Immediate reactions in Otago to the movement for the abolition of the provincial government, 1874-1876
Cowan, Linda M
INTRODUCTION: On July 1874, during a discussion in the House of Forests Bill, Sir Julius Vogel, the Premier, said that he hoped soon to abolish the North Island Provinces. In all probability he intended, if unsuccessful in this project, to abolish the South Island Provinces also. The Provinces had thwarted his will too often, and threatened his desire to foster rapid economic growth. To pass this off as an action of spite would be erroneous. Vogel was quite justifiably angry at having necessary legislation defeated. But many other reasons had been leading Vogel to consider abolition. The most important of these was the poverty of the North Island provinces. Although each province had been given all money raised by the sale of land within its frontiers, in the North Island the Maori wars had rapidly exhausted this. Especially in the provinces created in 1858, the land was not sufficiently fertile to be profitable, and the population was too small and poor to be able to maintain a provincial government. Loans were prevented by the public works scheme of 1870. Thus when Vogel proposed abolition, he was enthusiastically supported in all areas of the North Island except where Sir George Grey dominated popular opinion. In the South Island the situation was different. The West Coast and Nelson provinces were poor and therefore, the abolition proposals were greeted eagerly. The reception of the Bill by Otago and Canterbury, the wealthiest provinces in New Zealand was distinctly hostile. Having prospered under the gold rushes and through land sales, these provinces had been able to extend their public works and immigration policies. They feared that, if abolition was extended to the South Island, they would lose their land revenues and their superior standard of living. This fear had been present for many years prior to the Abolition Bill, fostered both by the Maori wars and agitation from Australian miners. Ironically, it was Julius Vogel who, in 1865, gave it form in the Southern Separation League which demanded separation from the North Island as a means of retaining prosperity. The movement fluctuated in strength, but only once entered politics directly, and then without success. Despite this the movement continued to have a small backing in Dunedin. Thus, any scheme which could possibly deprive the Otago colonists of their land revenues was bound to be opposed. Vogel was well aware of the limitations of the Provincial Councils. When they were first instituted, difficulty of communication and the individual nature of the settlements had made them necessary. Now that a telegraph service and railway system were operational, a double system of government proved cumbersome and expensive. Provincial Councils were inefficient, being dominated in most instances by personality conflicts and petty squabbles. Vogel’s public works scheme had diminished the scope of the Provincial Government’s power so that, by 1874 its function was mainly administrative and of less importance than in former times. In the opinion of Vogel and most of the northern provinces the abolition of the North Island provinces was desirable, and necessary if local government was to continue. In Otago, reactions to the Abolition Bill were at first wary and then openly hostile as the announcement for full abolition in the present session was made in July 1875. This opposition grew in intensity until, by the end of 1875 it dominated public opinion throughout Otago except in a few small areas. This essay attempts to show what the immediate reactions to the abolition movement were, from the time when it was first raised in the House of Representatives to the final protest meeting held in Otago after the Bill had become law. The strong suspicion of the Ministry that public opinion in Otago supported the Abolition Bill despite the protestations of James Macandrew, the Otago Superintendent, leads one the ask what, in fact, the people of Otago did think about the abolition of their provincial government? The essay will, through a study of the reactions of Otago members of the House of Representatives, the Otago Provincial Council, newspaper editorials, election results letters and reports of public meetings, trace the movement of public opinion in the Dunedin region and the more outlying areas. The role of the separation movement and Otago’s political leaders in whipping up opposition to abolition will be investigated, for despite the Ministry’s claims, by election-day 1875, Otago had rejected abolition.
Degree Name: Postgraduate Diploma in Arts
Degree Discipline: History
Research Type: Dissertation
Table of Contents:
Introduction, 1; Chapter One: Reactions to Proposals for Abolition of the Provinces in the North Island, 5; Chapter Two: Full Abolition : The Build up of Resistance, 22; Chapter Three: The Failure of the Separation Resolutions, 53; Chapter Five: The Final Struggle, 67; Conclusion, 76; Bibliography, 87.
Physical description: 89 leaves ; 26 cm. A long essay submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Post graduate Diploma in Arts at the University Otago.