatives.—Calls to the Legislative Council.—Our first Superintendent.—Provincial Council Elections.-—First Meeting. —First Provincial Executive.—Address to Major Richmond.— Steam Communication.—The "Nelson."—Deaths of Hon. C. A. Dillon and Mr. Otterson.-—Mr. Poynter appointed Resident Magistrate. —Pakawau Coals.—First Stag turned out.—Nelson Beer.—Town Drainage.—Earthquake.—Mr. F. A. Weld's Explorations.—Death of Mr. Stephens.—Education Act passed,—First Town Board.— Dun Mountain Copper.—Mr. Stafford appointed First Minister of the Crown.—Resigns Superintendency.—The Nelson "Supper Party "—Mr. J. P., Robinson elected Superintendent.—Nelson College started.—Motueka Gold Rush.—' Colonist' Newspaper.—Separation of Wairau.—Foundation Stones of Government Buildings and Nelson Institute laid.—Dr. Von Hochstetter.—Sixth Session of Provincial Council.-—Mineral Leases.—Compensation Claims.—Coal Company.
The famous Regulations for the Sale, Letting, Disposal, and Occupation of Waste Lands, commonly known as Sir George Grey's Regulations, came into operation in 1853. The 25th Regulation provided, that "the scrip to be issued in satisfaction of claims under land orders of the New Zealand Company shall be taken in payment for town and suburban land at the nominal value of such scrip in pounds sterling."
The price of rural lands outside hundreds was fixed at ten shillings per acre, to be paid in cash or scrip; but where the land from its hilly and broken character or otherwise was so unavailable for agricultural purposes that the Commissioner of Crown Lands shall certify that it was not worth ten shillings an acre, the lands so certified were to be surveyed and put up to auction at five shillings an acre, in blocks of not less than 80, nor more than 640 acres.
Under these provisions immense tracts of country were acquired by settlers in the Wairau and adjoining districts, at five shillings an acre, and paid for in some instances in scrip.
Where future lines of road had not been determined and laid out, a general right of road was reserved in the grant. This gave rise to much annoyance, inconvenience, and litigation.
The right of pre-emption of homesteads not exceeding 80 acres in extent was granted to runholders at a fixed price of either 10s. or 5s. per acre, according to the quality of the land.
These Eegulations cannot be said to have worked satisfactorily. Large areas of Crown lands were alienated far below their real value, and if a few became wealthy, many hampered themselves in order to acquire their freeholds, that it was years page 114before they could free themselves from their embarrassments in some instances they could not do so at all, and their properties fell into other hands.
The Act to grant a Representative Constitution to the Colony of New Zealand was, by Proclamation of Governor Grey, brought into operation in the Colony on the 17th January, 1853. By another Proclamation, dated 28th February, the Provinces were established; and by a further Proclamation, dated the 5th March, the number of members of the House of Representatives was fixed at thirty-seven, of which number the Town of Nelson was to return two, the "Waimea District two, the Motueka and Massacre Bay District one, and the Wairau District one.
The number of members of the Nelson Provincial Council was fixed at fifteen, and the Province was divided into seven Electoral Districts for the election of the Superintendent and members of the Provincial Council.
The following were the Districts and the number of members of Provincial Council for each:—Town of 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; Wairau District, two members. The qualifications of voters were (1) a freehold situate within the District in which the vote was to be given of the clear value of £50; (2) a leasehold of the annual value of £40, having three years to run, or of which the claimant had been in possession for three years; (3) household, of the annual value of £.10 in the Town, or of £5 in the Country, the applicant having resided therein for six months.
The Constitution Act, if it did not give the people all they desired, was a substantial recognition of their just rights. Vote by ballot and manhood suffrage, were as yet beyond the pale of practical politics, and "one man one vote" had not even been heard of.
