The West Coast Settlement Reserves Act, 1892.
Printed At The Star Office High Street, Hawera.
The West Coast Settlement Reserves Bill. 1892.
By R. Studholme Thompson, a Trustee for a Minor Owner in the Reserves.
The exact status of the Reserves on the West Coast of the North Island are known to but few, and to make the provisions of the above Bill understood it is necessary to give some short account of them. These Reserves are those Crown Granted to the Natives on recommendation of the Royal Commission, sitting in 1880 and following years, of which Sir William Fox during the latter portion of its sittings was the sole Commissioner. They are very extensive in aggregate area, are spread over a very considerable amount of territory, and represent all that is left to the West Coast tribes after the Colony has helped itself by confiscation to country totalling probably to over one million acres. They contain land supposed to have been confiscated, legally or illegally (always provided any was legally confiscated), compensation awards, i.e., land awarded to loyal natives as compensation for the confiscation of their lands conserved to them by the very Act which confiscated the lands of rebels; special awards for many reasons; the sites of burial grounds and fishing stations; the homes of the tribes; lands over which confiscation was never pretended to apply, as well as Sir William Fox's awards which, as he said, were to be "theirs and their children's forever." They are the lands and sole provision made for—commencing in the North—Ngatitama, Ngatunutunga, Atiawa in all its branches (with the exception of compensation awards mostly sold to Europeans), Ngatimaru, Taranaki, Ngatiruanui of the Plains and their tribal relations of Hawera and Patea, and finally Ngarauru of Waitotara. They extend from the White Cliffs, near the southern boundary of the Auckland Provincial District, throughout the length of Taranaki to Waitotara, in the Wellington Provincial District, and the lessees of the leased portion of these lands represent a large portion of the intelligence pertaining to the electors of three electorates. These Reserves were Crown Granted, not to tribes, but to individuals, and in the lists the names in each grant vary from two to 200 in number. Most of these grants have passed through the writer's hands, and very many of them he has copied, A few, such as burying grounds and fishing stations, are absolutely inalienable, and these are the only ones exempt from the operations of the Bill before the House; the remainder page 4 are granted by the Queen on condition that they shall be inalienable by sale, gift, or mortgage, and alienable only "First by exchange for land of at least equal value, said land given in exchange being held In fee simple; second, by lease for any term not exceeding twenty-one years, without fine, premium, or foregift." Now the Royal Commission recognised the fact that, although the total area of all the Reserves appeared large, it was actually scanty as a pro rata provision for the Native population, whilst at the same time the Commission saw that, with so many minors among the owners, the whole could not at present be profitably used by them. A large amount was therefore leased to Europeans for twenty-one years, under stringent conditions of cultivation and fencing, and on becoming so leased became vested in the Public Trustee in trust for the Native owners. These lands by the Act could only be leased for the highest rent obtainable, hence they were let by tender or auction. Much of the land fetched more than the upset price, and occupation of the true "Garden of New Zealand" at once ensued. None was leased without at least the tacit if not the actual consent of the Natives; but they were told that if they did not consent the Public Trustee had power to lease without them. Some time subsequent Crown Lands were brought under the perpetual lease system with a thirty years tenure. The lessees of the Reserves immediately clamoured for an increase in their term from twenty-one to thirty years. Totally contrary to the provisions of the Crown Grant, this was done. They then agitated for a reduction in rent. They had each a vote in the electorate, and they obtained a concession which gave them a reduction of rent for five years. This, again, was illegal, and though asked in the House, Ministers could never tell under what Act the reduction was made. The sentiment expressed in the quotation "De mortuis nil nisi bonum," restrains me from enlarging on these matters. The five years expire in 1893.
