The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
Mr Stuckey moved, "That this Conference suggest to the Government that a clause be inserted in the Fencing Act of 1893, makin[unclear: g] wire-netted fence of dimensions a legal fence and compelling adjoining owners to particle pate in the cost of construction and maintenance, and that no larger mesh than 1? in be recognised." He thought anyone of experience in this matter would agree as to the necessity for this resolution. He had netted a plac[unclear: e] about 3500 acres, and now one man coul[unclear: d] page 25 keep the fence in repair, and there were virtually no rabbits on the land. Most of the settlers in his district were in favour of such a clause being inserted in the Act, because at present a man who tried to keep the rabbits down was at the mercy of a careless neighbour. He thought also the railway carriage of wire-netting was too high, as compared with the carriage of other commodities.
Mr Rhodes seconded the motion, saying that the small settlers in Canterbury were now of opinion that wire-netting fencing was a necessity. It should also be made known that such fences should be allowed as improvements at the termination of the lease.
Mr Buchanan opposed the resolution, as he thought they would inflict injury on settlers in New Zealand by passing it. Where the roads were few and far between such a resolution could be given effect to without injuring anybody, but what would be the ultimate result of it where the country was intersected by roads? All the roads would have to be rabbit-netted on both sides, which in many cases would only be erected with difficulty; frequently a settler would try to force a neighbour to put up such a fence when he had no necessity for doing so, and as farmers had but little money to spare they should be left to choose their own way of expending it within certain limits. If the staff of rabbit inspectors was any use, then there was no necessity for the resolution, and if not then let them be got rid of. If an Act could be passed which would be confined to certain localities, there would be some good in it, but an Act of general application he did not think would be productive of any good.
Mr Hare also objected to the passing of any Act compelling neighbours to fence one with another. In his neighbourhood the rabbit inspectors had done splendid work, and the country was perfectly clear. The settlers had borne the stringent measures pluckily and well, and some had even been ruined by them, and the farmers who had spent all their profits by killing the rabbits would feel it very much if they had to re-fence all their land.
Mr Fisher thought such a clause as proposed would be very hard, but he was of opinion an Act could be passed which could be brought into force in districts by the request of the settlers in those districts and not otherwise.
Mr Gray objected to the general application of the clause, but saw no objection to inserting a clause compelling mutual fencing in proclaimed districts. They knew some of the fences erected by rabbit boards had been partially effective, and he thought the time was coming when a farmer should have power to recover from his neighbour part of the cost of fencing.
Mr Grigg supported the motion, which he thought was based on common-sense and fair play. If Mr Gray's suggestion was carried out, there could be no objection to it whatever. It was evident the small occupier would be protected as much as the large occupier, and the most effective way of getting rid of rabbits was to fence first and then kill them inside the fenced area. If it was necessary that adjoining settlers should pay for boundary fences, it was certainly as necessary they should do so in the case of erecting rabbit-fencing
Mr Borrie said he had been told that rabbit-fencing was not much more expensive than a good sheep-fence.
Mr Pattullo said the difference was that the rabbit fence cost £72 10s per mile and a sheep-fence £50 or £55 per mile.
Mr McLaren said it was only fair they should be enabled to ask their neighbours to join in helping them to keep pests off their land.
Mr McDonald asked if sheep-fences would have to be removed to make way for rabbit-fences. If so, many small farmers would be ruined.
Mr Williamson said a man who was infested with rabbits had quite enough to do in fighting them without having to erect a fence to keep them from his neighbour who had not got them.
Mr C. Orbell said the Government runs were in many cases the breeding-places of rabbits, and they must see what was to be done with those lands.
Mr Chaytor said this clause would be in favour of the small settler, and he thought any fence erected ought to be passed by the local sheep inspector.
Mr Roberts supported the resolution, which he thought would be of great assistance to many settlers in his district, where as many as five and six rabbits to the acre had been killed. He knew of men in his district who had to fight against an influx of rabbits from adjoining lands, on which no steps wore taken to keep down the pest. He might say that during the coming session, Mr Fraser, the newly-elected member for Wakatipu, would move in this matter in the House, if Government did not take up the question. North Island people did not really know what a rabbit pest was. The configuration of the country in the North Island was not so adapted to the spread of rabbits as the flat land in the South Island. He felt sure that the rabbit difficulty could be successfully handled by a system of wire-netting.
Mr M. C. Orbell was convinced that the time would soon come when every small settler would have to wire-net his property.
Mr J. Macfarlane thought the difficulty in the North Island was that the land was more rotten and that the fences would not be much benefit, especially if they were compelled to keep to road lines and boundaries. He should vote against the resolution, as he thought it would bear hardly on some small settlers.
Mr Pashby said he would support the resolution if the mover would insert "in rabbit-infested districts" after the last words.
The Chairman said the mover agreed to that. The resolution, he continued, was rather sweeping, but he was sure the interests of the smaller settlers would be carefully looked after. He spoke in terms of high praise of the rabbit inspectors, but, notwithstanding that, he said he would rather have a few miles of rabbit-netting than the whole lot of them. (Applause.)page 26
Mr J. Anderson thought the small settlers would be the ones to benefit by this proposed clause being added to the Act.
On being put to the Conference, the resolution was carried on the voices.