The Land Bill
Dunedin, N.Z. The Evening Star Co., Ltd. Bond and Crawford Sts. 1907.
The Land Bill.
Hon. Dr. Findlay.
The Attorney-General delivered an important speech last night at the Town Hall, Palmerston, before an audience of between 300 and 400 people.
The Mayor of Palmerston (Mr E. H. Clark), who presided, said in introdncing Dr Findlay that in some respects that was rather uperfluous, for few men were better known in Palmerston. He stated that when Dr Findlay first caine to Palmerston the energy and ability he possessed made it apparent that before long he would require wider scope. He congratulated Dr Findlay on reaching the top of the tree in his profession, and referred to the fact that hardly a newspaper in the colony had had a single word to say against his recent appointment by the Government.
Dr Findlay, who was cordially received, said the meeting was to him a unique one. Twenty-one years ago he had come to Palmersion unknown and unknowing, fresh from the University, and full of bookish talk and juvenile ideals. Palmerston had been his legal cradle. There, among a people with generous hearts and open pockets—(laughter)—he had thriven beyond his expectations. There he had married one of the best of women—(applause)—and there his eldest son had been born. There he had made a number of friends and amassed a store of happy recollection and association. Now, after an absence of thirteen years—for he had spent eight years in Palmerston—he found the town little changed, though there were many blanks in the ranks of those who had been foremost townsmen. It gave him great pleasure, however, to see so many turn out to hear him. Bo went on to say:—
I propose to-night to discuss our political outlook. I mean What mainly does this Government seek to do, and by what means? What, in other words, are you to expect from us, not only with regard to legislation, but with regard to administration? Now, most of us judge of what a man will do from his character, and hence it is not amiss for me to begin by a word about the 'Ministry of which I nave the honor to be a member. What sort of a Ministry is it? Need I remind you in answer that there is not one but three different Ministries in office in New Zealand just now. There is the Ministry as they appear to Mr Massey—that is, the Opposition's Ministry; there is the Ministry; as they appear to their makers—the Liberal party—that is the Liberal Ministry; and there is the Ministry as they appear to the members themselves—that is the Ministry's Ministry. They are all different. The first is bad, the second is good, the third beyond all question excellent.—(Laughter.) But I am not going to dwell upon their excellences—that would take too long. And there is another reason, and that is that it is always more interesting to listen to the vices of a public man than lo any catalogue of his virtues. The former have a piquancy of savor quite absent from dreary goodness, and hence if you want to say anything interesting about a Ministry show them in their true colons, or, rather, in the true color, page 8 veterinarian, and twenty-two ordinary qualified veterinarians, fourteen meat inspectors, twenty-four assistant meat inspectors, one laboratory assistant, one laboratory attendant, four clerks, and one caretaker; and the whole of this is due to legislation passed under tilts Government of which the present Ministry is a-continuation. And yet this is Socialism—the work of the seven or eight devils, as the case may be, above referred to. I pass by the enormous sums we have spent under the Rabbit Nuisance Act, Noxious Weeds Act, and Stock Acts; but do you know that the State is now paying for fifty-six inspectors of stock who are also inspectors of dairies and noxious, weeds and rabbit pest. In addition to these there are ten others exclusively employed as inspectors of dairies, seventeen as inspectors of noxious weeds, thirty-nine rabbit agents, six overseers of experimental farms, thirteen nurserymen, thirty-three clerks and other officers, not to mention rabbiters, farm hands, and other laborers. The sheep tax, which was imposed to defray the expense of sheep inspection and the eradication of scab, produces only £20,000 a year. It bears so lightly that a man with 10,000 sheep pays only £10 a year—a sum equal to the wool off thirty sheep at present prices—while the Department of Agriculture cost us for the year ended March, 1906, over £124,000, and is steadily costing more as operations extend. Pause, and ask where your respective farming industries would he without these and other services, and recall what still socialistically the State is doing for the farmers. And this Farmers' Socialism is still growing. In sixteen years it has grown and flourished like the wicked and the green bay tree.
Watching the Farmers' Interests.
