The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57
Hon. Me. Ballance
Hon. Me. Ballance.
"A meeting was held to-day to consider the Bill (Native Land Disposition Bill). We are not at all clear with regard to that Bill, or any of its provisions, and would suggest that it be withdrawn from the House."
"An Act (Bill) has been received by us Ngapuhis here which is called an Act amending the Acts affecting Native Lands (Native Land Disposition Bill). Now, Mr. Ballance, Minister for Native Affairs, we do not approve of that Act: we entirely object to it and all its clauses. We here to sign our names as a token that we do not wish this Act to apply to our lands held according to Maori custom."
". . . .We have considered 'The Native Land Disposition Act, 1885,' and we have come to the conclusion that this is a very difficult Act. for the Maoris to understand. The Maoris cannot be clear about its provisions, as they have no experience in Acts, and it would be very oppressive on the Native people and their lands. . . . This Act does not meet with our approval, or that of our people; but, if our amendments of some of the sections are embodied in it, it will then share page 4 our approval. However, it is felt that they will not be assented to, because they would afford relief to the Maoris and their lands. . ."
"I have received your letter, and also the Government Bill (Native Land Disposition Bill). I shall not, perhaps, be able to point out clearly the faults in it, as there are so many things in it that will cause trouble when it is being worked. But it will be best to let the Native Committee have the management when it is passed, or it will be best to leave the Native Committee to decide as to the principles of the Bill. I have, however, crossed out in pencil some parts (that I disagree with), and have also written (in the margin) what has occurred to me. Friend, were it not on account of my severe illness I should go to Wellington. I am better at present, but have not wholly recovered strength. That is all. From your friend."
"We have received the copy of the Native Land Disposition Bill, 1885, which Mr. Lewis forwarded by your direction. I and my people have seen it. It is now for the first time that I have seen a really good Bill. By this Bill some of the difficulties which press upon Maori lands will be removed: that is to say, the Europeans will be emboldened to make arrangements for the lease or purchase of Maori lands that are unimproved. A second good feature in the Bill is with respect to the leasing of Native lands: the owner will no longer be in a state of uncertainty, and have the feeling that he is losing his land by passing through numerous channels necessary to execute a lease. This is a very good Act (Bill), and should be passed as an Act to deal with Native lands."
"For information of Hon. Native Minister, Natives here very favourable to Land Disposition Bill, and would be glad to see it passed; clause 3, as an Appeal Court from local Committees, being looked upon as eminently satisfactory."
"The principle of your Native Land Disposition Bill will suit, as there are few clauses we object to, principally clause 22, enabling the Crown to get behind the Board, and purchasing from Committee or owners. We also think it of minor importance to a Bill for the investigation of title, as we have no confidence in the present system. Wahanui, on his arrival in Wellington, will point out the objections."
"Natives here who have read Native Land Disposition Bill unanimously approve of its general principle, as being a step in the direction of the object the Native people, as a whole, have been striving to attain for many years past. Some chiefs intend to communicate their opinions in writing to Hon. Mr. Ballance, and suggest certain slight amendments as soon as they have discussed the Bill with their people."
". . . We were a long time considering the provisions of that Bill (Act), and feel justified in giving it as our decided opinion that it will be a very good Act indeed for the Maoris and the Europeans, and will remove the great difficulties that there are between the Maoris and the pakehas in connection with the disposition of land. This will be the first Act of which it may be truly said that the Native race and their property are taken care of by the Government of New Zealand. Having duly deliberated upon the provisions of that Act (Bill), which we consider satisfactory, and the suggestions contained in the schedules, we now ask that it be amended. We give our entire support to that Act (Bill), and pray that you will bring it before this sitting of Parliament in order that it may become law."
" . . . It appears to be an excellent measure—one that will conserve the interests of both Natives and Europeans. It secures to the Natives the best price or rent for their land, fixes the cost of administration, and saves the European purchaser a world of trouble, as he has only a corporate body to deal with, in place of having to deal individually with scores of owners, frequently at a heavy expense for interpreters, solicitors, and black-mail for affixing signatures. Am puzzled to understand the out- page 5 cry that has been raised against the Bill that it will create a class of Maori landlords. The argument appears absurd. Are not the Maoris quite as likely to become landlords without the Bill as with it? The disposition nowadays with them is not to sell. One would suppose that the object of the Bill was to lock up the lands, instead of facilitating the settlement of them. I am sure any sane man who desires to take a lease from the Native owners would prefer dealing with a responsible body which would enable him to obtain what he requires at a minimum of trouble, in place of having to do as is done now. . . ."
