The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
The Land Question
The Land Question.
The profitable occupancy of the lands of the country lies at the root of all our prosperity. To this factor all else we may engage in with a view to securing an adequate livelihood for our people is and must be purely subsidiary. This may seem such a truism as to need no stating. But as a matter of fact very many people, particularly those born, reared, and earning a competency in cities and towns fail to sufficiently recognise the truth. Yet without the work of the settler on the land our cities and towns could not have come into being. The town lives upon the producer. It is essential, therefore, from all points of view that the utmost encouragement should be given to those self-dependent people who go out to make a home for themselves and their families in the solitudes. Yet it is noteworthy that difficulties of all Kinds present [unclear: the] selves to people seeking to go upon [unclear: las] A number of these difficulties you [unclear: what] at once call to mind, but the [unclear: particular] one which faces men at the [unclear: present] time is the abnormal price which, [unclear: from] a variety of causes, land of a [unclear: give] class has reached. The prices asked, [unclear: as] in some instances obtained for [unclear: the] in out-of-the-way districts [unclear: sometimes] takes away one's breath. Such [unclear: pri] can only be maintained by the [unclear: sd] tinuance of the present high [unclear: value] certain land products, a substantial [unclear: of] in which would mean ruin to a [unclear: fair] portion of workers on land. [unclear: We] joice at the prosperity of the [unclear: farmer] during the past few years, [unclear: Truly] needed it badly for his lot, at all [unclear: time] hard, was terribly hard [unclear: during] quarter of century or so previous [unclear: to] present more satisfactory [unclear: condition] things. But, despite this [unclear: improved] dition, I cannot help thinking [unclear: that] now, he, in very many [unclear: instance,] too high a price for his [unclear: holding,] cause of the fact that the [unclear: quantity] of land available for fresh [unclear: settlement] is each year becoming more [unclear: limited,] the obstacles great. A few [unclear: figures] this subject may be of [unclear: interest] whole area of the Dominion is [unclear: rout] 66 millions of acres. Of these some millions have [unclear: been] sold in freedom nearly 12 millions have been [unclear: pt] with by tho Crown without [unclear: money] ment, or are reserved for [unclear: public] poses. There are leased under all [unclear: tea] 18½ millions. It is estimated [unclear: that] they are 4 millions of barren or worth country, and 2 millions occupied by [unclear: i] rivers and lakes; 4¼ millions are [unclear: the] property. An area of one million thousand acres is at present open selection, leaving remaining of [unclear: the] area of the country, something [unclear: m] 4 millions of acres. Of this 1½ [unclear: m] acres are in the Auckland district which about one million is [unclear: cons] suitable for settlement purposes, over a-quarter of a million for [unclear: pas] Auckland is much the highest [unclear: on] list of districts having unsold land will not trouble yon with figures regarding the supposed values [unclear: of] lands, for I deem them [unclear: somewhat] sive, and only estimated for [unclear: statin] purposes. The Auckland portion [unclear: is] down at about one million pounds. [unclear: In] present Administration has done [unclear: much] page 7 the way of land settlement, they must be called upon to do still much more. The first remedy for the high price of and in this province, I take to be, the speedy placing of every available acre of this million and a-half of land unoccupied in a position to be taken up for settlement. The Crown lands of this district should be dealt with and settled before any large expenditure is incurred in the Southern parts of the Dominion, in "resuming" private lands it high prices for closer settlement purposes. We will gladly welcome our Souths in brethren as fellow-settlers up here, but private lands should not be bought by the Crown, merely for the purpose of maintaining a balance of population between the two islands, or of meeting the desire of large land-holders, to escape the operation of a graduated land tax, let that tax work out its mission. The question of tenure I am not specially concerned about just now, but my opinion is that all land offered by the Crown in small areas should be given upon such tenure is the man who purposes using it desires, and that, contingent upon such use being braved to be genuine, and not the mere "land-jobbing," which some few farmers l have noticed of late are following instead of the plough, no matter what that tenure is, the farmer should have the right, under named conditions, to convert his holding into a freehold, if not taken up as such in the first instance. There is no stronger incentive to industry in the world than the knowledge that a man is making a place his very own, to induce him to spend his brains, labour and time in developing the waste places of our country. This knowledge makes a man "a settler" in the true sense of the term, encourages him to marry, bring up a family, and become rooted in the soil, instead of helping to swell the small army of wanderers who flit to And fro between New Zealand and the other colonies, lured by an extra few pence per day as the price of his temporary labour, Indeed, I go so far as to submit that It would pay the State from all points of view, in cases where genuine settlement takes place upon small areas of land under lease from the Crown, all conditions of which have been complied with during the specified number of years, to give the men an actual present of the land. What better settlers have we ever had in these Northern parts that the forty-acre men of old, who obtained their land free? Give our young men all opportunities for going upon land, anchor them down by an ownership of the soil, give them a hope in the future, and our New Zealand population will prove both steadfast and virile above all others.