We are about to establish experimental dairying schools, where tuition will be given free, and an officer is now on his way to Canada to obtain information concerning the conduct of such schools in that country. These will be maintained at State expense for the benefit of dairy farmers. The Government have established, still in connection with, the Agricultural Department, a biological division which deals with biological and horticultural matters. The staff consist of, among others, a canning expert (who is a skilled lecturer), bee experts, entomologists, pomologists, orchard inspectors, inspectors of imported fruits, and clerks. Time will not permit to tell you all the Government are doing for the fruit industry at Waerenga, Ruakuray Momahaki, Weraroa, and elsewhere. Government inspectors now visit various parts of the colony, giving instruction and demonstrating to fruit farmers, and in every way assisting them to the best results and to keep down and eradicate disease in fruit and fruit trees. In keeping with this socialistic policy, bee experts have recently been appointed to instruct bee-keepers, and to assist them to overcome difficulties and make the bee industry profitable and successful, and to the same end a State apiary was established a little over a year ago at Ruakina, which has been greatly beneficial as an object lesson to bee farmers.
Government Poultry Farms.
Nor have poultry farmers been forgotten The Government have established poultry stations at Ruakura, [unclear: Mouma] [unclear: Burnha], aid Milton, which are wtll equipped as to meet the dematt poultry farmers for poultry and eggs ol best kind for breeding purposes; further assist the industry the Gov have established depots at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, whet poultry is received, graded, killed, plucked prepared, packed, and frozen at uniform charges of bare cost. What has been the effect, for instance, of this Socialism for the poultry farmer? A few years ago there was not one poultry-raising establishment in this colony conducted on anything like a large scale. Now there are many, all up to date, and all conducted on profitable and commercial lines.—(Applause.) The Government have recently received a letter from a large poultry farmer in the North guaranteeing to ship not less than 17,000 head of poultry to the London markets next season, provided we make provision at the Auckland depot to handle the number. Here, again, instruction is freely given by State-paid poultry experts by frequent demonstration of poultry-plucking etc., at various shows, the table qualities of various breeds, and the requirements of if port and local markets. If any of you as flax-growers and millers you know that the Government have done since 1901 by grading and Government instruction at the mills as to the proper method of preparing fibre. Nor have State aids been confined to any class of farmers—all classes have benefited. For example, we hear now and then of railway concessions, but is it at all generally known that the farming and pastoral community have directly benefited special railway concessions to an amount of nearly £500,000 since 1895 in rates for frown meat, live stock, butter, cheese, and other products.—(Applause.) I have no time to even mention many other directions in which the State has caught, at the expense of the colony, to help with land and, money, communication, free storage and free instruction the farmers New Zealand. No one can deny that it was Socialism, but, like the lady in the gonzola story, the farmers have always page 9 shown great relish for what, if called by its proper name, Mr Massey says they now condemn. The fact is that for the last sixteen years—ever since the Ballance-M. Kenzie Administration took office—Farmers' Socialism has been so constant and increasing that its true and essential nature is not appreciated, for so long as it is Farmers' Socialism and not City Socialism it seems as orthodox a policy as one man one vote.
Country v. City Socialism.
But let us transplant some of this country Socialism to the cities, and you will see how different, how revolutionary and absurd it is in its new soil. Suppose we pass a City Lands for Settlement Act under the title of the Shops for Tradesmen Act. Under the former Act a man says to the Government: "I am a farmer, but I have no land and no capital to buy land; not enoughevento buy stock." And the Government generously take land from somebody else and say: "Here, my good man, is land for you. It has coat us £ 1,200. Take a lease of it for 999 years and farm it. You haven't enough money to work it, but as you improve it we will lend you money on your improvements. We'll teach you how to farm, provide cool storage for you, etc., help you to market, give you concessions on the railway, and generally assist you by all the means in our power." That is under the Land for Settlements and similar Acts. Now we transplant this to the city, and under the Shops for Tradesmen Act a tradesman comes along and says to the Government: "I am a good tailor or bootmaker, but I have no shop or small factory, and I have no money to buy one—scarcely money to plant and stock." Then the State, at the expense of the whole colony, takes him by the hand, generously buys a shop or small factory somewhere at an outlay of £ 1,200, gives him a lease of it for 999 years, and starts him as a tailor or bootmaker to make clothes or boots, and shortly lends him money at a minimum rate of interest to carry on his business, Not only that, but the State seeks markets for him, pays a small army of instructors to teach the best cuts and the best fits, the best methods, and the latest fashions; gives him railway carriage and a cheap or free store for his manufactured goods; furnishes him with expert information, and, as it were, enters into partnership with him on a working but gratuitous partner. Of course, this is absurd—an absurdity no one would dream of. But extreme cases May often point a moral, and the moral I would impress is this: that the farmer—especially the small farmer—of this colony must