The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
Although not expressed, there is a plain implication in this of indefinite continuity.
The absence of a distinct expression is characteristically Oriental.
The omission left a door open for the caprices of Oriental despotism, and was occasionally, though very rarely, used by our Mahommedan predecessors to increase the rent.
Under British rule the implied unchanged continuity has been treated with the most deferential respect.
In the South of India, the real home of Ryotwarry, the perpetuity of the rate is accepted as the rule, and any alterations that have been made, have been in almost all instances in favour of the tenants, and that alteration declared to be final.
In Northern India, where it has been more our own introduction than the legacy of former rulers, the practise has been to introduce a thirty years' settlement; after which the Government will re-consider the rate it may choose to impose.
For New Zealand a combination of these two ideas might be adopted, viz., the perpetuity of tenure, and the right of the State to alter the rate.
The settlement might be for thirty years, but the Government engage that on the re-settlement, if any such take place, the rise in rates shall not be more than a certain moderate figure—say such as will suppose the value of land to double in 100 years, viz., 30 per cent, on present rates.page 14
If it is right that the national income should prosper in proportion with individual prosperity, in this way the rise in the value of land would also show itself in the public income.
That income will, however, be always growing in another way, viz., from the continual taking into cultivation of the poorer lands rejected by first comers, and the growth of the area held by the Crown tenancy.
There is much to be said on this question of a fixed or increasable rent.
My own opinion is, that it is best for the rent to be fixed at a liberal, i.e., a low figure, once and for ever; and that the future increasing demands of a more populous State be met by increased taxes, not in the form of rent from the cultivators of the soil, but as direct taxes on the luxuries of the rich, and especially in that most simple, most perfect form, an income tax.
But to return.
If this land system is adopted as the principle, it will be apparent that a Ryotwarry lease becomes, by attention to its terms, a lease only in name. It is a binding contract for all time between the Maori landlord and the tenant.
The carrying out of this system is simple and inexpensive in the extreme.
The land has, with the aid of the Maori proprietors, to be classified and valued according to its soil.
These varying soils should be mapped, and properties marked out.
These properties have then, with the same Maori aid, to be assessed.
After this, in every village or parish is a Government official, Maori or English, to whom has to be reported every change page 15 desired by the tenant; viz., the throwing up of unproductive-fields, the taking up of new land, or the transfer by sale or otherwise.
These matters are recorded and reported by him. The Registry Office of the district has a record of every transfer.
The Government is the paramount authority, and conflicting claims can only arise after and within the Ryotwarry lease (or "puttah" as it is called in Madras.)
An hour spent at the Registration Office will show every claim on any land, and permit of a transfer by sale or otherwise without doubt, and with the least possible expense or delay.
Hence, within the Ryotwarry Settlement, legal proceedings will be almost unknown. The paradise of the tenant, starvation for a lawyer.
If it be desired that the sum spent on public works be larger at first than is needed afterwards, it will be easy, by a mortgage on the rents, to raise a loan.
Thus raise and spend half a million a year for five years.
The rental from the land will pay much more than the interest and the returns from a small charge levied on the works will form a sinking fund, which will speedily pay off the principal, and after that no charges need be levied.
|(1.)||Thus absolute paupers would be prevented from nominally taking up land to the exclusion of others.|
|(2.)||All rents being paid in advance could not fall into arrears.|
|(3.)||The Ryotwarry estate would start with money in hand for the requisite expenditure on public work.|
Many questions of detail will best be dealt with separately, such as—the mode of recovering arrears from absentees, the page 16 treatment of properties left waste without notice, the maximum and minimum of holdings, the preliminary survey, the channels of receipts from the tenants, and of payments to the Maori old proprietors and their heirs, &c., &c.
In unsurveyed land with dubious boundaries and varying soils, it is impossible to arrive at accurate figures as to the result of the carrying out of the proposed scheme.
But the following rough approximation will make the proposal clearer:—
The area is about 10,000 square miles or 6,000,000 acres, and if we suppose that half of this is available, and that of this half 500,000 acres will have to be appropriated to the immediate use of the Maori race, we have 2,500,000 acres remaining to be dealt with under this system, and this area will assuredly yield a very large permanent income—and one that will increase as the soils at first discarded are afterwards taken up.
Large figures will not of course be reached at first—not perhaps for five years—but supposing the rental to commence at £300,000. This sum produced at once by that which is now lying idle, waste and useless, and without expenditure, is surely an amount not to be discarded without consideration.
Under this system the Maori will retain the proprietary title of landlord, and obtain the value of his lands.
The Englishman will obtain the use of it.
W. Atkin, Book and General Printer, High Street, Auckland, N.Z.