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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Part II. — Land, Laws, and Conditions of Settlement

page 21

Part II.

Land, Laws, and Conditions of Settlement

Tenure.

Crown lands are either sold absolutely, or leased for a term of years. In the case of a sale, the applicant buys the freehold right out, and pays for the land either in cash or by deferred payments. If land is leased from the Crown, it may be for a fixed term of years; at the expiration of which it reverts to the Crown, or it may be with a right of renewal, in which case it is called a Perpetual Lease. The bulk of the Crown lands are now dealt with under a system which gives to the selector the option of choice of tenure between freehold (cash or deferred payment), and perpetual lease.

This system of optional tenure, together with a right to purchase the freehold on fulfilment of certain conditions, was introduced by the Land Acts of 1887, and was the distinguishing feature of the land policy of the late Government.

Appended is a list of the various systems of disposing of Crown lands.

1.Cash Payment.—Town and suburban lands are sold by auction: rural lands either by auction or more generally, by free selection, after being proclaimed open at a fixed upset price, when they page 22 may be either taken up for cash, deferred payment, or perpetual lease, at option of selector, who is restricted to 640 acres of first-class and 2,000 acres of second-class land for cash selections.
2.Deferred-payment Lands are thrown open for selection as above, but the price is 25 per cent, above that of cash or perpetual lease. Selectors are restricted to 640 acres, and must make certain improvements on the land. The freehold is acquired after either ten or fourteen years' annual payments. Residence is compulsory.
3.Perpetual-lease Lands are also thrown open for selection as above, and the rent is fixed at 5 per cent, on the capital upset cash price. The selector is restricted to 640 acres of first-class land, or 2,000 acres of second-class land, and must make certain improvement, after which he has the option of buying the freehold. Leases are for thirty-one years, with perpetual right of renewal. The improvements belong to tenant. Residence compulsory.
4.Village-settlement Lands, consist of village sections not exceeding acre, and small-farm sections not exceeding 50 acres each.
5.Village Homesteads Special Settlements are held on perpetual lease without option of purchase, are limited to 50 acres, and improvements and residence are compulsory. A loan of £10 is made by the Government towards the cost of building a house.page 23
6.Special-settlement Associations are confined to associations of people who combine for settlement and mutual help.
7.Homestead Lands in certain districts may be selected, after proclamation, for the mere cost of survey. Residence and improvement are compulsory. The limit is 300 acres, and the grant may be acquired after five years' residence and on fulfilment of conditions.
8.Small Grazing-runs are offered at auction at a rental of per cent, on upset price for terms of twenty-one years. Improvement and residence are compulsory. The limit of area is 20,000 acres.
9.Pastoral Leases are of various areas, and represent country too broken, or not fit for other purposes. They are offered by auction for various terms, up to twenty-one years. Neither residence nor improvement is necessary.

There are other systems on which land may be acquired but they need not be given here as they are hardly of general interest.

The Crown lands of the Colony are administered under the Land Act 1885, and the amendments of 1887 and 1888. The colony is divided into ten land districts, each being under the local direction of a Commissioner and a Land Board. In each district there is land office and it is with these land offices the selector has to transact all business, from the first consultation of the maps, the subsequent selection and purchase of land, to the final receipt of the page 24 Crown grant. The names of the land districts and of the towns where each principal office is situated are, as under:—
Land District. Town where Principal Land Office is situated.
Auckland Auckland.
Taranaki New Plymouth
Hawke's Bay Napier
Wellington Wellington
Nelson Nelson
Marlborough Blenheim
Canterbury Christchurch
Otago Dunedin
Southland Invercargill
Westland Hokitika

Classification of Lands.

Crown lands are divided into three classes:—
1.Town and village lands.
2.Suburban land, being land in the vicinity of any town lands.
3.Rural land, designated either first-or second-class land, according to quality.

Freeholds.

If lands are previously notified (i.e., declared to be open for sale or selection under the three systems) no person can acquire for cash a greater area on application than six hundred and forty acres of first-class land and two thousand acres of second-class land in any one land district.

2. Land which has not been notified under the Act of 1887 may be sold either on application or by auction without restriction as to the area that may be purchased. If by auction, it must have been previously surveyed and marked off on the ground into definite areas, designated "sections."

If the lands have been surveyed and notified they are acquired as above; one-fifth of the price is paid in with the page 25 application, and the remaining four-fifths, with Crown-grant fee, within thirty days. If unsurveyed, the cost of survey is paid in with the application, and counts as part of the purchase-money. On completion of survey the balance, together with Crown-grant fee, being paid, completes the transaction.

