William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman
1 Hansard, vol. xli, p. 32.
On these lines the subject was thrashed threadbare before the Bill was introduced. One of the strongest critics of the new policy was the Premier Sir John Hall, and perhaps this was the real cause of his resignation. For shortly before he resigned he said that a system whereby the cultivators of the soil were Crown tenants would be exceedingly injurious to the country. He made a long and vigorous protest against the idea to his constituents at Leeston. On the other hand, Atkinson pointed out that some of the Ministers, including himself, had long held the opinion that it was better to lease the lands instead of selling them and he said: "There are amongst us members who held that opinion for many years and have fought and worked to give it effect."
When Rolleston finally introduced the Bill on 7 July, it was clear that there was nothing revolutionary in the measure, and that he did not ignore the desire of settlers for a freehold home. He said:
Nobody who knows and realises the feeling of pleasure that exists in a freehold would willingly ignore that desire so far as it can be reasonably gratified, and I think in administering the Act the system of alternation of sections of freehold upon which people could live and thus gratify the desire for freehold, and the attachment of leasehold sections to the freehold would be the form which would meet very largely the wants of the country.1
1 Hansard, vol. xli, p. 170.
His criticism of the deferred payment system was that while it was meant to enable people who had no capital except their industry, knowledge and experience to settle on the land yet the danger was that capitalists, storekeepers and moneylenders would step in and really become the landlords of the deferred payment settlements. The question was whether it was better to establish a tenantry of the moneylenders or a tenantry under the Crown. His object was not to displace the deferred payment system or purchase for cash, but he wanted settlement to go on at a greater pace.
This leasing system had a particular application to mining districts. There great difficulties had arisen from the occupation by agriculturists of auriferous country, without any provision for resumption when it was required for mining. At that time gold mining was the main industry of some parts of the country. The remedy was therefore to lease land for agriculture but with the power of resumption when it was required for mining. The system would also enable endowments to be set aside for educational purposes. "I always thought", he said, "that the country throughout its length and breadth should set aside land which would increase in value, and as the numbers requiring education increased, would lessen the weight of taxation."