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The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future

The Present Colonial Government

The Present Colonial Government.

The present cumbrous form of Government, as established by the New Zealand constitution, evidently cannot last long. Not only is there a General Government, but the country being divided into nine provinces, has so many Provincial Governments as well; nor are these found to be sufficient to attend to the wants of outlying districts. By such a complicated form, which of necessity cannot be worked without a proportionally strong staff of officers, that revenue which should be husbanded for the improvement of the country at large, in forming roads, bridges, &c., is entirely swallowed up in maintaining this expensive machinery, for a population even now beneath that of many second-rate page 174 cities of Great Britain. Now that the expences of the war have so greatly raised the taxation, it becomes a serious enquiry, how long is this to last. Has not the time arrived when a General Government can be made to supply the place of all these Provincial ones, and thus save the expense they put the country to, when municipal institutions would answer better, and meet all the wants for Local Government, besides contributing to the unity and stability of the whole? for it cannot be concealed that these Provincial Governments give rise to Provincial feelings, and tend to make the General Government less thought of. A sight of the long list of the various officers, their salaries, and other Provincial expenses, will make the importance of this subject more clearly seen. Nor must the unbecoming jealousies between these provinces pass unnoticed, when the larger ones view any alterations determined upon by the general assembly which do not meet their approbation, as a sufficient reason for separating entirely from the rest of the colony. This has been lately exemplified when the seat of Government was removed to Wellington, as being most central. Auckland immediately sought to be formed into a separate colony, and almost persuaded our cooler and more cautious brethren of Otago to imitate her; this, if done, would invite Canterbury to do the same, and the south of the North Island also; thus virtually resolving the entire colony into four large provinces, which would be merely changing the present form by the absorbing the nine existing ones into those four, over which it would still be necessary to have a General Government, as at present.

Another consideration which especially applies to the present time, is the future status of the native race. Is it to be acknowledged at all, or is it to be entirely disregarded as it has hitherto been? For “it has been admitted by the Colonial Department that the New Zealand constitution was framed in forgetfulness of the large native tribes within the dominions to which it was intended to apply.”* Are the

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natives to be viewed not only as being subject to our laws, but as British subjects, so incorporated with ourselves as to be entitled to all those rights and privileges which we possess. If we come to this conclusion, the native head chiefs will sit in our Legislative Council, being entitled to it by their rank and influence, and the others will have the General Assembly and Provincial Councils (if such continue to exist) open to them as well as to ourselves. A step like this cannot be misunderstood. At present the feelings of the colony towards them are liable to be so, as the Council Chamber has hitherto been carefully closed to them; but let this just and equitable step be taken, and then all will be open and clear. The Provincial Council of Auckland has just admitted one of the native chiefs to sit in it; that is merely to be regarded as a sign of better and juster sentiments beginning to arise, for in reality one solitary individual could be of little benefit to his countrymen; but if a sufficient number of the more intelligent chiefs were to be admitted, it is not to be doubted that they would give a much higher tone to those councils, all representing as they do the largest part of the landed interest of the island. They have a claim, which all who profess to be desirous of equity and fair dealing must readily allow, should be represented; and whilst thus being equitable to the natives, they will restore that confidence to them in our fair dealing, which will be the best guarantee of permanent peace and unity of the two races.

The last papers from New Zealand state, that four native members are to be added to the General Assembly. Great credit is due to Mr. Maclean for this measure: it is a pity it did not also extend to the admission of an equal number of the head chiefs to the Legislative Council; when this is done, those chiefs will feel there is no longer any benefit to be derived by their letting large blocks of land remain unoccupied merely to keep the European away, but that it will be far better to lease or sell what they cannot profitably use.