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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Lands And Survey Department

The Lands And Survey Department

The Crown Lands of the Colony are administered under the authority of “The Land Act, 1892.” By its provisions land may be selected under three different tenures, the choice being left to the would-be settler. These are (1) for cash, in which case one-fourth of the purchase money is paid down at once and the balance within thirty days; but the title is not issued until certain improvements have been made on the land; (2) lease with a purchasing clause, at five per cent-rental on the value of the land; the lease being for twenty-five years with the right to purchase at any time after, the first ten years; (3) lease in perpetuity at a rental of four per cent on the capital value. Under this latter system there is a fixity of tenure practically equal to freehold, and which carries with it the power of sale, sub-lease, mortgage or disposition by will. As all lands held under lease from the Crown are subject to the Land Tax, periodical revaluations are considered unnecessary, as the Crown reaps the benefit of the unearned increment through the operation of the Land Tax; but the improvements made on the soil by the tenant in cultivation, draining, clearing, etc., are secured to him. This system is advantageous to the settler for the reason that capital is not necessary to obtain the right to lands, and whatever money he may be possessed of can be used for development of the holding, purchase of stock, erection of buildings, etc. Lands are classified as follows :—(1) town and village lands, the upset prices of which are respectively not less than £20 and £3 per acre; such lands are sold by auction; (2) suburban lands, the upset price of which may not be less than £2 per acre, and are also sold by auction; (3) rural lands which may be disposed of at not less than 1 per acre for first class, and five shillings per acre for second class; such lands may be sold or leased by auction, or sold and leased on application. The Land Act limits the area which may be acquired to 640 acres of first class, and 2000 acres of second class land, inclusive of what land the selector may already hold. Another provision for settling the people on the land is the Small Farm Association system by which not less than twelve individuals who have associated themselves together for mutual help may select a block of land, the extreme limit any one person may hold being 320 acres. The land is held on lease in perpetuity, and is subject to conditions of residence and improvement. A number of these settlements have been formed, but in several the selections have been heavily handicapped by being chosen in localities too far distant from markets and with no approach by roads, causing much hardship, and in some cases abandonment, through the inability of the settler to obtain employment in the neighbourhood, and the difficulty of transporting stores. This has happened more particularly in the forest-covered portions of the Wellington and Taranaki districts. Since the date of the Act coming into force on the 1st of November, up to the 31st of March, 1895, the following figures give the number of selections and acreage:—(1) selected for cash 1542; area, 110,570 acres; (2) occupation with right of purchase, 1060; area, 236,270 acres; (3) lease in perpetuity, 8224; area, 684,086 acres; the latter including the special settlements, the principal part of which latter class has been taken up in the Wellington district.

The village settlement scheme which was introduced with a view of providing work for the unemployed, and settling them on the forest lands which they were set to clear, burn page 181 and grass, and then become the lessees of, has only been a partial success owing to the dearth of Crown Lands in localities where they would have an outlet for their produce. Eighteen of such settlements have been allocated, upon which 193 settlers have occupied 21,202 acres, towards which Government has contributed £5698. With a view of providing more suitable lands the Land for Settlements Act was passed in 1892 giving power to the ministers to acquire by purchase from private individuals properties suitable for subdivision into small farms not exceeding 320 acres each. Several properties have been acquired, cut up into farms, roaded and leased in perpetuity at five per cent, rental on a value sufficient to cover all costs. Thirteen estates in various parts of the Colony have been acquired under this Act with a total area of 42,923 acres, costing £167,000. The Cheviot Estate of 84,755 acres was also taken under the provisions of the Land and Income Assessment Act at a cost of £260,220, and subsequent outlay on roads, etc., have increased this amount to £332,814.

Small grazing runs not exceeding 5000 acres of first class or 20,000 acres of second class pastoral land are leased for terms of twenty-one years at 2 1/2 per cent. rental on the value of the land. These leases entitle the holder to grazing rights and to the cultivation of any part of the holding, but the runs are subject to the mining laws, and they are mostly situated in the Otago and Canterbury districts. Pastoral runs are let also on twenty-one years' lease. None may be of a greater extent than will carry 20,000 sheep or 4000 cattle. Tenants on this class of land are not entitled to the soil, timber or minerals; they must prevent the spread of gorse, broom or briar, and have to destroy the rabbits which infest it under very strict provisions.

Survey And Roads.

