The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 38
Mr. Rees'S Address
Mr. Rees'S Address.
Last night, W. L. Rees, Esq., M.H.R, delivered a most interesting address in the Masonic Hall, upon several matters of public interest. The night was wet, and boisterous; but, notwithstanding, there was a good attendance. Several ladies had also signified their intention of attending, but were prevented on account of the rain.
On the motion of Mr. Carlaw Smith, Mr. H. E. Webb occupied the chair; and said that he had hoped to see some ladies present, many of whom had expressed their desire to respond to Mr. Rees's invitation. He would remind the meeting that Mr. Rees was a visitor, and was about to entertain us as his guests; and, as such, it was our duty to accord to him an impartial and courteous hearing. Mr. Rees might feel it difficult to dissociate the politician from the private gentleman; and, perhaps, so much the better, as he was intimately connected with the mind of the Government, what he had to say on public matters would have greater weight. He had much pleasure in introducing Mr. Rees to the meeting.
Mr W. L. Rees, M.H.R., who was received with applause on rising, said: Mr Chairman, and gentlemen,—I thought it better when coming to address the meeting this evening to put down in order the few subjects upon which I intended to speak. It would be better to do so that the time might not be occupied in discursive narrative, and that what I myself, with your help, might hope to accomplish, would be clearly laid before you, in the form of a picture that would take hold upon your minds. No doubt the inclemency of the weather has kept many from attending this evening, but when we remember that the cause of the comparative paucity of attendance here tonight, is due to the present fall of rain, it will hardly be a matter of regret, knowing as we do, how welcome that rain will be throughout the district. However, it is not in mortals to command success. It will be sufficient if those who are here gain an intelligent idea of the subjects I propose to deal with, so materially affecting the welfare of this district; and to those who are absent the representatives of the Press will make known the views that are uttered. Perhaps it would be wise in commencing my remarks to state why I have taken upon myself to ask the people of Gisborne to meet me here to-night. To those whom I now have the pleasure of addressing it is well known the profession to which I have the honor to belong. It may be equally familiar to them that of late years I have mixed considerably in politics. More especially I have taken an active part in regard to questions pertaining to the natives and their lands, and, of course, I suppose we need not hide it from ourselves that the action I have so taken has been provocative of considerable comment, and viewed with much suspicion from certain quarters. Suspicion, apprehension, and curiosity, have been created in many quarters in relation to transactions in which I have been actively engaged. Now, I desire at this meeting to-night to lay clearly before the public the grounds upon which I pursue the action I do. I desire, also, to state the reasons by which I have been led to follow the course I have adopted; and the explanation I am about to submit will, without doubt, be satisfactory to those whom I am now addressing. In taking a brief and retrospective view of the tenure under which Msori lands were held prior to the advent of the European, we find, as I suppose many here to-night are fully aware, that a system prevailed of possessing land under tribal right. A system of Communism prevailed, and speaking generally, no native held absolutely to himself any portion in particular, of the surrounding territory of the vicinity in which he lived. Chiefs possessed rights in virtue of their chieftainship and they held lands on behalf of tribes or families whom they represented. When the first Parliament of New Zealand assembled, at the time the Constitution was given to the country a new feeling was created among the Maoris. They re- page 2 garded with much suspicion the new power that was thus raised up amongst them, and considerable anxiety arose throughout the centres of aboriginal population in the colony. I have heard from the old residents of Auckland who were acquainted with the Maori chiefs of that district who belonged to the past generation, that at the first assembly of the New Zealand Parliament the Maoris squatted round the Provincial Chambers which were then the Houses of Parliament. And it has been described how they regarded with suspicion the pomp and ceremony attendant upon the first opening of Parliament in a British dependency: how the Maoris questioned the Interpreters, and wondered what the whole thing meant. The Maoris understood the mana of the Queen over the Islands of New Zealand, and had become familiar with the fact that the Governor was her representative; but what this new power consisting of the Parliament opened with so much ceremony really meant and whence the power was derived, was altogether beyond their conception. They were determined to question this new power and ascertain its source. Previous to that time the Maoris had been accustomed to appeal to the Governor direct whenever they had any cause of complaint or any alleged wrong requiring redressing. Now they were told that if they had a grievance that grievance was to be laid before Parliament; the power of applying direct to the Governor no longer existed. In consequence of the feeling that arose among the Maoris and the generally unsettled state of the Natives, a combination among the Natives was formed known as the Land League.
