Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Sheep Tax and the Rabbit Nuisance

The Sheep Tax and the Rabbit Nuisance.

The Revising Committee's remarks on this subject were:—"It was thought at our last Conference that the expenditure of moneys collected by the sheep tax was unnecessarily high, that it was unfairly spent, and that in future, if collected, it should be devoted generally to the benefit of sheepfarmers."

Mr M. C. Orbell proposed, "That in the event of the present sheep tax being continued, the money so received be devoted only to the benefit of the sheepfarmers." It was, he said, most unfair that the tax on sheep should be devoted to the rabbit nuisance. Their sheep inspectors had little or nothing to do except to see the sheep were dipped, and it was very hard that farmers who were living in districts where there were no rabbits should be taxed for those who were living in infested districts. This was beginning to be a burning question down South, and he maintained that the farmers would be perfectly justified in objecting to pay the tax under such circumstances as he had just mentioned.

Mr Barriball seconded the motion.

The Chairman read the following remarks written by Mr Ritchie on the subject:—"The tax goes towards the cost of the repayment, the inspection of stock and rabbit suppression. It is impossible to separate the cost, as officers act in a double capacity."

Mr C. Brown said in Hawke's Bay they had a sheep tax and a rabbit tax, and sheep inspectors and rabbit inspectors. The Rabbit Board was purely a private concern, and had some hundreds of pounds in the bank. The money they paid for the sheep tax, which was not spent in the province, would more than pay for all the expenses of the rabbit nuisance, but they had paid it cheerfully. In the Auckland province they had five or six inspectors; the tax collected there was about one-quarter of what the sheep inspectors cost, and they had no rabbit tax, so that, although the cost of the Sheep Department was as much as was derived from the tax, it was very unequally distributed.

Mr Hare thought it was very unfair that rabbits should be connected with sheep at all. They required experts to inspect their sheep, and men who would be competent to say whether they should be destroyed or not. If they asked for expert knowledge they were told it would be too expensive, but a tax of £20,000 ought to be able to provide expert men. The present men in the Department were very necessary; but in every district they required one scientific veterinary surgeon, who before stock was condemned could really say what was the matter with them, and also stop the introduction of infected stock. The rabbit inspector required none of that scientific knowledge whatever; he only required a fox terrier to be a fullblown stock inspector. It was a kind of back door into the Stock Department; a man got a billet to find rabbits, and to fine farmers for having rabbits on their land, and in time he was put on to inspect stock coming into the saleyards. He thought that first of all a man should be a stock inspector, ant then if they gave him extra duty as rabbit inspector the expenses would be lessened. Many of the men they had as inspectors were very able and quite competent to discover rabbits, but that was all they were fitted for (Laughter.) If the Department divided [unclear: thi] page 19 £20,000 fairly they could afford to have really scientific men to inspect the stock.

Mr Grigg said a large proportion of the land infested with rabbits was in the possession of the Government, and it seemed very unreasonable that a large proportion of the tax should be spent on that land. There was very little necessity lor an inspector of stock, except during the dipping season, and after that their work was done for the remainder of the year.

Mr Stuckey said he could not agree that people who lived in rabbit districts only should pay for the inspection of rabbits. He considered the rabbits were a national calamity, but he could not help thinking the Government should kill their own rabbits.

Mr Buchanan said the sheep tax brought in about £20,000, and the cost of inspection of rabbits, sheep, &c., was something like £30,000. That showed a good deal of the expense was not paid out of the sheep tax, and from the question having been before the House of Representatives a good many times he was sure it would be very difficult indeed to divide the expenditure.

Mr Wheeler said he came from a district where there were no rabbits, and yet they paid their share of the burden. He did not think the sheep tax was oppressive, and he was quite willing it should be expended as at present.

Mr Borrie was rather surprised at the attitude taken up by Mr Buchanan, and would almost think he was a special pleader for the Government. The society he represented unanimously condemned the amount of the tax, and unprejudiced persons must see that it was a class tax. They knew one-half of the amount derived from the tax was so much profit to the Government, and he did not see why sheep-owners pure and simple should be taxed to benefit others.

Mr McLaren said the rabbits in his district were advancing at a rapid rate, and instead of opposing the sheep tax they ought to try and suggest some scheme by which they could assist the Government to stop the flow of rabbits into South Canterbury. If they went on increasing at the present rate they would be overrun with them. It was a question for the whole of New Zealand to take up, and it behoved them to do all they could to assist the Government.

Mr Souter thought they ought to be very thankful there were inspectors to keep the rabbits down. There was very efficient inspection, and if they interfered with the Department they would do themselves an injury, and those who at present had no rabbits would very soon be overrun with them.

Mr Rhodes said he was very sorry Mr Orbell had moved this resolution, because his (Mr Orbell's) district would suffer more than any other in New Zealand if the Government relaxed their inspection of rabbits. Everyone present would like to see the tax dropped if the Government could afford to lose the revenue, but he should regret if anything said in that room would induce the Government to drop any taxation if it meant them spending less money on the rabbits.

Mr Murdoch said there was no reason why the sheep-breeders should be especially taxed for keeping down rabbits or any other purpose more than any other colonists. They wanted a fair distribution of taxation.

Mr May said that rabbits were a national calamity, and it was a very good thing to devote the money to their extermination.

Mr M. C. Orbell, in reply, said he should be sorry for anyone to think he opposed the expenditure of public money on rabbits, but his idea was the tax was not equally distributed. There were other ways in which the money might be raised, and he would not object to it if it was raised in an equal manner.

On the motion being put to the meeting it was lost by 22 to 17.