1865 - Powditch, W. Observations on the Harbour of Auckland - Supplementary Remarks, p 23-28

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  1865 - Powditch, W. Observations on the Harbour of Auckland - Supplementary Remarks, p 23-28
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In putting my opinions on harbour works before the public of Auckland, it seems necessary, from recent circumstances, that I show the ground whereon I base my pretensions. Starting at the commencement of my career as a boy in nautical pursuits, which were followed out through all the necessary grades in the East India service, in the course of which I had to show I had acquired the requisite knowledge of the Thames pilotage, the Channel and the southern harbours usually taken by the East India shipping, and which was equally required in Indian seas. Subsequently, having bought a share in a free ship, changes took place in my former line by taking a charter, which brought me to New South Wales. It had always been my business to engage in trade, and to look thereto as the means for my support, and not to wages. On my second voyage to New South Wales, intending to settle in the colony, the ship was under charter to myself, and the cargo mostly on my account. From New South Wales I have also conducted mercantile speculations of some amount, which being entrusted entirely to myself, both in destination and objects, required, especially in foreign ports a reasonable knowledge of mercantile and marine pursuits. Regardful always of the colony I resided in, on a voyage to the Mauritius, I brought back, as I was told, the most valuable collection of plants from Madagascar and Mauritius, (among them the pure castor oil); and on another voyage to South American coast, about 1826, I brought back from Valparaiso a large number of Olive plants and Lucerne seed, the first importation to New South Wales of that plant, also a quantity of the sweet potato from one of the South Sea Islands, giving about three tons to the government gardener, who sent them to Melville Island and Morton Bay. In 1830 I was engaged by a Sydney house to bring down, via Hobart Town, a brig; seeking into the truth of the owner having considerable property lying in New Zealand. I then thought I saw an opening in the Bay of Islands to settle therein. On that voyage I purchased a ton of potatoes at Hobart Town as a present for two New Zealanders returning by the brig. These potatoes are known by my name still in the north. In Hobson's time I expended £10 in import of seeds from Valparaiso, among which again was lucerne, which I distributed among those likely to attend to it.

In all my voyages I collected charts of harbours without reference to visiting them, but to examine the action of tides and oceanic currents in their formation, from which I might draw general conclusions. I think then, without going further into

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detail, I may be supposed to have acquired the ability to form conclusions upon the action of currents and their consequences in tidal waters.

In order to remove further personal remarks, I intend now to state other interests of a political nature which have met attention from me.

A relative of my family was for some years Deputy-Commissary-General in New South Wales, whose duty it then was to examine into the annual agricultural resources, through whom, and in conversations with one of the oldest magistrates who accompanied Comissioner Bigg in his inquiry towards compiling his able parliamentary report on the government and resources of New South Wales, and of which I possessed a copy, I had an opportunity of comparing it in much that I experienced in the first two years in which I was engaged in establishing my own farming operations in the interior.

From the information I thus gathered I prepared a private letter to Governor Brisbane, (whom I had brought to the colony in my ship), making several suggestions on the settlement of the country. Governor Brisbane having left the colony before my return, I was induced by the recommendation of a friend, (Dr. Bland, a brother of Bland of the Greek Anthology fame) to reduce it to a more official character, and send it to Governor Darling. I was then on the point of sailing on the South American voyage, and did not see him until my return, upon which interview he asked if I was the person who sent to him that communication, and said he had recommended several suggestions contained in it to the home authorities; that it was not only creditable to me throughout, but the proposal and scheme for settling the nucleus of villages in the interior, and the manumission of the convict, embracing the prospect of a freehold for his family, was a scheme would be an honor to any man to be the author of. One point he had acted upon--an examination by commission on secondary transport by country benches, and from whose enquiries about 800 men had been returned from such settlements. But the most important suggestion was, that the lands of the colony should be sold at a fixed price unconditionally, except of moderate sized blocks, and priority of choice to the new emigrant. Some time elapsed before my suggestion, although supported by the Governor, was adopted; and I only learnt the reason on perusing the parliamentary debates in our provincial library, when I accidentally met the question asked of the ministers;-- "If they had any such recomendations from the Governor, and if they proposed to act thereon." The reply was,-- "That they had such recommendations, but that to their surprise every influential person from New South Wales of whom they had enquired, disapproved of the measure, which had deterred them in taking any steps therein."

These influential persons, were those who benefitted by monopoly under the old recommendation; a system enabling them to procure the choice spot in every new place of settlement.