not forget that it is not city dwellers but themselves for whom the Government, since the Ballance-M'Kenzie Government took office, have been year after year doing so much. Special privileges continued long; seem to become a natural right, and evoke no sense of obligation; but I would remind the farmers that if we compare the Government's treatment of them and their lot with the lot of our most industrious city workmen now after the last ten years, it is not the small farmer who should complain. I do not, however, desire for a moment to suggest that the Government should not continue their farmers' Socialism of the last sixteen years; for my part. I think it may be wisely extended, for I fully recognise that what I have called fanners' Socialism, while it has greatly benefited the farmers, has also greatly benefited the colony. The prosperity of the farmer means the prosperity of the colony as a whole, and this fact amply justifies all the Government have done and what they will yet do,—(Applause.) I wish to avoid any mistaken inference from what I have said. I am an advocate for doing more and still more for closer settlement and for the furtherance of our forming interests, but I want it to be clearly recognised that this is Socialism. I have made my first point if I have shown that the outcry we have recently heard against our colonial Socialism, so far as it proceeds from the small farmers, is illogical in that they have gained more by it than any other section of the community.
The Land Bill.
Dr. Findlay introduced the subject of the Land Bill by saying that he wished his hearers to see what kind of Socialism underlay the Land Bill. The paramount purposes of the Land Bill were: First, and most important, the proposals for the limitation of present and future estates, because that spelt closer settlement, and closer settlement was the great idea to which this or any other Government in this country should aim;, and second, some reservation by way of endowment for the future claims of old age pensions, hospital aid, and education. He would say a word about these endowments. If they believed that endowments should be established for the purpose of protecting the claims, which were increasing in extent, on the funds for the purpose mentioned—if they agreed that the time had arrived for the establishment of endowments, there need be, no trouble in regard to unsold Crown lands over the question of freehold or leasehold. If we were to have endowments we could not have them and sell them too. The Bill's opponents had to say that not only should the sale of Crown lands continue, but also that no endowments should be established. It was for his hearers to say, as electors, how far they agreed with that state of things. Was not the first great duty of a just Government to run the country and its page 10 assets—the people's inheritance—not in the interests of a class, no matter how large or powerful, but in the interests of the whole people, fairly and equitably.—(Hear, hear.) The second great duty of a just Government was to remember the future, to set the interests of the rising and coming generations against the selfish and pressing needs of the hour. The best polity in the long run was the best policy of all. A policy which served the day or a section of the people was not the policy a true states-man would adopt. We must look at these things from a
National Point of View—.
rise above selfishness, prejudice, and self-interest. The child born to-day might see before he died a population three or four times the present size. If the rate of progression enjoyed by older countries were maintained in New Zealand, the child born to-day might see a population of from three to five million peopling these happy isles. With this prospect before us, it meant that as population increased and pressed on the sources of subsistence the unimproved value of the land must rise. It meant more. The story of older countries would repeat itself [unclear: here] as surely as to-morrow's sun would rise. The story of other countries that had advanced was this: that the landed people grew richer without effort of their own, and the landless grew poorer, or, at least, stayed where they were. unless they increased their efforts. Nearly every State in America had taken time by the forelock, and set apart public land for educational and other purposes. Were we to be more selfish and less philanthropic than they? The Socialism that underlay the Land Bill was the Socialism that admitted making some provision, for these matters, and he purposed outlining what the Bill would do. It proposed to sec aside Crown land for the beneficent purposes he had named—a proposal not new in our legislation. Fifteen years ago Mr Ballanee and Sir John M'Kenzie said that this must be done sooner or later. The question was: Had the time arrived? Personally, he held the opinion that under certain circumstances the freehold was not only desirable but necessary.—(Mild applause.) Over 18,000,000 acres of our best land had passed for ever from our grasp—over 16,000,000 acres of freehold and 2,000,000 acres on l.l.p., or 1,000 years' tenure. The total area of Crown land left was a little over 16,000,000 acres. So more than half was gone. But that was no way to test the matter. What was left was second class or third class land—a poor remnant compared with the richness and productiveness of what had gone. He had had an estimate made which showed that probably three-quarters, if not four-fifths, of the land if measured by its productivity had passed from the control of the people for ever, counting that leased on the l.i.p. as well as the freehold. Were the Government such revolutionaries, such firebrands after all? Sir William Rolleston a man of whom this country should be proud, strove for years to stop the further sale of Crown lands. On the introduction of the perpetual lease Sir William strov to provide for recurring valuation. But when it came to the point provision for recurring valuation had to go, and provision for the freehold was introduced. Mr Ballance, on his advent to power, declared