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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Hon. Sir Edward William Stafford

The Hon. Sir Edward William Stafford, G.C.M.G., one of New Zealand's first and ablest statesmen, was born in Edinburgh in 1820. After completing his education at Trinity College, Dublin, he sailed for New Zealand, and landed in Nelson in 1843. About the time of the Wairau Massacre, he received an appointment from the New Zealand Company, and soon displayed much ability in managing the affairs of the Company in Nelson. On the establishment of representative institutions in 1853 he was elected Superintendent of the Province of Nelson. Nor was it long before he showed his fitness for this position. One of his first and most important acts was the appointment of a commissioner to enquire into the condition of education. The recommendations of this commissioner were submitted to the Provincial Council of Nelson and passed into law. The lead thus given to the organization of education was soon followed by the other provinces, and this Act became the basis of the national system now in force throughout the Colony. In the same year Mr. Stafford introduced his ordinance creating road boards, the provisions of which were found so beneficial that road boards soon became general throughout the Colony. In 1856, when responsible Government was established in New Zealand, Mr. Stafford resigned provincial in order to assume colonial functions. He became Premier in the first Parliament that assembled after the passing of the Constitution Act, and held office until 1861. Among his colleagues at that time were Mr. Richmond, Mr. Whitaker, and Mr. Weld. The labours of the first Government were necessarily great, but they were performed faithfully and well. The loans of
The Hon. Sir Edward William Stafford,

Photo. by Wrigglesworth and Binns.

the preceding Governors were funded, and the debt owing to the New Zealand Company was provided for. The Customs revenue was apportioned between the Colony and the provinces, and the land revenue left to the provinces for public works. So ably did he administer the affairs of the Colony that although he had to provide for the needs of a population scattered over a large area, he added nothing to the public burdens. With a view to establishing a steam service between New Zealand and England he went Home in 1859, and would have succeeded had not the British Government resigned when on the eve of acceding to his proposal. On his return to the Colony he found that his Government had got into difficulties with the Maoris in Taranaki. In 1861 his Ministry was defeated in the House of Representatives by a majority of one, and he resigned. He again became Premier in 1865, continuing to hold office until 1869, and was Premier for the third time in 1872. Since retiring from colonial politics Sir Edward has for many years resided in England.