Deferred-payment Lands.

Application is made first as in the case of cash lands; but 25 per cent, has to be added to the upset cash prices as advertised, to arrive at the deferred-payment prices, and with the application must be deposited the first half-year's instalment and license fee of £1 1s.

If the land is not surveyed the survey fee has to be paid in with the application, and the price of the land is reduced by that amount.

The principal features of the deferred-payment system are: Any person of the age of seventeen years and upwards may become a selector on making the necessary statutory; declaration, and who is not disqualified for certain reasons the chief of which are the holding of land already.

1.The size of allotment is, subject to the Land Act, determined by the Governor. If Suburban Land, an allotment must not exceed twenty acres; if Rural Agricultural Land, six hundred and forty acres,—to which area a selection is restricted.
2.The price per acre on deferred payment of suburban land is not less than £4 10s.; of rural land, not less than 18s. 9d. for first-class, and for second-class land generally from 7s. 6d. to £1 an acre.

The deferred payments are made in equal instalments every six months over which the period extends.

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In suburban land this is five years; therefore there are ten instalments, payable one each on the 1st January and the 1st July of each year for five years.

In rural land the period is fourteen years, with twenty-eight equal instalments, payable one each on the 1st January and the 1st July of each year for the fourteen years. Thus, for example, if the land was offered for application at £1 8s. an acre, the selector would have is. per acre to pay every six months for fourteen years. One third of the money as received is paid over to the County Council or Road Board of the district, to be expended on roads and bridges leading to or opening up such lands or for water-supply.

Residence on the land by the purchaser must begin within six months of issue of license, and continue in the case of suburban land for four years, and in rural land for six years. But these periods can be shortened if, on effecting all the improvements, (particulars of which are given later) the purchaser pays up the remaining instalments of the purchase-money. Residence is not compulsory if the purchaser is residing on another deferred-payment section any part of which is within three miles of his subsequent selections. But residence may be dispensed with altogether where land is wholly or mostly covered with bush or swamp, or if the purchaser effects double the value of the improvements prescribed for each year.

Any selector who has complied with all the conditions of his purchase for a period of one year may apply to have the value of the unpaid instalments capitalised, full particulars of which may be obtained at any land office, at the present value of an annuity or annuities of the same amount as the payments required to be made by the selector, and payable for the same period. Interest shall page 27 thereafter be payable at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum by the selector, instead of the half-yearly instalments above referred to. Interest is payable on the 1st January and the 1st July in each year. After the capitalised value has been ascertained, any selector may, on the 1st January or the 1st July, pay any portion of such capitalised value in sums of not less than £10, and thereafter the interest payable shall be proportionately reduced. Any time after effecting improvements, and within eighteen years of the date of his license, the selector shall be entitled to his Crown grant, provided he has paid the whole of the capitalised value, together with interest on the due dates; or he may exchange the deferred-payment license for a perpetual lease, in which case all past payments go to credit of rent.

A license is issued to the selector as soon as may be after selecting the land.

Perpetual-lease Lands.

Applications should be made in precisely similar manner to those for cash or deferred payment, on forms provided at the land offices. Two-and-a-half per cent, of the value of the land, to represent the first half-year's rent, together with £1 10s. license-fee, must accompany the application if for surveyed land, and the survey-fee if for uusurveyed land. This latter e goes towards reducing the price of the land on which the rent is assessed. This is the tenure on which the greatest amount of land is being taken up. It is undoubtedly the most suitable tenure for the settler with small means, as under this system the entire capital of the selector remains intact for improvements and stocking.

The main features of this system of leasing Crown lands are as follows:—

By securing to lessees the value of their improvements on page 28 an indefeasible title, with perpetual rights of renewal, they have all the security and permanence of freehold tenure, without requiring to sink any capital in the purchase of the land.

Any person of the age of seventeen years or upwards may become a lessee.

The annual rent is by law 5 per cent, on the capital value of the land; thus, land valued at £1 per acre would be leased at a rental of is. per acre per annum. Six months rent, together with the sum of £1 10s. for the lease, is required to be deposited with every application.

If a lease is not executed within thirty days from the day of the acceptance of the application, or within fifteen days of the date on which it may be ready for execution, the deposits made with the application shall be forfeited.

Limits of Area for each Lessee.

No person who owns the freehold of or who holds a license or lease from the Crown of land which, together with the area of the lands applied for, comprises a greater area than six hundred and forty acres of first-class or two thousand acres of second-class land shall be capable of becoming a lessee.