The Survey Department is under the control of the Lands Department, and the construction and maintenance of main roads and roads to give access to Crown lands are also associated with it. In each provincial district there are stationed a chief surveyor, who is also Commissioner of Crown Lands, and a staff of district surveyors, draughtsmen, and other officers, the total number in the Colony being 245. The field work done is of a laborious nature, especially in the winter season, when survey work in the forest-clad districts, and often at high altitudes, frequently breaks up the constitutions of the hardiest. The survey staff carry out the work of major and minor triangulation, topographical surveys, rural and suburban section surveys, town sections, surveys for the Native Land Court, surveys of mining leases, and miscellaneous surveys and inspection. In addition to this, roads are surveyed at workable gradients, no less than 542 miles of this work having been laid out in the year ending March, 1895. The average cost of surveying rural and suburban sections is about fifteen penee per acre, but mining leases cost 6s. 6d. per acre, the country in which they are located being generally in rough country, and the sections of limited size, Notwithstanding the large staff there is always a considerable amount of back work to pull up in the department, but considerable progress has been made in the past few years in the trigonometrical work, but some districts, especially in the Nelson and Marlborough districts have not been operated on. A considerable amount of exploration work has been done among the Southern Alps of recent years. The road work done by the department has been of a very extensive character, as may be judged from the fact that in the last years' work no less than 653 miles of settlements roads were constructed by the department in the Wellington district alone, besides numerous bridges and culverts and extensive drainage operations.

The Lithographic Department.

The work done for the Survey Department in the lithoprinting office is very extensive, and printing is also done there for fourteen departments in all. In the preparation of new maps and the correcting of the old ones, the printing of land sale poster maps, standard drawings of bridges and culverts, sections of road formation, complex political maps of the Colony; the printing of somewhat elaborate guide books for advertising the Colony, statistical maps, illustrations for the New Zealand Institute and other artistic works, the litho staff is kept busy, as may be judged from the fact that no less than 334 stones were used in this description of work. Some very high-class work is being turned out by the photo-lithographic process at a small cost, and as soon as the staff is accommodated in more suitable quarters in the addition now being built to the Government Printing Office, the quality of the work will, under more favourable conditions, be greatly improved.

The Hon. J. McKenzie, Minister of Lands and Immigration is in charge of this large and important department. The honourable gentleman's career is described at length on page 46.

page 182

Mr. Stephenson Percy Smith, F.R.G.S., Surveyor-General, and Secretary for Crown Lands, who has been a prominent officer in the Civil Service of the Colony for forty years, was born in Beccles, Suffolk, in 1840. His father, the late Mr. John Stephenson Smith, Commissioner of Crown Lands in Taranaki, came to New Zealand with his family per ship “Pekin” in 1849, landing in New Plymouth. The subject of this notice was educated partly in England, and partly in New Zealand. He entered the public service in 1855 in New Plymouth as a cadet, and made such progress that in four years he was appointed district surveyor in the Kaipara, Auckland. For the first twenty years Mr. Smith was actively engaged in the field, and was employed on surveys in almost every part of the North Island. During the native troubles he had many thrilling adventures, as for several years nearly all surveys had to be made under arms, the surveyors running a great risk of losing their lives. In 1877 Mr. Smith was appointed chief surveyor for the provincial district of Auckland, and retained the position till 1889, when he was promoted to the office of Surveyor-General and Secretary for Crown Lands on the appointment of his predecessor, Mr. James McKerrow, to the Chief Commissionership of Railways. In addition to these important offices Mr. Smith is chairman of the Board of Land Purchase Commissioners, under the Land far Settlement Act, and is a member of the Public Trust Office Board, the Government Life Insurance Board, and the Native Reserves Board. Mr. Smith devotes most of his spare time to literary and scientific pursuits. He has long been deeply interested in Polynesian matters, and was largely instrumental in establishing the Polynesian Society, for preserving the traditions, history, and literature of the Islands. Mr. Smith and Mr. Edward Tregear are joint secretaries of the Society. Mr. Smith is a governor of the New Zealand Institute, an honorary member of the Auckland Institute, corresponding member of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, and of the Historical Society of Honolulu. In 1880 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Mr. Smith married Miss Mary Anne, daughter of Mr. W. M. Crompton, of New Plymouth, in 1863. His family consists of a daughter and four sons.

Photo by J. Martin, Auckland. Mr. S. Percy Smith.

Photo by J. Martin, Auckland.
Mr. S. Percy Smith.