Potatau determined to send to the Government asking to have a flour mill erected at Matamata, and for that purpose a deputation was appointed to wait on Mr(after wards Sir Donald) McLean. Upon the reply to that demand the future policy of the Land League was to be based. These messengers from Potatau came to Auckland to see Mr. McLean and ask him if the Governor would comply with their request about the flour mill. Mr. McLean at that time was an adversary of the present Chief Judge of the Native Land Court, Mr. Fenton, and one was trying to overturn the other. At all events the Natives were put off by being told by Mr. McLean that by-and-bye the Governor would be seen about the flour mill, but that members of the Government had to be seen first, as no direct interview could then take place between the Natives and the Governor. The chiefs from that moment went back to their settlements. They saw that the power of the Governor rested on the action of his Ministry and, ignorant and suspicious of what further action might be taken with regard to their territory, the Land League was formed, and the King Movement brought into existence. Potatau was declared to be King, and from that arose what is now known as the King Movement among the Maoris.
The Assembly of New Zealand among other things began to legislate with regard to Native lands, and in 1862 the first measure bearing upon Native lands was passed by Parliament. This Act however remained inoperative. In 1865 another Act in relation to Native lands received the sanction of Parliament and thus the Native Land Act of l865 was passed. It was then established by law that a certain mode should be adopted in or by which the titles to Native lands should be ascertained and the Native Land Court was thus constituted. Various provisions were made tending to the subdivision of lands and the extinguishment of the Native title absolutely. We know that those measures for dealing with Native lands and ascertaining the title of the Native owners were defective. We had to deal with a system of land tenure that had been unknown in Europe for centuries, such as holding land under a communistic title similar to that which the ancient heads of the baronial families in England possessed, but which has long since passed away. In those times the same sort of tenure existed as was found amongst the Maoris when Parliament began its legislation in regard to Native lands. Therefore any legislation in relation to those lands was of an experimental character. So from the day the first Native Land Act passed until the present moment the Parliament of the country has been unable to frame any certain and final measure in regard to Native lands that would tend to promote harmony between the two races occupying these Islands.
In 1867 and in 1868 the dealings in Native land between Europeans and the Maoris commenced, and continued on till 1873. Those transactions were conducted mainly under the Act of 1865 and the page 3 subsequent Act passed in 1807. In 1869 the Native land laws were further modified. Nearly all the difficulties between the Natives and Europeans arose during that period of time. Those laws were in such a state that litigation in regard to Native lands was simply inevitable. The seed was sown, and as sure as a crop is brought forth by the operations of nature were the laws then in existence bound to produce litigation. Contusion and litigation were the outcome, and unless some such measure as the Native Lawsuits Bill of last session be passed (Hear hear) that litigation will continue for years and years to come. It is my object so far as I can in my private, public, professional, and political character, to put an end, if possible, to this confusion and litigation that surrounds us. I feel fully persuaded that the country cannot have prosperity until the titles to lands are clear and distinct. Capital is shut out so long as the land titles are uncertain. An end is put to any hope of harmony ever existing between the two races of this colony so long as this state of things prevails. (Hear hear) I say that privately, publicly, and politically it has been my sole desire and endeavor to put an end to the confusion and litigation that have arisen from the Native Land Acts of 1865 and subsequent years, and to see that justice is done between the Europeans and Maoris. (Hear hear and cheers). Now it cannot be denied that the present condition of Native land titles is eminently unsatisfactory. Any one who has anything to do with Native lands knows that. No one who reads the papers of the day but is aware of that fact. There is no getting over the fact that the land titles are bad, and even if the question of their legality were staved off for a few years it would not improve matters. The holders who perhaps had worked hard and honestly to secure a possession that they could leave behind to their children when they passed away, would have been living here in a fool's Paradise. Those who may have fancied that they had secured homes for their families would find, and their children would speedily find, that a legacy had been left them of sad and bitter disappointment, to be followed by overwhelming litigation. It is far better therefore that the titles should be gone into now, and the frauds ascertained at once. Capital