Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Cheviot Estate, Ready Money Robinson, and the First Liberal Government 1893

John "Honest Jock" McKenzie (1838 - 1901)
Liberal Minister of Lands

Jayne over at Our Great Southern Land reminds us that 19 April 1893 was the day New Zealand's Liberal Government purchased the Cheviot Hills Estate of Ready Money Robinson as part of its policy to break up the runs of the large landholders into smaller farms.

We originally posted on Ready Money Robinson & his Cheviot Hills Estate here. It has turned out to be one of the most frequently hit posts for this blog, perhaps because searchers are hoping to hit up "Ready Money" for some of the proverbial "ready" or, more likely, perhaps because his name crops up in NZ school history assignments, if such a thing as NZ history actually gets taught anymore.

The small town of Cheviot (pop 390, in 2006) that sprung up to serve the closer settlement of farm families was originally named McKenzie in honour of Liberal Cabinet Minister of Lands, John McKenzie, with street names named after leading Liberal politicians. McKenzie's biography may be found at the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

McKenzie Monument, 2009

At a later date, the zeal for the Liberals passed presumably as memories dimmed and a close acquaintance with historical events was lost with the passing of a previous generation. As a result, the town's name was changed to Cheviot, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished and rewarding that land speculator Robinson with town naming rights for his Cheviot Estate.

But in its early days, Cheviot/McKenzie's residents and those finding new opportunities on the subdivided Cheviot Estate erected a memorial to Jock McKenzie's policy of breaking up the large land runs and giving the small farmer a go.

McKenzie Monument, close up, 2009

McKenzie's zeal for land tenure reform was not without its excesses. The plight of the "poor" landed gentry aside, McKenzie's efforts to bring land held under Maori ownership up for sale resulted in 2.7 million acres of Maori land being purchased by pre-emption or on the free market for on-selling to pakeha settler farmers between 1892 and 1900. Land purchased by the government from Maori for 2 to 4 shillings per acre was sold for 2 pounds per acre, adding a tidy revenue boost to the Treasury coffers.

In a visit to Cheviot a few months ago, Kuaka took a few pics of the McKenzie memorial while the flock of young adult godwits he was traveling with were in turn taking a pit stop & stuffing their faces with more food & beverages, missing yet another historical reference right under their noses...

1 comment:

Jayne said...

Love the pics :)
Sounds like our squatters here in Oz who grabbed as much land as possible but then the govt put a stop to it and legislated for smaller farms with massive taxes on land holdings over a particular acreage.