The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
During the period that New Zealand was a Crown colony, it was under personal Government; the members of the Legislative Council, who aided the Governor, were his nominees. On the 30th June, 1852, the Imperial Parliament passed a Constitution Act for New Zealand, which was proclaimed in the colony by Governor Grey, on the 17th of January, 1853. Under this Act, six provinces were created, namely Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, and Otago. In later years subdivisions took place, and resulted in the formation of the new provinces of Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, Southland, and Westland. A Provincial Council, with a Superintendent at its head, was elected in every province. In the older provinces the Superintendents were elected by the people, but after the establishment of the new provinces, they were chosen by the Provincial Councils. The Superintendent had power to convene and prorogue the Council, and the Governor was empowered, on a petition of a majority of the Council, to remove the Superintendent. The Councils were elected for a term of four years, and to meet, at least, once a year. An elector's qualification was the possession of a freehold, valued at £50, or a leasehold of the annual value of ten pounds in a town, or of five pounds in the country. The Superintendent was the official head of his Executive; the proceedings were governed by Parliamentary usage, and all bills passed by the Council required the assent of the Governor. Within their respective provinces the Councils had the control of Crown lands, education, immigration, harbours, police, and hospitals, but their legislative powers were confined chiefly to the framing of laws relating to live stock and timber, drainage and fencing, though upon them devolved also the important duty of opening up the country with roads and bridges. Customs duties, the higher courts of justice, postal business, laws relating to bankruptcy, marriage ordinances, native affairs, criminal laws, and laws relating to the inheritance of property, were all dealt with by the General Assembly.
While the settlements were so distant from each other, and the means of intercommunication so scanty, provincialism was of the greatest benefit to the country as a whole. Every district could attend to its peculiar requirements, and the pioneer work of colonisation was thereby helped more than it could have been by any other means. Ultimately, however, a feeling of dissatisfaction arose, and spread rapidly in some of the country districts, concerning the unequal distribution of provincial revenues. It was alleged that an undue portion of public moneys was spent in the chief towns, while the roads and bridges for the country were neglected in consequence. The agitation ended in the passing of a bill by the General Assembly in 1858, intituled “The New Provinces Act.” Under the new law, Hawke's Bay was the first district to claim the right to secede, and, by forming a new provincial Government, it reaped the full benefit of the revenues derived from its extensive area. It thus came about that 1,514 inhabitants—the population of Hawke's Bay at that time, and about one-tenth of that of the mother province—took over the control of the whole country from Wairoa to Woodville, about one-third of the area of the original provincial district of Wellington. The loss to Wellington meant a corresponding gain to the junior province. An election was held, and ten members were returned to the first Hawke's Bay Provincial Council, which held its first meeting on the 23rd of April, 1859, in the Golden Fleece Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Bank of New Zealand. About the year 1860 the Provincial Council Chambers were built, and became also the headquarters of the Magistrate's Court and other Government departments.page 298
Under the administration of the Council, Hawke's Bay made substantial advances. The first public works included the formation of a road to Meanee, and the building of Tareha's bridge. Other roads were soon formed—some through dense bush; more pastoral lands were taken up, and a healthy spirit of progressiveness opened up ways to a prosperous future. Some of the provinces's most important public works were authorised and completed during the superintendency of Sir Donald McLean.
Settlement progressed rapidly throughout the colony, under provincial rule, but when the country became more populated, and communication was made more easy, it was found that the political machinery was too cumbersome. Ten Provincial Councils could not always work in harmony with the General Assembly, and though they had done good work, a time came when their abolition was deemed advisable. Sir Julius Vogel was the chief champion of the change, and, at his instance, a bill for the abolition of the provinces was passed in the year 1876. Since that date there has been one central Government; the country has been divided into counties, governed to a limited extent by county councils, while municipal bodies control the local affairs of the towns.
During the continuance of Provincial Government in Hawke's Bay four Superintendents held office. Mr. T. H. Fitzgerald was succeeded by Captain J. C. Lambton Carter, who was followed by Sir Donald McLean. Upon the latter gentleman joining the Fox Ministry as Native Minister, the Hon. J. D. Ormond was elected to office, and held the position until 1877, when the Abolition Bill came into operation. The Hon. J. Wilson, Provincial Solicitor, and Mr. G. T. Fannin, Provincial Clerk, held their respective positions throughout the whole period of provincial rule in Hawke's Bay. Mr. Fannin was subsequently appointed clerk to the Hawke's Bay County Council, and held the position until 1906.