The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]
Westland Provincial District — The Land District of Westland
Westland Provincial District.
The Land District of Westland is the strip of country that lies between Nelson and Otago, to the west of the Southern Alps. The district is about 240 miles long, and its average breadth is about twenty-five miles. The area is nearly 6,100 square miles, “composed,” says the New Zealand Official Year Book, “for the most part of the great central snow clad mountain chain and its outrunning ranges, intersected by narrow bush-clad valleys, and subsiding westward into undulating plateaux, river straths and shelving coasts.” The northern boundary is the Grey river, with its tributary the Arnold; while on the south the Awarua river, running into Big Bay, separates it from Otago. “The whole country,” in the words of the Official Tourtsts' Guide to Westland, “presents a bewildering succession of white crested ranges, sparkling snow fields, craggy, outrunning spurs outlining gleaming glaciers, rolling foothills, with a strip of undulating littoral country dotted with lakes, streaked by foaming alpine rivers, and backed by the eternal snows of the great divide.”
As in most mountainous countries, there are in Westland large numbers of lakes—the principal of which are Christabel and Hochstetter, Brunner, Mahinapua, and Kanieri, Rotokino, Poerua and Mapourika. Many of these are small mountain tarns; others are tidal lagoons; others again are shallow sheets half overgrown by reeds and raupo. Conspicuous for its beauty is lake Mahinapua, within a few miles from Hokitika—famous for the wonderful clearness of the shadows reflected in its dark waters. The mountains, from which these lakes and rivers are fed, are all ridges or offshoots of the Southern Alps. The great central cluster of peaks—Mounts Cook, Tasman, Stokes, Hardinger, de la Beche, Darwin—is claimed by Canterbury, but there are many isolated peaks that reach a lofty elevation within the boundaries of Westland. The chief of these are Mount Aspiring 10,000 feet (on the border line of Otago, Canterbury and Westland), Mounts Alba, Castor and Pollux, each over 8000 feet, and Mounts Ward, Hooker, Dana, and Brewster. The main range is pierced by several passes, all of which were well known to the natives before the advent of the Europeans. The most frequent route runs from Hokitika into Canterbury, by way of the Otira Gorge and Arthur's Pass. There is a foot track through Browning's Pass, via Kokatahi (tributary of the Hokitika) or up the valley of the Arahura; another through the Mathers Pass at the head of the Hokitika to the head waters of the Rakaia on the Canterbury side; a third over Whitcombe's Pass, also leading down to the Rakaia Forks. The bridle track over Haast Pass—which is considerably less than 2000 feet above sea level and therefore well below the snow line—affords easy access from South Westland into Otago and Canterbury; but the districts which it connects are very sparsely settled.
The climate of Westland is of course largely determined by the physical configuration of the country, and the character of the prevailing winds. The rain-bearing winds from the north-west and south-west, laden with moisture, precipitate it upon the snowy ridges on the forest-clad slopes of the Southern Alps, with the result that the rainfall is twice, or thrice, as heavy in Westland as in any other district in the colony. The average rainfall for the whole of Westland is about 110 inches; and in the upper levels of the mountain country even this high record is frequently exceeded. Yet in spite of this humidity, the climate is equable and temperate, and neither fogs nor sudden storms are prevalent. When the rain comes it is heavy and decisive—there is no drizzle; but when a storm has cleared away the air is singularly bright and pure.
According to Maori legend, the district now known as Westland was first colonised from Hawaiiki by a certain chief named Ngahue. He had fled from his own island to avoid punishment for some crime, and when he reached the western shore of New Zealand, Aorangi, the Great White Cloud, pointed out to him the mouth of the Arahura river as a suitable refuge. There he first found the pounamu (greenstone), and, taking fragments of it back to Hawaiiki, he fashioned with it the canoes—Arawa, Tainui, and others—in which the Maoris made their great migration to these lands. Many years after the Maoris had settled down in the North Island, a noted Bay of Plenty chief named Tama, a descendant of the great Ngahue, wandered to the South Island in search of a lost sister, and found again the hoard of greenstone which Ngahue had first discovered. He took back fragments of the precious stone to the north, and the Waitaha tribe, captivated by its beauty, decided to migrate from their own land in search of this treasure. They left the Bay of Plenty about the year 1450, and took apparently about twenty- page 468 seven years to reach Cook Strait; thence they found their way over to the South Island and spread over the shores of Golden Bay, and most of the district later on known as Nelson. But they never reached the West Coast, and after flourishing for about a century they were overwhelmed by the Ngati-mamoe.
