Copy of a Despatch from Governor Hobson to the Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies
My Lord,—Government House, Auckland, 5th August 1841.
I have the honour to enclose a Government Gazette showing the result of the land sale, of the 19th April, in which 119 allotments, containing forty-four acres, sold for the gross sum of £24,275 17s. 9d., being at the average of £555 per acre nearly, full reports of which have been forwarded to Sir George Gipps, who was then my official superior.
In drawing your Lordship's attention to this subject, I have the honour to acquaint you that on the 12th day of April eighty-nine suburban or cultivation allotments were advertised for sale by auction in the immediate vicinity of this town. Upon the subsequent receipt of your Lordship's instructions on the 30th April, which superseded those of Lord Normanby, under which I previously acted I immediately postponed the intended sale of allotments from the 12th July to the 1st September, in hopes of receiving by that period further instructions on the subject.
Under these circumstances your Lordship will perceive that I was placed in the unpleasant dilemma of departing from your express commands, or of inflicting a severe injury on the inhabitants of this town, by withholding from them for an indefinite period the means of providing for themselves the common necessaries of life, and by occasioning considerable pecuniary loss and inconvenience to persons who might have made arrangements for purchasing these lands at the forthcoming sale.
Having already experienced, in the case of the Town of Russell, the mischievous effect of annulling a sale which had once been advertised, I could not help pausing ere I again exposed the faith of the Government to the blighting effect of doubt. The outcry on the former occasion was most violent, and on this it would he reiterated with tenfold vehemence, owing to the increased inconvenience that would result to those who had resolved to settle in town, or who had already bought allotments there. Governed by these circumstances, I resolved to bring the matter before the Executive Council, and fairly put the question to them whether they considered your Lordship would better approve of a slight departure from your orders, or of the alternative which would inflict so much present inconvenience and pecuniary loss on the settlers of this town and neighbourhood. The Council were unanimously of opinion that your Lordship would consider the absolute wants of the colonists as paramount to all other considerations, and advised me accordingly to sell the few allotments I had advertised; fixing the upset price at such a rate as to deter any one from purchasing except those who were likely to become bond fide settlers, and who would, by their presence and their industry promote the health and comfort of the inhabitants of the town generally.
I should be sorry to couvey to your Lordship, by any reasons I have assigned for my proceeding, the idea that I was wholly unprepared for your Lordship's instructions in regard to the sale of land in this colony, the fact being otherwise. I did fully believe that your Lordship would deal with the lands of New Zealand as you had done with those at Port Phillip, and I determined accordingly to confine my operations to a space of five miles round this town, that I might not embarrass any arrangements your Lordship might establish.page 31
It might be supposed that the settlers would be better pleased to obtain their lands near the town at a fixed price, on so low a scale as that which your Lordship seems to contemplate. I much fear that this theory, when brought into practice, will prove beneficial to jobbers only, who, devoting their whole attention to that one object, will afford no chance of competition to industrious settlers, or to persons unacquainted with official business.
As a proof to your Lordship how the system of fixed prices would have affected the financial concerns of this colony in the sale of Auckland, I enclose the copy of an application forwarded to me by Mr.—, which, had the fixed system been in operation, would have engrossed sixty town allotments for the benefit of himself and his friends, persons who can have no idea of settling in New Zealand; and if he had had the earliest selection, which from his activity in these matters he most probably would have had, he and those he represents would have realized from £20,000 to £25,000. Even as the case stands, and high as the land sold, Mr.—and others have made considerable sums hy the resale of choice allotments.
The sale by lot is subject to less objection, because it offers no exclusive advantage to jobbers, or to the officers of the Government, who might profit by their early knowledge of land to be sold, especially at the commencement of the system. I object, however, to this method of gambling, which encourages jobbing instead of colonizing.
I hope I have not intruded my opinions too far on subjects which your Lordship has probably decided, but I have taken the liberty of impressing these examples on your Lordship's notice whilst there remains an opportunity of modifying a plan that admits of practices which I consider to be in the highest degree prejudicial to the interests of the colony.
I have, &c.,