Mr. Alexander Barron, Under Secretary for Crown Lands, and Superintending Surveyor, has been a public servant for nearly thirty-five years. He was born in Moray, in the North of Scotland, where also he was educated at private schools. After a few years spent in the west of Scotland and north of Ireland, Mr. Barron decided to depart for New Zealand in 1861. Arriving in Port Chalmers per ship “Pladda,” he entered the Civil Service in August of that year, under the late Mr. Arthur, afterwards Chief Surveyor of Otago. Having qualified as a surveyor in the usual way, Mr. Barron passed the necessary examination before Mr. J. T. Thomson, late Surveyor-General of New Zealand. In Otago the subject of this sketch served the Provincial Government of Otago in the Survey Department, Land Department, and Public Works Department. Shortly before the abolition of the provinces, Mr. Barron, while acting as an assistant engineer in the Public Works Department of Otago, was selected by the late Mr. Thomson as his first assistant in the organization, of a General Survey Department for the Colony. Since this time he has had the charge of the head office and the general administration of the department. In 1891 he was gazetted Under-Secretary of Crown Lands, in addition to his other office.

Mr. Frederick William Flanagan, Chief Draftsman of the Lands and Survey Department, and officer in charge of the Lithographic Branch, was born in Dunedin. Having been educated at the Dunedin High School, Mr. Flanagan first entered the Civil Service in 1871 as a cadet in the Dunedin Survey Office. After eighteen months' training in the office, he Mr. Frederick William Flanagan page 183 went out into the field with the District Surveyor, Mr. Strauchon, now Chief Surveyor of Taranaki, with whom he gained a valuable experience. Returning to the Dunedin office, Mr. Flanagan remained there till the General Survey Department was formed, when he was transferred to Wellington under Mr. J. T. Thomson, the first Surveyor-General of the Colony. Early in 1877 he was appointed assistant-draftsman, which position he held till 1887, when he was promoted to his present office. The charge of the Lithographic Department was bestowed on him in 1890. Mr. Flanagan has had a long and varied practical experience of each branch of the service included in his department. As one of the founders of the Public Service Association, he has rendered excellent service. For about fifteen months he was the energetic secretary, and still acts as a member of the committee and as one of the editors of the Journal. Mr. Flanagan took great interest in the Wellington Athenaeum, acting for four years as a vice-president and as a member of the committee. He is one of the directors of the Thorndon Bowling Club. In the Union Debating Society and the Citizens' Institute also Mr. Flanagan has taken an active part, assisting in the formation and occupying a seat on the council of the latter. In 1879 he married Miss Blacklock, daughter of the late Mr. James Blacklock, one of the proprietors of Hirst's tannery, and has one son and one daughter.

Mr. William Stonham Short, Chief Clerk of the Land and Survey Department, hails from London, where he was born and his earlier education was received. He came out to the colonies in 1864, landing in Sydney, and after receiving further education, was put to the soft goods trade in the establishment of Messrs. David Jones and Co. Mr. Short was subsequently in Messrs. Farmer and Co.'s emporium, but at the end of some four years his health failed, and he was compelled to take an extended sea voyage. He sailed for China and Japan, and for several years traded as super-cargo in the China Seas, afterwards living in Japan, and visiting Vladivostock, in Russian Siberia. His health having greatly improved, Mr. Short returned to New South Wales, and crossed over to Wellington, arriving in December, 1874. Entering the Civil Service almost immediately as clerk in the Public Works Department, after about six years he retired to take up the position of bookkeeper to Messrs. Duthie and Co. In 1882 Mr. Short re-entered the Government service, at an advanced salary, in the Public Works Department, and eight years later was transferred to the Land and Survey Department as clerk. Mr. Short was appointed Chief Clerk in 1892. His tastes are musical, and he occupies the post of organist at Trinity Wesleyan Church, Newtown. Mr. Short was married in 1877 to Miss Elizabeth Sarah Leighton, daughter of Mr. John Leighton, of Nottingham, and has three daughters and six sons.

Mr. Henry John Knowles, Chief Accountant of the Lands and Survey Department, is a son of the Rev. Canon Knowles, of Christchurch. He was born at Lyttelton on the 25th of April, 1859, and educated partly at Dalcroy House School, Lyttelton, and partly as Christ's College, Christchurch. While at the former school in 1870 he won a Government scholarship. Mr. Knowles entered the Civil Service in May, 1875, as a cadet in the Government Life Insurance Department, in Wellington. Five years later he joined the Land Tax Department as clerk, which position he held till February, 1893, the Department during that period merging into the Property Tax Department, and subsequently into the present Land and Income Tax Department. At this time Mr. Knowles was promoted to the position of Chief Accountant of Lands and Survey, which is one of the largest and most important departments. Mr. Knowles has for many years been an enthusiastic collector of New Zealand stamps. He founded the Philatelic Society of New Zealand, and still acts as a member of its committee.