Soon after the Waitaha tribe left the Bay of Plenty, the Ngatiwai-rangi, whose home was near Poverty Bay, started out on the same quest. They travelled down the East Coast to Cape Palliser, crossed in canoes to Blind Bay, and landed near the month of the Motueka river. But the Waitaha already occupied these lands, and the Ngati-wairangi thus perforce wandered further south.
They crossed to the West Coast about 1520, reaching the sea at West Wanganui Inlet, and finally spreading south as far as Milford Haven. Along this strip of shore, between the mountains and the sea, they lived for 250 years, finding great stores of greenstone, and growing rich through their trade in this precious commodity with other tribes. Meanwhile the Waitaha had been superseded by the Ngatimamoe, who had in turn given place to another tribe from the Gisborne district, the Ngaitahu. For these two and a-half centuries the Ngatiwairangi were almost a lost tribe, and they kept much to themselves, and carefully concealed the source of their supply of greenstone. When the Ngaitahu, in their career of conquest, had got as far south as the Waitaki river, some of the tribe were accidentally found by a mad woman of the Ngatiwai-rangi, who guided them across the Southern Alps by Browning's Pass to the head waters of the Hokitika, where greenstone could be found. This advent of the Canterbury natives on the West Coast is dated somewhere between 1750 and 1770, and from this time the solitude of the Ngatiwairangi was frequently invaded by strangers.
The Ngaitahu tribe gradually fell into the practice of making regular excursions across the Southern Alps to trade in greenstone. They crossed the dividing range by Campbell Gorge, Harper's Saddle, Arthur's Pass, Browning's Pass or Whitcombe's Pass, but always returned by the upper course of the Hokitika, as that route was shorter, and their heavy loads necessitated a speedy journey. Arahura was the great centre of the greenstone trade, and for many years both tribes profited greatly by it, till mutual jealousies kindled war between them. The first Ngaitahu expedition, under a famous chief, Te Rangimatau, gained a great victory near the mouth of the Hokitika; but a second war party was badly beaten near Lake Mahinapua. Then came a third and fourth raid, and in this last expedition the Ngatiwairangi were finally vanquished near Paparoa, in the Grey Valley. The victorious Ngaitahu ravaged the whole of the West Coast, from north to south, and the Ngatiwairangi who were not slain were soon incorporated with the conquerors as slaves.
The branch of the Ngaitahu that settled on the West Coast maintained its ground undisturbed until the famous raid by the Ngatitoa and Ngatiraukawa under Te Rauparaha in 1827. A section of the invaders under Niho came down the West Coast, starting from Cape Farewell. They scaled the cliffs along the sea coast by means of vine-ladders, and annihilated all the Ngaitahu settlements in their track. But most of the precious green stone of which they were in search was already concealed. Disappointed in their quest they wandered further south, crossed by the Haast Pass into Otago, and finally roused the Ngatimamoe, who combined against them and destroyed them page 469 in a great battle at the Mataura. But the Ngatitoa had done the work of destruction only too well; and by the time that Europeans first set foot in Westland, the native inhabitants were but a scanty remnant of the thousands of Ngatiwairangi and Ngaitahu, who had once flourished and multiplied on the West Coast.