that one of his main aims would be to rigidly conserve the remaining Crown lands for closer settlement. Sir John M'Kenzie declared that no more land should be sold. They all knew the fight that statesman had fought in connection with the lease in perpetuity. He was forced back and back from the position he took up. Finally he had to submit to that indescribable abortion, the lease in per-petuity—a thing that was neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring, neither free hold nor leasehold when one estimated it in a fair measure. A thousand years of lease was a [unclear: misno]. At any rate, M'Kenzie declared—and it was not necessary for him to say how far John M'Kenzie had the interests of the farmers at heart—in 1891 sixteen years ago, that in the interests of the whole colony no further land should be sold. Seddon, at a later date, when the attack was being made, declared that "his back was to the door of the lease-hold," and that he would protect it with all his energy and with all his power. These were men who recognised what they, as successors, were now recognising—that the time had come when, the remnant cf the people's estate should be conserved for future needs. There was an inconsistency in their Opposition critics. They said first that it was a very small amount—the estimated income of their whole endowments was only £186,000 a year, They were paying to-day for old age pensions and education ovcr £1,100,000 a year. "What a small fraction to make an endowment of If it was such a small matter, why make such a fuss about it? If it was such a small matter, why should they not let them have it? It would grow larger as the claims upon that fund increased. The great bulk of that 16,000,000 acres was at present under lease Only about 3,000,000 acres—very inferior land—was not now under a pastoral, agricultural, or one of the other varied leases, so that the area available for the operations of the optional system was exceedingly limited. It was absurd to run away with the idea that the enormous area was open to be taken through the optional system. The great bulk of it was still in the hands of private persons under pastoral and other leases, and the page 11 optional system could only come into effect as these fell in. In years to come they would have very little effect indeed upon the closer settlement of the colony. He would turn to the
Limitation of the Estates
—the most important, in his opinion, of the whole of the provisions of the proposed Bill. They would agree with him that for a country like this one of the greatest matters of statesmanship should be to bring labor and land together—to bring upon their fertile land men and women who could lead healthy, happy lives; who could add to their own good
fortune and the prosperity of the country. He believed that the true aim and the best aim they could set before them was by hook and by crook to extend the settlement their lands. He took leave to think even the town of Palmerston would be a bigger and a better and a more prosperous place if more of the areas round about were settled more closely than they now were.—(Applause.) Those who had not been Hawke's Bay really knew nothing of the evils of large holdings. He would give a few figures which would set any responsible man thinking, if he did not know them already. The return he quoted from was one of a few years ago—1903. It was the last available return, and what was contained therein had not substantially altered. It was table 6 of Parliamentary Paper B, page 20. It contained the list of proprietors who owned 10,000 acres and over. The number was nearly 200, and (hey owned 5,000,000 acres. That was about 7,800 square miles of good country. Sixty of these—there might be a little less now, but not much—were in Hawke's Bay, and they owned a total of 1,200,252, or on an average of more than 20,500 acres, all, or nearly all, open to railway. The country was well roaded, the railways ran right through much of it. It was supplied by all public services, telephones, post offices, and so on, There they had an area held by sixty men, which, if divided into 300-acre blocks, would settle 4,200 settlers and their families.—(Applause.) That was not all. There was in Hawke's Bay, some of the richest land in the colony. Probably there was no other province so rich in good land as the province of Hawke's Bay. It provoked their indignation that these men held in their iron grasp all these big estates,
some of them over 50,000 acres in area, and it drove men back to the remoter parts of the colony—had driven them back from Hawke's Bay to the foot of the Ruahine Ranges. Let them contrast the east and the west. Contrast Taranaki with Hawke's Bay. Taranaki had been won largely from the forest; the settlers of Tiranaki had to hew their homes in many cases out of dense forests, and they had done it. They found in Taranaki over thirteen persons to the square mile, and in Hawke's Buy, which was much richer, they found nine persons. Here lay the main task; the best task the Government could take up was the adoption of some scheme by which these huge holdings would yield to closer settlement, and give place to men and women and children. He would like them to remember that there was not only an advantage to the individual by this closer settlement, but if they took the total product obtained from these large estates when cut up they would find that had been doubled, and in many cases more than doubled. He had fought in different courts the great Hatuma case, and finally the State acquired the estate. When the case was last before the Court Chief Justice Prendergast was told that this would be a ghastly mistake, and that Hatuma was producing more sheep and wool and other products than if they divided it up between 150 settlers. Mr Ritchie had informed him it had doubled the products it had under the single hand of Mr Russell, who owned it previously. There was an economic gain, and not an economic loss, in this division of land among men who were prepared to work for their own good and for the good of the whole community.