Now, between Hawera and Waitotara, there were certain of these lands which had been let to Europeans by the Native occupants previous to the sitting of the Royal Commission. That body determined to investigate these illegal transactions, and if any were found fair to both parties, Native and European, to confirm them. Many were so found, and were confirmed—to use the exact words of the Commission—" for the term for which they were made." Many were seen to be deficient in the necessary qualifications, and were rejected by the Commission; but after this body had completed its work, almost Herculean in itself, and which resulted in the issue of the most valuable records extant of Native lands on the West Coast, another Commissioner was appointed who did not appear to think it was his duty to inquire into the bona fides of the leases, but rather that he was there to confirm the leases rejected by Sir Wm. Fox, and confirmed they were, in a perfunctory manner, without exception. As the increase of term of tenure and reduction of rent in the Public Trustee leases, first spoken of, resulted in the transfer of many to new occupants, at a profit to the original lessees, so the confirmation of the last caused many to be assigned to new tenants. The leases under which they held, intrinsically illegal, legal only by their confirmation, page 5 were of such a nature that the improvements were to be handed to the Natives at the expiration of their respective terms, and for only this term were they confirmed. But the Public Trustee on their confirmation assumed the administration of the lands leased by the Natives just as if he had leased them himself. The Natives' object in leasing in the first place was that the land might be improved for them, and the rental was generally fixed low in consequence; but the Public Trustee now maintains, or says he believes, that the Natives could not resume possession at the end of the term for which they were made and confirmed. They most certainly could by the terms of the leases inherent in the text; and a Judge of the Native Land Court, in giving judgment on the subdivision of the Hamua Block, took the view that the confirmation was an act of grace and favour to the Natives, which he certainly would not have done had it been apparent that the confirmation of an illegal lease would result in the registration of a perpetual lease against the land. Now, as these leases approached the term of their expiration by effluxion of time, the lessees sought to obtain new leases for thirty years at a rental calculated on the unimproved value of the land, although by their leases the improvements belonged to the Natives. They did not seek this from the Natives who had given them the original leases or from the Native grantees of their holdings, but they sought to influence legislation, so that the West Coast Settlement Reserves Act should be altered to suit their views. The situation was one which is probably inseparable from State tenancy when such a tenancy is preponderate in any given electorate. The system of Land Nationalization may be the ideal method of taxation, but it requires an ideal tenancy to make it work fairly, and an ideal Government to administer its provisions. Now it was easier for the confirmed lessees to obtain their wish, than for many constituencies less favorably situated as regards their representative. It is with diffidence I mention these things, but the circumstances are inseparable from the situation of affairs which is under consideration. It would be thought that the Public Trustee would interfere to prevent legislation which, being contrary to the tenor of the grants under which he administered, would likely prove abortive. But the Public Trustee is but the executive of the Public Trust Board, and the Premier represented in Parliament the bulk of the holders of confirmed leases. In the closing days of the session of 1887, an Act was passed providing for the sitting of Arbitration Courts to fix the rental of these confirmed leases on the basis of thirty years tenure on the unimproved value of the land. The first condition was illegal on the face of the Crown Grants, and the last was a robbery of the improvements which belonged to the Natives by the terms of the leases confirmed by the Governor. The Arbitration Court sat at great expense to the lessees, but the result promised to indemnify them for the outlay. By the awards they obtained their thirty years tenure at a rental valued on the unimproved value of the land. The Natives went to the Supreme Court, and these awards were declared illegal. It is to straighten up this existing chaos that there is a necessity for legislation, but there is no necessity to alter the conditions page 6 under which the Queen granted the land—theirs before by ancestral title—to the Natives "themselves and their heirs forever." Doubtless, during the debate, we shall hear, as we did in the waning session of 1887, that the Native owners are murderers, and the lessees have borne "the burden and heat of the day." Much of the land is but the remnant of hundreds of thousands of acres, the ancestral territory of loyal as well as reclaimed rebel Natives, who would be styled patriots had they but white skins and fought for our own fatherland; the Reserves form but the shadow, apparently fleeting, of their tribal possessions, whilst "the burden and heat of the day" theory applies to few of the present tenants. A parade of the lessees would show that they owed more to Pluto than to Mars. They acquired generally their leases by purchase, or they commenced occupation during the piping times of ensured peace. The largest holder, who has acquired 3000 acres at least, owes the present comparatively impoverished wharfinger at Raglan any of the "burden and heat of the day" quality which may attach to his lease.
