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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983

A Publication Covering the Legislation of Early Nelson

page 39

A Publication Covering the Legislation of Early Nelson

Anyone interested in examining the problems which beset our early settlers in wrestling with the legal and administrative processes which they encountered will be interested in examining a book bound in half calf with marbled paper-covered boards with a most impressive title page printed in red Gothic script alternating with black Roman capitals. The full title leaves the reader in no doubt concerning the contents; viz "The Ordinances of New Munster, A.D. 1849, and the Province of Nelson, Passed in the first eleven Sessions of the Provincial Council, A.D. 1853, to A.D. 1863, to which are added, extracts of Imperial Act and Charter and Instructions, etc., constituting and defining Province of New Munster, and the Imperial Acts Relating to the Constitution of New Zealand. Published by authority. Nelson Printed by R. Lucas, Bridge Street, MDCCCLX1V".

The catalogue number in Bagnall's National Biblography Volume 1, Part 2 is 3761. The publication of this volume had been preceded in 1850 by a publication of the Ordinances of New Zealand from 1841 to 1849 compiled in June 1850 by Alfred Domett who was then Colonial Secretary (Bagnall 4118). In his preface to the volume John Sharp who was Chief Clerk to the Resident Magistrate sets out an explanation of the mode adopted in the preparation of the publication. Firstly extracted portions of the Imperial Act of Parliament and of the Charter and Instructions of 1846 relating to the province of New Munster and given together with the proclamation of the Governor-in-Chief defining the boundaries of New Munster. Next follows the acts formed by Legislative Council of New Munster. The New Zealand Constitution Act passed by the Imperial Parliament, under the provisions of which the several provinces of New Zealand (Nelson being one) were established come next in order. Finally, the Acts passed by the Provincial Council in Sessions I to XI during the first ten years of the establishment of the Province are set out.

In the Proclamation dividing the colony into the provinces of New Ulster and New Munster under the Charter of 1846, Governor Grey defined the boundaries of New Munster as all that section of the North Island which lies south of a line commencing at the centre of the mouth of the Patea River and running thence due east until it reaches the East Coast (just south of Cape Kidnappers) together with all the South Island.

Having been legally constituted, the New Munster legislators set to work and in their first session (1849) they enacted eleven ordinances covering such diverse topics as the naturalization of two Germans and one Italian, the definition of the qualifications of medical practitioners, the prevention of the extension of scab in sheep, the summary ejectment of persons occupying land or premises without right, title or licence, an appropriation ordinance and a most comprehensive constabulary force ordinance, e.g.,

"20. Be it inacted that if

the driver of any wagon, wain, cart, dray, or other carrage shall ride thereupon (not having some person on foot to guide the same) such as are drawn by horses and properly driven with reins only except, or shall wilfully remain at such a distance from his carriage whilst passing through the street, as not to have the command of his horse, horses or cattle, or meeting any such carriage on the left or near side of the road, page 40or on passing shall not keep on the right or off side of the road, or shall in any manner wilfully prevent any other person from passing him, or by negligence or misbehaviour, interrupt the free passage of any person, or carriage along the said road, he shall be liable to a fine of not more that fifty nor less than ten shillings."

With the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, the provinces of Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago were established and each province was to have a Superintendent and a Provincial Council of at least nine members. In the case of Nelson, the Superintendent appointed was Edward William Stafford (1819–1901) and under his guidance, the first Nelson Provincial Council passed their first Appropriation Ordinance to cover the year 1 October 1854 to 30 September 1854 for a total sum of £10.953-14-11. It is interesting to see that included in this total is an amount of £180-0-0 for the Nelson School Society.

The next Appropriation Ordinance for the next fifteen months to 31 December 1855 had risen to a total of £32,933-6-7 and included are some interesting items such as "House accommodation, Wairau– nine months at £40 per annum– £30; Expenses of M. Adderley in investigating New Zealand Company's debt– £200; Gaol – £50; Postal service to Wairau– £200; Postal Service to Motueka via Waimea South and West– £133-6-8. The largest items are: Roads, bridges, ferries etc.– £8,000 and Immigration– £8,000.