The Earth Hunger.
They realised all this, and what he was submitting to them was eloquently reflected in the fact of the hunger for land for settlement, which pervaded the whole colony at the present hour. Six hundred persons applied for one selection in the North Island the other day, and for another 400 applications were sent in. They must get the land for these landless people, and they would get it—the only question was by what method. They were told the best scheme—and he would call their special attention to it, because he claimed to be able to speak with more experience than many—Was to sell the freehold to all the Crown tenants, and with the money got from them they would so into the market and buy more estates for closer settlement. That was a mischievous proposal. Its first effect would be to still further increase the price of the lands of the country. In five years they had spent £8,000,000 on public works. This had been spent in the different districts, and they would find, if they carefully looked at it, that it had largely had the effect of increasing the value of the targe holdings in Hawke's Bay and elsewhere. He did not say it had not improved the value of the smaller holdings, but as the larger owner had the larger page 12 holding he was proportionately benefited. On the purchase of lands they had spent £5,000.000. on advances to settlers £5,000,000; total, £18,000,000. All this had the effect, in addition to other reasons—this was not the only one—of increasing the price of land which the Government had sought to buy. Suppose this country were owned by a private individual—supposing that one of them was wealthy enough to own the whole country, and he was running it as an intelligent manager of a huge estate, would he leave immense areas, such as they found in Hawke's Bay and in other parts of the colony—areas tapped and served by railways, and roads and all the other public conveniences—would he leave that either partially, imperfectly, or wholly unused, and send men and women back to other parts which in winter were wholly inccessible? Certainly not. He would settle the parts accessible by railways first, and allow the more remote parts to come into settlement in good time. We had to limit the large estates, both as regards the present and the future. Two ways were suggested. First, there was the ho Land Bill proposal re all excess over £50,000 unimproved value as regarded the present, and as regarded the future the £15,000 limitation. There was also the other proposal to deal with the aggregation of estates by means of the Graduated Land Tax. He had no doubt as a lawyer that the Land Bill, in so far as it provided for these limitations, was liable to evasion It was difficult to frame a law which some, other lawyer would not find a way through. It might, be that the Graduated Land Tax would escape this liability to evasion, but it was a question of attaining the end, not a question of the means to attain it, that mattered.
How The Court Assessed Land Values.
