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LAND AND SETTLEMENT.

IN
V each of the Commonwealth States and New Zealand a different

system has been adopted to secure the settlement of an industrial population upon the Crown lands, the conditions upon which land may be acquired being of a more or less liberal nature according to the circumstances in which the province has found itself placed. The legislation of Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, which at one time formed part of New South Wales, bears a strong resemblance to that of the mother state, practically the same form of conditional occupation with deferred payments being in existence in all four states. In the other prorinces, however, the influence of New South Wales was not so directly felt, and new experiments were made. South Australia, for instance, was originally settled upon the Wakefield system-alike remarkable for its originality and its failure. In Western Australia and New Zealand, under pressure of a different set of circumstances, settlement was effected by legislation of a novel character. An attempt is made here to give a description of the Land Laws of Australasia, although the radical changes which are constantly being made render the task of giving a serviceable account of the various systems a somewhat difficult one. During the past ten years, numerous Acts affecting State lands have been placed on the statute book, and, at the date of the publication of this volume, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania contemplate amending legislation; so that it is impossible to say how long the information given in this chapter can be taken as representing the latest phases of land legislation in Australasia.

NEW SOUTH WALES. With the progress and development of the state, the Land Laws of New South Wales have naturally undergone considerable alteration. In the earliest period alienation was effected by grants, orders, and dedications, the power of disposal resting solely with the Governor. In August, 1831, the principle of sale by auction was introduced, the minimum price for country lands being tixed at 5s. per acre. This was raised to 12s. in 1839, and to 20s. in 1843, power being given in the latter year to select, at the upset price, country portions for which a bid was not forthcoming at auction, or upon which the deposit paid at the time of sale had been forfeited. This was the first appearance of the principle of selection in the laws of the state, but it was limited to lands which had been surveyed for sale by auction.

The discovery of gold in 1851, and the consequent rush of population to Australia, greatly altered the conditions of colonisation. As the interest in gold-digging declined, so did the desire for settlement on the land increase, and the question had to be dealt with in an entirely new spirit, to meet the wants of the class of immigrants desirous of being placed upon the soil. The agitation which thus sprang up resulted in the passing of the Crown Lands Act of 1861, under the leadership of Sir John Robertson. This measure was designed to secure the establishment of an agricultural population side by side with the pastoral tenants With this object in view an entirely new principle was introduced—that of free selection in limited areas before survey, coupled with conditions of residence and improvement and country lands were sold at 20s. per acre, payable by annual instalments carrying interest.

The occupation of waste lands for pastoral purposes was at first allowed under a system of yearly licenses. Any person could apply for such a license, the extent of the run which it was desired to occupy being limited only by the boundaries of the surrounding stations. The fee was fixed at £10 per annum for a section of 25 square miles, with £2 10s. for every additional 5 square miles. This system of yearly licenses was succeeded by one under which the squatter was given fixity of tenure, the fee payable being calculated upon the stock-carrying capacity instead of upon the area of the run. Still another system was inaugurated by the Occupation Act of 1861, the period of tenure being limited to five years in all but first-class settled districts, and the whole of the pastoral leases left open to the operations of the free selectors. But such evils were found to result from this system that in 1884, in 1889, in 1895, and again in 1901, so far as the western division is concerned, Parliament was led to adopt amendments which are now in force, and which, while maintaining the principle of selection before survey, aim at giving fixity of tenure to the pastoral lessee and obtaining a larger rental from the public lands, while at the same time securing land to boná-fiile settlers on terms and conditions within the reach of all.

For the purposes of land administration, the state is split up into three divisions, each of which is subdivided into land districts. In the eastern and central divisions one or more of these land districts form a local division, the administration of which is entrusted to a Local Land Board, comprising a chairman and not more than two assessors, the control of the western division being vested in the Western Land Board. The decisions of these Local Land Boards may be appealed against to the Land Appeal Court. This Court is composed of a President and two members appointed by the Executive, and its decisions in matters of administration have the force of judgments of the Supreme Court ; but whenever questions of law become involved, a case may be submitted to the Supreme Court, upon the written request of the parties interested, or by the Land Appeal Court of its own initiative. The judgment given in this appeal is final.

Under the Acts at present in force, land may be acquired by the following meibods :-(1) By conditional and additional conditional purchase with residence ; (2) by conditional purchase without residence; (3) by classified conditional purchase ; (4) by the preferent right of purchase attached to conditional leases; (5) by improvement purchases on goldfields; (6) by auction sales; (7) by after auction sales ; (8) by special sales without competition ; and (9) hy homestead selection.

The maximum area which may be conditionally purchased differs in the eastern and central divisions. In the western division land can only be occupied under lease, or alienated by auction.

Eastern Division. The conditions for the purchase and occupation of Crown lands are more restricted in the eastern division than in the central and western divisions. Nevertheless, any person above the age of 16 years may, upon any Crown lands not specially exempted, select an area of 40 to 640 acres, together with a lease of contiguous land not exceeding thrice the area of the conditional purchase. The combined area of purchase and lease must not, however, exceed 1,280 acres. The price demanded is £l per acre, of which 2s. must be deposited when application is made, and the balance, together with interest at the rate of 4 per cent., paid by instalments of ls. per acre per annum. Payment of instalments commences at the end of the third year, and after the expiry of the period of enforced residence the balance may be paid in one sum at any time. The selector must reside on his selection for a period of ten years, and within three years erect a substantial fence around the land ; in some cases, however, other permanent improvements are allowed in lieu of fencing. He is restricted to one selection during his lifetime; but after the expiry of the residential period he may purchase additional areas contiguous to his original purchase up to the maximum area, or he may purchase his conditional leasehold. In such a case, however, he must extend his period of residence, and enclose his additional purchase. Married women judicially separated may select in their own right; and minors taking up lands adjoining the selection of their parents may fulfil the condition of residence under the paternal roof until the age of 21 in the case of males and 24 in that of females.