"I hope they will buy no more land than may be necessary for the purposes of the railway, and that they will accept of this very reasonable proposition: that they will put all the Native lands under the charge of the Land Department, to be dealt with for their benefit, with only such deductions as are necessary for surveys and administration. . . .
"I should be very glad if the Government could see its way to accept my honourable friend's amendment; but the difficulties of detail are extremely great. Moreover, I do not think they can do so, considering what I referred to before—the intricate 'ring-puzzle' which is exhibited in the Legislature at the present time."
"I take it that this Bill is of a merely temporary nature, merely reserving the land through which the line passes, and that at a future time we shall have legislation in order to settle the country through which the railway will run."
"For my own part I conceive that before the title has been investigated by the Native Land Court there are no Native owners except hapus; and I can very easily conceive that great trouble, ending in an insuperable barrier to further negotiations, may arise if the Government begin to negotiate with people now resident in the block for their claims, however shadowy those claims may be in this block."
"The whole of the seven hundred thousand acres is adapted for settlement, I believe, in farms of from two to four hundred acres. If that large area of land were settled in that way, it would bring a large amount of traffic to the railway; but, if it is to be acquired in blocks of twenty, thirty, or fifty thousand acres by speculators, what would be the use of a railway there?"
"I wish to point out to my honourable friend Mr. Reeves that there is a large number of interested people on both sides of the House who will not allow a Native Land Bill adverse to their interests to go through; and those from the South whom you would expect to give assistance to the work would, through party exigencies, be compelled to vote against carrying a proper Bill through. With these two interests hanging together, it has been hitherto impossible to get a good Native Land Bill through the Legislature."
"A measure will be laid before you by which lands, the property of the Natives, not purchased by the Government for the public, will henceforth be sold in small blocks in the open market, on such terms as may be agreed upon with the proprietors."
"I think the Government should pass an Act that no more sales should go on from Natives to Europeans. Put a stop to that at once, and then let the Government pass any Act they think necessary to give them full security over the land through which the proposed line of railway is to be taken, and also over any other land through which it will be necessary to take any other railways in this Island. Then, in addition to that, pass an Act which will give the Government power to take land upon giving fair compensation to the Natives."
Well, I am not sure that anything in the nature of compulsion will meet with the approval of this House. My own opinion is, that anything in the nature of taking land by Act, by compulsion, taking the land in large quantities, and giving compensation for it, will not meet with the assent of the Native people, but, on the other hand, will be resisted by them. I believe that, if we give them, as we do in this Bill, a ready means of selling their lands to the Government, or selling land through the Boards by public competition to the public at large if they wish, we shall have placed in the market at once as much land as we can deal with, and as much land as we can find money to buy. There has never been any difficulty in inducing Natives to sell their land. The difficulty has been to get all the owners of a particular block of land to consent to its sale. You can always buy out a certain number of them; but the great difficulty in the past has been to bring them together and get them all to consent to the alienation of their land. But if you provide a means by which they can dispose of their lands for a certain sum to the Government of the country, who are not interfered with by private dealers, there will be no difficulty at all, and a purchase which would formerly extend over perhaps twenty years can be made in a week. Some land-pur-chases of the present day have been going on for twenty years. There is one block—the Piako Block—which is not purchased yet. The Government has paid £20,000 on it, and I believe there is no possibility whatever of getting that land for the next ten years. Why? Because a large number of the owners of that block had not received the money to which they were entitled; while a great many not interested in the block, who had no claim, had received a portion of the money charged against it. So with regard to other blocks. For instance, there is the Mangatainoko Block of 40,000 acres. The purchase of that had been going on since 1872. The Provincial Government and the General Government tried it from time to time. They paid away money to the Natives, and it was only by cutting out the Government portion that we could get 40,000 acres of the block. So it is, all through page 9 the Island. Those purchases are going on slowly and tediously, with no hope of obtaining the land within a reasonable time. I say, therefore, even upon that ground, so far as the Government purchases are concerned, some change must be made if the Government are to acquire land in future. I go a little further and maintain that this Bill violates no Native right. By the Treaty of Waitangi the Natives handed over to the Crown the sole right of purchase—the pre-emptive right—and the Crown guaranteed to the Natives the ownership of their land. Any Bill which is brought into the House must proceed according to the Treaty of Waitangi. It has only lately been laid down in the British Parliament that the Treaty of