The first election for members of the House of Representatives for the Town of Nelson took place on the 25th July, 1853. There was very little interest taken in the proceedings—surprisingly little—considering the past agitation for representative institutions. There were only two candidates nominated—Mr. W. T. L. Travers and Mr. James Mackay, and they were, of course, returned unopposed. For the Wairau there was also no opposition to Mr. Frederick Aloysius Weld; but for the Waimea District there was a contest. The candicandidates were Dr. Monro, and Messrs. W. 0. Cautley, J. W. Saxton, and C. Elliott. Dr. Monro and Mr. Cautley were elected. For the Motueka and Massacre Bay District, there was also a contest between Mr. Picard and Mr. S. Stephens; the former was returned by 44 votes to 32. Mr. Travers resigned his seat for Nelson in the following August, mainly because, having in page 115the meantime been defeated at the election for members of the Provincial Council, he considered that fact to indicate that he no longer possessed the confidence of the electors. The election to fill the vacant seat did rot take place until June, 1854, when Mr. Stephens was returned. Mr. Cautley also resigned for the Waimeas, when the vacant seat was contested by Mr. Travers and Mr. Jollie, resulting in the return of the former by 126 to 71.
The first meeting of the General Assembly was held in Auckland on 24th May, 1854, at which all the Nelson representatives in both Houses attended except Mr. Cautley and Mr. Travers.
Sir George Grey had left for England, and Colonel Wynyard administered the Government until the arrival of the new Governor, Colonel Gore Browne, a few months later.
For the position of first Superintendent of the Province of Nelron there were three candidates—Mr. E. W. Stafford, Mr. Francis Jollie, and Mr. J. W. Saxton. Some months previous to the election the newspapers teemed with letters advocating the merits of the different candidates. A "Nelson Political Union" was formed, and at one of the meetings a resolution was carried that a deputation should wait upon Messrs. Stafford and Saxton for the purpose of suggesting to those gentlemen the expediency of one of them withdrawing from the contest "in order to avoid any danger to the cause by a split in the Liberal party." But neither candidate was willing to retire. The nomination took place on Friday, 15th May, 1853, when Mr. J. W. Saxton was proposed by Mr. Travers, and seconded by Mr. Collins; Mr. F. Jollie was proposed by Dr. Monro, and seconded by Mr. Sclanders; and Mr. E, W. Stafford was proposed by Mr. Elliott, and seconded by Mr. Nixon. The show of hands was in favour of Mr. Stafford. The election took place on 1st August, and resulted in the return of Mr. Stafford, the numbers being— Stafford, 251; Saxton, 206; Jollie, 130.
For the five Town seats in the Provincial Council seven persons were nominated, viz:—W. T. L. Travers, Dr. Bush, Dr. Renwick, Dr. Sinclair, H. Adams, W. Hough, arid —. Richardson. The election passed off quietly. In this, as in all the first elections, the question was mainly a personal one—there being as yet no Provincial political parties, and no burning public questions.
Messrs. Sinclair, Renwick, Hough, Bush, and H. Adams were the first members for the Town in the Nelson Provincial Council.
For the Wairau, Messrs. Charles Elliott and Joseph Ward page 116were returned without opposition. For Waimea East there was also no contest, Messrs. F. Otterson and J. W. Barnicoat being the only candidates nominated. Dr. Monro for Waimea West, and Mr. Wm. Collins for the Suburban Districts, were likewise elected unopposed.
In Waimea South there were four candidates for the two seats—Messrs. Baigent, Saxton, Dickenson, and Creasy. The result of the poll was—Baigent 72, Saxton 35, Dickenson 25, and Creasy 18.
For the Motueka and Massacre Bay District, there was also a contest for the two seats. The candidates were—Messrs. Stephens, Parker, and Picard. The numbers polled were— Stephens 48, Parker 36, Picard 24.
