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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Midland Railway Lands. — Canterbury, Westland and Nelson

Midland Railway Lands.

Canterbury, Westland and Nelson.

By the courtesy of the General Manager of the Midland Railway Company I am enabled to give the following information:—

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The lands reserved for the purposes of the New Zealand Midland Railway Company, Limited, are the unsold Crown Lands:—

In Canterbury, North of the Rakaia River and West of the Government main Railway lines, from Rakaia to Christchurch, and thence to the Hurunui.

In Nelson, South of a line from Belgrove to near Moki-hinui on the Western Sea Coast and

In Westland North of the River Waiho near Okarito.

This area contains about six million (6,000,000) acres available for selection by the Company, except that out of it, the Government are enabled to set aside lands required for bonâ fide gold-mining, to the extent of seven hundred and fifty thousand acres (750,000).

Since there is a broad distinction between the nature and circumstances of the Company's Eastern and Western land, they require different methods of treatment.

The Company recognises that it is primarily a Railway Company with a subsidary Land Grant, and therefore its chief interest is to promote settlement on the lands to provide permanent traffic for the Railway, it being clear that every man, woman, and child settled in the districts served by the line, becomes a permanent source of income to the Railway.

The Eastern lands are not suitable for small holdings, and their occupation will only very indirectly contribute traffic to the Company's Railway. The Western lands are suitable for small settlers, and will directly contribute traffic served by the line.

The Company's selections will be made as each section of the Railway is completed, and will probably amount to about 2 million (2,000,000) acres, of which about five hundred thousand (500,000) acres will probably be lands on the page 16 Eastern side of the main Ranges, viz.:—Canterbury and Amuri (Nelson) lands, and one million five hundred thousand (1,500,000) acres on the Western side.

The Eastern lands are almost all purely pastoral being mountainous or hilly, covered with tussock, very little being suitable for ploughing or capable of improvement, except by surface sowing. Many of these lands in the Amuri District are held by tenants on leases with a right to purchase.

From their nature nearly all of the Eastern lands are only suitable for using as Runs, and must be held in considerable sized blocks. The Company will deal with them either by auction or private sale as the circumstances of the particular lands may require.

Applications for such lands must be made to the Company's Office in Christchurch where full particulars can be obtained: maps of these lands can also be seen in the Government Survey Office, Christchurch. As a general principle the Company will sell such lands on a basis of 1/3rd of the purchase money being paid in cash, and the balance remaining on Mortgage for 5 years at 5½ per cent.

The Western lands, with the exception of some open fern lands North of the Buller River, are covered with heavy forest, lighter bush, scrub or swamp. Owing to climate and soil they are chiefly suitable for dairying or other grazing purposes. Root crops thrive well. Considerable clearing and burning of timber will be necessary, but grass and turnips grow well from surface sowing immediately after burning, and very quickly begin to yield a return. The mining settlements throughout this District will provide ready markets for produce.

The contract between the Government and the Company provides that Western lands can by arrangement with the page 17 Company, be sold in any sized lots which may be required by purchasers and in any position (subject to the usual Government Survey Regulations), and the Company has for the last 3 years been endeavouring to carry out such sales to numerous applicants who are waiting to acquire lands, but could not do so as the late Government were unable to arrive at any satisfactory system on which to permit the Company to deal with these lands, and after allowing a few of such sales to be made, they issued to the Commissioners of Crown Lands a set of instructions on the subject, the effect of which was that no applicant could know whether or not he could get the land he wanted, for at least 6 months after his application was lodged. This being manifestly unworkable and absurd, the Company on the issue of these Regulations declined to deal with any lands under them. Eventually an amended set of regulations was submitted by the Company to which it is hoped the present Government, who are giving attention to the matter, will agree. The effect of these regulations if adopted would be as follows:—

An applicant would go to the nearest Government Survey Office in the District, and mark on the maps there the position of the land he wanted.

Forms of applications to the Company applicable to the various kinds of tenure would be obtainable at the Government Survey Offices, and after being filled up and signed by the applicant would be forwarded with sketch tracing of the land applied for, taken from the Government Map, to the Company's office at Christchurch, where it will be recorded and due priority given to it.

If the Commissioner of Crown Lands for the District consider that the land was auriferous, the applicant, after agreeing with the Company as to price, would have to page 18 advertise the application twice during one month in the local paper, and any objection to its being granted would be heard and determined by the warden for the District, as soon as possible after the expiration of the month.

If no objection be sustained, the applicant would get the land on paying the necessary deposit and survey fees to the Commissioner of Crown lands for the District, within a month after objections had been decided.

This advertising is proposed in lieu of the Government making Gold Mining Reserves, since it is thought impossible to make such Reserves accurately at present, and as lands so reserved can only be used for gold-mining, the making of them might seriously and unnecessarily impede other settlement.

If the Commissioner of Crown Lands consider there was no need for advertising any particular application, it would be granted without delay.

The Company's Western lands may be divided into three classes as follows:—
1.Those only suitable for Agricultural or Pastoral settlement.
2.Forest Lands, i.e. those on which the timber is so valuable that it must be cut for market purposes before the land itself be sold.
3.Mineral Lands, including coal and stone, but excluding gold.

Agricultural or Pastoral Lands.—Until the present applicants for Western lands have been dealt with, the Company will fix the price of each piece as applied for; but after the present demand has been satisfied, it is proposed to arrange a method by which certain blocks may be opened for settlement at prices named beforehand.

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In either case the Company will deal with settlement lands by selling for cash, or on deferred payment, or by granting leases, the terms in each case being made to conform as nearly as possible with those adopted by the Government.

Forest Lands.—The Company will reserve certain areas to be treated as Forest Lands, and will let them in reasonable sized blocks on licenses providing that the licensee pays a royalty on all timber cut, and undertakes to cut, a certain minimum amount to be agreed upon in each case.

Recognising the immense value of the Westland Timbers, and the importance to the company and the colony of developing a trade in them with Australasia and Europe, and as no one else has so good an opportunity of doing so or so large an interest in the industry, the Company is now taking energetic measures with that object. It has already placed orders with local saw-millers, for cutting a large quantity of first-class Red and White Pine. This will be carefully inspected and branded by the Company. The timber will not be shipped until sufficiently seasoned, and none but the best quality will be allowed to go upon the market.

As soon as the trade is fairly opened, the Company proposes to leave the cutting and exporting to private enterprise, and will only sell or let on Royalty the timber lands.

Mineral Lands.—The Company will grant Leases or Licenses for working coal, or minerals other than gold on substantially the same terms as the Government. It being especially provided that the Licensee must either bonâ fide work the mine or give it up.

Applicants for any western lands should first mark the area applied for on the Government Survey Office map for page 20 the District, and then forward written application and tracing to the Company's Office at Christchurch, addressed to "The General Manager."

Up to the present time the Company has earned and received Grants of 151,986 acres of land, of which it has sold or let 151,511 acres, to bonâ fide occupiers. Nearly all of these lands have been offered by public auction. There are 475 acres at present undealt with, but these are likely soon to be disposed of. The lands offered by auction were sub-divided into as small lots as their nature would permit. In addition to the above, 9,700 acres which have been granted to the Company have not been yet offered for sale, but are temporarily let until completion of a certain section of railway, when they will be sold.