The first white men to explore the West Coast were whalers. In the Otago volume of this Cyclopedia reference has been made to the visits paid by whalers to the West Coast Sounds as far back as the beginning of the 19th century. Jackson's Bay, at the southern extremity of Westland, was frequently used by the Australian and American whalers as a station for watering and refitting their vessels. But it was not till 1845 that Europeans visited this part of the island for the purpose of testing its capacity for settlement. In that year, Messrs Heaphy and Brunner, surveyors employed by the New Zealand Company, travelled down the coast from Cape Farewell. They followed in the track of the Maori was parties led by Te Rauparaha, and actually used the scaling ladders made by the great chief in his famous raid eighteen years before. They condemned the harbours and river mouths as unsafe for navigation, but they found a considerable area of ground suitable for agriculture. Two years later Mr. Brunner came down the coast on a second exploring tour. He went overland from Nelson to the head of the Buller, and followed the river to its mouth. He then journeyed along the coast, southward as far as the Waiho, beyond Okarito, and thence retraced his steps to the Grey river. He went up the river, and discovered, on his way, the great coal field that now bears his name. He finally got back to Nelson over the low saddle between the Grey and the Inangahua and rejoined his friends after an absence of eighteen months. In 1857, Mr. James Mackay, with two Massacre Bay Maoris, went down the coast from West Wanganui to the mouth of the Grey, and explored the Upper Grey Valley. On presenting his report to the Native Department he was authorised to purchase land on the West Coast from the natives. Accordingly, in 1859, he set out from Christchurch with his cousin, Mr. Alexander Mackay, and, with Mr. Rochfort's survey party from Nelson, crossed the Hurunui saddle into Westland, following the course of the Teremakau, and subsequently that of the Grey. But the natives refused to treat with them, and they finally returned to Nelson by sea in the first vessel that succeeded in crossing a West Coast bar.
In 1860 Mr. Mackay made another attempt to deal with the Maoris. He was joined at the Grey by Mr. S. Mackley, who became, later, a sheepfarmer in the Grey Valley. The negotiations for purchase necessitated a journey to Jackson's Bay, to determine the boundaries of the native reserves. In the end the Maoris of the West Coast—110 in all, being the sole survivors of the once numerous native tribes — sold to Queen Victoria 7,500,000 acres of land for the sum of £300, receiving also land reserves to the extent of 10,000 acres, chiefly on the site of the present town of Greymouth.
Thus Westland passed into the hands of Europeans, and it is a remarkable coincidence that just at this time gold was first discovered in that part of the colony. When Messrs Mackay and Mackley, on their homeward journey, reached the Buller, they found there a prospecting party of twenty Europeans from Canterbury. But though Mr. Rochfort's party had found traces of gold, these prospectors were not satisfied with the indications, and Mr. Mackay guided them up the Aorere to Collingwood, where gold was already being profitably worked. About that time a number of Maoris brought to Collingwood a parcel of gold they had obtained up the Buller. A Collingwood resident, Reuben Waite, was tempted by this to charter a small vessel, and fifteen men went round the coast as far as the Buller. A few others followed later, but they were not very successful. Slowly, scattered parties discovered gold in the Greenstone creek, at the Kanieri, on the Arahura, and at other localities in North Westland. By December, 1864, an influx had already begun, and the steamer “Nelson” was the first to cross the Hokitika bar with a shipload of ciggers.
But the year 1865 was the year from which Westland first dates its rank as a great gold-producing district. News travelled slowly in those isolated districts, but as last a “rush” set in, and the splendid results achieved by the pioneers soon attracted swarms of diggers from all parts of the colonies. Steamers from all New Zealand ports were so overcrowded, that the authorities compelled them to page 470 land some of their contingent. From Sydney and Melbourne, and eventually from America and England, men came lured by the tales of boundless wealth to be picked up on the beaches and along the river beds on the West Coast. Nor did they find that the country belied its reputation. “Field after field,” writes Mr. L. Northcroft, “was opened up with amazing rapidity. From Martin's Bay in the south to West Wanganui in the north could be seen the tents and the fires of the gold diggers. Captains of vessels sailing along the coast would notice a continual line of fires, each of which indicated parties of miners. Prospectors pushed up the rivers and streams, poured over terraces and hills, almost invariably meeting with a rich reward.” It is said that no single claim on the Coast yielded as much as £5000 a man, but there were many examples of claims that produced gold at the rate of £10 to £50 or even £100 per man a week. Everywhere there was gold to be found, and as each new “find” was noised abroad a “rush” at once took place from less favoured localities. “Hokitika,” (this is another quotation from Mr. North-croft's admirable sketch of the “Golden Days”) “was the scene of the first great rush; and for a time numbers preponderated there. Kanieri, Eight-mile, Big Paddock, Blue Spur, Waimea, and numberless flats and gullies supported a bustling, tireless population of many thousands. All along the beaches to Greymouth, and up the Grey river, and thence to the Teremakau, the busy hives of workers could be seen.” Further north the fields extended past Darkey's Terrace—a marvellous patch of gold—to Brighton, Charleston, Addison's Flat, along to the Mokikinui. Up the Buller the gold “lead” ran, to the Lyell (where the largest nuggets on the coast were obtained), the Maruia and the Matakitaki. South of Hokitika the fields extended past the Totara goldfield to the Ross Flat, which has been called “the richest piece of alluvial ground yet discovered in the world.” South again was the Okarito field with the Three Mile and Five Mile beaches, and still further south the far-famed Gillespie's Beach, Hunt's Beach and Bruce Bay. To give an idea of the richness of these southern claims it may be mentioned that at the Five Mile it was a common practice to carry the gold to Okarito in billies to sell, because the ordinary chamois leather gold bags were too small to hold the splendid yields. Without going into further details, it may be stated that, between 1864 and 1870, Westland produced over £9,000,000 worth of gold, or at the rate of considerably over a million and a-half a year.