then will be speedily invested in the district, and an increased demand for labor will arise when a man knows that he can obtain land with an absolutely clear and distinct title and that he can leave a certainty behind him to those who follow in his track. (Cheers.) In the question of the alienation of Native lands we find that purchases and leases from the Natives have been made partly by the Government of the country, and partly by Europeans. Before the land laws to which I have referred came into existence, the Natives did not question sales or leases that had been made beyond demanding the stipulated consideration. They understood fully the transactions in which they were concerned. They understood that the Crown was purchasing from them, and they knew that right existed with the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi. In the cases of land purchases in the Middle Island before the Native Land Acts passed, the Natives there say, "Let us have for ourselves the reserves that were marked out in the time of Governors Grey and Hobson." The question of the increased value of the land is not gone into. A demand is simply made for the fulfilment of promises that should long since have been carried out. But since these land laws have come into operation, both the Government and private purchasers have fallen into a state of trouble and confusion; and I propose to show how such a result has been brought about. In some instances, I do not say in the majority of instances, where Europeans have bought from the Maoris, the land titles are un-satisfactory owing to fraud. In some instances there can be no doubt that fraud has been committed. Talk to the people themselves, and in a number of instances it will be found that unfair dealing has taken place. As an instance of the manner in which fraud has arisen, names have been forged to deeds; sometimes with the intention to commit forgery, and sometimes the head of a hapu has been asked to sign to deeds the names of his family or some of his hapu on their behalf. In some cases the persons whoso names were being signed were at the time hundreds of miles away, and it was known to the parties that such was actually the case. This representative of his hapu, being told by persons to whom he looked up to for knowledge, to sign the names of his people, would do so unconscious of any fraud. He would take the money and I think that was the way to sign deeds page 4 according to the law. There was no criminal intention in the matter. Nevertheless, it was a fraud upon the parties who never signed their names. Then there was another way in which unfairiness was resorted to. In many instances; children in their mothers' arms have been brought into a room to sign a deed. The infant has been put through the form of touching the pen while its name has been written on the parchment. I know a case of a girl in Napier named Pukepuke, who is a grantee in some valuable lands there. An interpreter and an agent, both of whose names are well known in regard to Native' matters in that district, got her to sign over absolutely every interest she possessed; and at the time this important transaction took place the girl was about ten years old. She received in payment for her interest a trifling consideration. The name of this girl was obtained in the way I have stilted to property now worth' about £30,000. Had she died and the Maoris forgotten the circumstance of the sale, the title would have passed, but now; she is trying to get the land that was wrongfully obtained: and that is what is called Repudiation. Not only have the lands of minors been thus obtained, but i Interpreters have made false declarations. One Interpreter confessed to it in open court. It is nonsense then to say that no frauds have been perpetrated. Anyone who will attempt to bolster up such a statement deserves to be punished; otherwise all sense of public morality, honor, and justice, would go to the winds, and life would become simply a race as to who could cheat the most. Alluding again to Hawke's Bay, there was an old chief there, Waka Kawatini who had interests in valuable blocks in that district. A large trust deed was prepared and Waka was got to absolutely convey his property in fee simple to Europeans for a rent charge of £300 a year for his natural life. At the time this deed was made the property was actually bringing in about £500 a year. Friends arose who told Waka that he must not be cheated out of his lands in that way. The case was taken to the Hon. J. N. Wilson, Solicitor, in Napier, who commenced proceedings on behalf of Waka Kawatini, and at the instance of these "kind friends" of the Maoris, to have the deed declared void, and the lands restored to Waka. The day was fixed for the trial; but at the last moment the defendants who had obtained this deed from the Maori,—who, by the way, was about seventy-four years of age, and could neither read nor write—being afraid to face the Court, held an interview with the "kind friends" of the Native who had brought the action, and agreed to give up the deed. This was done, but to Waka's and Mr Wilson's astonishmont, "the kind friends" then stepped in and got the land for themselves, large parts of which they hold to this day. One interest was a share in the Heretaunga Block.