A conditional leasehold, in conjunction with a selection, may be held for twenty-eight years. The rental is fixed by the Land Board. The leasehold must be enclosed within three years ; one fence, however, may enclose both the conditional purchase and the lease. A lease may at any time be converted into a purchase. The term of residence on the conditional purchase and leasehold must aggregate ten years from the date of application.

When land is conditionally purchased without residence, the maximum area is limited to 320 acres, and no conditional lease is granted. The selection must be enclosed within twelve months after survey, and within five years additional improvements must be made to the

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value of £l per acre. The price demanded is £2 per acre, and the deposit and instalments payable are twice as high as those required in the case of an ordinary conditional purchase. No person under 21 years of age inay select land on non-residential conditions; and anyone wbo takes advantage of the provisions permitting the acquirement of a con ditional purchase without residence is not allowed to make any other conditional purchase.

Special areas may be thrown open to selection under special conditions. The price is not less than £1 10s. per acre, and the maximum area which may be taken up is 320 acres. Non-resident selectors are charged double the rates payable by those who reside on the land.

At the close of 1899 an Act was passed introducing a new feature in the form of classified conditional purchases. Under this system land set apart for conditional purchase or conditional lease becomes available for conditional purchase at prices specified at the time of notification, whether above or below £1 per acre. The area which may be selected in the Eastern Division is restricted to 640 acres. The conditions as to residence and improvements are similar to those in the case of an ordinary conditional purchase.

The capital value of conditional purchases and conditional leases applied for prior to the 30th December, 1899, and held bona fide for the applicant's sole use and benefit may be the subject of reappraisement up to an area, sufficient, in the opinion of the Local Land Board, to enable him to maintain a home thereon, provided the application therefor was lodged prior to the 30th December, 1901.

Central Division. In the central division land may be conditionally purchased on terms as to residence, fencing, improvements, price, and mode of payment similar to those which govern selection in the eastern division. The maximum area which may be selected is 2,560 acres, and a conditional lease in the proportion granted in the eastern division may be secured, but the aggregate area of both selection and lease must not exceed 2,560 acres. The area which may be purchased without residence, and the conditions in regard thereto, are the same as in the eastern division. | Within special areas the maximum extent of a selection has been fixed at 640 acres.

The system of classified conditional purchases applies to this Division and the area that may be selected, and the conditions of residence and improvements imposed are similar to those in respect of ordinary conditional purchases.

Western Division. The western division embraces an area of 79,970,000 acres, watered entirely by the Darling River and its tributaries. This part of the state is essentially devoted to pastoral pursuits.

The administration of the western division by the “ Western Lands Act of 1901 " is vested in a Board of three Commissioners, entitled

“ The Western Land Board of New South Wales," and all Local Land Boards eonstituted prior to the 1st January, 1902, cease to have jurisdiction within the area. The Commissioners, sitting in open Court, are empowered to exercise all the powers conferred upon Local Land Boards by the Crown Lands Acts, and for all purposes of the Crown Lands Acts shall be a Local Land Board in all cases, as well as in any cases that may be or are required to be referred to any Local Land Board under the provisions of any Act, now or hereafter in force.

Subject to existing rights and the extension of tenure referred to in a subsequent paragraph, all forms of alienation, other than by auction, and leases, prescribed by the Crown Lands Acts, ceased to operate within the Western Land Division from the 1st January, 1902.

Before any Crown lands in the western division, not held under lease, shall become available for lease, the Commissioners must recommend the areas and boundaries of the land to be offered for lease and the rent to be charged therefor, and, should there be any improvements on the land, determine the amount to be paid for them. The Minister may, by giving thirty days' notice in the Government Gazette, declare such lands open for lease, and applications therefor must be made to the Commissioners on a prescribed form, accompanied by a deposit at the rate of 20 per cent. on the amount of the first year's rent, as notified in the Government Gazette, and the Commissioners may recommend a lease to such applicant as they shall consider most entitled to it

. Upon the issue of a lease the notification thereof is published in the Government Gazette, and within one month therefrom the successful applicant must pay the balance of the first year's rent and execute the lease within th ime and manner prescribed.

The registered holder of a pastoral, homestead, improvement, scrub, or inferior lease or occupation license of land in the western division, or in the event of any such holding being mortgaged, then any owner of the equity of redemption in the same, may apply before the 30th June, 1902, to bring his lease or license under the provisions of the " Western Lands Act of 1901.” In cases where no application is made to bring the lease or license under the provisions of the Act, such lease or license is to be dealt with as if the Act had not been passed, and the Commissioners as constituted are to be deemed the Local Land Board to deal with such cases.

All leases issued or brought under the provisions of the “Western Lands Act of 1901 ” expire on the 30th June, 1943, except in cases where a withdrawal is made for the purpose of sale by auction or to provide small holdings, when the Governor shall, after report by the Commissioners, add to the remainder of the lease such term as may be considered reasonable as compensation, but in no case shall it exceed six

years.

The rent on all leases current after the commencement of the Act is determined by the Commissioners for the unexpired portion of such leases. No rent or license fee is to be less than 2s. 6d. per square mile

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