He wished to tell his hearers how the Court proceeded when fixing the price the Government had to pay on acquiring a large estate. This was much what usually happened. Settlers saw an estate suitable for settlement. They petitioned the Minister and pressure was brought to bear on the Administration to take the land. The owner was alert. He knew the department had its eye on the land. He saw its officers going over it. When asked hie price he named a sum the Government could not afford. The treaty proceeded, and often the Government had to fight. The Herrick case was a good example. The Government took it the other day. Originally the Government offered £3 17a 6d an acre, but the owners asked £4 10s, which the Government thought extravagant. Private negotiations effected nothing, and the Government took the land by proclamation. The owners then claimed £5 10s an acre. They brought witnesses from all parts of the district, some of whom swore that the land was worth about £6. The owners said: "Oh, we offered it at £4 10s, because at that time we had another place in our eye, but someone has got it now, and we can't sell at £1 £4 10s." The Court gave them £5, or 10s more than they had asked a little while before. The Government had to pay £48,000 odd for the estate; the amount on which the Land Tax was fixed was £29,000 In other words, the Government had to nearly double the Land Tax value. The Hatuina case provided another example In the witness-box £200,000, he thought, was claimed as its value. Finally the Government bad to pay £141,000 for land valued for taxing purposes at £117,000. Up to 1905 the estates acquired totalled 132, and the Government had to pay £442,000 more than the value as fixed for taxing purposes. Then there was the Flaxbourne Estate. The owners claimed £300,000. The Government could get no local witnesses to give evidence on the valise of the land. One after another in the neighborhood turned their backs on us. Finally the Government had to bring witnesses from both islands and pay handsome fees. On the other side a host of witnesses from both that the property was worth all that was being asked for it. The Court of Appeal followed the English precedent in regard to filing a value. In England when land was compulsorily taken for railway purposes, etc., the Court had added a margin of from 10 up to 30 per cent, to the full value the owner had been able to prove. The Judges gave as their reason for this that if the State took land compulsorily care must be taken that the State paid for it and that the owner did not suffer any loss, Our own Court of Appeal also added a margin to the sum an owner made out as fair full value. Besides this, there were legal expenses and the cost of bringing witnesses long distances. All this had to be piled the price the State had to pay. On whose back did this fall? The Crown tenant had to pay 5 pet cent, on all the land had cost the State, including roading the estate and all the costs he had mentioned. The State had had to pay too much for much of the land taken under the Land for Settlements Act. When depression came, as come it must some day, he supposed either the Crown tenant would have to pay more than a fair rent or else he must go and ask the State to take the burden from him. As to acquiring estates, not an owner but could force the Government into the Compensation Court to-morrow. The State recog- page 13 nised that it had to pay dearly, and was [unclear: ced] into having to pay an excessive price. The Government, however, would continue prudently to purchase under the land for Settlements Act. Good work remained to be done in that way. But the joint he wanted to make was this: They could not rely on the Land fur Settlements machinery to provide all the land necessary to satisfy the land hunger of the colony's people to-day. To do that it woo necessary to look elsewhere.
The State v the Mortgagee.
He was in New Plymouth the other day on circuit work, and a mantold him he owned one of the old perpetual leases, under which, as they knew he had the right of acquiring freehold. He wanted the freehold and he got it, and with the freehold he got a mortgagee. Before that he had had a somewhat indulgent State landlord, who did not pounce upon him the day the rent was due, but now he found, however he had no mercy shown him by the mortgagee. He found there was at times compound interest to pay, and also the devil to pay on other occasions. He said "Give me twenty times over the State landlord, who is susceptible to the public opinion of the colony, and cannot be harsh and brutal in his treatment of Crown tenants—give me such a landlord before you give me a mortgagee, who is probably a gentleman in London, and who exacts his interest to the last farthing." He would ask the lease-in-perpetuity tenants to pause before they placed themselves at the tender mercies of a lending company. When had times came, as no doubt they would come some day, those who were their (the Crown) tenants would be ten times better off than if they were permitted to exchange the paternal landlord for an exacting mortgagee. He would ask them in pause before they swopped. He had said land purchase must go on. He had He had dealt with endowments and limitations, and he would pass on to say a word about
Crown Tenants, Present and Future.
He would not worry them with details of the Bill. Under section 3 the Bill sought to create a national endowment of the unalienated Crown lands, that this land might be taken up upon a lease for sixty-six years, on the expiration of which term there was to be, at the tenant's option, a renewal of the lease for another sixty-six years. At the end of the first term his endowments were valued and paid for by the incoming tenant who took up the place. At the end of the first term the improvements were valued, the value of the land was taken, and a fair rent then estimated, and he was given the option of another sixty-six years. He might, if he liked he was speaking now of present and future tenants—practically convert his lease into a freehold—a freehold with an annual payment. If he freed the land from every condition except merely that he must pay a certain sum every year, what kind of tenure was that if not a limited freehold"' One might say it was a freehold for sixty-six years, but he said it was a freehold for 132 years, for he might allow the sum he had spent to still operate in the reduction of his rent. This was surely n safe tenure. There were some differences between L.I.P. tenants and other Crown tenants. But both L.I.P. and settlement tenants if the rent they were paying was too high, might say: "I have had enough of this; my rent is too high. I want to get rid of this lease, and I will take one of your 132 years' leases in its place." If he did that he could get his sixty-six years' lease with the right of renewal for another similar term. He had other advantages. If he liked he had the advantage of paying 50 per cent of the capital value and releasing the land from all terms and conditions, except the payment of a proportionately reduced rent. The lease-m-perpetuity tenants had different options. They could stop as they were, holding on to the rest of their 999 years of lease. They could have a freehold—an absolute freehold—at the present value. They could have a sixty-six years' lease, with the right of renewal, as he had said, at the rental of 4 per cent, on the original value. Be did not see much more could be asked. They gave a freehold, if he wanted it—an absolute freehold—at the present value: a freehold for 132 years, if he wanted it, on paying 50 per cent, of the present value; or he had the option of stopping as he was. That, he thought, reasonably satisfied any reasonable demands. He submitted that they offered to l.i.p. tenants an ample series of alternatives which they could not reasonably complain about. As far as the freehold and leasehold were concerned, this was the least important part of the Bill. The Government were not uncompromising leaseholders. There was a time in the history of every country when the freehold of land must be given. But there came a time when there must be a cessation of the selling of Crown estate, and had not that time arrived in New Zealand?