Mr. Charles O'Hara Smith, Auditor of Land Revenue for New Zealand, who had a good deal to do with the suppression of dummyism in Taranaki, is a son of Captain John Smith, late of H.M. 41st Foot, an old Crimean veteran, who holds a medal of the French Legion of Honour. Mr. Smith was born in Malta, and educated at the private school of the Rev. J. B. Smith, Sizar and Moderator of Trinity College, Dublin. Arriving in New Zealand in 1872, he passed the Civil Service examination and joined the Treasury as a cadet. Having developed considerable ability, Mr. Smith was transferred to the Audit Office in 1879. Subsequently he was appointed an audit inspector, and for many years performed arduous duties in auditing the Government accounts and those of local bodies in various parts of the Colony. The districts which were under his charge at various times were Marlborough, Nelson, Wellington, Taranaki, Auckland City, and the North of Auckland. It is well known that while on the West Coast, North Island, Mr. Smith was successful in detecting many irregularities, causing large sums to be disgorged, and he was instrumental in bringing many defaulters to punishment. He also discovered that frauds were being perpetrated through certain land offices by means of fraudulent scrip. In consequence of these and other discoveries, the Legislature constituted the Department of Audit of Land Revenue by special Act as a branch of the Lands Department, and the control of this branch was given to Mr. Smith in recognition of his services. The usefulness of this section of the Civil Service is becoming more apparent as time progresses, the officers being experts in their special work. Mr. Smith was a member of the Masonic fraternity, and belonged to the Wellington Lodge No, 1521, E.C., of which he was elected W.M. for two years successively. He has also been a member of the District Grand Lodge. In boating Mr. Smith has been prominent for some twenty years; he was one of the founders of the Star Boating Club, and for several years rowed the stroke oar in both the inrigged and outrigged races. Mr. Smith was Mr. Charles O'Hara Smith page 184 on one occassion successful in winning the sculling championship in Wellington, and possesses several trophies. He was an enthusiastic volunteer, and served for six years in the D Battery, New Zealand Regiment of Artillery Volunteers. In 1884 he married Miss Talbot, daughter of Mr. George Talbot, J.P., Mayor of Richmond, Nelson, and chairman of the Nelson Education Board, and has five children—four daughters and a son.

Mr. John Edwin March, Superintendent or Settlement for the Colony, was born in Cornwall, and educated at the Royal Naval School, Greenwich. He came out to Lyttelton in 1853 per ship “John Taylor,” and for some time after arrival was engaged on a sheep station. In 1863 Mr. March was appointed clerk in the Immigration Department at Christchurch; in 1868 he was appointed Assistant Immigration officer; in December, 1869, he received the appointment of Immigration Officer, and nine years after he entered the service be was promoted to the position of Chief Immigration Officer for the Middle Island. He continued in this office till it was abolished, when be became Chief Immigration Officer for Canterbury, which post he held till immigration was suspended. The appointment to the charge of village settlements in the Canterbury district was now conferred upon him, and he satisfactorily performed his duties till his promotion in 1891 to the position now held. Mr. March compiles an annual report on village settlements, which is most interesting and instructive. In April, 1895, the subject of this notice received instructions to visit the Australian colonies and report on the village settlements and labour colonies in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. His report was laid before Parliament in August, 1895 and contained very interesting and useful information.

Mr. David Ross, Foreman, Lithographic Printer, and Photo-lithographer, Land and Survey Department, was born and educated in Edinburgh, where also he learned his business. He served an apprenticeship of seven years with the well-known firm Messrs. W. and A. K. Johnston, of 4 St. Andrew's Square, lithographic printers and geographers to the Queen. After remaining two years longer as a journeyman, he went to Messrs. McFarlane and Erakin to improve his knowledge of the chalk printing. Remaining about a year owing to dull trade he left this firm and entered the establishment of Mr. Mitchell, lithographic printer, in Princes Street, and afterwards accepted an engagement for Messrs. Bellfield and Wakefield, of the Timaru Herald, and came to the Colony per ship “Soukar,” landing In 1876. As the firm did not fulfil their contract he soon went to Dunedin, where he entered the lithographic department of David Henderson, Princes Street. In April, 1877, Mr. Ross entered the Government Service in the lithographic department of the Lands and Survey Branch, and for ten years retained the position of officer-in-charge. In 1887 he was transferred to Wellington to the photographic department, of which he took charge. He was appointed to the position he now holds in 1888. Mr. Ross is a member of the Royal Dunedin Lodge, I.O.O.F., M.U. He is a member of the Wellington Caledonian Society, of which he is one of the vice-presidents. He is fond of cricket and football, and while in Dunedin belonged to one of the local clubs. He was one of the first forty members of tile Thorndon Bowling Club, and is still an enthusiastic member. The subject o this notice has been able to effect many improvements in the management of his department in photolithography. The work produced by the department under his practical direction is much admired.

