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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Meeting of Sheep-Farmers in Amuri

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Meeting of Sheep-Farmers in Amuri

A large and influential meeting of stock-owners was held in the Waiau Hotel on Monday, the 18th August, to consider the manner in which the Sheep Act is being administered. There were present gentlemen representing an ownership of about 400,000 sheep. Mr John Tinline was unanimously voted to the chair.

The Chairman after reading the circular convening the meeting read apologies from Mr W. D. Wood, of Swyncombe, and Mr Bullen, of Kaikoura, regretting their inability to be present, and expressing full sympathy with the object of the meeting.

Sir Norman Campbell read a lengthy correspondence between the owners of Highfield and the Sheep Department, in order to show that the Department was not doing its duty either in the matter of protecting the clean runs or in stamping out the disease in infected quarters.

After a lengthy discussion, during which several gentlemen expressed the opinion that the interests of the Sheep Department were opposed to those of the owners of clean sheep,

Mr A. W. Rutherford proposed the first resolution as follows:—"That this meeting after hearing evidence of the way in which the Sheep Act has been administered in the districts of Amuri and Marlborough considers itself justified in censuring the Sheep Department for the great neglect shown in carrying out the Act, and begs to lay the following facts before the Government. 1st—That immediately after the passing of the Sheep Act in 1878 the Sheep Inspectors at once, and without any forbearance, took most extreme measures to compel all run-holders in North Amuri, which at that time was infected, to clean their flocks regardless of all cost. That these run-holders, being most anxious to see the Act carried out in its integrity, did every-thing in their power, in season and out of season, to clean their sheep, and ultimately succeeded, but at the cost of large expenditure in fencing their runs, and also, in many instances, by the reduction of their flocks to three-fourths of their number, and with a loss of nearly all lambs for one or two seasons, caused by continual mustering and dipping. 2nd—That those runholders of Northern Amuri having got their runs clean, naturally looked to the Sheep Department to protect them and carry out the Act on the runs in Marlborough, adjoining Amuri, in a similar manner to what they Lad been themselves subjected to. Instead of which the Inspectors seem to have allowed the Act to become a dead letter, and are administering it upon lines laid down by themselves, the consequence of which is that scab has never been eradicated from some of those Marlborough runs, and has in one case become worse than it ever was before, and this district is again threatened with a fresh introduction of the disease. 3rd—That to show the inconsistency and careless manner in which the law is now being administered, the following instances may be given: Within the last few months the Messrs Inglis and Mr Tinline having infected sheep in the Kaikoura district, were compelled to pay fines to a large amount, and on the other hand another runholder in the same district being also fined had his fines remitted, although his sheep were in a much worse state than page 4 the others. The same individual was also allowed, although the Inspectors were re-monstrated with at the time, to drive his flock, numbering 40,000, half of which at least were actually diseased, to the Kahutara shearing reserve, which is in the middle of what were then clean flocks belonging to Messrs Bullen, of Greenhills, and Mr W. D. Wood, of Swyncombe, and those gentlemen have now their flocks in-fected as the natural consequence. Another instance of loose administration of the Act is the allowing large numbers of sheep to be driven out of Marlborough from runs where there is no guarantee of their being permanently clean, and through very doubtful country into Amuri, where every runholder holds a clean certificate, without any pre-caution having been taken to dip them before they commenced to travel; while on the other hand the Amuri settlers north of Waiau who have had clean flocks for many years cannot drive any sheep into Canterbury without first dipping them twice at an extravagant charge, imposed upon them through the careless manner in which the Waiau dipping reserve has been leased by the Department; whereas if the Act had been carried out in Marlborough as it ought to have been, not only those dipping charges would have been avoided, but large numbers of sheep could have been sent to the Canterbury markets and for freezing purposes, which at present cannot be done through the deterioration and injury they are subjected to through dipping and quarantining." In speaking to the motion Mr Rutherford said—To effect anything beneficial to this district a thorough reform in the administration of the sheep department is imperatively required. The Sheep Department, with the consent of the late Government, has practically suspended the Sheep Act.

Sir N. Campbell, in seconding the motion, referred to the last annual report of the Sheep Department, from which it appeared that, notwithstanding the large number of Inspectors throughout the colony, the number of scabby sheep had actually increased by 107,000. He also read correspondence from runholders in Otago reflecting severely upon the same department for their administration of the Rabbit Act there. Happily we had no trouble with the rabbits in this district as yet, but what he had read went to show that the administration of this Department was rotten in every branch.

The resolution was then unanimously agreed to.

Mr James Macfarlane proposed the second resolution, viz., "That in submitting the foregoing statement this meeting respectfully requests the Government to institute a Parliamentary inquiry into the whole working of the Sheep and Rabbit Acts, with a view to their being carried out in a more efficient manner than is being done at present."

Mr W. J. Moffat seconded the resolution, which was unanimously agreed to.

Mr W. Atkinson Jun., proposed the third resolution, viz., "That copies of the foregoing resolutions, and of the documents and correspondence relating thereto, be forwarded to the Colonial Secretary, and to the member for the district;" which was seconded by Mr W. Scaife, and agreed to.

It was further resolved that this meeting forms itself into a Committee, with power to add to their number, to take such action as may from time to time be necessary for the furtherance of the above objects.

Mr John Tinline was appointed Chairman, and Mr R. Corbett Treasurer of the Committee, and it was agreed that the whole of the correspondence and documents which had been read to the meeting should be published in pamphlet form.

A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the proceedings.