There is another reason that renders the present state of land titles unsatisfactory; and that is the non-alienation clause in deeds. By reason of the temporary nature of the leasehold no man will invest his money to any great extent. Yet another source of difficulty is the conflicting claims in the different blocks. One grantee may have parted with his interest in a certain block while another has not. Confusion arises in consequence, through the shares being undefined. In many cases the Natives who have not alienated their interests are looked upon as trespassers if they go upon the land. Again a further reason of dissatisfaction prevailing is that large areas are unprofitably held by individuals. Looking at the Kaiti and those other blocks extending towards Tologa Bay, we find that there are thousands of acres of land that should be brought under the plough simply covered with ti-tree and scrub. The Europeans will not go to the expense of clearing and improving, and I do not blame them while their titles remain imperfect. So long as land titles remain unadjusted it simply means locking up the country from settlement. Any person who comes forward to settle the difficulty and have the lands thrown open so that people can find land with a perfect title to dwell upon, deserves to be looked upon, not with opprobrium, but as a benefactor, and as one meriting the thanks of the whole community. (Hear hear and cheers). In the Assembly, during the past few years, efforts have been made for Committees of Inquiry to be held respecting certain land transactions on the East Coast: the Hon. Member for the East Coast and the Members for Hawke's Bay while always declaring that their hands were perfectly clean still opposed the appointment of the committees. There was a Committee of Inquiry held last Session page 5 in relation to a matter, in which persons in Poverty Bay were concerned. I do not remember the decision, but something cropped up about bribing a Native.
In pushing these matters I have had to meet with much opposition, and endure much insult. No man who attempts anything of the sort that I have taken in hand can avoid coming into contact with persons who are neck deep in those trans-actions of a questionable nature, and the consequence is that a man must expect to have dirt thrown at him. There are persons in this community, and I am glad to say they are few in number, who have acted improperly in their transactions with the Natives, but the day is rapidly approaching when they will be judged. The Maoris and the Europeans who have been present at any of the meetings I have held in this district, are aware that I have laid it down as a fundamental principle that any bonâ fide contracts between Maoris and Europeans of the full purport of which the Natives were aware, however disadvantageous it may appear now, if honestly entered into, are to be preserved intact.
The next proposition is to have the non-alienation clause in all those Maori lands amended, so as to give extended facilities for the purchase of certain areas, and for the better and safer investment of capital. I believe that in all cases where lands are locked up by the non-alienation clause, the Government would be prepared to provide for the entail over a portion, at any rate, of the land being broken, in order that the fee simple might be obtained.
In dealing with conflicting claims, the course to be pursued will be to partition undivided interests, and in some cases where found expedient and satisfactory, to effect an adjustment by purchasing the interest contested. There are some cases of this nature that call for an appeal to the courts of law. Where the holders have so far as they are concerned honestly become possessed of the land, as many here are an equitable adjustment will be afforded. I have in relation to the Whatauopoko Block of nearly 20,000 acres on the opposite side of the river from the town absolutely secured the adjustment of the title to the land. The same result will be brought about in regard to Mr. Johnson's run at Maraetaha. I am to have a large meeting with the Natives there to-morrow. Besides that there are a vast number of other matters of a similar nature now in hand. In all those negotiations for the completion and validation of titles the principle is to deal more liberally with the Europeans than Europeans would with themselves under such circumstances. I must state in relation to the Whataupoko Block—as illustrating what I mean—the course of action adopted. Mr. Barker was the purchaser of 30 shares; there were 46 in the whole block. He tried to sell the interest he got, but could not do so. He was unable to get £35,000. I met Mr. Barker and told him there were three courses open to him, to fight, to sell, or partition—that is, for him to take a portion of the land for his thirty shares—or altogether sell out. Mr. Barker had no desire to fight the matter out in the law courts, neither had I. Eventually we came to terms by my purchasing on behalf of the whole of the grantees, Mr Barker's interest for £40,000. I am prepared to show absolutely in every trans-action in which I am concerned that my hands are clean. I find however that it is only those against whom I am fighting who condemn me. In all those cases under settlement the just claims of the; Maoris, and the just claims of the Europeans, can be equitably adjusted. And I say this publicly, and I wish it to be; generally known, that with persons who have not worked a wrong themselves I am prepared to deal more liberally, and I am empowered to do so.
