§ LORD MONTEAGLE
presented a petition from members of the Provincial Council of Auckland for the amendment of the New Zealand Government Act. 1536 This petition was deserving of the greatest possible attention on the part of their Lordships, because it had been signed by all the members of the Provincial Assembly of the settlement of Auckland, from which it emanated. The grievance of which the petitioners complained was one which had been imposed upon them by an Act of the Imperial Legislature, and that body alone could, therefore, relieve them from it. In the Act giving a constitution to New Zealand, which was passed two years ago, a clause—opposed at the time by the noble Duke now Secretary for War (the Duke of Newcastle) in that House, and by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in the other—was inserted, creating a charge of 268,000l. in favour of the New Zealand Company upon the Crown lands of New Zealand, which, subject to this liability, were transferred to the colonists. Now, this charge in favour of the Company was felt as a great grievance by the whole of the colonists, but especially by the inhabitants of the province of New Munster, who had never, either directly or indirectly, derived the slightest advantage from the sums expended in the island by the Company. The petitioners, therefore, prayed the House to take measures to relieve them from a charge which they felt to he unjust; and, in conclusion, they declared their determination to resist by every legitimate means the payment of 1s. from the revenue of the province which they represented to the New Zealand Company. And they stated that they felt the greatest confidence that the House would encourage their determination not to evade a reasonable obligation, but to oppose a charge which they believed to be oppressive and unjust.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, that his noble Friend had referred to what had passed two years ago, and to the part which he took in the debates on the New Zealand Constitution Act two years ago. He could only say that he fully adhered to every opinion which he then expressed, and that he had stated so when he held the Seals of the Colonial Office. In reply to a question which Earl Grey put to him towards the close of last Session, he had stated that ho considered the arrangement made by the late Government with the New Zealand Company was not of an equitable character, as regarded the inhabitants of New Zealand, and especially those of the province of Auckland; but that he, nevertheless, thought that no alteration could be 1537 made in that arrangement, which was sanctioned by Act of Parliament, until the Colony should have taken the initiative in appealing to the House and the Government for any relief to which it deemed itself entitled. In consequence, however, of the distance of this Colony from England, no remonstrance in an authoritative form against this Act was received thence Until a few days before he left the Colonial Office. Had he remained there he should certainly have taken the subject into consideration, in order to see whether any relief could be afforded to the Colony without inflicting injustice on the Company, which had received a benefit from the legislation of Parliament; for, however little they might be entitled to that advantage at the time they received it, the Act Of Parliament which had passed had placed them in a different position, and given them a vested right to it. He knew, from personal communication with his right hon. Friend now at the bead of the Colonial Office, that he had turned his attention to the subject; and without saying how an arrangement could be made, or without even committing the Government to any positive engagement that an arrangement could or would be made, he could assure his noble Friend that the Government were deeply impressed with the importance of this question, as it affected the prosperity of the colony of New Zealand, and that their attention would be earnestly directed to it.
Petition ordered to lie on the table.
House adjourned till To-morrow.