Before going seriatim through the clauses of the Bill, it will be well to state what the Natives are doing with the portions not leased. Of course many owners have died since 1881, and the Natives have obtained through the Native Land Court orders of succession for those entitled to succeed. Wishing to obtain individual holdings, many natives, singly and in groups, have obtained subdivision of the large Reserve, and further subdivision would ensue but for two reasons. First, new work in that direction cannot be undertaken by the Court until that already done is consummated by survey, and the Natives lack either money or surveyors—some lack both; and, secondly, owing to the original grants having been handed to reputed chiefs, they cannot in many instances be produced for the registration of subdivision orders when an individual title is required. I myself am in that position with my ward's land. Now, when rent had accumulated in the hands of the Public Trustee, it was necessary that their shares of money accruing should be distributed among the owners of the various grants. The grants did not specify the interests of the grantees. By Act, therefore, the Reserves Trustee was empowered to fix the shares of the Natives for the distribution of the money. He did this, imperfectly in some instances, which imperfections were of small consequence were the distribution of the rent money the only action to ensue on his appointment. But he made an assessment in acres instead of money fractions, where as the Act only authorised him to distribute the money. Native Lands Courts have, however, confirmed these apportionments where they were accepted by the Natives in such cases as have been brought before it and have amended them when required to do so. The Natives are anxious to obtain individualisation and subdivision, in order that the more industrious may cultivate and graze their lands to advantage, unhampered by community with the lazy and improvident. We shall see how the present paternal Government, which has a special Minister to protect and further the welfare of the Natives, and is about to legislate for the provision of landless Natives, seconds these laudable desires of Natives who wish to keep page 7 their lands lest they also should become landless. As regards the administration of the Public Trustee, it has not been in the best interests of the Natives, as will be readily seen by what has already been written, and to take an instance of more than ordinary flagrant sin of omission, I publish the following recommendation of the Native Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives:—
Copy of the Report of the Native Affairs Committee in the Petition of R. S. Thompson. No. 44, 1890.
Petitioner states he is the father and trustee of Pare Kawhia, a half-caste, and owner of Section 154, Block IV., "Waimate Survey District, and that the Public Trustee, who administers the land, has reduced the rent from £19 10s. to £8 per annum, thereby seriously reducing the income of his (petitioner's) child. He prays for inquiry and relief.
I am directed to report as follows:—That the deterioration of the property is the result of the lessee's neglect, but yet, as a consequence of it, he Becomes benefitted in the reduction of rent. It is feared that this will be a too frequent occurrence, as it is impossible for a Public Trustee to maintain the assiduous supervision that is practicable by a private owner, and the Committee recommend the Government to grant the prayer of the petitioner, and in all similar cases to relieve the Public Trustee of the management of properties that could be much better dealt with by the owners.
5th August, 1890.
Seeing the neglect of the lessee, a former petition was sent in 1880, and the Committee recommended the Government to legislate in the direction of relieving the Public Trustee from the administration. The Government did nothing, and the lessee worse than nothing, and in consequence the petition of 1890 was sent. The lessee had obtained the land at the upset price; for years he omitted to fence or cultivate, although required to do so by the regulations under which he held his lease. He got into arrears with his rent, and let the land get overrun with furze, of which a trifle grew at one end of the section when he took it. His application for a reduction was at first refused until he paid up his rent and fenced and cleared away the furze. Ho paid his rent, put up a fence of some kind, and cut down the furze. His rent was then reduced—the reduction made retrospective to the time when he had done nothing to his land and did not deserve reduction, and what he had paid then was made to cover the intervening period of time at the reduced rate, and 1s. 6d. tendered to the owner as rent in full up to date. Ministers have done nothing towards carrying out the recommendations of the Committee, although last year the Native Minister promised to legislate, and this year said he would try to get a clause inserted in the Bill now under discussion. I applied to him with that object, and in reply received the Bill from the Public Trustee, with a note saying the Native Minister had referred the matter to him—one of the persons of whom I complained. Let us now consider this Bill, which should be called—
A Bill for the Nationalisation of Land Granted by the Crown to Natives.