I propose that large unprofitable areas may be opened up for settlement, where men can make homes for themselves and their families. That where large pieces are leased from the Maoris a purchasing clause over a certain portion will be granted so that the lessee can have the option of purchasing it. I believe that my proposals will meet with the unanimous assent of every man who desires the prosperity and welfare of the district. Some of you are aware that the Natives have been signing to myself and Wi Pere, and in some cases to others as trustees empowering us to act absolutely for them in regard to their lands. Without that we could do nothing. It would have been impossible to do anything towards bringing that matter to completion, if we had had to deal with 30 or 40 Natives scattered all over the country. I told the Natives that to deal successfully page 6 with their property, trustees should be appointed, and that a committee, consisting of Natives, should be formed, having power to act jointly with the Trustees; and, against whom, in the case of wrongdoing, the grantees could appear in the Courts of Justice. What I have done has been with the full concurrence of Members of both sides of the House of Assembly; members of the legal profession, and many of the public men of New Zealand. I saw it was the only possible way of doing the work.
In Mr. Woodbine Johnson's block, he absolutely desires that I should get all titles vested in myself and Wi Pere; and for this reason: He has got a property of enormous value, if the title is complete, j By the land being placed in the hands of Trustees, and the Maori Committee, and they obtain a clear title, then, acting on behalf of the whole of the grantees, an equitable arrangement can be entered into. A certain defined area will be allocated to Mr. Johnson, to which he will have an absolute title, and the residue coming to the Natives will be thrown open for settlement at once. (Cheers). I believe that I can manage these Maori affairs profitably to both races alike; and while I have the approval of my own mind. I will continue to do so. The Natives, at any rate, believe that I will act fairly, and I think the public believe it also. At the present time there are many people waiting to invest their capital in this district, but refuse to do so while the land titles remain as they are; and it is to settle those titles and open the way for capital that I am doing what I am. (Hear, hear).
In directing my remarks to the benefits which will accrue to both races, I would point out that the Natives from Tokomaru Southwards nearly to Gisborne have resolved to assign their lands to trustees; and by this means thousands of acres that are now locked up will be thrown open for settlement. Those lands are comparatively unoccupied, except by a few persons who will not venture to permanently improve their holdings while the title is insecure. There are gentlemen here to-night, who, from the circumstances, I have stated, cannot go in for any outlay upon the land they occupy. These people know that if they can get an absolute title to a certain portion of the run, the general public could go in for the rest. The benefits to the Maoris will be these:—Regular rents will be coming to them, and the money accruing from sales on deferred payments. About 15 per cent, would be paid down, the balance remaining at 6 or 7 per cent. On these terms will people be enabled to settle in the district. (Cheers).
At Tologa Bay Mr Murphy is—not occupying but—in possession of 28,000 acres. If he had 8,000 acres with a clear title, he would be infinitely better off. In such cases we propose arbitration for a mutually satisfactory settlement and the lands coming to the Natives can then be submitted for the benefit of the public. Is not that doing a good service (Yes, and applause).
[Mr Rees then went on to explain the advantages to be derived from a superior education, similar to that addressed to the Natives at Tologa Bay.]
