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The New Zealand Constitution Act [1852]: together with correspondence between the Secretary of State for the colonies and the Governor-in-Chief of New Zealand in explanation thereof

Provincial Executive Governments

Provincial Executive Governments.

61. The terms of the New Zealand charter of 1846 compelled me, in the Provincial Councils Ordinance, to apply the term "Lieutenant-Governor" to the officer administering the government of each province. Had a discretion been left to myself, I should have designated such an officer by the term "Superintendent and I would still recommend the adoption of this designation for the officer administering the government of a province.

62. I should now remark, that, according to the original constitution of New Zealand, the Crown nominated one Governor, and the officers composing one general government for the whole of these islands. I propose still that it should exercise the same powers in the nomination of a Governor-in-Chief, and that for the present it should continue to nominate the officers of the General Government. But here, in addition to the observations I have already made upon the evils that may result from the Crown retaining unnecessary powers, I should observe that if the Crown nominates in these islands the Lieutenant-Governor or Superintendent of each Province, and all the officers composing the Executive Government of the respective Provinces, together with their establishments, and makes, as would in that case be necessary, their salaries a charge upon the civil list, it will create, throughout the entire New Zealand islands a multitude of officers who, in the event of their offices being abolished, when a freer system of institutions was introduced, would have a claim for compensation, and thus such serious difficulties would be interposed in the way of the introduction of any freer form of institutions into the islands of New Zealand, that I almost doubt if it would be possible subsequently to introduce them without subjecting the country to a crisis which must materially affect its prosperity.

63. I would, therefore, earnestly recommend her Majesty's government, subject to the restrictions which I will hereafter mention, to allow the electors page 57 of every Province to elect the Superintendent or officer administering the Government of that Province, to hold office for the same period of time as the members of the Provincial Councils are elected to serve, and then to leave it to the Superintendent and the Provincial Council of each Province to regulate, by laws subject to the approval or disallowance of the Governor-in-Chief, the extent of the Executive Government which is to be constituted for such Province; the rate of remuneration which is to be paid to the officers composing the Executive Government, and the nature of the tenure upon which themselves and the subordinate officers in their respective establishments are to hold office. In fact, in these respects I should wish to see each Province treated as a large municipality which had the power of electing its own mayor and corporate officers.

64. The restrictions to which I think this rule should be subjected apply only to the period of its introduction into the several Provinces. At Auckland, Wellington, and Nelson, which would be the capitals of three separate Provinces, Governments have been already constituted. In two of these Provinces a large native population already exists, and no new experiment in them should therefore be rashly hazarded, or immaturely introduced. Great Britain also maintains in them a considerable military force for the protection of their inhabitants, and thus should for the present exercise a great influence in them. I would therefore recommend that the rule regarding the election by the inhabitants of the officer administering the Government, and of making laws for the nomination of the officers composing their own Executive Governments, should only take effect in the three Provinces I have named, from the period at which the six years of service of the two Lieutenant-Governors and of the Superintendent who have been appointed to administer their Governments respectively shall have terminated. This rule would present the farther advantage of a just dealing with the claims of the Lieutenant-Governors and the Superintendent .

65. I think also that a farther restriction should be imposed in reference to this rule, and that is, that no officer who has received a permanent appointment page 58 from the Crown in any of the Provinces in New Zealand should be removed from Its office by any Provincial Council until his claim shall have been considered, and until, if it is found a valid one, a law shall have been passed by the Provincial Council, and shall have received the assent of the Governor-in-Chief, securing to such officer such compensation for the loss of his situation as the nature of his office, the amount of salary received, and his length of service may be considered as fairly entitling him to.

66. With regard to the nature of the powers which should be conferred upon the Superintendent or other officer administering the Government of a Province, it is only necessary for me to state that I propose that he should be invested with all the legislative powers which are conferred upon him by the enclosed Provincial Councils Ordinance, and that, in addition thereto, he should exercise the powers usually intrusted to Colonial Governors of remitting fines^ fees, and penalties, (the power of pardoning in criminal offences should still, I think, vest solely in the Governor-in-Chief in order that the whole question of the administration of justice should be left with the central authority,) and of making Crown grants of land to persons who may have legally purchased the same as part of the demesne lands of the Crown. He should also be empowered, with the advice of his Executive Council, and in conformity with the regulations required by law, to proclaim Crown lands as open for purchase, and to fix the upset price of such lands, not being less than the minimum price fixed by law.

67. But although I should wish to see these powers conferred upon the officer administering the government of a province, I think that the Governor-in-Chief, as the officer nominated by the Crown, should still possess the right of exercising these powers throughout the whole extent of the islands of New Zealand; and perhaps, at present some convenience would result from empowering him, by a legal instrument, to delegate these powers to such person as might be duly elected Superintendent of a province, for the time during which he might be elected to serve, and no longer.

68. From what I have above stated, it will be seen page 59 that I am of opinion that the power of electing the officer to administer their government, and of making laws for regulating the appointment of their own executive officers, should be immediately conferred upon the provinces of Canterbury and Otago; and in fact that they should, in like manner, be conferred upon the provinces of Wellington and Nelson almost as soon as Her Majesty's assent could be received to the enclosed Ordinance, and upon the province of New Ulster at a rather later period; and as, after this rule was introduced into any province, no advantage could result to the Crown from an officer elected by the people nominating one-third of the members of the Council, (although for the purposes of the introduction of this measure into those provinces having a large native population, I believe this provision to be a most necessary one,) I would farther propose that the Governor-in-Chief and the existing General Legislative Council should be authorized to pass, before the new constitution was proclaimed, if they thought proper to do so, a law enacting that the Provincial Council should consist wholly of elected members from and after the time at which the inhabitants of any province should be authorized by the law to elect their own Superintendent.

69. I have but one observation to make upon this subject. In my previous despatches I have generally supposed that the Provincial Councils would eventually merge into a kind of municipal councils. Rut the rapid growth of these settlements in wealth and prosperity, and the turn events are taking, now lead me to think that they will always remain distinct and separate provinces, and that provision should be made for enabling their present form of government, consisting of one chamber, to be changed by the General Legislature into a form of government composed of a Legislative Council and House of Representatives, whenever the number of inhabitants in any province, and its wants, might render such a change in its form of government practicable and desirable.