The social life of Westland during the mining days was unique in its way. The typical digger was usually a fine specimen of manhood, anything from twenty to forty years of age, hardened to all kinds of privations, and somewhat prone to excesses of a kind not now so easily tolerated. The population of “the Coast” was almost entirely male, and, according to Mr. Northcroft, “dance houses and hotels furnished the chief and almost sole opportunities for enjoying the society of the other sex.” The nature of their occupation, in itself highly speculative, did not tend to encourage habits of regular industry, or to promote steadiness in any shape or form. As a class, the diggers made money easily and spent it lavishly. They had a social code of their own, and even a distinctive garb, which has already become one of the traditions of early colonial history. “Full dress consisted of a high slouch hat, the front turned up sharp and the back turned down, a Crimean shirt with a knotted crimson silk scarf, a pair of moleskin trousers, having a bright yellowish tinge by reason of the clay which seemed to wash in, but never wash out, and kept in position by a crimson silk sash, sometimes carrying a leathern sheath with knife, ‘nugget’ pattern boots, and crimson silk laced cord around the crown of the hat.” In this picturesque guise the digger loved to disport himself about the little townships and settlements in the intervals of his toilsome, but usually highly remunerative, labours. Cornelius O'Regan, a West Coaster, who died in the morning of his manhood, but not before showing much promise as a poet, vividly describes the diggers as—
“Scorners of despair and fear,
Who roughed it by wild forest, craggy fell,
And through swirl of roaring rivers, for many and many a year,
Daily faced the face of Death, and bore it well.”
And in the same piece—in which an old miner is recalling to his chum the lives they once led—there is another vigorous verse which may fitly be quoted in this connection:page 471
“What days of cheerful toiling, what wild uproarious nights,
What happy days, what glorious nights were then;
Such mirth and merry-making, such drinking and such fights—
Old mate, such times they never come agen.”
The natural effect of the expansion of the mining industry was to attract a large population to the Coast, and to promote the rapid growth of commerce. During the gold days some of the larger merchants turned over as much as £200,000 or £300,000 a year. Even Melbourne houses had representatives on the Coast, and a large number of locally owned schooners and brigantines traded between Australia and Hokitika or Greymouth. Hokitika was in those days the first or last port of call for vessels in the Australian trade; and McMeekan and Blackwood's and the Panama Company's steamers came in regularly. The wharves at Hokitika, now mostly abandoned, were crowded with vessels of all descriptions. Theatres ran nightly, and with these and variety shows, bowling allies, shooting galleries and billiard saloons, the Coast population seem to have been at no loss for amusements. All these social and commercial features point to the strenuous vitality of the life on the Coast in the “golden days.”
