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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

An Instance

An Instance.

A member of an English noble family had, between 1840 and 1850, become the absentee proprietor of a considerable quantity of land, bought from the New Zealand Company at £1 per acre, but with the original bonus of one town acre for every hundred rural acres. He was also entitled, in virtue of this property, to transferable scrip, at the rate of 75 acres for every 100 acres which he had originally purchased. He came to the Colony in 1850. In 1853 Sir George Grey, as Governor, deprived the first Representative Parliament of New Zealand of its most precious privilege, by arbitrarily proclaiming, before it could meet, his celebrated "cheap land regulations," lowering the price of land to 10s. and in some cases 5s. an acre throughout New Zealand, excepting a block of two and a half million acres at Canterbury, and a smaller one at Otago, with which he was forbidden to meddle. Scrip became available for the purchase of public land at this rate, acre for acre. Among others, this large owner of land and scrip lent his scrip, as well as money, to runholders, who used it to "spot" the cream of their runs, and thus "lock up" large districts against public colonization, until they could afford to become themselves the purchasers of the whole. The scrip was lent at 10 per cent., or 1s. per acre yearly. The original owner paid two or three visits to England; but has resided in New Zealand for most of the 27 years that have elapsed since his first arrival. He and his wife are supposed to be worth two or three hundred thousand pounds, and their yearly income £20,000 or £30,000. When a bachelor, his expenditure could hardly have exceeded two pounds a week: as a married man, without children, perhaps £300 a year. He was perfectly entitled so to live, and I only quote the case as an extreme example of the inefficiency of any tax, whether ad valorem or not, on mere personal expenditure, to compel contribution to the cost of good government by each subject in proportion to the benefit which he derives from it. As my mention of his affairs is entirely in relation to the interest which the people of this Colony have a right to take in the share contributed by him to the public revenue, in proportion to the property and income which he enjoys under the laws and government of New Zealand, there can be no objection to my naming the Honorable Algernon Gray Tollemache. This giant among the New Zealand landowners and money lenders, might have spent his enormous revenue .out of New Zealand. He may have invested his savings elsewhere. If he fears the personal consequences of a fairer adjustment of taxation, he can sell his property and invest the proceeds elsewhere. But then the land will remain, and the income from it will be tangible, although received by someone else.