John McKenzie, pictured in this 1895 watercolour by A. Vyvyan Hunt, was minister of lands in the Liberal government of the 1890s. He was passionately committed to making land available for small settlers. In a Parliamentary debate in August 1892, McKenzie explained the origins of his convictions by referring to scenes he had witnessed in the Scottish Highlands:
‘The honourable gentleman wonders where the Minister of Lands got his ideas. The Minister of Lands, Sir, got his ideas as a boy when he saw the poor people evicted from their houses in the most cruel manner, and unable to get a place for their feet to stand upon except they went to the cemeteries. The poor people were not even allowed to camp upon the King’s highway … I have seen that in my young days. Is it any wonder that I should have the opinions of my own in connection with the land question in this country?’
New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 10 August 1892, p. 603.
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