The first meeting of the Provincial Council was held in the Court House on the 3rd November, 1853. It is a memorable event in the history of the settlement. Not only had representation in the General Assembly been conceded, but a local Government, endowed with far more extensive powers than scarcely anyone, at first, had any idea of, had been granted to the people. With certain exceptions, the Provincial Councils possessed powers, enabling them either by new enactments, or by amending existing Ordinances, to make all laws necessary for the peace, order, and good government of the respective Provinces. Great as were these original powers, they became greater—partly by legislation, which enabled the Governor to delegate very important powers to the Superintendents. These, as a rule, were exercised with the advice of the Provincial Executives, and they being more or less responsible to the Provincial Councils, the latter had practically, if not directly, a potent voice in deciding how the "delegated powers" should be exercised.
There was a good deal of form and ceremony about the opening of the first Nelson Provincial Council. The Jury box was filled with gaily attired ladies; the body of the Court crowded with the public, whilst the porch of the building was reserved for the Magistrates and Clergy, who mustered in full force.
The proceedings were conducted upon strict Parliamentary lines. The election of Speaker was the first business transacted. Dr. Renwick proposed, and Mr. F. Otterson seconded, Mr. Donald Sinclair. There being no other candidate, Mr. Sinclair was declared elected, and conducted to the chair by his proposer and seconder. The election having been duly notified to the Superintendent, who was pleased to signify his approval of the same, members were informed that his Honor would address the Council. Here all rose, as his Honor the Superintendent entered the Council with slow and dignified steps, and, having reached the chair, sat down and put his hat on—a proceeding which was afterwards ridiculed by Dr. Monro and others. His page 117Honor then read the address, which referred at some length to the important powers conferred on the Council; the financial position; the necessity of constructing and repairing roads and bridges; the purchase from the natives of all the land in the Province and D'Urville's Island; and the evidences of large mineral wealth within the Provincial boundaries. His Honor then retired. From the first the inconvenience of there being no Executive Government, or anyone who could act as a medium of communication between the Council and the Superintendent, was strongly felt; and it is not surprising that most of the first session was occupied in discussing an Executive Government Act, which, as finally passed, provided partially for the Executive being responsible.
The first Executive Government was appointed on 6th January, 1854. Mr. Poynter was made Provincial Treasurer, and Mr. Henry Adams Provincial Solicitor. There was no provision for a Provincial Secretary. Mr. Adams, being an Executive officer who was responsible to the Council, had to resign his seat on accepting office and go to his constituents. He was opposed by Mr. Travers, who was nominated during his absence in Auckland, but was re-elected by 109 to 48. The Superintendent also appointed Mr. Alfred Greenfield to be Clerk to the Superintendent; Mr. Alfred Dobson, C.E., to be Commissioner of Public Works; and Mr. John Sharp to be a member of the Board of Audit for the Province.
A very numerously signed address was presented in November, 1853, to Major Richmond upon his retiring from the position of Superintendent, or, as he put it in his felicitously-worded reply, on his " declining to be put in nomination as Superintendent under the new Constitution." For six years, the Major, whose appointment to Nelson was at first bitterly opposed, had by the just and impartial manner in which he had performed his duties, and, to use the language of the address, the high moral example which he had shown to the community, the uniform kindness of his conduct and manner, and his liberal and unostentatious hospitality, won the hearty esteem and approbation of the whole community.
The early opposition to Major Richmond's appointment arose out of the native troubles, and especially the Wairau affair. But even those who were most bitterly opposed to him at that time, could not but admit that he did nothing but his duty as an Imperial officer in carrying out the instructions and the policy of the Imperial authorities.