There would be more freehold land available for farmers in this country within the next two years than there had been during page 14 the past fifteen years. We had at present in operation a most efficient machine, the Native Land Commission. The Chief Justice (its president) had set himself to the task of solving, as he (Dr Findlay) believed he would solve, the greatest problem of the Worth Island—i.e., the native land problem. There were over 6,000,000 acres of native land in the North Island, and it was estimated that 2,500,000 acres of good land would be made available for European settlement by this Commission. This affected the sons and daughters of South Islanders. There would be abundant room for them in the North Island. The future of the North Island promised better things than the South. It was necessary for men of enterprise and judgment to go North and make a garden of the millions of acres now lying unoccupied. He would be in favor of Maori land being sold to those prepared to occupy and till it. There was a difference between native land and the people's estate. If it were a choice between a Maori landlord and a European he would say "Give me the latter every time." If these lands were to remain with the native race we would have a system of Maori landlordism, hut if could to the European settler we would escape this. It was a question of whether the land would remain with the Maori or the white man. There was no reason why native lands should not be sold to intending settlers. It was depressing to go through the North Island and see there how good land was lying under Maori ownership untitled and unused, while white men with families depending on them were being driven far back from the settled districts. They would have the native lands for free-hold and the breaking up of big estates, and these two things together would provide more land for them than for fifteen years past. He knew he was addressing a farming audience, and that much he had said was not in tune with their interests and feelings. They were all necessarily men and women seeking their own advantage. He knew a great deal of the Land Bill would not chime in with their views of proper land administration. Ho did not for one moment criticise that attitude, but he asked them to try and rise above any view of their own interests and say whether it was not for the Government to study the interests of the community, not only now, but for years to come. That was why they had introduced the Land Bill, which had been so much discussed and opposed
Attitude Towards Progressive Legislation.
Sir Joseph Ward might fairly claim to be above all things the farmers' friend. He was a business man—they must surely have seen that from any department be administered. Sir Joseph had done his best to help the farmers of this colony, especially the small farmers. As Acting Postmaster-General he (the speaker) knew what that gentleman had done for the back-blocks in the way of providing telephones. It was idle to say that the party Sir Joseph Ward led would upset the law affecting property in any form, and would upturn established institutions, or take away private property unfairly,—(As plause.) The Acting Premier, Mr Hall-Jones, was a man possessed of good judgment, true patriotism, and attention to work. The speaker felt that through the Cabinet there ran a whole-hearted desire to see the country advance by fairness in all directions. It was not altogether a question of the ins and outs. There was always a (second party who leaned to the side of keeping things as they were. On the other hand, there were those who, either from nature or training, were filled with a strong hope or a spirit of unrest which had made their nation what it was. They believed in the future that they could by some means find a better path of progress than their fathers had found. He claimed that the present Administrations were a party of progress; that they had striven in the past, and would in the future, by prudent legislation, to advance in every way the well-being of the people of the colony. The Opposition were a party of reaction. If they got into power they would annul some of the reforms of the present Government and administer other reforms so half-heartedly as to kill them.
After a few questions, a vote of thanks to Dr Findlay and of confidence in the present Government was proposed by Mr Neil and carried with only one or two dissentients.page break