Clause 1 gives the title; Clause 2 explains the meaning of the various terms used; and Clause 3 repeals all the Acts under which these lands have been heretofore administered.page 8
Clause 4 vests all the Reserves, whether subject to lease or not, in the occupation of Europeans or Natives, in the Public Trustee in trust for the Native owners.
Clause 5 brings us to the chief iniquity, for it seeks to do away with "the restrictions, conditions, and limitations contained in the Crown Grants," the only title by which the Natives hold their land, and which proved their only safeguard when the Act of 18S7 menaced them with injury. As the land was by the Queen granted on these conditions, how does the Grant stand affected when these conditions no longer exist? And it is sought to remove these safeguards for purposes of "leasing and sale and other the powers given by this Act." "But no Reserve," it is added, "which is made absolutely inalienable by the Crown Grant shall be leased or sold under the provisions of this Act." This appears a large concession to the ignorant. It is merely an attempt to draw a herring over the scent. There is absolutely nothing in it, for the only reserves .in the condition described are the burying grounds and fishing stations already alluded to. The whole of the land, with the exception of these, given by the Crown on the recommendation of Sir Wm. Fox for the maintenance and support of the Natives whose lands had been righteously or unrighteously confiscated, are affected by clause 5, and will be open for sale should the Bill pass. It is an aggravation of the crime to say they can only sell to the Government, because, given the desire to sell, they can only sell to a monopolist, and lose the advantage of enhancement of price which accompanies competition.
Clause 6 gives power to the Public Trustee to lease all Reserves not subject to any lease or tenancy, to grant new leases for all those where leases have expired by effluxion of time. As regards the latter, there is nothing to be said, probably with the exception only that it provides for the issue of a new lease in place of a confirmed lease which has expired, although the Natives anticipated enjoying the tenancy of these lands themselves when they had arrived at the expiration of "the term for which they were made."
The first part of the clause, however, is exceedingly unjust, or so it appears to me, an ignorant layman, with no legal training to give understanding and acumen. It gives the Public Trustee power to lease any land on the Reserves whether the Natives wish it or not; and however much the Natives may wish to preserve their lands for their own occupation and use, they are powerless to preserve it should the Public Trustee decide to lease, moved thereto by some European who desires to acquire. Throughout this Bill, voluminous as are the instructions for the proper application of covetous Europeans for the lands of the Natives, it is nowhere shown how the Natives can resist such legalised encroachment on their lands. They can fix the rent, or it will be fixed for them, but lease they must, should the Public Trustee so desire.