The desirability of establishing steam communication had never been lost sign of. It was specially provided for in the Company's original prospectus; but their difficulties prevented anything being done. In June, 1853, however, information was received that a steamer of between 300 and 400 tons burthen, to page 118be called the "Nelson," was to be sent out by Messrs. Willis and Co. about the beginning of July. She was intended to run between the different settlements of New Zealand, but to make Nelson her central port. Messrs. A. Fell & Co. were to be the agents. She arrived on Sunday, the 5th March, 1854. The "Nelson" was soon put into commission, and ran regular trips to Wellington, New Plymouth, Manukau, and Otago. The fares were, from Nelson to Wellington or New Plymouth, £5; to Manukau, &7 10s.; and to Otago, £10. The "Nelson" continued running until May, 1855. Notice was given some time before that she would be withdrawn unless her owners could dispose of her to parties willing to continue her in the trade. No purchaser being found, she discontinued running, and left for England under sail, laden with wool. Thus ended the first attempt to establish inter-provincial steam communication.
The settlement sustained no ordinary loss by the death of the Hon. C. A. Dillon, who was drowned in attempting to cross the Wairau on the 16th April, 1853. Mr Dillon was one of the band of enterprising men who risked life and fortune in founding the settlement. A man of highly benevolent nature, his hand was always open to relieve the distressed, and he was always a foremost supporter of any movement having for its object the welfare of Nelson. His loss was severely felt, and he was sincerely mourned. He had acted for some tirne as Civil Secretary to the Colonial Government, and at the time of his death was Commissioner of Crown Lands for Nelson district.
In October of the following year Nelson lost another of her earliest and valuable settlers in the same manner. Mr F. Otterson was drowned whilst crossing the Wairau on the 19th of the above month. He was highly esteemed by all classes of settlers. Although brought up to mercantile pursuits, he was one of the first to break up the soil, his farm, "Rostrevor," was looked upon as one of the best in the settlement, and his stock and produce commanded the highest price in the market. The pall bearers at his funeral were his Honor the Superintendent, Major Richmond, Mr J. W. Saxton, Dr Monro, Mr C. B. Wither and Mr W. 0. Cautley. The body was borne to the grave by eight men who had worked on his farm. Nearly one hundred horsemen followed, four abreast, and the rear was brought up by a large number on foot. The funeral service was performed by the Rev. Father Garin, S.M.
The vacancy caused in 'the Provincial Council for the Waimea district by the death of Mr Otterson, was filled by the election of Mr Cautley, who defeated Dr Muller.
Major Richmond resigned the appointment of Resident Magistrate early in April, 1854, and was succeeded by Mr John Poynter, who took his seat on the Bench for the first time on the 26th April.page 119
Pakawau coals were regularly sold in Nelson. A supply was kept by Mr J. Watts, at his yards at Auckland Point, but they seem to have been dear; at all events, the blacksmiths gave the high price of coals as a reason for combining to fix a scale of charges. The charge for shoeing horses was fixed at 12s.; cart axles and arms, per lb., Is. 6d.; cart wheel hoops, per lb., Is. This scale was agreed to by Thomas Rollison, R. Watson, S. Stone, J. Newman, Thomas Wimsett, and J. Gay.
In September, 1854, the first stag was turned out on the hills between Waimea road and the mouth of the Waimea river. It was brought to the Colony in the ship "Eagle." Two hinds were sent for from England, which were turned out to keep him company.
In connection with the breweries, Mr "Barley, owner of the Nelson brewery, notified that in consequence of the high price of labor, and the number of hands required in his establishment, he was compelled to balance his books quarterly, and all moneys due after those dates would be charged with ten per cent interest. Messrs. Hooper & Co. also notified a change in their firm, which in future would consist of G. Hooper and J. R. Dodson, who had taken over the brewery formerly held by Thomas Renwick and George Hooper, under the style or firm of Hooper & Co. Nelson beer commanded a steady market in the other settlements, especially in Wellington and Auckland.
The second session of the Nelson Provincial Council was opened on 22nd November, 1854. The principal business transacted was to increase the number of members from 15 to 24. Of these a new district—Amuri—was to return one member. Although nothing was done, the Council discussed the important question of draining the Town. It was pointed out that like most newly-formed towns, Nelson began with open drains and cesspools, pigsties, dung-heaps, slaughter-houses, and other pestilential hot-beds, which were suffered to be formed without restriction, and that, as population increased, so did the pollution of the soil and atmosphere, until its effects on the community had become a grave question. In connection with this, the necessity for a water-supply (and the facilities for getting it) was first mooted.
