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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 116. — Copy of a Despatch from Governor the Most Hon. the Marquis of Normanby to the Right Hon. the Earl of Carnarvon

No. 116.
Copy of a Despatch from Governor the Most Hon. the Marquis of Normanby to the Right Hon. the Earl of Carnarvon.

Government House, Wellington, N.Z., 7th June, 1875.

My Lord,—

I have the honour to inform your Lordship that on the 29th ultimo I returned to Wellington, after paying an official visit to Christchurch and Dunedin.

  • 2. My visit south was unfortunately unavoidably delayed until too late a period of the year to enable me to see the country to the best advantage; but, at the same time, I did not feel justified in postponing my visit to those great centres of population till next summer. I therefore left this on the 20th April, and arrived in Christchurch the next day.
  • 3. The reception which was there accorded me as Her Majesty's Representative was most gratifying, as evincing the loyalty and attachment which are entertained by the inhabitants towards the Government of Her Majesty.
  • 4. Although I had heard much of the flourishing condition of the Provinces of Canterbury and Otago, I own I was quite unprepared to witness the evidences of prosperity and advancement which presented themselves to me on every side. I have long been accustomed to see the rapid progress which takes place in young countries; but I can assure your Lordship that in no place have I seen so much accomplished in so short a period.
  • 5. I landed at Port Lyttelton, and at once proceeded by railway to Christchurch. This railway is seven miles in length, and was in the first instance constructed as a provincial undertaking, but has subsequently been purchased by the General Government as a portion of the main trunk line. It is a work of considerable magnitude, as the range of mountains which separates the plains from Port Lyttelton necessitated the formation of a tunnel one and three-quarter miles in length. The undertaking was a bold one for so young a community, but I am happy to state that the result has proved the wisdom of the step; as not only has this ready communication with a safe and commodious harbour given to Canterbury an importance which it could otherwise never have obtained, but the railway itself is at the present moment paying far more than the interest on the cost of construction, after deducting the working expenses.
  • 6. The Town of Christchurch is well laid out with wide well-made streets, while many of the public buildings and churches are fine substantial edifices built of stone, and even in an architectural point of view possessing considerable merit. Among these I may especially mention the Provincial Buildings, the Supreme Court, the Normal School now in course of construction, the Wesleyan church, and St. John's Church. A large English cathedral is also in course of construction. The environs of the town are studded with comfortable well-built villas, the land for miles round is well farmed, and the fields are enclosed with neat well-trimmed gorse fences. The roads are also wide and well kept; and there is a general appearance of prosperity and refinement about the whole place which reminds me forcibly of a prosperous country town in England, and makes it hard to believe that the whole thing has been the creation of only twenty-five years.
  • 7. I remained in Christchurch for a fortnight, and during that time I visited the various public institutions and schools, which I found, upon the whole, to be in a very satisfactory condition.
  • 8. On the 4th of May I quitted Christchurch and proceeded overland to Dunedin, where I arrived on the 7th, passing through Timaru, Oamaru, and Palmerston on my way. For the first seventy miles out of Christchurch I was enabled to proceed by railway, but after that I had to travel by road. I believe that it will take about two years before the railway is completed the whole way, although sections of it will be opened before that time.
  • 9. If I was most agreeably surprised with the appearance of the country about Christchurch, I was certainly not less so with the general character of the country that I passed through on my journey south. I say nothing of the scenery, although that would well justify comment of the most favourable kind; but I confine myself rather to the evidences of material advancement and prosperity which presented themselves to my view in all directions.
  • 10. On the southern portion of the Canterbury Plain the land is poor and unfit for cultivation, but it answers well for pastoral purposes. After passing Geraldine, a little to the south of the Rangitata River, however, the soil improves; and from there to within a few miles of Dunedin one passes almost uninterruptedly through a splendid agricultural country, the whole of which is under cultivation; and the numerous cornstacks with which the fields are studded bear ample evidence of the richness of the harvest during the last summer. I was also much struck by the manner in which the land was cultivated, which was far superior to that which is usually seen in a colony.
  • 11. The towns of Timaru and Oamaru, through which I passed, were both of them very pretty, flourishing country towns, chiefly built of stone, and some of the buildings are large and handsome. page 118Both towns are situated on the sea-coast; but, owing to the heavy surf which runs upon the shore, considerable difficulty is experienced in the shipment of goods. To obviate this, at Oamaru a large and substantial pier of concrete is being constructed, which, when completed, will afford good shelter for vessels; but at present only about 400 feet, out of the 1,200 to which it is proposed to extend it, has been built.
  • 12. Dunedin, which is beautifully situated, is undoubtedly the largest, best built, and most important city in the colony, and presents all the appearance of a busy commercial own in an old country, and its dimensions are rapidly extending. The public buildings are all substantially and handsomely built, and the streets and shops would do no discredit to any town in England; and various manufactories have been started, which, I am informed, are in a prosperous condition, among which I may especially mention a very fine woollen factory, where they make most excellent cloth.
  • 13. Throughout my journey I was much struck by the magnitude of the public works that have been completed. The country in various places is intersected by larger torrent rivers, all of which either are or will shortly be traversed by bridges of great length and substantial construction. These rivers are most dangerous to cross, and annually cause a considerable sacrifice of valuable life. The high roads are, generally speaking, most excellent, and equal to any high roads in England; and when once the main line of railway from Christchurch to the South is completed there will be little left to desire for the full development of the resources of that portion of the colony. The construction of these works has undoubtedly caused a large expenditure of public money. Much has been paid for out of the provincial revenue; but still more, especially in the construction of the trunk line of railway, has to be provided out of the general revenue under the Public Works and Immigration Act. At the same time, great as the expenditure undoubtedly is, and largely as the public debt has been increased, I believe that the policy which suggested it is a sound one, provided that it is not carried too far; and I am the more fortified in this opinion by observing the wonderful manner in which the various sections of railway throughout the country, as they are opened for traffic, at once bring in returns in excess of their working expenses; and I believe that when once they are all completed, and through traffic is established, the railways will themselves pay the greater part of the interest on the money raised for their construction, even if they do not, as in Victoria, become an actual source of revenue. Be that as it may, in a country possessing the resources, the climate, and the class of population which is settled in New Zealand, I can entertain little apprehension for the future. Slight checks and reverses may, and no doubt will, occur; but, with ordinary prudence in the management of affairs, the ultimate success and prosperity of the colony is, I believe, secured, and I have little doubt that in the course of another twenty-five years, if not sooner, it will not be surpassed by any colonial possession in Her Majesty's dominions.
  • 14. I cannot conclude this despatch without mentioning the strong feeling of loyalty and attachment to the Mother-country which I found pervading all classes of the community—a feeling which evinces itself, not only in expressions, but also in the constant endeavours to acclimatize everything that is English, and to reproduce as far as possible, in their far distant home, the tastes, refinement, and the recollections of the Old Country; and the reception which I received as Her Majesty's Representative was in every instance of the most cordial and hearty character.

I have, &c.,


The Right Hon. the Earl of Carnarvon.