Fifty years ago to-day, the New Zealand Herald was founded to give utterance to vital principles very sincerely held by the small body of pioneers striving to establish themselves as a British settlement in the city and province of Auckland. At that time the fortunes of Auckland and the future of the North Island swayed in the balance. The right of the British settler to pass the narrow frontiers drawn by confident native chiefs was challenged even among British colonists; the possibility of making the Queen's writ run in New Zealand as in England was doubted by the timid; the southern provinces were regarding Auckland as a too-troublesome sister and were deciding not to be governed from Auckland City; there was a pronounced inclination to abandon the development of Auckland Province in the face of native hostility and to leave to bush and fern the greater part of the North Island. Into this Auckland of 1863, to perplexed Aucklanders lacking a definite policy and a public advocate, came to the New Zealand Herald. For fifty years it has striven for the development and progress of the North knowing that to be in the best interests of the colony and the Empire.
This long fight of half-a-century for fair opportunity to colonise and develop the North on British lines is not yet over, though its end is in sight. It has led through war and suffering to the day when an unarmed constable can serve the King's Writ in the fastnesses of the old King Country and in the recesses of the Urewera. It has added mile upon mile to our northern railways, driven road after road through forest and fen, won block after block of waste land for British settlement, built school and post office by the score where in 1863 the white man had never been. Always there was stubborn resistance from those southern fellow-colonists who looked upon Auckland City as the abandoned capital, upon Auckland Province as swarming with militant natives, and often there was little help from some Aucklanders whose minds were influenced by external prejudices. The Herald pleaded insistently for good roads and needed railways for closer settlement, for education in country as in town, for the reform of abuses, for the uplifting of the mass of the people. It has preached for years against the slum, against harsh industrial conditions, against evils which stunt the children and deprive the future state of strong men. Time and again it has stood between the people of Auckland City and those who would have filched their parks. It has never failed to support municipal expenditures having for their aim the improvement of the city for the citizens. The Auckland Harbour scheme could hardly have been adopted and improved upon, in the face of a singular opposition, had it been without the constant support and advocacy of the Herald. On the other hand it has never befriended great estates and has always fought the battle of the small freeholder, recognising that the maximum of production can be obtained only by close settlement and that every man who loves the land will never be content or do his best excepting with the spur of the fee simple. In short the Herald stands and has stood for Progress in the truest and widest meaning of the term.
Politically, the Herald has always been absolutely independent of all party organisations, claiming and asserting the right to view all public questions from a higher standpoint than that of party expediency. True to its original pledge it has never hesitated to oppose any proposal detrimental to legitimate provincial or broadly national interest, or to support the Government of any day in all patriotic efforts. The universal training scheme was first proposed by the Herald and was long promulgated academically before it finally took practical shape. It completely and unreservedly approved of Sir Joseph Ward's gift of the Dreadnought.
It has preached and practiced that patriotism should come before party and has insisted, without failing, throughout its fifty years upon the impossibility of maintaining our colonial liberties excepting as part of a great Imperial policy. In this conjoint and inseparable domestic and Imperial policy it places the maintenance of "White New Zealand", the New Zealand fit for British men and women to live in that the pioneers of Auckland came to make and build; but it insists always that our colonisation is unsafe unless we garrison the country by close settlement and is vehemently opposed to the Labour view of excluding those for whom there is plenty of room, the men and women of our own race.
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The first fifty years of the Herald have seen many extraordinary changes; the second fifty years may see changes more extraordinary still. It may be that the right of our Empire to exist will be tested, that the British occupation of New Zealand may be challenged, that international war and domestic strife may disturb our peace and threaten our prosperity.
But, whatever comes, if the New Zealand Herald is true to its traditions and loyal to its principles it will do its utmost for the welfare, the progress, and the safety of the city, the province and the Dominion.