Other Officers.

Bookkeeper —P. C. Wilson.

Clerks— F. T. O'Neill, F. Samuel, J. B. Redward, A. A. S. Danby, J. P. Kennedy, E. F. Hawthorne.

Mr. Patrick Sheridan, Chief Land Purchase Officer, was born in 1841 in Newry, County Down, Ireland, and was educated at the Model School of that town. He was a telegraph Operator in Ireland from 1855 to 1858. In the latter year he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Regiment, then in course of formation, and came with his company to Auckland in 1860 per troopship “Robert Lowe.” He served through the Waikato and West Coast campaigns, for which he received the New Zealand War Medal. In 1869 Mr. Sheridan left the Army, and three years later entered as accountant in the Land Purchase Department on its revival by the late Sir Donald McLean. On the death of Mr. Lewis, Under-Secretary of the Native Department, in 1890, he was appointed Chief Land Purchase Officer. Mr. Sheridan was married in 1869, and has five sons and five daughters.

Mr. James McKerrow, F.R.A.S., Purchase Inspector, though better known under his late title of Chief Commissioner of New Zealand Railways, has been connected with the Public Service of the Colony for over thirty-five years. His history is a record of gradual advancement from a comparatively humble position to several of the highest offices of trust and responsibility in the Colony. Born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1834, he received his education at the academies of his own town and at the University of Glasgow. While yet a young man he determined to seek his fortune in New Zealand, and landed in Dunedin in 1859. Shortly after his arrival he received an appointment in the Survey Department. His abilities as a surveyor soon manifested themselves, for in 1861 he was selected from the staff for the very difficult and responsible task of surveying the interior, mountainous portions of the province of Otago. This work, embracing 8000 square miles of lakes and rugged country, was completed in two years, and Mr. McKerrow had the satisfaction of knowing that his work received the entire approval of the Government, and was acknowledged by Sir Roderick Murchison, president page 185 Mr. James McKerrow of the Royal Geographical Society of London, in his annual address at the time, as one of the most important contributions to the geographical knowledge of the year. From the completion of this undertaking until 1866 Mr. McKerrow was engaged on the geodesical survey, and from that year till 1873 he was Inspector of Crown-Lands and Goldfield Surveys. He was then appointed Chief of the Otago Survey Department, which office he held until the abolition of provincial government in 1876. In this year Mr. Thomson was appointed Surveyor-General for the Colony with Mr. McKerrow as chief assistant. On the retirement of Mr. Thomson in 1879 Mr. McKerrow was placed at the head of the Land and Survey Department o the Colony, holding this office until 1889, when he was chosen by the Atkinson Government as Chief Commissioner of Railways. His selection for this post was unexpected, for, although everyone acknowledged his ability as a surveyor, none regarded him as an experienced railway manager. Subsequent events, however, have shown the good sense of the Atkinson Government in placing Mr. McKerrow at the head of the railways. The conspicuous ability he displayed in the management of his department well justified his selection, for none could doubt that the management of the Railway Department during the six years it was in the hands of Mr. McKerrow was highly satisfactory. By the Railways Act of 1887 great powers were conferred upon the Chief Commissioner, and these powers were used with good result to the Colony. No better proof of this could be found than in the fact that the present Government, while opposing the principle of railway management by Commissioners, nevertheless re-appointed Mr. McKerrow to the Chief Commissionership, for a further period of twelve months until the whole question of management could be thrashed out on the floor of the House. As is well known, the management of the railways has been resumed by the Government, and whatever may be the opinion on the rival methods, it is beyond question that the commissioners did their duty well, and were not in the least degree responsible for any necessity which may have arisen for the change. Before the close of Mr. McKerrow's second term the Government proffered him an appointment as head of the Land Purchase Department, and in this way secured a continuance of his valued services. The necessity of having an experienced and thoroughly trustworthy officer in this position is apparent in view of the fact that during the next five years Parliament has authorised an expenditure of £1,250,000 by the Department in the purchase of land by the State.