One of the most severe earthquakes ever experienced in Nelson occurred on Tuesday, the 22nd January, 1855. Several chimneys were damaged or thrown down, and some property was destroyed in stores and private houses. The only human being injured was a little son of Mr. A. MacDonald's, of the Union Bank, who while lying in his cot was slightly struck by some falling brick-work.
On 2nd March, 1855, Mr. Stephen Lunn Muller was appointed Provincial Secretary, under the provisions of an Amended Executive Council Ordinance passed during the recent sitting of page 120the Provincial Council. Mr. Cyrus Goulter was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Public Works.
Mr. Weld, who had been engaged in making further explorations, succeeded in discovering a perfectly practicable route to Canterbury by way of the Wairau Gorge, which shortened the distance between Nelson and Christchurch by little short of 150 miles, and likewise avoided the worst portions of the existing road. In June, 1855, Mr. Weld resigned his seat for the Wairau, being about to visit England. Before leaving he was entertained, at a dinner at the Trafalgar Hotel.
On the 26th June, 1855, Mr. S. Stephens died. He came out as Principal Officer on the Surveying staff with the Preliminary Expedition, and from his many estimable qualities was much, respected. At the time of his death he was member for Nelson in the House of Representatives, and for Motueka in the Provincial Council.
The commencement of the year 1856 found Nelson, in connection with the other Provinces of New Zealand, suffering from the depression caused by the cessation of that demand for produce, at high rates, which had been the result of the Australian gold discoveries. That period of depression was followed by a more healthy, if apparently a less prosperous, state of things, and the desire to speculate in land was less popular.
The third session of the Provincial Council (the number of members having been increased from fifteen to twenty-four) began its sittings on the 22nd January, and concluded on the 5th April. The principal result of this session was the passing of the Education Act, to which more extended reference is made in the next chapter; the Country Roads Act, and the Nelson Improvement Act. But the two latter Acts were not brought into operation; because it being optional with the various districts to bring, them into force or not, they decided not to do so, many of the provisions being extremely unpalatable.
During the next session, however, an Act was passed enabling the former Act to be brought into operation, and on the 30th July, 1857, the first Town Board was elected. The first members were Massrs. M. Bury, Luck, C. Harley, Norgrove, Edwards, Webb, and Rankin. Of these Mr. Bury and Mr. Charles. Harley are the only survivors. It is an interesting fact, that although Mr. Harley has not taken himself an active part for some years in Municipal politics, yet from the establishment of the first Town Board to the present time, one or two of his sons have been found amongst the representatives of the citizens either on the Town Board, or its successor, the Corporation.
During 1856, some 15 or 20 tons of copper ore, procured from the Dun Mountain mine, and sent to England, created there so favourable an impression, that the Dun Mountain Copper Mining Company was formed in London, and an engineer, a staff page 121of miners, and the plant for a railway, were sent-out. Operations, however, were not attended with the success anticipated. The iron rails were laid down, and the railway trucks placed upon them, but very little copper was found, although there was an abundance of chrome. A quantity was shipped Home, but it was found it would not pay. Ultimately the Company was wound up, and its plant and property sold. All that remains is the track made for the railway, which makes the walk up to the Dun Mountain comparatively easy, and the short bit of tram line from Nelson to the Port, which, having passed into private hands, has survived all vicissitudes; and upon which the Port 'Bus runs, as it has for years, for the conveyance of passengers, at a safe and slow pace, for the sum of threepence per head.
Another Company was formed in October, 1856, to work some lodes of copper said to have been discovered at the Croixelles by a miner named Marsden. The mine appeared to offer such good prospects that the shares were all immediately taken up; but after various flickerings of the hopes and expectations of the shareholders, the operations ceased.