Clause 7 validates all leases heretofore made by the Public Trustee (other than those issued under awards of the Arbitration Court, which are left in their present inchoate state). That is, the thirty years leases which were issued by the Public Trustee, and which, by the Grants and as shown by the decision of the Supreme Court, are entirely illegal, are by this clause validated. Experience shows that no injustice which a Minister does to the Natives will long remain without validation by Parliament, whose Validatory Act is obtained, not by the relation to the House of things as they are, but by their appreciation of them as they are made by Ministers to appear to be. Not the exact truth, but "brimful of circumstance," appearing like truth. This same clause 7 validates the reductions made by the Public Trustee for five years as already mentioned.page 9
Clause 8 provides for the issue of new leases to the holders of confirmed losses as well as ordinary leases, and contains many conditions which, on the face of them, appear satisfactory; but I would again point out that as the Natives are simply asked to meet to fix the rent, not to consent or refuse to lease, whether it is not just as likely that, as full provision is hereafter made for the receipt by Natives themselves, or by trustees appointed by the Native Land Court, or other trustees appointed by the Chief Judge in a summary manner, for the receipt of all moneys accruing; from the Reserves, not rent only, whether, I say, it is not reasonable to suppose that the Public Trustee can sell the Reserves without that consent, especially as by clause 32, section 4, the Governor has power to provide for all proceedings of the Public Trustee by section 5 for providing for all proceedings, forms of leases, and other instruments, and section 7 for the more fully carrying out the objects and purposes of this Act not herein expressly provided. Having then decided to lease, it is proposed to call meetings of Natives to fix the rent, and for this purpose any Native owner of 14 years old and upwards, whether under coverture or not, may appear at such a meeting and vote. Is it necessary to say anything about this clause? Cannot anyone see that when a Native child wants lollies or a jewsharp, he will easily be persuaded to attend a meeting and vote as he is desired, notwithstanding that his absent trustee, if he has one, is entirely opposed to the proceedings, or desires a higher price? Or the said 14 years old owner may appoint someone to attend for him and vote, the appointment to be made in the presence of a J.P., Licensed Interpreter, Solicitor of the Supreme Court, or Postmaster. What is to prevent an interested person wishing to be made trustee employing a Native Interpreter, and going round to the Native villages and waylay the infants, and finally appear at a meeting armed with a sheaf of proxies of 14 year old owners, with which he can dominate any meeting where a majority rules. If I take a sinister view of the intentions of the Bill, it is sufficient "to say that I have been educated by the effect of past legislation and the proceedings of former Public Trustees. I shall not notice at length the conditions of lease. I have no wish to prevent tenants getting their just rights to the utmost, and as it is the intention of the Government under the Bill to purchase the Reserves, that Government would not entirely spoil the property by burdening it with unprofitable leases.
Clause 9 makes all leases so granted equal in every way to the perpetual leases under the Land Act, 1885, but without any right to acquire the freehold.
Clause 10 is a good one, in so far as it limits the holdings to 640 acres-The land is all first-class. It also makes the leases for twenty-one years, the leases being similar to those issued under "The Land Act. 1885," but the power given to the Public Trustee to make, alter, amend, or revoke these conditions at his own sweet will, or as provided further on, at the direction of the Government, for any individual case, does not recommend itself, having in view the pressure brought to bear on the Government, which resulted in the injustice of 1887.
Clause 11 embodies certain clauses of "The Land Act, 1885," in this Act. Clause 12 gives the Public Trustee power to sue for rent, &c. It also contains a really good section, No. 5, which empowers him to let Reserves from year to year at any reasonable rent. It should be added "with the consent of the owners." Clause 12 is one of those iniquitous provisions which tend in a few words to nullify any good there may be in the conditions of lease. It empowers the Public Trustee "to compound and receive a lesser sum in satisfaction of such rents, income, or profit, or to give time for the payment page 10 thereof of without being responsible for any loss occasioned thereby." With a body of lessees ready to vote en bloc for the member who will assist them to hold their leases on the easiest terms; with party Government, in which each party is pushed at times for even a single vote (and the lessees are spread over three electorates), with the Premier sitting at the head of the Public Trust Board, and with the experience of what has been illegally done heretofore, necessitating validation now—the giving of any such discretionary power to the Public Trustee cannot be too strongly deprecated. "What is the use of fixing 5 per cent, on the capital value of the land as a basis on which to assess the rent if the Public Trustee can accept what he likes afterwards?
