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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Hon. Me. Ballance

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Hon. Me. Ballance.

Mr. Ballance.—Sir, the legislation of last session necessitated such a measure as I have the honour of bringing before the House this evening. The question of reserving lands along the main trunk line in this Island presented itself last session, and it was then the general opinion that it was the duty of the Government at once to bring down a measure which, would, in the first place, secure the land on both sides of the railway from the possibility of falling into the hands of private speculators, and, on the other hand, would provide for the settlement of the land. In the Bill which I then tabled in accordance with the general and expressed wish of the House we proceeded in both directions. In the first place, we reserved four and a half million acres of land, and prevented private dealings over the whole of that area. In the next place, we attempted to provide means by which the land could be occupied by a class of genuine settlers. In consequence of the wishes of certain individuals and of certain members in this House, as well as of the distinguished Waikato chief Wahanui, who was here at the time, I agreed to confine myself entirely to the prohibitory clause of the measure, and to withdraw that portion which provided for settlement, simply asking the House to pass that part of the Bill which reserved the land from all dealings, until we could this session bring down a comprehensive and matured measure dealing with the subject. During the recess I took the opportunity of visiting most of the Native people in this Island. I explained to them the principles of the measure which we intended to introduce, and I may say, with regard to the success of our proposals, that when we placed them before the Native people there was a general feeling expressed by their leaders and chiefs that such proposals as I then placed before them would be to their interests and meet their wishes. So far therefore, as we have taken the sense of the Native people on the subject, I have a right to claim that we have the great majority of the leading people of this Island with us in this matter. I am aware that since that time some petitions—one or two, not numerously signed in a hostile spirit to the measure—have been presented to Parliament. And I am also aware that two or three Native chiefs have also ex pressed their opinions in a direction contrary to the Bill; but, notwithstanding all this, I believe I am warranted in telling the House that the principles of the measure meet with a ready acceptance on the part of the great majority of the Natives of this Island. I have received a number of letters in response to the invitations that were sent out to the Native people to express an opinion upon this question, and I am bound to say that a certain proportion of these opinions are not favourable. I hope the House will take my assurance that, in giving a few extracts from the letters I received, I will do so as impartially as possible. I have received a telegram from the Natives at Hastings to the following effect:—

"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."

Renata is a chief in that part of the country of considerable influence, and so is Tomoana. We received a number of letters not altogether hostile to the principle of the measure, but suggesting amendments. Here is one which I received from Parore te Awha and twenty-two others, from Dargaville, in the North Island:—

"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."

Then, Sir, we have received from the Thames the following letter from the chiefs there:—

". . . .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. . ."

We also have a letter from Major Te Wheoro. I may say that at the present moment he is the principal adviser of Tawhiao, and therefore his opinions and views are entitled to considerable weight. He writes to our agent in the Waikato as follows:—

"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."

And he suggests a number of alterations in the Bill. He also sent a marked copy of the Bill, showing what his views are on the subject. I have received a very large number of letters which go in the opposite direction. The first I will read to the House is from one whose opinions are entitled to considerable weight, and who will be remembered by many members of this House. I refer to Mr. Mohi Tawhai, who for some time represented one of the Native constituencies in this House. He writes as follows:—

"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."

Then, I have a telegram from the Resident Magistrate at Hokianga, Mr. Von Stürmer:—

"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."

Then, we have a letter from a gentleman holding a high position in the Waikato, who has for a long time past been closely connected with the Maori race in that district. I refer to Mr. John Ormsby, Chairman of the Kawhia Native Committee. The letter runs as follows:—

"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."

That letter, I think, may be taken as showing the opinions of the leading chiefs of the Waikato. Then, we have a telegram from the Native Officer stationed in Auckland:—

"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 have received a great many letters of a similar character, most of them strongly approving the general principle of the Bill, but suggesting various amendments. There is one more letter which I should like to read to the House, from Paratene Ngata:—

". . . 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."