Consequent upon the establishment of Responsible Government for the Colony, and of his having accepted the position of. First Minister of the Crown, Mr. Stafford resigned the Superintendency of Nelson in October, 1856. He had conducted the duties of the office with conspicuous ability, and his name will ever hold a prominent place in the local history of the settlement, not only as its first elected Superintendent, but also as one of its earliest and most valuable settlers and foremost public men.
It has been already mentioned that the resident original land purchasers formed themselves into a Society to watch over their own interest. When the New Zealand Company practically ceased to exist, this party, which was long known as the "Nelson Supper Party," became the dominant power in the settlement. The Governor made all appointments by their advice; they acquired the control of the only newspaper in the place; the land regulations were made to suit them; the runs were divided amongst them; and the Nelson Special Jury was composed entirely of themselves and their friends.
The contest that followed upon Mr. Stafford's resignation of the Superintendency, was the keenest, best fought, political battle ever seen in Nelson, and on very distinct lines. The "Nelson Supper Party" put forward their leader, and by far their best and ablest man, in the person of Doctor, afterwards Sir David Monro. The people of Nelson who were most hostile to the "Supper Party" reluctantly opposed so good and popular a man as Dr. Monro; and as those were not the days of manhood suffrage, vote by ballot, and one man one vote, they had no great confidence in being able to oppose him successfully. After many page 122consultations they decided to bring forward Mr. J. P. Robinson.
Mr. John Perry Robinson was a highly worthy and intelligent mechanic, who was at the time away at Motupipi with some partners erecting a sawmill. He was a member of the Nelson Provincial Council, and was remarkably well up in English politics. He had distinguished himself, whilst working for the New Zealand Company, by the wisdom and moderation of his advice to his fellow workmen.
The election was conducted in a highly creditable manner, with the result that Mr. Robinson was elected by a very small majority; but that majority was increased at each succeeding election, and he continued to hold the important office of Superintendent the highest in the gift of his fellow settlers—until he was drowned accidentally by the upsetting of a boat at the mouth of the Buller Eiver on 28th January, 1864.
The new Superintendent began the duties of his office under considerable difficulties, including an empty treasury, and the fact that he was surrounded by men in office who had been his political opponents. But the result of his nine months' occupation of the office was, that he was, as above mentioned, again returned by a large majority over the only opposing candidate, Mr. J. W. Saxton.
On 8th September, 1856, Mr. Alfred Domett was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands for Nelson, in succession to the Hon. Major Richmond, who resigned the appointment.
During this year the Nelson College was started in a temporary building in Manuka-street. The present building was not erected until 1858. The history of this establishment is detailed in another chapter.
The discovery of gold in the Motueka district was another fact of the year 1856; at one time as many as 300 people were digging there. The owners of boats plying between Nelson and Motueka congratulated themselves that the golden age had arrived, and having reaped a rich harvest by carrying passengers and goods to the diggings, soon had the opportunity of repeating the experiment upon those who had any money left to pay for their passage home; for these diggings were soon deserted, as the gold was obtained in such small quantities as to render the occupation unremunerative. Before this gold had been discovered in various parts of Massacre Bay, and some time after the Motueka rush a bonus of £500 was offered for the discovery of a payable goldfield.
The New Provinces Act was passed in 1858, and the Wairau took advantage of its provisions to separate from Nelson, and the new Province of Marlborough was created. The agitation had been going on for some time. It was the old story. The settlers complained that the bulk of the revenue was spent in the Town, whilst the country districts were left without roads or bridges; and that although they contributed largely to the Provincial Treasury, they had not a due share of the representation in the Provincial Council, where they were steadily outvoted by the members for the Town and districts adjacent to it. There was also a special cause of irritation in the case of the Wairau, namely, that whilst extensive tracts of country had been sold under Sir George Grey's Regulations, hardly any of the money received had been expended in necessary local works. There was no very strong opposition in Nelson to the separation; it was what may be termed a friendly good-bye. The first elected Superintendent of the newly-created Province, was the late Mr. "William Adams, of Langleydale, Wairau, and for several years head of the firm of Adams and Kingdon, Solicitors, Nelson.