Waitangi is still binding, and we must proceed on its lines. But we have gone beyond the Treaty. We offer the Natives better terms. We might say to-morrow, "We will restore the pre-emptive right, and abide by the strict letter of the Treaty;" but we go further and say that, while we retain the right of purchase in our hands, we give the Natives an opportunity of getting a better price for their land by placing it in the open market, by offering it to competition. I say, on that ground, the Natives should welcome such a measure. It is just and fair to the Natives; for, instead of having one purchaser, as under the Treaty, they will have the whole public of New Zealand—of the whole world, in fact—as the purchasers of their land, under the Bill now before the House. The Bill is also based upon the repeated expressions of opinion in this House. For instance, the Bill of 1880, introduced by the honourable member for Waitotara, and read a second time in this House. It has been in several Governor's Speeches; and resolutions in favour of the principle have been carried in this House. Resolutions were passed in 1877 pledging this House to adopt a principle of this kind—a principle which will allow the whole public of New Zealand to come in as competitors and obtain small parcels of land. It may be said that, if we only pass a good consolidating Bill, and allow the land to come before the Court, small men will get small pieces of land. I deny it. I say that under the present system, or under any reformed system nicknamed or misnamed "free-trade," you will not allow small people to acquire land. What is called free-trade is, in my opinion, a most grinding monopoly—a monopoly confined to a few rings, a few large purchasers, who have the means and machinery to enable them to go in and deal for this land. These figures show that few small men have any opportunity whatever of acquiring Native land. It requires a large organization and a considerable amount of money. It requires a whole army of interpreters, and the payment of heavy fees to Native lawyers, in order to acquire any land at all from the Natives. And that is the way that it is done. It is confined to a few, so that, instead of its being free-trade, as they call it, it is, as I have said, the most rigid monopoly. I have shown that the principle of this Bill at any rate is not unfair to the Native people. I have shown that it is intended, whatever may be its effect in application, to benefit the great mass of the population of this colony; and I go further and say that its principle is indorsed by those who have taken the largest and most comprehensive view of Native affairs, men most entitled to public confidence. I have seen a great deal of criticism on this measure, but I tell the House solemnly that I have not seen in any newspaper criticising this measure any objection to its principle. They have abused the author, but so far as the measure itself is concerned they have gone wide of the mark in all directions, but have never ventured to face the principle of the Bill; and I believe the reason is that they did not want to inquire into its principle, but to perpetuate a system which gives a monopoly. That is the object they are aiming at, and not at discovering whether this is a wise, just, and politic measure or not. I will just refer honourable members to a criticism with regard to this Bill which has been extensively circulated amongst members. I think it appeared originally in the form of a leading article in a Canterbury paper; but there is no name given to it in this circular which has been distributed amongst members. I wonder whether the honourable gentleman who reprinted the article was ashamed to attach the name of the paper in which it first appeared. It deals with the question in a very amusing way. It says, first of all, that the South Island is as deeply interested as the North in this question. Certainly it is. The whole colony is deeply interested in this question. That is an admitted truth, to start with. Nobody ever denied it; and, when honourable members from the South say, "We do not understand this question," I venture to think it is one they should try to understand, because it very closely affects the welfare of the South as well as the North. Then it goes on to say that the South is to be plundered for the benefit of the Natives. "Plundered," mark you, "for the benefit of the Natives." Who receives the benefit now? Does the South receive it? I should like to get an intelligent answer to that. What part of the colony receives any benefit under the present system? The South is to be plundered. How, and in what way? Certainly not under the Bill. I ask honourable gentlemen to consider whether any part of the colony is to be plundered under the Bill. Then the article goes on to say that the measure has been successfully devised to exclude Europeans from the land. Now, if Europeans are to be excluded from the land, how are the Natives to be benefited? If no Europeans participate in the land, I should like any one to demonstrate how the Natives are to receive any benefit. It appears to me that the greatest benefit the Natives could receive would be to get a large population on the land, to have it submitted to fair competition, and to obtain a fair price for it. That would be the way to benefit the Natives, and the North and the South at page 10 the same time. But it says, "Ministers do not want people to settle on the land." That is the most extraordinary part of the whole thing, and this is the whole of the argument, apart from mere abuse and verbiage: it asserts that "Ministers do not want the people to settle on the land." If Europeans are not to settle on it, how are the Natives to be benefited by it, and what object have the Ministers in view? The writer of that article must have an extraordinary reasoning faculty: there is neither rhyme nor reason in the whole thing.
