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Geological and other Reports

Wellington, August 23, 1862

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Wellington, August 23, 1862.

To His Honor
I. E. Featherston,
Superintendent of the Province of


As the question has arisen how the Government of the natives may be conducted from Wellington, it may not be premature to consider the best means of opening inland communication from this place, with the great centres of Maori population in the valleys of the Waikato and the adjoining rivers.

There appear to be four routes by which this object can be effected viz.:—

1st. By the present lines of communication between the interior and Auckland, and thence by the mail steamers to Wellington.

2nd. By one of the routes through the forest country near the Rangitikei, or Wangaehu rivers, emerging on the open interior and thence passing to Taupo, and the North, to the Eastward of the Volcanic range of Ruapehu, and Tougariro.

3rd. By the way of Taranaki, either by coast, or inland, and thence to the Waipa and Waikato, valleys.

4th. By connecting the township of Whanganui with Na Huinga (or the junction) of Ngarue with the main Whanganui river, from which point there is said to be an easy road to Ngaruawahia.

The 1st route is inadequate and involves too much trusting to correspondence only.

The 2nd route ought at any rate to be opened for a horse road and the line by the Rangitikei, may be estimated, for this purpose, to cost as follows.

Felling and burning fifty miles of bush at £1. 5s. per chain, 4000 chains £5000, exclusive of some small bridges and cuttings.

The 3rd route will probably be opened as far as Taranaki, for its local value alone; but its direction is too far to the West, and the distance consequently is too great, for rapid communication with the Waikato.

The 4th route (if practicable) will be the best and most direct route of any, that is to say if the Maori information be correct, that from Na Huinga,* an easy line of road leads through an open country, with only one short bush to pass through, to Ngaruawahia.

The distance of Taumarunui (the pa at Na Huinga) from the township of Whanganui, I estimated at 170 miles, by the bends of the river; taking a rate of speed six miles an hour. This I am inelined to think, is perhaps one mile an hour under estimated.

The descent occupied (while actually underweigh) 29 hours 20 minutes, so that 200 miles may be about the mark. The distance in a direct line on the chart, would appear to be about 70 miles only.

If a road be practicable, the length required may perhaps be estimated as somewhat over 100 miles. This line would form one of the most valuable links in New Zealand. It would directly open the Waikato country to Cook's Strait, and would intersect the line of Ohura, which would open the Mauiopoto country, and the high plateau of the interior being avoided, the road would be always open.

Whether this line be practicable or not can only be ascertained by a skilful engineer devoting a summer to its investigation. The difficulties appear considerable; but I think it extremely probable, that by a little judicious twisting and turning, the ridges may be headed and a line of road obtained. It would be chiefly side cutting.

Taking Whanganui as the pilot of communication, the improvement of the route between that port and Wellington remains to be considered. For the present this is an easy day's journey by steam—but as an inland road is absolutely required to open up the country, I, for one, shall not be satisfied until I see a Railroad running up the West Coast. I believe that a Railroad, as recommended by Mr. Fitzgibbon, can be laid down, on that coast, much cheaper than a macadamized road could be constructed. One reason will suffice, viz.—that a large extent of sand or swamp, could be traversed by a railway on short piles and sleepers, without further outlay, or movement of soil.

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From Wainui to Whanganui, the difficulties, except for bridges, are trifling. From Wellington to Wainui, although some preliminary investigation is required, there would seem to be no real obstacle, considering what the Dun Mountain Railway has achieved.

Should the Native Land Bill become law, there would appear to be no object in delaying the construction of railways because they pass through Native Land although perhaps financial arrangements for their promotion might require some novel application.

I have the honor to be,

Your most obedient servant.
James C. Crawford.

* Na Huinga means the junction.