Provisions as to Term, Payment of Rent, and Taxes.

1.Every lease shall be for a fixed term, so as to expire on the 30th June after the expiration of thirty years from the date of the commencement of the term.
2.All leases shall be renewable under the following conditions: The lease is for thirty years, with the first offer at the end of the term for a lease of another twenty-one years. If the lease is page 29 refused by the holder it is put up to auction burdened with the value of improvements, which has to be paid by the incoming tenant to the Receiver of Land Revenue, and by him to the outgoing tenant when the transfer has been accomplished. If the Lessee elects to accept a fresh lease of the land for a further term, he executes a fresh lease paying a rental equal to per cent, on the gross value of the lands, after deducting the value of the substantial improvements of a permanent character as fixed by arbitration. It will be seen therefore that the lessee, and not the Crown, gets the benefit of all permanent improvements which he places on the land.
3.All rents shall be payable to the Receiver of Land Revenue of the district by equal half-yearly instalments, in advance, on the 1st January and the 1st July in each year.
4.One-third of the rents paid during the first fifteen years of each lease will be handed over to the County Council or Road Board of the district, to be expended on roads and bridges leading to or opening up the land leased, or on water-supply. Lessees shall be liable for all rates, taxes, or assessments of any kind whatsoever.

Provisions as to dealings.

Lessees are allowed to sell, sublet, mortgage, or otherwise deal with their holdings on fulfilling certain conditions and obtaining the consent of the Land Board. The Board would not be justified in with-holding its consent, thereby preventing a dealing with the land, unless for grave reasons.

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Provisions as to Residence.

Every lessee is required to reside upon the land leased within six months of the commencement of his term, and to continue such residence for a period of six conseecutive years thereafter. The Board may, however, in the case of bush or swamp lands, dispense with residence until within two .years; or, in the case of youths living with their parents or near relatives, until three years after the commencement of their term; or may dispense with residence altogether if the lessee resides on lands contiguous to the land leased, or if he makes twice the amount of improvements required by the Act.

Right to acquire Freehold.

Any lessee holding land, outside a proclaimed goldfield or any education or endowment reserve, shall have the right of purchase whenever he shall have fulfilled all the conditions of improvement, at the price fixed at the time when the lease is granted; such price to be the capital value on which he has paid rent at 5 per cent.

Improvement Conditions which are Compulsory under the Deferred-payment and Perpetual-lease Systems.

Suburban.—Must bring into cultivation not less than a tenth of the allotment the first year, one-fifth the second year, and within four years must have three-fourths cultivated, the whole fenced, and have made substantial improvements to the value of at least £10 per acre.

Rural: First-class.—If open land, must bring into cultivation not less than one-twentieth the first year, one-tenth the second year, and within four years must have cultivated one-fifth, and within six years, in addition to the cultivation page 31 of one-fifth, have effected permanent improvements to the value of £1 per acre; or the whole of the improvements may be effected at any time and the title obtained.

Rural: Second-class.—Must effect substantial improvements to a value equal to ten per cent, of the value of the land within one year from the date of the license, another ten per cent, within the second year, and a third ten per cent, before the end of the sixth year.

The term "substantial improvements of a permanent character" means and includes reclamation from swamps, clearing of bush or scrub, cultivation, planting with trees or live hedges, the laying-out and cultivation of gardens, fencing, draining, making roads, sinking wells or water tanks, constructing water-races, or in any way improving the character or fertility of the soil, or the erection of any building. This definition of the term improvements applies to all classes of land where improvements are required by the Crown as part of the contract.

"Cultivation" means the clearing of land for cropping, or clearing and laying down with artificial grasses.

Farm Homesteads and Village Settlements.

The Regulations just issued relate to Farm Homestead Associations and Village Homesteads. They will be found under the heading of Regulations. The conditions are clearly expressed, and it seems hardly necessary to enumerate them. It will be seen that with regard to Farm Homesteads the tenure is perpetual lease. No rent need be paid for the first two years, the amount of the rent being added to the capital value of the land on which the rent is assessed. There is the usual provision regarding residence improvements, &c.

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With regard to Village Homesteads the tenure is also perpetual lease. A preference is given to married men, and an advance of £10 is given towards erecting a dwelling. Residence and improvement conditions are insisted on.

The Regulations would appear to be framed, so as to permit of Farm Homesteads and Village Homesteads being taken up by individuals or by an association.

In a short work of this kind it appears unnecessary to describe the conditions of small grazing runs, pastoral runs, &c. Particulars are to be obtained of these at the various Land offices.