The mineral wealth of Westland is by no means confined to gold. A rich mineral belt traverses the greater part of the main range through the whole length of the district, and specimens of nearly all the known minerals have been discovered in various places. The Paparoa Range, north of Greymouth, is particularly rich in minerals. Copper occurs in the Taipo, Arahura, Whitcombe and Jackson vallevs; the best lodes lving to the west of the Matakitaki, near the Haast river, with large beds of coal and limestime close at hand. Petroleum has been found in the Arnold Valley, where it is hoped that the boring operations will turn out a success. Silver ores, usually in conjunction with gold, have been found in several localities, especially near Rangitoto. But apart from gold, by far the most important mineral found on the West Coast is coal. Several varieties of coal are mined in large quantities at or near West Wanganui, Westport, Greymouth and Reefton. The mines along the Brunner, and on the Blackball Creek, in the Upper Grey Valley, are especially productive; and extensive seams are now being prospected and worked at the State coal mines at Seddonville and Point Elizabeth. All the way down the coast from the Paparoas as far as Jackson's Bay, isolated patches of coal are found; and no doubt borings would locate large measures at a considerable depth below the overlying glacial drift. However, basing our calculations only upon the limits of the proved areas, the supply of coal is almost inexhaustible. By far the most valuable variety is the world-famed Westport bituminous coal, which the late Sir John Coode described as equal, if not superior, to the best description of steam coal from any part of the world. A glance at the statistics of the New Zealand coal industry will show the immense importance of these deposits to Westland. The output of coal in the colony for 1903 was 1,420,193 tons; of which Westland alone contributed 781,032 tons, or more than half the total. Westport alone produced over 570,000 tons in 1903, and the total quantity raised at Greymouth and Westport up to the end of 1903, was, approximately, 8,900,000 tons, or about 48 per cent, of the total amount of coal produced in New Zealand since its mines first began to work. The demand for steam coal of the quality found in Westland is practically unlimited, and it is difficult to over-estimate the value of this great natural asset both to Westland and the colony as a whole. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that only a very small section of the coal-bearing areas has page 473 yet been exploited. For example, extensive prospecting operations on the Paparoas have recently revealed the existence of immense deposits of anthracite, which, on the authority of geological experts, is exactly similar in all essentials to the best Welsh steam coal. It is described as “non-bituminous, practically free from sulphur, of high specific gravity, great cohesion of particles, and has evapourative power unsurpassed by any other coal in the world.” The surveys show that over 64,000,000 tons of this coal are in sight, and that two-thirds of this immense deposit can be worked “level free.” These wonderful indications of mineral wealth may give some idea of the vast, and as yet practically unknown, natural resources of Westland.
Apart from mining, the most important industry on the West Coast is sawmilling. There are between forty and fifty mills at work on endowment reserves, Crown and private lands, and their total output for 1903 was about 26,000,000 feet. The material for the mills is close at hand in almost every corner of the district; for the whole of Westland is covered more or less closely with forests. The chief timbers are komahi and rata, but they are useful principally for firewood. The best milling timber is rimu, which is widely distributed from the sea coast to the Dividing Range. There are valuable stretches of white pine or kahikatea on the low-lying coastal lands and swamps, and there is a considerable quantity of silver pine, which provides timber that is practically imperishable. In 1903 nearly 900,000 silver pine sleepers were cut on the Coast for the Government railways. The other marketable timber—black pine, cedar, totara—are found in smaller patches, but their aggregate area is larger. Approximately there are about 2,200,000 acres of bush in Westland, a large portion of which carries timber fit for the sawmill. The only other extractive industry of any importance on the Coast is flaxmilling, but there are only about ten mills at work so far, and their output is not large. About 1000 men are employed altogether in the sawmills and flaxmills and on the West Coast. Other industries may claim brief mention in connection with the notices of the towns.
After this digression upon the products and industries of Westland, it may be well to recur briefly to the history of the district. From the outset Westland suffered from several serious disadvantages as to government and administration. Portions of the West Coast were in the province of Nelson and portions in Canterbury; and as the provincial governments performed many of the functions now relegated to the General Government, many absurd inconsistencies resulted. For instance, if a man crossed the Grey river from Cobden to Greymouth, he required a new miner's right because he had got into another province. The district was represented in the Canterbury Provincial Council, but there was much dissatisfaction on the West Coast about the way in which the common fund for roads, tracks and bridges was administered. A movement thus arose precisely similar to the movement which led to the separation of Southland from Otago, and Marlborough from Nelson. The West Coast settlers demanded independence, and in 1867, in response to their request, Westland was separated from Canterbury by an Act of the General Assembly. It was constituted the County of Westland with a local government of its own.
