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Mckenzie, Sir John

McKENZIE, SIR JOHN (1838-1901), New Zealand statesman, was born at Ard-Ross, Scotland, in 1838, the son of a crofter. He emigrated to Otago, New Zealand, in 1860. Beginning as a shepherd, he rose to be farm manager at Puketapu near Palmerston South, and then to be a farmer in a substantial way in Shag Valley. In 1865 he was clerk to the local road board and school committee; in 1871 he entered the provincial council of Otago; and on the nth of December 1881 was elected member of the House of Representatives, in which he sat till 1900. He was also for some years a member of the education board and of the land board of Otago, and always showed interest in the national elementary school system. In the House of Representatives he soon made good his footing, becoming almost at once a recognized spokesman for the smaller sort of rural settlers and a person of influence in the lobbies. He acted as government whip for the coalition ministry of Sir Robert Stout and Sir Julius Vogel, 1884-1887, and, while still a private member, scored his first success as a land reformer by carrying the " McKenzie clause " in a land act limiting the area which a state tenant might thenceforth obtain on lease. He was still, however, comparatively unknown outside his own province when, in January 1891, his party took office and he aided John Ballance in forming a ministry, in which he himself held the portfolio of lands, immigration and agriculture. From the first he made his hand felt in every matter connected with land settlement and the administration of the vast public estate. Generally his aim was to break up and subdivide the great freehold and leasehold properties which in his time covered four-sevenths of the occupied land of the colony. In his Land Act of 1892 he consolidated, abolished or amended, fifty land acts and ordinances dealing with crown lands, and thereafter amended his own act four times. Though owning to a preference for state tenancy over freehold, he never stopped the selling of crown land, and was satisfied to give would-be settlers the option of choosing freehold or leasehold under tempting terms as their form of tenure. As a compromise he introduced the lease in perpetuity or holding for 999 years at a quit rent fixed at 4%; theoretical objections have since led to its abolition, but for fifteen years much genuine settlement took place under its conditions. Broadly, however, McKenzie's exceptional success as lands minister was due rather to unflinching determination to stimulate the occupation of the soil by working farmers than to the solution of the problems of agrarian controversy. His bestknown experiment was in land repurchase. A voluntary law (1892) was displaced by a compulsory act (1894), under which between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 had by 1910 been spent in buying and subdividing estates for closer settlements, with excellent results. McKenzie also founded and expanded an efficient department of agriculture, in the functions of which inspection, grading, teaching and example are successfully combined. It has aided the development of dairying, fruitgrowing, poultry-farming, bee-keeping and flax-milling, and done not a little to keep up the standard of New Zealand products. After 1897 McKenzie had to hold on in the face of failing health. An operation in London in 1899 only postponed the end. He died at his farm on the 6th of August 1901, soon after being called to the legislative council, and receiving a knighthood.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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