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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Hon. John McKenzie

The Hon. John McKenzie, Minister of Lands and Immigration, Minister of Agriculture and Commissioner of Forests, has had much experience of colonial life, having been in New Zealand for thirty-five years. As his name implies, he is a native of Scotland, and was born on the estate of Ardross, Rosshire, in 1838. After leaving school he worked for some time on his father's farm, thus gaining large experience in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. When quite a young man, however, he determined to leave Scotland, and to seek his fortune in another country. New Zealand was chosen as the scene of action, whither he sailed in 1860. On his arrival in Otago he followed the same life as that to which he had been accustomed in Scotland, and found employment on Puketapu Station, near Palmerston South. Here he put such industry and ability into his work that he soon rose to the position of manager of the station. Dissatisfied, however, with working for an employer, he determined to begin farming on his own account. With this end in view, he took up a section in Shag Valley, where he settled down to the life of a farmer. But as the quiet pursuits of the country did not give scope to his energies, he resolved to enter public life. The position he first filled, that of clerk and treasurer to the Bushey Road Board, was humble, but it was good training for the discharge of higher functions. About the same time he became secretary to the local school committee. In 1868 he contested with Mr. Geo. McLean the seat for Waikouaiti, in the Provincial Council. Although unsuccessful at this election, the labour was not lost, for he was thus brought prominently before the people as an aspirant to public honours. In 1871 he was elected a member of the Provincial Council—a position which he held until the abolition of the provinces in 1876. About the same time he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. Some years later he was elected a member of the Waikouaiti County Council, and was appointed Property Tax assessor for the same district. In 1882 he was successful in getting the Waihemo County created, and was elected first chairman of the new council. In 1881 he was elected a member of the House of Representatives for the first time, and two years later he secured a seat on the Otago Education Board, which position he held for nine years. Mr. McKenzie occupied for many years a seat on the Otago Land Board. The first constituency represented by the honourable gentleman was Moeraki, but he has sat for several electorates since The Hon. John McKenzie then. His first appointment in the House was that of whip in the Stout-Vogel Government of 1884–87. Retiring by nature, he did not come prominently before the public until after the general election of 1890, when Mr. Ballance offered him the portfolios he now holds. Since Mr. McKenzie's term of office, much advanced land legislation has passed through the House. It is well known that the tendency of this legislation is in the direction of land nationalisation. The quantity of land which may now be taken up by one person is defined by law, and no one is allowed to retain possession of his section unless the improvements required by the Act are made in the manner stipulated. These stringent measures are necessary to check the spirit of speculation, which is so rampant in the Colony, and if Mr. McKenzie succeeds in his purpose, he will effect a reform of no mean kind. At the last general election the honourable gentleman was elected for the Waihemo Constituency, defeating Mr Scobie McKenzie by over 300 votes.