In 1874 therefore Westland, now including all the gold districts on page 475 the West Coast, started on its carcer as a province. The first Provincial Council consisted of the Hon. James Bonar (Superintendent), R. Canavan, P. Dugan, H. Cuming, A. R. Guinness, M. Houlahan, H. H. Lahmann, J. McGaffin, S. Mitchell, E. T. Robinson, R. J., Seddon, F. C. Tabart, W. Tod, E. Wickes, C. Woolcock, and J. White (Speaker). In his opening speech Mr. Bonar referred to the past six years' experiment with government by County Council as on the whole very satisfactory, and declared that the progress made by Westland during that period would compare most favourably with the advances made by any of the provincial districts of the colony. The financial position of the district, however, was still a source of anxiety; for the Public Works policy of 1870 entailed heavy burdens upon the whole country. It was, therefore, proposed that the new province should follow the example of the colony, and borrow a considerable sum to be expended on re-productive public works. Accordingly, during the second session of the Council, a scheme involving the expenditure of £73,500 was submitted, and Westland was fairly launched on an independent political and administrative career.
In this same session of 1874 there was passed the Westland Education Ordinance, under which the schools on the Coast were administered till the present national system of education came into force. An education rate was struck throughout the province to support the district schools, supplemented by a Government grant of £3000 for the year. By the end of 1874, however, the receipts on all accounts had fallen about £9000 below the expenditure, and during the next session (1875), reference was frequently made to the heavy financial burdens laid upon the province, and the unfairness of the adjustment of her share in the provincial debt. The Council made a brave effort to carry on the work of developing the district. Communication with the settlement at Jackson's Bay was improved. The railway between Hokitika and Greymouth was surveyed, and the claim of the district for railway communication with Canterbury was urged vigorously on the attention of the Government. But it was gradually becoming more mani fest to the members of the Council that it was practically impossible to carry on the administration of the province under existing conditions. “Is it for the advantage of the colony,” asked the Superintendent in 1875, “that an important division of it should have to be dependent upon the General Government for assistance from year to year, to enable it to carry on the bare necessities of government, and to be called upon to pay annually £11,600 for interest and sinking fund on debts incurred by a neighbouring province of which we once formed a part, while at the same time that province is in receipt of revenue of about £700,000 per annum?” Here we meet once more the chief grievance for which Westland so long demanded redress in vain—the inequitable allocation of her share in Canterbury's debts. In the course of the same speech the Superintendent, after dwelling upon the needs of the district in the matter of roads and schools, pointedly suggested that Westland could expect relief only through a radical change in the system by which the colony was governed. “Would this state of things,” he asked, “have been allowed to continue for the time it has, under a colonial system of government?” and he concluded with the inference that “so long as the present provincial system exists, so long will the weaker subdivisions of the colony continue to suffer.” The bearing of this statement upon the question of abolition is obvious enough; and when, in the next year, the great struggle of Provincialism was crowned with success, the result was received with no greater enthusiasm in any district of the colony than in Westland.
Apart from these two centred of population, the towns on the West Coast are identified almost entirely in some form or other with mining industries. The township of Brunner, with the adjacent villages of Dobson, Wallsend and Taylorville, contains about 1,500 people. The townships all depend upon the coal mines, with their allied industries of coke burning, brick and tilemaking. The railway line to Greymouth is so actively occupied in carrying coal that it is the best paying section in the colony. Blackball, with 800 inhabitants, is another township built upon the coal industry; the coalfield in the vicinity being one of the finest in New Zealand. Of the gold-mining townships the most important are. Kumara, and Ross. The hydraulic gold-mining industry centres at Kumara, which, with Dillmanstown, has about 1,120 inhabitants. Large sludge channels have been constructed to carry away the tailings from the claims, and the water is brought down to the “faces” on stagings or flumes from a considerable distance. Ross, twenty miles south of Hokitika, with a population of 650, is another important gold-sluicing centre, from which much may yet be expected when the deep auriferous levels, now water-logged, have been drained and worked. There are many other small townships—Ahaura, Stillwater, Stafford, Rimu, Kanieri, Blue Spur, Okarito—all associated with either timber milling or gold sluicing, and never likely to become large or populous unless some extraordinarily rich discoveries of mineral wealth should be made in their vicinity.
