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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Native Land Question

Native Land Question.

Closely allied to the opening up of Crown lands is the matter of native lands and Maori landlordry. The non-use of the lands of native owners from whatever cause springing, the difficulties and waste associated with the present mode of obtaining land from the natives by an ordinary land-seeker, and the setting up of a species of European serf-tenancy upon native lands, are subjects which cause much heart-burning at the present time. The information given in the public records regarding native lands is mostly of a fugitive and detached kind, no returns or tables such as are supplied in the report of the Department of Lands regarding Crown and privately-owned land are available. On this account the figures I give may be open in some respects to correction, but not. I think, upon material points. The total area of native land is over seven and one-quarter millions of acres. Of this about five millions are living idle, and about 2 millions leaded, the balance, about one-quarter million acres, is supposed to be profitably Occupied by the native owners. By far the greatest portion of the land is in the Auckland district—quite four million acres. It is stated by public men in speeches in Parliament and elsewhere that a much greater area than I have named is leased to Europeans or is in profitable native occupation, but there is no public record of such being the case. The main figures given id the records or that I can find there are nearly three years old. However, I gather that in 1910, the lands held by natives were valued at £11.413,000. Thirteen years previously the native land of a greater area than that now held by them was stated to be worth three million pounds. So that, though the area remaining has decreased by about 25 per cent., the value has increaned by eight and one-half millions or page 8 nearly 300 per cent. What has given this increased value if it exists? The presence and industry of the Europeans who are opening up and developing the country, and who in doing so are enhancing day by day the value of the land of the native who pays not a shilling towards the enhancement, and from whom, in the near future, it has to be purchased, if indeed our aristocratic brown brother will deign to sell. This process of stopping settlement has been going on year after year, complaints, however loud, have passed by unheeded. How much longer is this state of things to be allowed to continue? Promises of improvement in the future are thick as leaves, but these promises are only fulfilled under circumstances where the great aggrandisement of the Maori owner is first secured. The real remedy is drastic but simple, and within the power of Parliament. "Proclaim" every acre of native land within the Dominion. Set up a competent Valuation Court or Board to fix present values, letting native owners, individual or commune, name the reservations they need for their own purposes, and if their demands are deemed reasonable, giving the native every concession possible, Crown grant, if that title not already in force, such exempted areas back to the natives, and let them in the future be rated for all purposes upon the basis of the unimproved value, as found by the Valuation Board, of the land so reserved. The remainder should be taken by the Crown, not by way of deferred purchases after negotiations, but in one transaction, at the prices fixed upon by the Board. These lands so taken should be passed over to the Crown Lands Boards to be dealt with under the ordinary land laws of the country. How the purchase money coming to the natives should, in their interest, be disposed of is a matter to be dealt with separately. Most of the price to be paid would be by means of interest-bearing debentures, as all safe guards should be adopted to prevent the natives divesting themselves of the proceeds of the sale of their lands to the Crown, leaving them a future charge upon the State. The course proposed would in reality work out in the true interests of the Maori people. Having like the European, to pay their share of taxation upon the land retained by them would, besides being [unclear: just,] them on to make use of the [unclear: land] the reserved. Put the Maori on the [unclear: same] footing as the European, and save [unclear: him] from the life of idleness and [unclear: chro] want into which the segregation [unclear: of] race? now being so industriously [unclear: foce] ed by the small army of "native [unclear: does] tors" and others, seeking their [unclear: own] gain, will, if successful, eventually [unclear: las] them. The adoption of some such [unclear: co] as I have thus sketched would be [unclear: a] tually beneficent to the native [unclear: people] and but bare justice to the [unclear: white] tlers of the country. Its cost [unclear: would] probably be leas than that of a [unclear: couple] of Dreadnoughts, while the [unclear: gain] the State would be immeasurable.