The Appropriation Acts provide an enlightening insight into the growth of the social needs and development of the outlying areas of the Province. For instance, for the year ending 31 December 1857 the Library, Nelson Literary Institution was granted £50 while libraries in country districts received £170 and £200 was provided for the establishment of reading rooms. The maintenance of law and order in the outlying areas was not overlooked for £100 each was provided for lock-ups at Wairau and Aorere with £180 for the constable's house at Wairau but only £100 for a similar house at Aorere. £200 was provided for the cutting of a bridle track from Riwaka to Takaka.

The following year (1858) saw public works in the Wairau area featured as follows:-

Improving the Coast Road to Amuri– £50

Ferry over Wairau River–£400

Omaka Brigde, near the Beaver– £50

Trunk lines, Wairau– £100

Trunk lines, Awatere– £50

Road through Wairau Gorge to Amuri– £500 The Appropriation Act for the year ended 31 March 1863 is most interesting for it contains an item which could well have been the first official move towards the construction of the Nelson railway.

Survey of proposed line for Railway to Waimea– £150.

Judge Broad in his Jubilee History of Nelson records that various proposals regarding railways were mooted as early as 1860. He recalls that Charles Elliott who was from the first an enthusiastic supporter of a railway to the Coast stated at a public meeting in 1863 that his proposals to the Superintendent had been received with "a smile", "but" added Elliott, "I believe that within ten years a railway will be running through the Waimeas, and will eventually be carried right through". The first sod of the Nelson Foxhill railway was cut in May 1873– ten years after the Superintendent's "smile" materialised into a grant of £150 for a survey.

page 41

The last Appropriation Act included in the volume is for the year ending 31 March 1864 and contains the following item:

Introduction of useful animals including Alpacas– £450.

The proposal was for a herd of alpacas to be imported and farmed in the province with the object of producing fur as an alternative export. However, although preliminary steps were taken to acquire the alpacas they did not reach New Zealand, so any early attempt at diversification was thwarted.

The awareness of our early settlers to the danger of imported diseases and insect pests to our agricultural and horticultural pursuits is exemplified in an ordinance passed on 22 December 1854 to prevent the increase of the American Blight. Evidently the Provincial Council did not have scientific advice on the nature of the malady or its method of infection for it is refered to as "the Blight or Insect called American Blight". Any person who had any infected tree could after three calendar months' notice to clean such trees be liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings for failing to do so.

The issuing of licences became a popular method of raising revenue and one of the first classes of business to be affected was that of the auctioneer. The provision of the licensing of auctioneers had been covered by Legislative Council of New Zealand, but in 1858 this ordinance and its amendment were repealed by the Nelson Provincial Council and a new ordinance substituted authorising Auctioneer's Licences to be issued by the Provincial Treasurer on payment of a fee of £40.

Under the Hackney Carriages Act 1860 the owner of every carriage or other vehicle used for the purpose of conveying passengers or goods for hire to or from any place within or without the city of Nelson was required to have a licence issued by the Resident Magistrate upon payment of a fee of £1.

The Nelson Institute act 1859 authorised the Superintendent to convey a piece of land in the town of Nelson to trustees as a site for the Nelson Institute. The site contained three roods twenty perches being section numbered 178 with a frontage of 61 feet to Hardy Street and extending back at right angles with the front, 150 feet. The plan of the city in 1859 shows no sign of Harley Street which must have been taken at a later date from either Section 178 or the adjacent section 180. The Act states that an Institution had been established for the diffusion of useful information in literature, science and the arts called the Nelson Institute. Provision is made in the Act for five trustees nominated by members of the Institute to hold the land upon trust as a site for the erection of buildings for the Institute. In the following year (1860) the Nelson Institute Loan Act was passed, and this act enabled a loan not exceeding £1,000 to be raised for the erection of buildings on the land.

It is obvious that our early legislators had a wide variety of matters which demanded their attention in regulatiing [sic] and controlling the development of the infant province and Nelson was fortunate in that it had a man of the calibre of E. W. Stafford as Superintendent and able Provincial Council members such as Dr Renwick, Dr Bush, Charles Elliott, F. Otterson, J. W. Barnicoat, Dr Munro and others with comparable ability. This book sets out all the acts and ordinances to which these legislators addressed themselves and provides present-day readers with an insight into controls necessary to administer the province during the formative years.