Major Atkinson.—He was in favour of the Bill, I expect.
Mr. Ballance.—Well, Sir, perhaps he was; but I do not think he was in favour of it, and I do not think the House would suppose he was if I were to tell the House that a person intimately connected with this newspaper is a large speculator in land in this Island. Will the honourable member say he was in favour of the Bill?
Major Atkinson.—Tell us who he was.
Mr. Ballance.—I find that this was printed at the Press Office, Cashel Street, Christchurch. . I put it to the honourable gentleman to say whether he thinks these arguments are intelligent. Sir, it has been said that there is one solution of the difficulty; and I must bring it before the notice of the House. It is this: It has been said that the proper way to deal with this land is to reserve a portion for the Natives, and then have free-trade in the remainder. This is the way some would have us deal with it. Well, I have shown what "free-trade" does for the Natives, and I have shown what it does for the colony. But how are the reserves, then, to be set aside, who is to set them aside, and how are the Native people to be located upon the reserves? And after all that has been done we are to have "free-trade"—which means that the present system shall continue; but it does not mean the settlement of the country. I ask members of this House whether such a solution of the difficulty would be any remedy at all, and whether the remedy would not be worse than the disease. I will now go through the Bill as briefly as possible and touch upon its salient provisions. I claim that the measure, in the first place, is exceedingly direct, it requires very little thought, and is, perhaps, one of the plainest Bills that have ever been submitted to the House. In the first place, Boards of Management are to be appointed, consisting of a Commissioner and two members. Now, the Commissioner is to have large powers of administration; and I may say, with regard to the question of economy, that I believe that, in the first instance, the Commissioner of Crown Lands may also perform the duties of Commissioner under this Bill. However, in many instances it may be necessary to appoint men with special knowledge, who will devote the whole of their time to it. It has been said that both the other Commissioners or members of the Board of Management ought to be Natives, and to a large extent I agree with that proposal. As the Commissioner has large powers of administration, and the land belongs to the Natives, I think that two Natives might be on the Board. That proposal is one which, I think, should receive the serious consideration of this House. Then, it has been objected that the Crown should not buy from the owners individually, but from the Committees. I think there is a great deal in that, too; but where the Crown has advanced money it should retain in its hands the power to deal with the owners individually. The Committee system is the main feature of the Bill, so far as the machinery part is concerned. It has been said, "You will have too many Committees; and these Committees will not sell." My opinion is that Committees will be in almost every case at once selected; and there are large powers contained in the Bill enabling Committees to deal with the land, and, if the action of the Committee does not suit the owners of the land, they can call a meeting and depose the Committee, so that the owners, who are entitled to it, also receive very large powers under the Bill. I maintain that it is a wise thing to let the Native people have the means of meeting together, consulting together, and devising what is for their own benefit, and that one of the greatest mistakes in the administration of Native affairs in the past has been that we have not given the Native people sufficient power and control over their own affairs. I maintain that if they had received larger powers of administration of their own affairs we should have had far less difficulty in the colony than we have had. We have tried to do everything for them, we have tried to manage for them, and have interfered with them too much. If we had said, "Here are certain duties—perform them; they relate to your own affairs," we should have had the Native people, with that zeal that is peculiar to them, taking up the questions, occupying their time with them and deliberating upon them, instead of doing what was a great deal worse and bringing trouble to the colony. The mistake that we have made hitherto is that we have not trusted the Natives enough. With regard to moneys, under the Bill we have taken particular care, and have had the valuable assistance of the Auditor-General in devising means to secure the custody of the money, so that it will be almost impossible that there should be any malfeasance with regard to the money which the Commissioners will have to deal with under the Act. Every safeguard that could possibly be devised has been adopted, so that the money may go to its right destination. One