Paratene Ngata expresses the opinions of Ropata, who is known to honourable gentlemen as a chief of considerable note. There is one more letter, which will conclude what I have to read. It is from Judge Mackay, whose opinions on a matter of this kind are entitled to very great weight. He says,—

" . . . 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 may say at once, with regard to one statement in this letter, that Mr. Mackay is under a misapprehension. The Bill does not enable private parties to deal with the Natives for the land. Private parties are excluded from dealing with the Natives. I have also received letters from Major Scannell and other people, who are also in favour of the measure, and speak in terms similar to those employed in the letters which I have already read. It is unnecessary for me to read any more of these letters, although I have a great many dealing with the subject; but I think that what I have read is sufficient to show that, although there is a division of opinion amongst the Natives—and we know there will always be a division of opinion amongst them upon such questions as these—still the balance of evidence is all in favour of the Bill. Whether we judge by the number of letters, or by the influence of the writers, I think it will be seen that there is a large preponderance of opinion in favour of the Bill before the House. I would like to explain, at this point, that there are two Bills before the House. There is a Bill to consolidate the land laws of the colony in regard to Native affairs, and there is also this Native Land Disposition Bill, of which I am now moving the second reading. I heard it said in various quarters that the Consolidation Bill is an excellent measure, although the same parties said they were entirely opposed to the Disposition Bill. I have heard it said, "Give us the consolidation Bill, but keep the other." Now, Sir, there is no relationship whatever between the two measures. The Consolidation Bill is a measure that relates to the lands prior to their being brought before the Court and the title ascertained; but, the title having been ascertained, the Land Disposition Bill provides machinery by which that land may be transferred from the Natives to Europeans. There is an important distinction between the two Bills. Therefore those who say, "Give us one and keep the other," have really forgotten the position of the matter, or have never comprehended the object of each particular measure. The principle of the Land Disposition Bill is not now brought before the House for the first time. I do not know any principle that has been brought before Parliament that has been so thoroughly discussed as the principle contained in this measure. People have claimed credit for introducing this principle almost since the foundation of the colony. I remember reading an account of a debate in this House—and I think I was in the House myself at the time—when the honourable member for Waitotara moved the Land Sales Bill in 1880. The honourable member then gave credit to Sir Julius Vogel for introducing the principle; but he was corrected by some other honourable member—I think it was by the honourable member for Geraldine—who said that Sir William Martin was entitled to the credit: but I find, on going back to the old authorities in 1854 and 1858, suggestions with regard to this very principle had then been made by Mr. Forsaith, Mr. Justice Richmond, and many others. They had all suggested, at various times, something of this kind—namely, that, instead of allowing Maori lands to be scrambled for by whoever had the means and had the desire to acquire them, the Government should provide some machinery by which the lands might be dealt with in the interest of the Government and in the interest of the Natives themselves at the same time. That, then, is the principle of this Bill, and the other portion of it consists simply of the machinery which will enable that principle to be put in force. The principle will be understood in a moment. It is simply this: that the Government shall provide Boards and other machinery by which the Native land should be sold in something the same manner as the waste lands of the Crown are at present sold in the colony. I do not say that the machinery provided in the Bill is to be taken as absolutely the best that can be devised; but I say that, in my opinion, there never has been a measure brought before the House more thoroughly calculated to achieve the object in view than that we have now under discussion. If, then, the principle be a good and sound one, if we recognize that land should be sold and disposed of through public bodies, then I claim the support of the House for this Bill; and of course, if the machinery can be improved, I shall be very glad to see it done. The principle is the same as that laid down by the honourable member for Waitotara in his measures, the one he introduced in 1880 and the one he was going to introduce in 1884—namely, that a majority of the Native owners should bring the land under the operation of the Waste Lands Board, by whom the land should be sold for them. The distinction between his proposals and mine is this; that, while he dealt with a majority of owners and asked them to sanction the sale of land, I provide machinery by which a corporate body—namely, a Committee—may be appointed by the owners and for the owners, and that this body shall deal with the matter by directing how the land shall be dealt with by the Board. There is therefore a distinction between the measure which was introduced by the honourable gentleman and that which I now introduce. Passing on, let me ask the House this, in the first place: whether the mode of dealing with Native land in the past has been satisfactory. Why, Sir I do not think there is any honour- page 6 able gentleman in this House—I have not met with any one anywhere in this country—who has had the boldness to affirm that the Native land laws have been satisfactory in the past. In this House from time to time we have heard the strongest language used in regard to the manner in which the Native lands were acquired. I myself have two cases before me which will show how these lands were acquired even by the Government; and I do not refer now to agents in different parts of the country who have disobeyed instructions or who have acted on their own responsibility. With regard to one block of land which I have before me, how were the signatures of the Native owners obtained? By the Land-Purchase agent offering a chief, who was amenable to a bribe, a certain sum per head to bring in the people, and a free pass by railway, in order to get the signatures; and, when the time came to get the Government portion cut out, these people refused to consent. They said they had been wrongfully induced by this man to sell their land. And I have only to go to the speeches of the honourable member for Waitotara in introducing his measure in 1880, and on several occasions in this House, to show the abuses—the manifold abuses—which have taken place in regard to these Native lands. It is quite unnecessary for me to give more instances. They are found in Hansard: the pages of Hansard are full of them. From 1879, and even before that, down to last year, you see them bristling in Hansard—the gross abuses which have taken place in regard to the purchase of Native lands. We have a great estate to deal with; we have a most valuable estate—perhaps honourable members do not know the extent of territory and the value of these lands I propose to deal with by this Bill. What is the area of land still held by the Natives? Why, it is about equal to all the land in area that has yet been sold to Europeans by the Crown. I will give the figures, and, in discussing this matter, nothing can be of greater moment to this House than to know the estate we shall have at our disposal. The extent of Native land in the North Island still held by the Natives is 11,576,000 acres; the land sold to Europeans by Natives direct is 2,374,400 acres; the Native land leased to Europeans by Natives is 1,683,600 acres; the