The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55
Sir George Grey's Remedy
Sir George Grey's Remedy.
There is one kind of remedy we -might obtain—I fear that in making the statement I do, great unpopularity must overtake me. (No, no.) I believe so. I have thought this subject out in woods and by the seashore, and alone with nature, and I see my duty clearly, and my way clearly, and if I march alone upon the track, I will follow it! (Cheers.) I say this, let us begin in a mild way. Every bit of land that you get now is obtained on onerous conditions. You pay enormously for it. You got homestead land, but what do you pay? A man is obliged to live on it. He is obliged to build a house of certain value, obliged to make certain improvements in a certain period of time, and in the end he pays far more than the rich man ever paid. I think I shall be quite justified. I shall not go so far as to charge the men who own land in New Zealand that unless they live upon it like these deferred payment settlers, but on the other hand I say I shall bring in a Bill which requires—and it is not much that for every thousand acres of land a man has he shall support one labourer at full wages throughout the whole year upon it (loud and prolonged cheers), and the man with 20,000 acres shall keep 200 families—not all for sheep; something for men, in God's name I say it I (Prolonged cheers.) There is partly justice at least for these children. There is a home where fair wages can be earned, and whence they may go forth and buy land in some place where they like afterwards. There, I say, justice can come in. But I have another idea. I say let the Government, instead of sending these people up in that way, buy land back from the persons who have it. Buy it back at its fair value; buy it back with interest given upon the money, and say this: Every man who has spent money upon land innocently, and has received a Crown grant, he is safe, his interests shall be protected in every way. Every man who has bought land that is Crown granted, he shall be protected because he is innocent, but we will have an inquiry made into all those properties, and wherever it turns out that a man who was a member of the Provincial Government, or who was a member of the General Assembly or a Minister in office, that made these regulations under which the people were ruined and allowed them to be wrongfully deprived by tricks in the Land Office, every such man being member of a Government, or a member of the Assembly that made a law of that sort, or sanctioned ragulations, if he has used his position to acquire land wrongfully and unjustly, although we allow the man who has purchased from to be protected, we will follow the original wrong-doer. (Cheers.) Let that be the law too. I say then you will do complete and simple justice, you will not check public credit, but you will come upon the wrong-doer and prevent him rioting in wealth whilst these children have to live upon twopence a-day a head. (Cheers.) In these ways I see my way clearly without injuring anyone, to place the colony in a far more healthy state than it would be under such regulations as are proposed. I believe that all will agree that such proceedings will be beneficial; that they injure no man; take nothing from any man who has been just; take nothing from any man who has made a purchase, and who was no wrong-doer; but if what amounts really to a wrongful taking of the public lands should be covered by a law, if that has taken place I say we have a perfect right to see that the wrong doer does not walk off with £50 000, or £100,000, or a quarter of a million pounds perhaps in his pocket. I think we ought not to allow that. (Cheers.) I think I have made clear this to you, that you can see that these regulations of Mr. Ballance, if carried out, must greatly injure the poor populations, and I believe you cannot injure the poor without injuring the rich at the same time. You cannot injure one portion of the community without injuring the whole. I think you will all admit if you look at it you will see plainly in the regulations themselves traces of what I point out.