Mr. Rees continued: Is there any gentleman in this district, who holds Native land, that will say he is satisfied with the title? That he has a title that a solicitor will pass If he had the same property down South, with a good title he would probably get £100,000 for it; whereas he could not get £50,000 now. In the case of Mr. Barker of Whatauopoko he has got back part of the land in lieu of portion of the purchase money, and can have a title that will pass the Land Transfer Act. To be able to obtain such a title is an incalculable advantage not only to the purchaser but to the whole community. (Hear, hear). The Natives will agree to a system of sale upon deferred payments, and in cases of leases clauses could be introduced more favorable to the lessee than could be got from any European. The Maoris see that the enormous areas of land they hold can be advantageously utilized by bona fide settlers getting upon them—not the land speculator. (Hear, hear.) I feel that I have taken upon myself an enormous responsibility in relation to these matters. Those who are acquainted with the law know that a Trustee cannot only under extraordinary circumstances profit a penny out of the land. (Hear, hear, and applause.) Should we be successful in getting the titles settled this place will prosper more than any part of the whole colony of New Zealand. (Hear, hear). An influx in the population would follow; and I am not singular in that belief. I wish the public to know that the movement is carried on in good faith and in the best interests of the place. I do not go in grog shanties page 7 to surreptitiously obtain Native signatures. I speak to the Natives through interpreters at public meetings where everything can be publicly discussed. No one need object to my proceedings except evil doers. Those who have acted wrongly, their unholy gains shall pass away from their grasp. I say that the whole of the community should support me; I do no care whether they do or not; but in view of its interests it should. The names of this place and Hawke's Bay stink in the nostrils of the people of the South, on account of land transactions. You have only to go South to find that any one engaged in Maori lands here, is looked upon with suspicion. I say to the community if it desires to see its own prosperity, those who have honestly dealt for lands, that whatever difficulties there are, whatever flaws exist, they should face the matter at once. I say to those persons that the Maoris, and the representatives of the Maori will deal far more liberally with them than Europeans under the same circumstances. There is no single instance where the greatest liberality has not been shewn in settling with Europeans. Those who desire to fight must please themselves. Those who desire really to settle this question, the great bugbear of the place, and put an end to this shouting and screaming as of noises and fury signifying nothing, can do so equitably, and to the welfare of the district.
Now, sir, having finished upon that topic, I should like to speak on one or two other subjects of local importance.
In relation to the harbor I got the tacit understanding of the whole House and the promise of the Ministry, that a harbor should be constructed here. It was the first place named by the Hon. Sir Geo. Grey. The only question was if the scheme was practicable, and the cost moderate,—and of that there can be no doubt. I consider that a promise has been absolutely given by the Government, and I am confident that the works will be undertaken on the receipt of Sir John Coode's report and plans.
With respect to district roads, sums have been placed upon the Estimates, and surveyors are now employed laying off lines of roads, and explorers are engaged ascertaining the most suitable country. A commencement has been made, which the Government will not fail to carry out. I have great hopes that the district will emerge from its past obscurity. Tenders in connection with the Gisborne-Ormond railway line have, I see, been called for to-day. The Government have given the railsbut I think they are bound to do something more. I believe that the County Council will, before long, pass a resolution asking for certain things to be done for the district. The lands acquired by the Government, in this district, will be thrown open as soon as the titles are closed. Then a large area will be open for selection. A Land Office will be here, so that people will not have the trouble of going to Auckland or Napier in order to have their titles substantiated. I communicated with the Hon. Mr Macandrew on the subject, who forwarded my telegram to the Minister of Lands.
It is a preposterous thing for the people of this district to have to send their claims to be registered as voters to Maketu. If the Council pass the resolution referred to, I will bring under the notice of the Government the extreme urgency of a Registration office being in Gisborne.
It would be out of place for me to refer to the recent speech of your representative here. I must say that the conduct of the two papers here, especially the Standard, is likely to produce a great deal of good. The more light that can be shed upon matters of public interest the more likely is a strong healthy public opinion to be generated, and that is the precursor of many things. I am glad to see the very independent action the Standard took; and whether the papers are for me or against me, I do not care so long as a fair criticism is given, and a healthy public opinion maintained no matter how hard they hit. What I object to is when journals take to villifying. The great desire should be to maintain a strong and healthy public opinion. There are other matters upon which I would like to address you but I will not trespass upon your time. Before sitting down I must record my belief that the future of this place and the whole district of Hawke's Bay will be a brilliant one if the people manage properly. Nothing else is wanting to make the place a great country. Here possessing a climate unsurpassed in the world, it but needs the steady perseverance of the people; and in moulding new institutions the people themselves should take an independent stand. Depend upon it the future prosperity and growth of the page 8 place rests upon the formation of an honest public opinion that will resolutely put its heel upon what is wrong and support that which is just. I would say in conclusion that I have no doubt that we shall be able to propound measures that will meet with the unanimous support of the Natives and tend to the welfare of the district. Those persons who can give good counsel in those matters will no doubt give the help that lies in their power. The making of roads, the introduction of capital, the amicable adjustment of the land difficulties, all are matters which only require to be taken in hand and properly conducted to make this district the finest in the Australian colonies. Mr Rees resumed his seat amid loud cheers.