Native land still held in the hands of the Natives is 13,259,600 acres. Now, Sir, what relationship does that total area bear to the number of Natives in the North Island? The last census gives the Native population as 42,000. I am taking the census as the basis; but I believe, and it is the opinion of competent authorities, that the Native population is much less than that—possibly not more than 30,000. The average amount of land held by each man, woman, and child is 301 acres. In the Middle Island we have, of Native lands held by Natives, 82,400 acres. The Native population is 2,100, and the area held by each Native is about forty acres. I do not attach very much weight now to the argument as to the quantity per head of the land held by the Natives, because we know we are taking men, women, and children, and there are a great many people who, if they held land to-morrow in their own right, would be entirely unable to turn it to account. Still, looking at the vast area of land in the North Island in the possession of the Natives, and a large portion of which, as is admitted by the Natives themselves, ought to be got into the hands of Europeans and made productive, I say it behoves this House to consider the matter very carefully; but, whether the object desired will be attained by this Bill or any other Bill, I say there is an enormous responsibility on this House and the colony to devise some method whereby the lands may be placed in the hands of cultivators and made reproductive. We have a vast responsibility in facing this problem. It may be said that I ought to have brought down a measure confined entirely to the four and a half million acres which are to be reserved along the line of railway; and it has been put forward with some considerable amount of force that if we had confined our attention to that area we should have no difficulty in passing the Bill. But I say we must go beyond that; I say we must face it, and any Government in office is bound to take up the question of how to deal with the vast estate that is in the hands of the Natives. We must keep in view two great principles—principles for which I have always contended: fair-play to the Native people themselves—to guard that portion of the land which public policy requires should not go from their hands; and, on the other hand, fair-play to the people of this colony, and to see that the people shall not be debarred and excluded by the laws of the country from having, if they wish it, an opportunity of acquiring a portion of that land. Now I come to another portion of my subject, and I should like to place before the House some figures with regard to the way in which the land has been acquired in the past, showing the number of owners who have acquired it, showing the price at which it has been acquired, and comparing that price with the property-tax valuation. The quantity of all land purchased by Europeans under "The Native Land Act, 1873," in blocks of over 2,000 acres, has been 730,460 acres. The number of blocks is ninety-two, and the total amount paid for the land is £206,297. The property-tax valuation is £646,222. The blocks of land under 2,000 acres embrace about an area of 74,302 acres. The number of blocks is 310. The total amount paid is £52,824. The property-tax valuation is £184,427. It will be seen here that the larger the blocks the greater the disparity between the price paid for the land and the property-tax valuation. The blocks of over 2,000 acres purchased, but not assessed by the Property-Tax Department, are thirteen, with an area of 302,566 acres, and the amount paid for these blocks is £67,844. Now, on all Native lands purchased the Crown receives 10 per cent. That has been paid on the amount of page 7 purchase-money; but, if we assume that the property-tax valuation is below what it ought to be, below the market value—in my opinion it is more than 25 per cent, below that—but assuming that it is only 10 per cent., that gives £831,714. How much has the Crown lost between the amount paid to the Natives and the amount of the property-tax valuation? No less a sum than £57,759 lost in duty between the difference in values. It may be said that property has increased in value between the time of purchase from the Natives and the time it was assessed by the Property-Tax Department; but any person who knows the values of land in the North Island knows this: that land, so far from having in-creased in value, has depreciated. At any rate, I believe that, taking the average, there has been no increase in the value of land. So we see at one glance the enormous difference between the amount of money paid to the Natives and the value assessed under the property-tax. I will give the House some instances of the values of these properties. I have here the names of the blocks and the prices paid, but I will not give the names. I will simply give the figures, and, if the House requires it, I will place this paper on the table after I have done. I find that on the 29th March, 1883, there was one purchase: it was a purchase of a number of blocks, because a large number of these blocks went into a very few hands. There are, I think, eight or nine blocks here bought by one firm. The total area was 18,216 acres in 1883, the purchase-money was £6,112 and the property-tax valuation was £23,420. Here is another case. In 1881 34,000 acres were purchased for £10,000, at 5s. 10d. an acre, and the property-tax valuation is £43,352: that is to say, the money paid to the Natives was £10,000, and the property-tax valuation is £43,000. In 1877 we find one purchase for £2,875, and the property-tax valuation is £24,232. Again, in 1880 16,000 acres were purchased for £1,900, and the property-tax valuation is £8,053. I have given the totals. These are not exceptional figures: other blocks will show just about the same disparity. The total of the figures given will show the difference between the amount paid to the Natives and the property-tax valuation. I do not mean to say for one moment that the purchasers of these lands got all the benefit. They did not get the whole of the benefit, but the Natives did not get the benefit. Who got the benefit? We know very well that the people who got the benefit were the middle-men between the Natives and the actual purchasers. I believe it will be found that in nearly every case, although they may not have paid the full property-tax valuation, the European purchasers have paid, at any rate, considerably above what is put down here for the land. A large portion of the money which has been expended has, to use a phrase quoted with great force by an honourable member of this House in 1876 or 1877, gone in the direction of "ground-bait," to induce the Natives to sell their land. A great portion of it has gone to interpreters, lawyers, and others. Now, I am not making any charges against these people. I have given solid facts, and honourable members can draw their own inference. The Natives do not get the benefit they are entitled to receive from their lands. The purchasers themselves do not get the benefit, in my opinion; and the money goes into the hands of a class who, at any rate, are non-producers. These are the conclusions which, I say, must be drawn from the facts which I have laid before the House. And they are the facts which have made every public man of eminence in the Legislature of the colony and outside declare against the present system and ask for a change. I have here the opinions of members of this Legislature with regard to the desirability for a change. There was a most interesting debate last session in the Legislative Council; and what were the views expressed by almost all the speakers? That we ought to proceed in the direction we are now taking. They one and all asked the Legislature for some measure to save the Natives from the circumstances by which they were surrounded. I will take, for instance, the opinion of one who was Native Minister at one time, and whose opinions on this question will always be received with respect by this House. What said the Hon. Mr. J. C. Richmond on the matter?—