Clause 13 deals with the investment of moneys; and 14 makes a list of names now in the hands of the Public Trustee, the owners of the Reserves. It will be necessary for the Native owners to scrutinize this list, and the House should know more about it before this clause is passed. If the list is composed of those in the Crown Grants or their successors appointed by the Native Land Court, with the shares to the names of these as apportioned or confirmed by the Native Land Court, well and good; but if it also contains the shares as apportioned by the Reserves Trustee, which have not received the sanction of the Native Land Court, then it should not be accepted as the "register." It was ruled by as just a Judge as ever sat on the Native Land Court Bench (he has received his reward from the present Government, who retrenched him) that the clause in the West Coast Settlement Act, giving the Reserves Trustee power to divide the money, gave him no authority to divide the land; and quite right. It is simply monstrous, as all Native Land Court experts will acknowledge, that a subordinate officer, assisted by any assessor he may call on, should, without holding a Court or calling witnesses, simply after private enquiry, proceed to divide tens of thousands of acres among thousands of owners.
Clause 15 gives the Native Land Court or the Chief Judge thereof power to enquire into succession to deceased owners, for the purpose of amending the register. Why the Chief Judge should wield a power equal to a full Court is more than I, poor layman, can imagine.
Clause 16 actually bristles with iniquity. After incorporating "The Native Land Court Act, 1886," into this Act, which is good, it undoes it all by this provision: "Provided always that the Native Land Court shall not make partition of any Reserve unless the Governor shall by warrant authorise such partition to be made," Thus no Native can obtain his interest individualised and subdivided on the land which is "his and his children's forever," unless the Governor by warrant (which of course means unless the Government directs) says it shall be done. No procedure is indicated in the direction of enabling a Native to procure such a warrant from the Governor. It is simply a bar to all subdivision, with the exception of those wished for by the Government, presumably of the interests they intend from time to time to acquire under the Act. Hitherto Natives have been able to obtain subdivision in the ordinary way through the Native Land Court, and great improvement in their social condition has resulted. Now, when it is proposed to buy up the shares of Natives from 14 years old and upwards, the purchaser who has the acts of subdivision and has acquired a majority of shares in a Reserve, can make it so uncomfortable for the owners of the remainder as to force them to sell, if indeed they have any option under the Act. The only persons mentioned in the Act as being capable of joining (with the Public Trustee, I presume,) in any sale to Her Majesty are the trustees appointed in a summary manner by the Native Land Court or Chief Judge on behalf of those under coverture, minor, lunatic, sick or infirm (clause 23).page 11
Clause 17 authorises the Native Land Court or the Chief Judge to appoint trustees, from one to five, to receive rents, moneys, and profits from the Public Trustee for distribution among the owners of the respective Reserves, separate trustees for each Reserve, but a person can be trustee for more than one Reserve. Clause 18 gives power to the said Court or Chief Judge to revoke such appointment and appoint new ones when necessary. Clause 19 makes the receipt of such a trustee a good discharge and removes all liability from the shoulders of the Public Trustee. Clause 20 provides that if there are more than two trustees the vote of the majority shall bind the whole in any decision to be arrived at. Clause 21 provides that rents, income, and profits of the Reserves shall be paid by the Public Trustee to the trustees thus appointed, and leaves the Public Trustee to distribute the same till this is done. Clause 22 provides that notice of appointments of trustees shall be given to the Chief Judge. Clause 23 gives power to the Native Land Court or Chief Judge in a summary manner to appoint trustees for minors, &c, as already stated, giving him power to vote for sale to Government, and his acts shall bind the Native for whose "benefit (or otherwise) he has been appointed. Clause 24 vests all leases and contracts made under the Acts hereby repealed in the Public Trustee absolutely, without any mention of the Native owner; and Clause 25 entirely exonerates the Public Trustee from all liability for any acts not owing to wilful neglect, default, or omission.