After the applause subsided, Mr Bous-Field said: If what you mean is genuine you have raised a hydra of an hundred heads. What I have heard of your speech I admire immensely. It is the first attempt I have heard of to cut off even one head of the hydra.
The Chairman notified to the meeting that Mr Rees would be pleased to explain further if necessary any of the subjects that had been touched upon or reply to any questions relating to matters of public importance.
Mr Carlaw Smith wished that Mr Rees would do all in his power to get the Government to bear the cost of freightage of the rails for the Gisborne and Ormond line. Also that Mr Rees would be good enough to exert himself as a supporter of the present Government on behalf of the district and have the Harbour survey made at once.
Mr Rees in replying stated that with regard to the survey of the Harbour the Government was prepared to pay £500 for having the survey performed.
Captain Tucker explained that the Government had promised to send an Engineer to make the survey.
Mr Rees remarked that the money was ready, but he supposed the requisite skill was not available here. He would communicate with the Government at once. Regarding the payment of freight for rails the Government had persistently refused to incur a similar outlay for about a dozen of places. The Minister of Public Works undertook to find the rails for 14 miles from the town to the quarry. He believed the Government could not pay the freight as the House had not voted the item. It might be possible to get the County reimbursed the amount.
Mr Carlaw Smith: When the question of the redistribution of seats comes on before Parliament will you advocate the claims of this district for special representation. (Hear hear).
Mr Rees: I may state that I believe there will be this year a redistribution of seats. I have no reason to think that this district will not be allowed a separate Member. If provision be not made in the Bill I will undertake absolutely to urge the claims of the district upon the Government so that Gisborne and the surrounding district will have a separate Member.
Captain Tucker said that as there were no further questions put, he thought Mr. Rees was entitled to a vote of thanks for the address delivered. It would be seen that the subjects dealt with in that gentleman's address were of vast importance. He (Capt. Tucker) was well aware of a large amount of capital being shut out from the district, because investors were dissatisfied with the land titles. Wealthy persons from the South were desirous of securing large blocks here to cut up for settlement, but in almost every block, especially those investors would require, there was some difficulty as to title. From what Mr. Rees had said he (Captain Tucker) thought those titles would be investigated. There was no harm in asking for justice. Mr. Rees was not instigating the Natives to use fire-arms, he desired simply to settle the titles that were in dispute and had been long before Mr. Rees's name was heard of in connection with native matters. The result of Mr Rees's advent in this district would be the settlement of those disputed titles, and we should then know who to deal with for the land. Large capitalists were excluded from the district solely on account of the nature of the land tenure. The question was not whether European or Maori won; it was the settlement of complicated titles, and that much-desired result would be brought about through Mr Rees's coming amongst us. (Cheers.) There was the Whataupoko Block of several thousand acres of excellent land within a biscuit throw of the town, used as a sheep run, and occupied by two or three people. If the title to that was settled, as he understood from Mr Rees's remarks it had been hundreds of families could be located there. Such were the results to be hoped for from Mr Rees's page 9 coming to this district. (Hear hear.)
Captain Tucker then proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Rees, for the trouble he had taken in expounding his views to the meeting—Seconded by Mr Cuff.
The Chairman said he should put the resolution to the meeting as a matter of form, but he could confidently anticipate its result. He might be allowed to state that he heartily concurred with its spirit, and thought Mr Rees entitled to the best thanks of the community for the able address just delivered. There could be no doubt that the district had labored under many disadvantages in the past, one of the greatest of which was the Native land titles. The persistent neglect of successive Governments we might look to be remedied in the future; and if there was one man more than another able and willing to do us justice it was Mr Rees; and he (the Chairman) had great pleasure in putting the resolution.
Long and continued applause followed. Mr Rees acknowledged the compliment, and the meeting broke up.