I was in the knowledge of every condition which had been used from the time of Governor McQuarie, up to that time, the

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last being a recommendation from some established house, who vouched the possession of available property and of character as a fit person to receive a grant of land. Many persons had no desire to become settlers, and only sought to raise means to quit the country when not liking their prospects, or by the raising a little capital, be at liberty to follow some other pursuit. From these, the parties recommending, became the purchaser at 4s. an acre, and under agency performed whatever conditions were imposed by the government. Upon this foundation I argued that the land was worth to government 5s. an acre and recommended that to be the selling price at prompt payment, and on no other conditions. This immediately swept away the monopoly, and gave value to all the lands in the colony, and enabled much embarassed property to recover from its paralyzed comdition. This plan enabled the new settler to obtain by priority of claim the land of his choice, without competition, and saved his surplus capital from invasion. This answered beyond expectation, and because of the certainty occasioning increased demands for land, the price was raised to 10s., and after to 12s., 14s., 20s., but when exceeding 12s. it pressed too heavily on lands in the interior, producing the resort to the squatting system.

I am not pretending to say the same plan in detail would suit for New Zealand, but that the same principle should be adopted: that the emigrant should by a fixed price know what his land would cost, or his land-order obtain; and that he should get, without any competition, the land as then surveyed, and chosen by himself. How intimately a successful settling must depend on the cost of the land under the survey, and the price which the province pays for its possession. If you buy at a dear price you must sell at a dear price; and you cannot obtain the right class for permanent settlers. The poor cannot maintain himself, and the capitalist can only occupy with stock a large unpeopled area, with limited hired labour, which cannot be depended upon, because in no way attached to the soil. The settler required is the respectable yeoman, with small capital, who can personally do his own work and maintain his family through the vicissitudes of the first two years in establishing his settlement. How can this be done on land at a high rate, without roads, without markets?

The emigrant who holds a land-order should be sure also to obtain his quantity and choice without competition; for if under pretence of fairness two or more are brought into competition, not only is the successful buyer made to pay the last penny of his capital; but also the whole cost of the block is raised to every other land-order; and thus, under pretence of raising a revenue, the most efficient settlers are diminished of the capital requisite for their success. Disappointments are increased; difficulties and bitter feelings are the result. The 40 acre land under the land-order in England is puffed up as excellent agricultural land, but proves to be an equivalent perhaps only for 10 acres of exhausted land or dense forest, requiring much capital to renew or to clear. Under such circumstances the high priced and paying lands become the exclusive monopoly of the larger capitalists already established in the country.

The emigrant with a land order should always get his actual

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quantity at the fixed current rate by priority of selection, and not by competition. Each of such blocks should be lotted in lots admiting an equal portion to be reserved as an additional quantity open to purchase by the owner of the conjoint land-order--say for 12 months, after which period if not taken by the first party then to be sold to public competition.

By such a disposition each owner of a land-order would be encouraged to settle down on a lot which, being found too limited, he could, on payment of a fixed fair price be insured that by diligence he could in 12 months obtain a sufficient farm consolidated into one complete block.

It would be the business of the surveyor to show judgment in making his frontage proportionate to whole quantity by a quarter or one third proportion; and to leave accessable means, by disposition of raods, to afford reasonable access to other buyers in the event of primary land-order not occupying by purchase in due time. This would be a much greater encouragement than the present competitive system.

I have dwelt rather long upon this because of the embarrassment the province is likely to be led into by the high prices lately quoted for provincial lands for settlement

There are two other circumstances attending my attempts to promote the welfare of this province. 1. The scheme I propounded in the Bay of Islands for settling the claims of the older colonists before the coming of Government, viz.: to confirm their claims on payment of a proposed land tax, redeemable by year's purchase, and by a rate increasing in proportion to quantity. One of the largest claimants told me his liability would have been equal to £70 per annum: yet not only by him but universally was it approved and signed and sent to Colonial Office at home for acceptance. The Government, though not disapproving, would not sanction, on the grounds that commissioners had already advanced too far to change their proceedings.

On my plan grants were not to be obtained until a period on proof and payments made. This would have thrown an immediate revenue in hand and satisfied the pre-emption. The small capitalists, who being unable profitably to occupy, would have commuted in part for the tax. The larger able to pay would not continue to hold unoccupied taxed land; and thus all, not profitably used, would have come into the market. As this scheme was well known I need not to notice it further.

The other proposal was the bringing the Waikato river through to the Manukau, which would remove its action in throwing up on the Manukau bar for the assistance by the weight of its waters to improve that entrance; and the whole river thus be thrown open to navigation from Onehunga, without a bar entrance or the going out to sea.

A favourable opportunity has been lost to do this, which Superintendent Brown called a noble scheme.

The plan was to sell those lands subject to an annual acreage tax, according to proximity. Government to assist, and to place on the operations, a large and sufficient body of labourers: no tax to

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be leviable but on actual progress. The tax to be refunded by a ratio share in the dues when effectual for traffic, the share to be transferable with the land. I need not go more either into this or any other matters, having said enough to show that I have used ever an active mind for the advancement and profit of the province, without any greedy looking to reward, place, or profit; but which has been lately publicly awarded me by the high compliment, and flattering approval of my services, for which I cannot be too grateful to those gentlemen who conferred that honour upon me.


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[Plan of Auckland Harbour]

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