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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

The Sheep Tax

The Sheep Tax

The Conference proceeded to deal with this subject.

The remarks of the Sub-Committee on this matter were as follows :—"A general impression prevails that the money collected from this source might be expended to greater advantage in the interests of stock owners, a portion of which might be devoted to the introduction of properly qualified veterinary surgeons."

Mr J. Macfarlane said that this tax had been expended in the suppression of rabbits, but he thought that it would be much better expended as suggested by the Sub-Committee. He moved—"That the Government be asked to furnish to Agricultural and Pastoral Associations returns of the amount collected by the Sheep Tax and how expended, and whether a portion of the said sum could not be devoted to the introduction of a properly qualified veterinary surgeon."

Mr D. McLean seconded the motion.

Mr Cuthbertson pointed out it was exceedingly unfair that the surplus of the Sheep Tax should be taken as it had been in the past. He looked upon it as a crying evil that any tax levied like this should be raised in a larger degree than was necessary for the Department, the balance being paid over to the Consolidated Fund.

Mr T. Mackenzie, M.H.R., said that he should be happy to move for a return such as contemplated by the motion, and he had no doubt the Government would be glad to accede to the request, and also that they should be published and sent throughout the colony to the various Agricultural and Pastoral Associations.

Mr Olson fully supported the appointment of a veterinary surgeon, and also hoped the Conference would urge upon the Government the necessity of the payment of, say two-thirds of the value of cattle destroyed where there was no disease.

In answer to the Chairman,

Mr Ritchie said that he did not think there would be any difficulty in getting a return of the whole, but he did not think that the separate items could be got, as the returns had been jumbled up under the head of contingencies, &e. He might say that the total cost of the department for the year, including rabbit destruction, amounted to £27,000, and the amount raised by the sheep tax was £16,000.

Mr John Grigg referred to the unfairness of taking money raised in the way the sheep tax was, to benefit sheep owners in one particular part of the colony, or it might be a different island. He would suggest that the motion should be divided, making as far as the words "how expended" one resolution.

Mr Macfarlane agreed to this being done.

Mr Fitzroy quite agreed with the remarks of Mr Grigg. In Hawke's Bay the sheepfarmers paid a rabbit rate as well as the sheep tax, the surplus from the latter of which was applied also to the suppression of rabbits.

Mr Ritchie said he desired to explain to the meeting that there was considerable difficulties in the way of obtaining the returns asked for in the motion. The Sheep Inspectors were also acting as Rabbit Inspectors, and the accounts were all mixed up, so that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to separate what was expended for rabbits and what for sheep inspection. At the same time he should be willing to do all that he could to meet the wishes of the Conference.

Mr Grigg said that what they wanted to get was a confession from the Government page 20 that the matter was in a hopeless muddle, and then the remedy would perhaps be forthcoming.

The motion, as divided, was put and carried.

Mr T. Mackenzie moved—" That in the opinion of this Conference the sheep tax should be abolished." He did this because the reason for which the tax was imposed had passed away, and because it was distinctly a class tax. They all knew that the colony was now enjoying a surplus, and he thought the pastoral industry was entitled to participate in this by the doing away with this tax. The gold duty, which was equally with this a class tax, had been done away with, and he thought that it was only fair that the Sheep department should be maintained out of the Consolidated revenue.

Mr Waby seconded the motion.

Mr Grigg would vote for the motion, as a protest against the present unfair state of things.

Mr Coleman Philips suggested that Mr Mackenzie should amend his motion so as to read that the present department be kept up in its present efficiency out of the Consolidated Revenue.

Mr Mackenzie agreed to this suggestion, and added the following words to his motion :—1' That the cost of maintaining the department in an efficient state be in future charged against the Consolidated Revenue."

The motion thus amended was then put and carried.