The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62
he enquiries made by British working fanners for information regarding the Colony of New Zealand have led to the compilation of the following hand-book: the figures quoted and most of the matter being taken from official statistics published by the Government of New Zealand.
Opinions may vary as to whether the prevailing agricultural depression in England is permanent or transient; but it must be conceded that the improvements made during recent years in the ocean carriage of produce, have brought the producer at the Antipodes into direct competition with the English farmer. When New Zealand is considered, this competition is accentuated by the accident of the seasons being reversed, and the favourable conditions for production. For example, in the case of dairy produce, the English farmer places his butter on the English market during the summer and autumn seasons, when the market is full of Danish, Brittany and other foreign butters, and the prices are low; while New Zealand butter arrives during the English winter when British and foreign supplies are short, and the prices, as a consequence, higher. The same conditions exist in the case of fruit, and also, though in a less degree, in the case of meat. It will be seen that the farming industries in the Colony have made, and are making, great progress, and there is ample room for still greater expansion. New Zealand, with an area as large as the British Isles, has only three-quarters of a million of people, and a soil and climate marvellously adapted for agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The immunity from droughts enjoyed by New Zealand compared with the neighbouring continent of Australia, the facility for the local transport of produce afforded by the natural configuration of the country, added to the suitability of the soil for the growth of English grasses, cereals, and root crops, are factors to be considered in determining whether farming can be more profitably carried on in New Zealand than in Great Britain. The reflection is assuring that the Colonies are part of the Empire, and if farming can be carried on there more profitably than in England, the Empire, as a whole, will be none the worse off. It is not intended to draw comparisons between the profits of English and Colonial farming, but merely to give information regarding New Zealand page 4 farming; but as the attention of the public has recently been drawn to the high Railway rates and the amount of taxation levied on the land in this country, it may be mentioned in passing, that in New Zealand the railways are owned by the State; which is the surest guarantee that they will not be used as taxing machines, and the incidence of the land tax is fixed with the express object of affording relief to the small farmer, and encouraging industry, with the result that the small farmer pays less than any other class of the community, and very much less in the pound than his British competitor. With regard to wages, it is true that the Colonial Agricultural labourer demands and receives higher wages than the English labourer; but less labour is required in the Colony, machinery and labour-saving appliances are more general, and the superior climate enables the Colonial labourer to do more work in the course of the year than his British counterpart.
The low passage rates to the United States, and the efforts that country has made to increase her population, have attracted the people of this country in the past to settle there rather than in our own Colonies, much to the detriment of British trade, a citizen of the United States consuming considerably less than one-tenth of the amount of British manufactures which a British Colonist consumes; but it seems as if the United States is likely to discourage rather than to encourage immigration from henceforth, and that for the future our surplus population will have to seek a home in our own colonies rather than in North and South America. During the year 1892 more than 210,000 Emigrants of British origin left our shores, of whom more than 150,000 went to the United States of America, and less than 40,000 to British North America and Australasia; nevertheless these 40,000 who went to British Colonies will consume very much more British manufactures than will the 150,000 who went to the United States. The class of persons to whom the Colony of New Zealand offers attractions, are persons with a practical knowledge of farming and some little capital to farm with. For the indigent and incompetent workman there is no opening at all, and even for the artizan the demand is limited. In the consideration of any scheme of emigration it cannot be stated too often that the Colonies only want the people suitable for their requirements, and that as long as English people regard emigration as a means of relieving this country of every class of destitute and incompetent people, without reference to their suitability for Colonial life, so long will difficulties insuperable be raised in the Colonies to any general colonisation scheme.page 5
Some short particulars of the manufactures and mining of New Zealand are collected with the object of enabling readers to understand that although manufactures and mining are growing, and are of great importance to the prosperity of the Colony, the output is at the present too small to absorb any large influx of skilled labour. It must also be borne in mind that the easy means of communication between the Australian Colonies affords facilities for the distribution of labour. This is being exemplified at the present time. In the year 1887, the Colony of New Zealand determined to decrease the expenditure of borrowed money, and to abstain from borrowing for a period. No New Zealand loan for Public Works has been since authorised, and although the immediate result of the curtailment of public works was that many workmen left the Colony for the Continent of Australia to seek for work, the return of prosperity in New Zealand, chiefly caused by the people being forced to fall back upon their own resources and go upon the land, and the scarcity of work in Australia, are now causing population to to flow into the Colony. Flattering references appear almost daily in the English papers concerning New Zealand. The following extract from the Morniny Post of the 11th Feb., 1892, is a fair sample. "The prospects of New Zealand are looking very bright, and the Colony seems now on a fair way to prosperity. The past season is said to have been a magnificent one for growing purposes, and everywhere the crops look splendid. The pasturage is luxuriant, and the yields of wheat, oats, potatoes, and other crops give every promise of being abnormally abundant. A rapidly increasing export trade and a steady increase in population, coupled with good harvest prospects, make the outlook for the Colony better than it has been for years."
It may be said, without fear of contradiction, that there is no part of the British dominions where agriculture, in its most extended sense, can be carried on with so much certainty, and with such good results, as in New Zealand. The range of latitude, extending as it does from 34° to 47° south, secures for the colony a diversity of climate which renders it suitable for all the products of subtropical and temperate zones, while the insular position secures it from the continuous and parching droughts which periodically inflict such terrible losses on the agriculturist and pastoralist of Australia and South America.
Again, the climate, although somewhat variable, never reaches the extremes of heat or cold. So genial, indeed, is it that most animals and plants, when first introduced to the colony, assume a vigour unknown to them before.