When the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 was established, New Zealand was split into six provinces. Each province was its own sub-government and these were built around the six original settlements. The Canterbury Province sat between the Hurunui and Waitaki Rivers and stretched right over to the West Coast.
At the head was a Superintendent and below him, councilors. To be able to become a member of the Canterbury Provincial, you had to be over 21 years old and own land worth over £50.
On 22 May 1868, William Rolleston (pictured on the right) began his term as Canterbury’s Superintendent, due to the resignation of William Sefton Moorhouse.
Even in Rolleston’s early life, he dreamt of being elsewhere. Born in Yorkshire, the 9th child of the family, he grew up to saying he wanted ‘a freer life.’ William became a tutor, saving up his wages for his voyage to Canterbury, arriving in Lyttelton in 1858. He turned down a job working in an office and became a shepherd for a farm at Lake Coleridge and found the life suited him.
His break into politics came when Samuel Bealey – who was Superintendent at the time – asked him to join his political party. Always passionate about education, he became well known for his essays which resulted in many changes in the native schools in which he studied.
Rolleston became the fourth and last Superintendent in 1868. During this time, Canterbury made huge leaps and bounds in public works and immigration and the wool and wheat industry ruled the markets. But it was also the time of the ‘Centralists’ – those backing the central government. With the central government borrowing huge amounts of money for works such as streets, bridges, buildings, this decreased the power of the provinces greatly. The provinces were finally abolished by the Abolition of Provinces Act 1876 and no one supported this move more than William Rolleston – in short, doing himself out of a job.
Photographed by Dr. A.C. Barker is William Rolleston (right) and James Edward Fitzgerald (left), our first and last Superintendent. This photo was named ‘the argument’ as these two founding fathers seem to be having a debate.
For a more in depth look at William Rolleston, please check out the attached link: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/
*Image courtesy of nzhistorian – http://www.nzhistorian.com/*