"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."

Those words are very strong, and they express the matured opinion of one who had perhaps as much experience in Native affairs as any one in this House. Then I come to the opinion of the Hon. Mr. George McLean:—

"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."

The Hon. Mr. Mantell says,—

"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."

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In this House last session the honourable member for Akaroa asked for this measure. He said,—

"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?"

If the land along the railway is to be acquired, as it has been, by large speculators, how can we have population? And it was proved to a demonstration last session by those acquainted with the subject that no lines of railway had ever paid where they connected large centres of population unless you had a large producing population along the line. One great difficulty that we have to contend against was forcibly pointed out by the Hon. Mr. McLean last session, in discussing the Alienation Restriction Bill. He said,—

"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."

I have also the opinion of the honourable member for Waitotara, who has had some ex-perience—bitter experience—on this question, and he has declared in this House that it is one of the most delicate and difficult questions a Government could touch. He said it had involved the fate of more Governments than one, and was very likely in future to involve the fate of still more. Honourable members, no doubt, may say that it is not a sense of duty on my part, but temerity, that induces me to bring forward a measure attended with such difficulties. I do not seek to excuse myself; but I take this stand: I say that, after last session, we were pledged to a measure of this kind. And I say no Government can remain in office and do its duty without facing this question: that this House will demand that any Government that sits on these benches shall attempt to solve the problem. The honourable member for Auckland East has also had some experience upon this question, and I bring under the notice of the House the fact that the honourable member himself in 1879 proposed to deal with this very question on the lines of the Bill now before the House. We have in the Governor's Speech in 1879 these words:—

"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."

And the honourable member last session made a proposal with regard to this question which I shall read to the House. He said,—

"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.