On the 26th August, 1859, the foundation stones of the Government Buildings, and of the Nelson Institute, were laid. The architect for both was Mr. Maxwell Bury. The Superintendent performed the ceremony at the Government Buildings; and the first stone of the Institute was laid by Dr. Von Hochstetter, who in the capacity of Geologist, was a member of the Expedition fitted out under the orders of H.I.H. the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian for a voyage round the world. Dr. Von Hochstetter arrived in New Zealand towards the end of 1858, in the Austrian frigate "Novara." By arrangements, made between the Commander of the Expedition, Baron Von Wiillerstorf-Urbair, and the Colonial Government, the Doctor was enabled to devote himself for nearly nine months to the exploration of New Zealand. He spent some time in the Nelson district, and has left a valuable and interesting description of its geological formation and mineral resources, in the book he wrote and published in 1867, entitled "New Zealand; its Physical Geography, Geology, and Natural History." Dr. Von Hochstetter, speaking of the Town, says: "On account of its beautiful site and its delightful climate, Nelson is justly considered one of the most pleasant places of sojourn in New Zealand. The impression made by the snug little cottages, surrounded by beautiful gardens, is an extremely cheerfulone."
To the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the Institute, the Doctor refers as follows:—" I was honored by the inhabitants with the office of laying the corner-stone of an edi-page 124fice designed for the noble purposes of art and science,- the Nelson Institute. Certainly a most cheering and memorable epoch in the history and development of the young colony, when the enterprising pioneers, after the toils and labours of their settling down had succeeded—after their houses had been roofed over, and fields and meadows put in due order—now direct their attention also to the nobler purposes of life, to the nursing of the blossoms and fruits of our civilization, of art and science."
The beginning of the year had been marked by the fact, that the Nelson Literary and Scientific Institution—-which ever since the foundation of the settlement had held a steady and useful, though somewhat slow, career—was remodelled under the less assuming name of the Nelson Institute; the rate of subscription was lowered; the mode of admission to the right of membership was made more simple; and its improved popularity was at once attested by a large increase of members. Later in the year, encouraged by a liberal vote of money, by a loan of money from the Nelson Trust Funds, and by numerous promises of support from the community, the Committee resolved to erect' a building that should be worthy the objects for which the Institution had been formed. A piece of ground was obtained from the Provincial Government; the necessary plans and designs were prepared by Mr. Maxwell Bury; and the foundation stone was laid, as mentioned, by Dr. Ferdinand Hochstetter on the 26th August.
The first Bishop of Nelson, the Right Rev. Edmund Hobhouse, D.D., arrived in April, 1859, and was formally installed into his See on the 26th of that month, and the Town of Nelson was, by Royal command, authorised to be styled the City of Nelson. At this time Nelson exhibited little of that bustle and activity that should characterise a City; but there was a great improvement in the street architecture—ricketty, barn-like stores had given place to handsome shops, and the old packing-case style of houses had been superseded, in many instances by dwellings having some pretensions to taste and comfort.
On the 12th April, the sixth session of the Provincial Council was opened by the Superintendent. His Honour on that occasion congratulated the Province on its increasing prosperity, as evidenced by the absence of crime, and the great additions to its revenue—the estimate for the previous year having been exceeded by about £8000. lie informed them that great progress had been made in the survey of lands, with the view to opening up and settlement of the country; and he proposed to expend the surplus revenue in the formation of great trunk lines of road throughout the length and breadth of the whole Province. On the subject of the goldfields, his Honor stated his conviction that their produce would continue to form the staple export of the Province; and he informed the Council that he had declined page 125acceding to a request for a lease, for twenty-one years, of a "block of four square miles of the auriferous land of the Collingwood district." Then, after enumerating the Bills proposed to be sent down, his Honour concluded his address by expresing his confidence that the deliberations of the Cohncil would contribute to realise for the future of the Province even a larger amount of prosperity than it then enjoyed.
