The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
Department Of Agriculture
Department Of Agriculture.
New Zealand, with its magnificent climate and great range of latitude extending from 34 degrees to 47 degrees south, offers the agriculturist advantages not possessed by any other country in the world. For the most part the soil is extremely fertile, and the area operated on is increased every year by the clearing of the forests. There are millions of acres yet unoccupied, waiting for the hand of the settler to render it capable of carrying large herds of dairy stock or sheep, or to be converted into orchards in the North Island, where the dairying industry has, within the past few years, grown marvellously, and promises to attain a much greater importance year by year. The Government of the Colony has done much to foster the various branches of agriculture in appointing dairy instructors to lecture and advise farmers in the best methods of modern butter and cheese making, and the choice of the most suitable machinery. The Stock Department has veterinary surgeons on its staff, who are available when an outbreak of disease is reported in stock, and fruit experts, whose duty it is to advise on the most suitable fruits to grow in different localities, and the best means of eradicating insect pests, and the numerous descriptions of blight which attack orchards. This department also controls the State expenditure for keeping down the rabbit pest, and of inspection of stock. Of these latter, there are thirty-six in the Colony, whose duty it is to see that sheep are dipped at the proper seasons, and to report on the proper observance of the Act. With a view of keeping down the rabbit nuisance, there are thirty-six rabbit agents, mostly in the Southern districts of the Colony, to see that the provisions of the Act are carried out. The Government also employs a number of men to keep the pest down on Crown lands, and assists in the maintenance of rabbit-proof fences, the total cost to the Colony for keeping the nuisance in check being over £15,000 a year. The State also gives assistance in providing cool storage for dairy produce. In February of each year agricultural statistics are taken, which are very complete. Full information on all matters connected with this department will be found in the very excellent year-book compiled by the Registrar-General.
Mr. John Douglas Ritchie, Secretary for Agriculture and Chief Inspector of Stock, was born in Perthshire, Scotland. Educated partly at Perth and partly at Cargill, Mr. Ritchie entered and was for some time in the employ of his uncle's firm, Messrs. Douglas Watt and Co., of Dundee, who were in the Baltic and Calcutta trade. In 1877 he decided to seek his fortune in New Zealand, and embarked for the Colony per ship “Halcione.” In the rearing and management of stock and farming generally, Mr. Ritchie has had an extended experience, having been brought up on a farm in the Old Country, and for fourteen years he held the position of manager of the Mount Royal Station at Palmerston South, the property of his uncle, Mr. John Douglas. Mr. Ritchie joined the Government Service in 1891 as Chief Inspector of Stock, and a year later he was appointed Secretary for Agriculture. The departments which he supervises are most important, and it is satisfactory that the Government has appointed qualified experts to foster and encourage the staple industry of the Colony. In 1892 ha married Miss McKerrow, daughter of Mr. James McKerrow, late Chief Commissioner of Railways.
Mr. Richard Evatt, Chief Clerk of the Department of Agriculture, was born in India, and was sent to England to be educated. Mr. Evatt came to New Zealand in 1878, per ship “Chili,” to Port Chalmers. Entering the Government Service in Christchurch as clerk in the Department of Agriculture, he was two years later transferred to the Head Office, and in 1889 rose to the position of Chief Clerk. In 1876 Mr. Evatt was married to Miss Carter, daughter of Mr. Charles Carter, of Christchurch, and has two daughters and two sons. He is a member of the Wellington Lodge of Freemasons, No. 1521, E.C.
Mr. Thomas William Kirk, F.R.M.S., F.L.S etc., Lond., Government Biologist, Department of Agriculture, was born in Coventry, England. He is a son of Professor Kirk, and was educated principally at St. James' School, and Auckland College. He entered the Geological Survey Department in 1874 as assistant to Sir James Hector, and remained on the staff for seventeen years, during which time he contributed numerous scientific papers on Biological subjects to the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Annuals and Magazines of Natural History, Nature, Science Gossip, the French Journal of Conchology, the Royal Society of S.A., and other periodicals. Mr. Kirk was elected a member of the New Zealand Institute in 1878, of the Geological Society of Australasia in 1887, a Fellow of the Royal Microscopic Society of London in 1889, and in 1890 on the nomination of Sir Walter Buller, Dr. Gunther, Sir Joseph Hooker and Professor Flower, he was received as a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London. He joined the Department of Agriculture on its establishment in 1892, and takes charge of the zoological and botanical portions of the work of this useful branch of the public service. Through his numerous “leaflets for farmers,” and “leaflets for gardeners and fruitgrowers,” his name has become very familar to New Zealand settlers, supplying them as he does, with useful information in a form most suitable to their requirements, i.e, brief and free from technicalities. Mr. Kirk was married in 1883 to Miss Callcott, grand-daughter of the late Mr. Jonas Woodward, and has one son.