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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

The Tenure of the Land

The Tenure of the Land.

As regards tenure of lands held from the Government, I think the most desirable, and the only one worth retaining, is the so-called "perpetual lease," with a right of purchase extending over a long term of years. This tenure to a great extent does away with the chance of the land being taken up by land speculators. It prevents the land being allowed to lie idle, and gives the settler something to work up to. I do not see that anyone really wishing to make the land productive in a bonâ fide way could wish anything better. The cashpayment system has the great disadvantage of giving opportunity to page 25 land speculators, men who buy to wring a profit out of the intending settler, and this abuse dates back thirty-five years or more, when land was bought in this "way on sheep stations when the owner had to give an increased price to get rid of the speculator, and so spent money that he had intended to employ labour in improving his holding. The deferred-payment system seemed an unnecessary multiplication of tenure.

The dealing in Native lands by private buyers could not well be done away with. The Government had not given up the pre-emptive right until the acquirement of Native lands by the Government had practically ceased. It is of great importance to get those lands made productive somehow, but undue monopoly of lands so acquired might probably be prevented by limiting the value of unimproved land to be held by one person or company to about such an amount that, when improved in the ordinary way, it would not exceed the limit of value 1 have suggested for improved lands. As a rule Native lands cannot be acquired profitably in small blocks. There are great difficulties in the way of acquiring Native lands, and no further obstacles should be placed in the way of persons willing to face these difficulties. Private persons being able to acquire Native lands also do away with some of the competition for lands in the hands of the Government—I mean leave more of the Government lands for other people, and of course some of the Native land acquired by private buyers is distributed among settlers afterwards. I think, of late years particularly, the settlers had been made to pay too much for the smaller blocks. All the money possible should be left to improve with.

The idea of nationalising the land is too late—if it was ever practicable it was a soaring day dream. People had been brought here to acquire freehold. The Maoris were by treaty guaranteed the possession of their lands, if they chose to keep them, unless forfeited for rebellion. There were other objections if these did not exist. As I have already said it was a dangerous thing to be always upsetting everything and doing something different.