It may here be noted that the prosperity alluded to was more imaginary than real; unless the mere fact of the Provincial coffers being in a somewhat plethoric state could be said to betoken a prosperous community. Nor should it be forgotten that much of this revenue was derived from the sale of land, in some instances in blocks of upwards of 8000 acres, bonght by the same person, at the absurdly low price of 5s an acre; this land being probably some of the very best in the Colony, and which, if it had been on the other side of the southern boundary of the Province, would have obtained a price of £2 or £3 an acre.
But to return to the Provincial Council. The session promised to be a short one, inasmuch as no Bills of any great public interest were likely to be submitted. One of the first important debates of the session was on the subject of mineral leases; and as the question excited very considerable interest, both in the House and out of doors, it may not be amiss to give some few particulars.
Soon after the close of the preceding session of the Council, Mr. Gibbs (a gentleman of almost European reputation in connection with mining and engineering matters) applied, as the authorised agent of the Metallurgic Company of London, for a lease of land, to the extent of two square miles, in the Aorere district for the purpose of working the minerals in accordance with the Land Eegulations then in force. Mr. Gibbs also applied for a mineral lease, of a similar extent of country, for himself. He had been engaged for some months in experimental operations on the land (some of which land had been formerly worked by individual diggers, but was then deserted); he had brought to the Province a quantity of expensive machinery connected with gold mining; and he promised that, if the leases were granted, operations would be at once commenced, and a considerable outlay in the employment of labour would be made. But the Executive refused to grant the leases, on the ground that they were not warranted in granting them by the then existing Land Regulations, which were passed at a time when the finding of gold in the Province was not dreamt of, and the clauses of which respecting mineral leases referred, it was contended, only to copper, coal, and similar minerals, and not to gold. Exception was also taken to the large amount of country applied for.
The result of the refusal of these applications was that Mr. Gibbs returned to England. But the question was brought on page 126for discussion by Mr. 0. Curtis, in his seat in Council; and, after a lengthy and warm debate, a resolution condemnatory of the conduct of the Government in this matter was carried by a majority of twelve to seven.
To allude to the arguments used on either side during the above discussion would occupy too much space; but suffice it to say, that, although the resolution was carried, the Executive did not exhibit the least inclination to resign their seats. Towards the close of the session, however, Mr. Elliott proposed an address to the Governor, requesting his Excellency to dissolve the Provincial Council. The old ground of mineral leases was again gone over, but the resolution was carried by a majority of only one; three of the members who had on the previous occasion supported the opposition voting with the Government. The reply to this address (which was received some time after the close of the session) was to the effect that the General Government did not consider it advisable to accede to the request.
The report of the Compensation Commisioners (appointed by an Act of the previous session, for the purpose of investigating the claims of the New Zealand Company's labourers and others to compensation, on account of hardships sustained during the early days' of the Province) was sent down to the Council, and showed that 445 claims had been received, for sum s varying from £30 to £500; and one modest individual valued his losses and hardships at £11,000. The report was submitted to a Select Committee, who recommended that the compensation should be given in land; and a Bill was passed for the purpose of enabling the Superintendent to appropriate land for the purpose. But this Bill, with several others, was disallowed by the General Government.
A Company was formed to work the coal discovered on Mr. Jenkins' land, near Stoke, but, having expended all their necessary capital in an unsuccessful endeavor to discover a paying seam of coal, the operations ceased, and the Company, except in name, became defunct. Later on, Mr. Jenkins commenced again to work the coal, and good household fuel was sent into town at the rate of two tons a day, and found a ready sale.