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Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.

Its Land Purchases Fettered

Its Land Purchases Fettered.

With the destruction of its independent civic existence the Company was hamstrung. For with its polity went its unrestricted power of purchasing land on its own terms. The Company might well proceed, as it did, to make extensive direct purchases of land from the natives, page 72seeing that this was one of the privileges conferred on it by Act of Parliament. The British Parliament went still further. In accordance with the Wakefield system of colonisation, the Company was empowered to sell such lands at a minimum fixed price of £1 per acre. Grey took strong exception to an arrangement that trenched upon the powers of the Governor. He also objected to any portion of the amount thus received being paid as interest on capital and dividends on stock. Surely, with injustice. Could a colonising company, in which the shareholders embarked large sums of money, be formed or conducted on any other terms than by paying dividends and interest? The directors and shareholders of the New Zealand Company had made a bad business of it, if the pecuniary returns were their only reward.

Two ordinances, annulling all land purchases made prior to the proclamation of sovereignty over the Islands, and another subjecting all such purchases made after a certain date to revision by a commissioner, smote the Company with paralysis. Thus fettered by the action of the local Government, it excited the resentment of its settlers, who described themselves as "smarting under a sense of wrong." They censured its failure to fulfil its obligations and asserted its disregard of the interests of the settlers. They complained that they were the victims of the differences between the Company and the Colonial Office. The Company retorted that the refusal of the Governor to grant the rights of self-government had turned away the tide of immigration and consequently put a stop to land-sales. It had been truer to say that, with the blood shed at the Wairau on its head, the Company was hopelessly at variance with the Maoris, who bitterly remembered its high-handed dealings and its perfidy, and would sell it no lands. Its offspring were also contributing to its difficulties. The Canterbury Association could not pay for the land it had bought of the Company and at the same time pay its way. The Otago Association was also in difficulties. The Government had practically to take over both associations.