The means of communication in Westland are somewhat limited, owing to the rough and impracticable nature of the country. The chief railway is the Greymouth-Hokitika line, which now runs to Reefton at the north, and is being extended southward to Ross. From Stillwater the Westland end of the Midland Railway branches off toward Canterbury, running as far as the foot of the Otira Gorge. But the most ordinary means of transit on the Coast is by coach. Twice a week coaches run through the Otira Gorge and Arthur's Pass, to and from Canterbury. Once a week a coach takes the mail south to Okarito, whence it is carried on horseback to Gillespie's Beach, and still further south—once a fortnight—to Jackson's Bay. The main south road has been so far improved that it is now possible to ride down through Westland and over Haast Pass into Otago. Whitcombe's Pass is being opened by another bridle track, but much of the back country is still almost inaccessible. As far as possible the needs of local communication are supplied by small coastal steamers. Subsidised boats are specially page 477 chartered to call every one or two months at Jackson's Bay and other outlying settlements.
One serious difficulty that has always interfered, not only with the inter-communication, but with the commercial development of the country, is the lack of good harbours. Jackson's Bay is the only naturally good ocean harbour on the coast, and could easily be converted into a first-class port. Most of the river mouths are navigable, but all are obstructed by difficult and dangerous bars. Bruce Bay and Awarua Bay, toward the southern extremity of Westland, are open roadsteads; Okarito is a bar harbour, sometimes completely blocked by sand. Small steamers can enter the mouths of the Haast, Paringa, Cascade, Teremakau, Arawata and other West Coast rivers; but even in the larger estuaries the bars are a permanent danger. At Hokitika two large training walls have been built, one of them 2000 feet long. Inside the bar there is about 1000 feet of berthage, with from eighteen to twenty-two feet of water; and for ten months out of the twelve the bar is generally safe for vessels drawing eight to ten feet of water. At Greymouth, twenty-four miles north-east of Hokitika, even more extensive harbour works have been carried out. A sea wall has been built out some 3,500 feet on the south side of the river mouth, and on the north side there is another breakwater 1,125 feet long. The result is that there is a depth of eight feet to sixteen feet on the bar at low water, and twenty-one feet at high water. Vessels of 1,500 tons can now come up to the wharves; and there is berthage accommodation of over 2,000 feet, with a minimum depth of twelve feet to sixteen feet at low water. The trams run down on to the wharf, and coal, the principal export, is emptied from specially constructed trucks by means of steam and hydraulic cranes into the ships' holds. The port's statistics for the past few years show that the heavy expenditure upon these harbour works has been fully justified by the results. During 1903, 623 steamers and sailing vessels, of 216,355 tons capacity, entered the harbour. The exports consisted of 170,317 tons of coal, 2,000 tons of coke, 1,648 tons of bricks, and 22,000,000 feet of sawn timber, while 44,000 tons of general cargo were imported. The total value of exports from Greymouth in 1903 was £417,802, as against £411,115 in the previous year; and from Hokitika the value of exports was £54,275, as against £42,561 in 1902. These figures show that, in spite of the many physical and geographical disadvantages, the trade of Westland is flourishing, and is likely to expand rapidly in the future.
Since the abolition of the provinces the expansion of the district has been slow but steady. Westland still depends almost solely upon its mineral wealth; and, as has been shown, its yield of gold and coal, has played an important part in the development of the colony. As an indication of the present conditions and prospects of the district, the opinion of Mr. E. J. Roberts, Chief Surveyor for Westland may be noted with advantage. Mr. Roberts considers (1905) that settlement is making good progress, and that land is being taken up in small areas in every portion of the district. The importation of cattle from the North Island is decreasing, which means that Westland is beginning to rely on its own resources. The isolation of Westland from the rest of the colony, through lack of good harbours, and deficient railway connection, is still severely felt, but both these needs are in a fair way to be remedied. But the hopes of the district are still chiefly built upon its prospects of mineral wealth; and there is great need for systematic prospecting. This want is now (1905) in a fair way to be filled by the appointment of a Government prospector, who is to commence operations at once on the Coast. In the great belt of metalliferous land running north and south the whole length of the Coast, samples of nearly all the known metals have been found; but no one knows what is really there, or below the false bottoms of the river beds that have been already treated. Mr. Roberts believes that if Jackson's Bay were improved, it could, without serious expenditure, be converted into a fine harbour for oceangoing boats, and the coal in the vicinity would make it one of the most flourishing ports in the colony. According to the same authority, the completion of the Midland railway line is eagerly looked for by the people of Westland, not only because it will afford greater facilities for the coal and timber industries on which they largely depend, but because it will help to attract attention to their district by page 478 increasing the tourist traffic, which has already become an important source of revenue to the whole colony.