William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman
1 Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
The first session of the Provincial Council lasted only six days, 3 July to 9 July, as business was expedited to enable Rolleston and other Members of Parliament to attend a meeting of the General Assembly. There was a wrangle with the contractors for the Lyttelton-Christchurch Railway, in the course of which the contractors closed the tunnel until the Council agreed to a settlement of their claims.
While in Wellington attending Parliament in 1868, Rolleston had a serious illness, and the Provincial Council did not meet again until November.
E. C. Stevens, Christchurch, to Rolleston, Wellington, 10 October 1868:
We only heard on Friday that you were so ill. Report now says that you are out of danger and only weak, so it only remains to give praise wherever it may be due for your recovery. I have come to the conclusion that Wellington is a pestilential hole. The very water is suggestive of deadly poison while one is drinking it, and every street is a cess-pool. Everything—trade etc.—ispage 33very depressed here now, but no worse than three months ago. In short, the place is well enough. The fact is simply that there are too many people doing business in almost everything. This fall in wool is very serious. Congratulate yourself on having sold your run. I have thought for nearly two years that wool would sink, and, should Germany or Prussia go to war with France, it would temporarily fall lower. I believe that the only thing to do in wool is to grow for exportation a high class of it; but I am convinced that we must do something towards utilising our own inferior wool in the Colony and so save exchange, freight, and expense. Blanket manufacture I have thought of.
1 Morrell, p. 180.
This serious illness of Rolleston's delayed the calling together of the Council for some weeks. But when the opening took place, he urged the importance of obtaining immigrants. Parliament had just passed the Immigration Act 1868, enabling Provincial Councils to use land revenue for this object. "The present and future prosperity of the province", he said, "depend so largely upon the introduction of population and the supply of labour suited to the requirements of existing industries that I have no hesitation in recommending you to make liberal provision for this purpose."
I have already stated that, when Rolleston took office in 1868, financial stringency prevailed. Several special factors contributed to this in Canterbury, including the separation of the West Coast goldfields and the catastrophic fall in land revenue from £200,000 to about £50,000.1 Hence, when Rolleston announced his policy, as one of patient economy, active administration, and unflinching retrenchment, it was well received by the public as being more suited to the times than Moorhouse's ultra-expansionist policy.
1 Morrell, p. 177.
When Parliament passed the Immigration and Public Works Act 1870, the Provinces were largely relieved of the duty of constructing railways and bringing in immigrants. The idea contained in this legislation was that the Provinces should be consulted as to what railways ought to be constructed and immigrants brought into each province at the request of its Superintendent. Rolleston took a friendly view of this new move by the Central Government, and he anticipated that the construction of railways and the increase in population would have most beneficial effects on the commercial prosperity of the Province. Nevertheless, he apprehended that the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in Europe might cause the Government to postpone railway construction, and he therefore decided to push on the railways out of provincial funds which could be recouped by the Central Government later on.