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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 1 (April 1, 1938.)

The Canterbury Association

The Canterbury Association.

March, 1848, saw the publication of “The Plan for the Forming of the Settlement of Canterbury in New Zealand.” The Plan was prefaced by a weighty list of sponsors which, headed by His Grace the Achbishop of Canterbury, stepped down the social scale to Peers, Bishops, Members of Parliament and prominent Clergy. A General Committee was set up with Lord Lyttelton as Chairman. Matters were advanced a stage further when Captain Thomas, acting as chief surveyor and agent for the Association, was dispatched to New Zealand to select the site for the Settlement.

When Captain Thomas arrived in New Zealand, he was approached by the Governor, Sir George Grey, who endeavoured to induce Thomas to select the Wairarapa District as the location for the Canterbury Association settlement. But Thomas had different ideas on the subject. Already stories of the productivity of the plains of the South Island had reached him, and he determined to go down there personally to see what these plains were like. When he saw “An immense tract of level country, well covered with grass, and watered with abundant beautiful streams,” it did not take him long to make up his mind as to where the settlement should be.

The plans for the settlement were proceeding peacefully when consternation was caused by the announcement that Godley had developed lung trouble and his doctor ordered that he forthwith make an extended sojourn in Italy. To Wakefield, the news was particularly distressing, for he realised only too well that, without the active and influential help of Godley, the whole scheme would be perilously near to jeopardy. Acutely suffering from ill-health, and disliked by many in high places, Wakefield could never hope to successfully float such a colonising scheme alone. But ever fertile in his imaginings, Wakefield suddenly hit upon the idea of inducing Godley to go himself to the new colony instead of to Italy. Wakefield told a friend, “I am moving Heaven and Earth to induce Godley to go to New Zealand.” In November, 1849, Godley sailed for New Zealand to prepare for the arrival of the colonists who were by this time making arrangements to leave England.

As might be well supposed, the immigrants of the Canterbury Association, which in the words of Wakefield, would be “a slice of English Society,” were carefully selected by a most august selection committee. Starting with a Bishop and an Earl, this “slice of English society” would graduate down through groups of doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, artisans, farmers and labourers. The committee investigated the “religious and educational qualifications” of the applicants, no “desperate and flighty and irresponsible people”

(Continued on page 40.)