part of the Bill requires explanation. We have taken large powers by Order in Council, and there is an omission which, from the first, I had intended to supply, but which has not been supplied. It is with regard to the way in which the land is to be disposed of; and the omission is, that the land should be sold under the waste-land laws of the colony: that is to say, the Governor in Council will have power to bring into opera- page 11 tion the land laws of the colony. I think that is the main feature of the Bill; it is contained in the 62nd clause, and it will at once hedge round the powers of the Governor in Council, and provide, in my opinion, a proper mode in which the land may be disposed of. One or two other features of the Bill require explanation. I refer to what is called "Remedial." Where a person is in occupation of the land for a certain time with the consent of the Natives, when he has stocked it and occupied it as a bonâ fide settler, though he has no title, we have power, after inquiry, to give a lease for fourteen years. Then with regard to restrictions. This question of restrictions is one of the most troublesome questions of the day, so far as the Native Minister is concerned. I have been constantly besieged since I took office with applications from all parts of the country to have the restrictions removed, and I came to the conclusion that the only proper thing I could do was to refuse to remove any restrictions whatever until this House decided upon some uniform plan under which this question should be dealt with. It appears to me that nothing is more unjustifiable on the part of any Native Minister than to exercise his powers in an arbitrary manner, perhaps favouring a friend and refusing the application of an opponent to have the restrictions removed. It is a fact that there are a great number of people in this Island who have been buying land without warrant, without having complied with the conditions, and without having first received the consent of the Governor. They have so bought Native lands; and then they come to the Native Minister and say, "Lift these restrictions," though the public had no opportunity of competing, the land being purchased privately. The Minister must comply with their demands or incur their eternal enmity, and I am perfectly certain that I have incurred the enmity of a great number of people through refusing to remove restrictions. We propose to deal with that question in this way: that there shall be an inquiry and report as to the merits of each case, and that, after inquiry has been made and the report submitted, the eases shall be dealt with on a comprehensive plan. Again, there are a great many transactions only partly concluded where people have gone in to buy Native land, but have been able to obtain the signatures of a part only of the owners, and have therefore been unable to obtain possession of the land for which they had dealt. We think that, when inaugurating a new system, we are called upon in justice to provide for such cases, and this Bill provides machinery by which that can be done. Where a purchase has been partly completed the Bill gives power to the Native Land Court to cut out the land of the Natives who have not sold, and to hand the land which has been sold to the persons who have purchased it. I have now explained the main provisions of this Bill. As I have before stated, I am not prepared to say that the Bill as I have submitted it is a perfect measure. The Bill will be submitted, of course, to the criticism of all sides of the House—to those who are "past masters," as they have been termed, in Native affairs, as well as to others. I acknowledge that I am only a novice in this matter, and I admit that a great many members of this House are only novices in it; but I shall be perfectly willing to have the opinion of past masters, and I am certain that, with their intelligent assistance and with that of the House generally, this Bill will come out of Committee a good and useful measure. It is almost unnecessary for me to say any more on this question. So much has been said in the past, the question has been so thoroughly discussed, and honourable members on all sides of the House must be so familiar with the main principle that I have laid down, that it is almost unnecessary for me to say another word on the subject. But I will say this: that I have done the best I possibly could to prepare a fair measure, one that would be fair to the colony itself and to the Native people. If that is not the effect of the Bill it it is not my fault; but I feel a certain amount of confidence that we have proceeded the right way to deal with the question, and my confidence is all the greater that I have on my side, as I have said, the opinions of some of the most eminent men in this colony who are conversant with Native affairs, and many eminent members of the Native race. Sir, I submit this Bill with great confidence to the House, and I have now pleasure in moving its second reading.