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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56



For this purpose the colony is divided into a number of land districts, to which are allotted land agents, the duties of each of whom may extend over one district, or several adjoining districts, as may be directed. There are at present ninety-five such districts, with eighty-nine land offices, at each of which latter a land agent presides. Many important stages in the land system are conducted through these officers.

The policy of decentralization has brought into existence, by the new law, local courts, Known as Local Land Boards, each comprised of not more than three nor less than two members; the chairman being a salaried officer, and the members, who are locally selected, being entitled to fees.

Each Board is ministerial or judicial according to the nature of the proceeding to be dealt with. Several matters which have been commenced, but not concluded, under the repealed law, and some things which will require investigation under the existing law, may be referred to a Board for appraisement, inquiry, or report. In these cases the Board acts ministerially merely, and makes a report or recommendation to the Minister. In nearly all cases arising under the present law a Board acts judicially. Its proceedings are conducted analogously to those of a court of petty sessions; parties to causes before it may be heard by counsel, attorney, or agent; and, failing appeal to the Minister (in whom the appellate jurisdiction is vested, but who may in certain cases refer back to the court of first instance, and who may, if he desire, state a case for the Supreme Court), its decisions are final and binding upon the parties, with power vested in its hands to compel execution of its judgments. It may hear complaints, examine into caveats, direct reports, and demand evidence; and while its powers are for the most part set in motion by promovents, it retains an inquisitorial authority for the detection of illicit acts.

The Local Land Boards have their several districts, but, for convenience, the chairman is not necessarily the presiding member of one Board alone; and the head-office, which forms his head-quarters, is that of the various Boards over which he presides; thus in scattered parts of the colony avoiding unnecessary distribution of the machinery of the system.

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There are now ninety-five Local Land Boards, with sixteen head-offices. For the impartial conduct of business, it is enacted that any member of such Board, sitting or acting in any case in which he is directly or indirectly interested, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £500. District surveyors and other officers are provided, whose advice and assistance are essential to the Boards.