Now I will pause and consider what these latter clauses have done for the Natives; and first I will say that the Public Trustee at present deducts 7½ per cent from the gross proceeds of the rents for his trouble in administering the Reserves, and the rents are distributed by the Reserves Trustee, who is practically a servant of the former officer and paid by him. By the Act of 1881 very large powers, discretionary and otherwise, appeared to be vested in the Reserves Trustee, but as things have been evolved, he is simply an instrument in the hands of the Public Trustee. He does not appear in the provisions of the present Bill. Whatever his shortcomings, and they were many, arising probably from a mistaken idea on his part that he was trustee for the benefit of the lessees and the master of the owners, in the matter of the distribution of the rent, a very difficult matter, he has been most energetic, indefatigable, and painstaking. The clauses grouped together in my last sentence enables the Chief Judge, when he is appointed by the Governor so to do (see clause 32), at the request of the Government, who is to become a purchaser of the Reserves, to appoint trustees, not more than five in each Reserve (many of which have over 100 and some nearer 200 owners), and also in a summary manner the Court or Chief Judge, when asked to do so through the same channel as above, can appoint a person to receive moneys, &c., for persons laboring under disability, minors, and others, and the person so appointed shall have power to join in any sale of land to Government and in fixing the rent of all leases, and this appointment of trustees removes all blame from the Public Trustee in case or loss from misappropriation after he has obtained the receipt of said trustee. Now it appears to me that with such startling facilities it becomes a very easy matter for the Government to purchase the Reserves. With agents or trustees appointed by the purchasers, and presumably 14 years old infants on the side of the Government, those who may object to sell (if they have any option) the true patriots of the Native race will surely be in a minority. I have no wish to be prolix, and will say no more on this head. All these things may be for the benefit of the Natives, but past transactions don't warrant one in taking much for granted.
Clause 26 debars any aggrieved person from commencing an action against the Public Trustee for any lease heretofore made, or for any act or page 12 omission previously chargeable against the Public Trustee, and provides that all actions already commenced shall cease. The Native, in fact, is not allowed to administer his own estate, and cannot punish the Trustee for past maladministration.
Clause 27 provides that Her Majesty (the Queen, God bless her! does not want to do it) may purchase, and the Natives may sell, any Reserve or part of a Reserve, or any share therein, the money to be paid to the Public Trustee. This bears its character on the face of it. Were there Reserves on the top of Tararua, it would never have been inserted. Naboth's vineyard is a different matter.
Clause 28 forbids alienation otherwise than by provisions of this Act and by will of Native to Native; and 29 gives power for the registration of leases without the production of the original Grant, which the Reserves Trustee or the Commissioner have disposed of in such a manner as they cannot always be produced. Now, nothing is said about giving the same facilities to Natives to register the very numerous orders of succession and subdivision, which they have been at great trouble and expense, for fees and surveys, to procure, and which, it may be contended, are valueless without registration, and registration without the Grant, the Registrar tells me, is impossible. By all means obtain power to register the leases, but if the Bill were in favor and for the benefit of the Natives, power to register instruments favorable to the owner would be equally sought, and provided with that, to facilitate the registration of leases against their land.
Clause 30 gives power to the Public Trustee to lay off roads and make surveys.
Clause 31 gives the 14 year old owners power to give discharge for money or appoint another Native to do so. Disgust will not allow me to say more on this point.
Clause 32 gives the Governor power from time to time to make regulations for subdivision of the lands, the form and condition of the leases, imposing fees and survey charges, providing for all proceedings of the Native Land Court or the Chief Judge thereof, or the Public Trustee, or any trustee or other person acting under the provisions of this Act. It provides, in short, that the Governor may make regulations for doing everything already mentioned in the Act, and everything else not mentioned which is not obnoxious to the intention of the Act, for carrying out the provisions of the same. That is, the Governor, which may be read Government, as he acts on the advice of his responsible Ministers, has the power to do everything, and the Native Land Court, Chief Judge, Public Trustee, or any other trustee, nothing, without the authority of that Government, which is to become a purchaser of the Reserves. All the clauses of this Bill might have been taken for granted, and never have been written, if the author had started fair and called it "The West Coast Reserves Government go-as-you-please Act."
Clause 32 says that there shall be no dealing with Reserves or money except by this Act; and 34, that an Order in Council may declare what sections of "The Land Act, 1885," are to apply.
Clause 35 tells us that this Act does not validate or invalidate any award or lease made pursuant to it under the Acts hereby repealed.
Clause 36 gives the Governor power to appoint officers; and 37 says that the Act is not to subject the Reserves to any tax or rate they were not heretofore liable to; and closes, with the exception of a lengthy Schedule, the libretto of a proposed shameful drama, pregnant with the suggestions of shameless scenes,
The Schedule I shall not at present notice. I have no wish to hamper any fair attempt to adjust the differences between lessor or lessee. There page 13 are many hard-working men among the latter, both of the confirmed and ordinary leases. There are exceptions, as has been pointed out, and it is to the advantage of the great bulk of the lessees that these exceptions should be weeded out. Hitherto the Public Trustee has never attempted to make any distinction between the worthy and the unworthy, or Drought any defaulters to book, with the exception of some for arrears of rent. I would, however, just notice the last clause in the Schedule and consequently in the Bill. It gives the Public Trustee, which means, as we have seen when properly traced to the root, the Government, power to set apart for lease, with perpetual right of renewal, portions of Reserves not exceeding fifty acres each. Nothing is said of the consent of the Native owners, whose wishes, as usual, throughout the Bill are entirely disregarded, or evaded, in a manner generally noticeable in the diplomacy of a Heathen Chinee. It would appear that as far as the Native race is concerned, that there exists no avenue by which they can arrive at a redress of any grievance they labour under in respect to their lands. This is a very dangerous aspect of affairs, and were it not for the safeguard derived from the peace policy of Parihaka, would almost make us dread that "when their latest hope is fled we taste of their despair." I have heard a Native declare before a Court that they felt at times so irritated with the manner in which their lands were administered that they felt tempted to assassinate someone concerned in the wrong-doing. I know of a proposal made to cast lots who should kill someone of the administration, and I have besides had my attention drawn to a remark, said to have been made by Professor Blackie, that "It is a matter for consideration whether, when a man has exhausted all the legal and constitutional means for the redress of his grievance, he has not a right to resort to assassination." I hesitated long before I penned the last sentence, but it is the truth, and intended in no way as a menace. Any momentary temptation of the kind has been resisted in the past, and doubtless will be so in the future; nevertheless, the very fact of the occurrence of such temptation shows the utter intensity of the feeling of hopeless despair of redress which exists among the thinking, and it is these which are to be guarded against. The class now called the "Labour Party" were slaves until they began to think. The Natives have petitioned the Queen, who invariably refers such petitions to the New Zealand Government since the Constitution Act, 1852. They have petitioned the Houses of Assembly, and received favorable recommendations, which the Government evades. Queen, Lords, and Commons, and there is only the Fourth Estate left, not an actual one, but the most powerful of all, for it steers public opinion. The entire cessation of all armed resistance to authority was typified when at Parihaka Te Whiti opposed the shoddy chivalry of Mr. Bryce with a crowd of infants, called his regiment of tatarakihi (locusts) and his reserve battalion of youths called whiorangi (silver-eyed birds so called). All Te Whiti wanted was a settlement such as Her Majesty has power to make under the Act of 1852; and when he said "the potato is cooked," he meant he was powerless to help himself. This policy is our security for peace.
Already during the present session has an appeal been made for a provision for landless Natives; aad yet here is a Ministry seeking to deprive a large proportion of the Native population of the only lands they have. Already has an attempt been made to have the Natives taxed and rated as Europeans are rated and taxed, and here is a Government trying to destroy and obstruct any attempts to acquire by the Natives the only tenure to their lands which would warrant such rating and such taxation—the individual tenure under inviolable Crown Grant.
I have to thank the Public Trustee for a copy of the Bill.