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Voices from Auckland, New Zealand.

New-comers & their Settlement—Can Old Settlers — Help them?

New-comers & their Settlement—Can Old Settlers
Help them

To the Editor of the New Zealander.

Sir,—When the New-comers ask the question—"How are we to select and settle upon our land?" it may be supposed they are not a little confused and bewildered by the various and often conflicting replies they receive.

page 86

They hardly know the difference between the volcanic, the semi-volcanic, and the clay soils. They do not know the relative merits of the red, black, brown, or grey soils. Nor can they understand the advantages peculiar to each.

Again, they are puzzled by what is said about fern-lands and bush-lands. One tells them to select the fern and volcanic—another advises the land covered with very high fern, no matter whether the soil be clay or volcanic; whilst a third tells them not to have fern-land at all, but to secure 40 acres of bush.

Supposing the New-comer, by dint of many questions and much groping about for stray scraps of information, to have at length made up his mind what sort of land he would prefer, the question arises—"How to get to see it? and what the expense of doing so?" The isolated position of many of the blocks of land open for selection, together with their native names, and the difficulty of ascertaining the proper route to them, are sufficiently wearisome to a stranger who knows no one. Simple as it may appear to an old resident, it is no such easy matter for a new-comer to find his way to such blocks as "Ika-a-ranganui," or to know on which "Wairoa" river a particular piece of land may happen to be.

Let him have fought his way through all this, and having seen his land and selected it—then comes the question, "How to settle upon it?"

He looks at his 40 acres of bush, and is puzzled how to get into it, much less clear it. The dense mass of vegetation, varying from a rimu-tree, six feet through, to a supple-jack no thicker than his little finger, with all sizes between, almost alarms him. If he tries to clear it, with no more knowledge of such work than he acquired in England, it might cost him £10 an acre, if he reckons his labour at current day-wages, and yet it is a fact that large quantities of bush have this season been "fallen" by men used to the work at 45s. the acre, every thing cut, lopping included.

He wonders what he shall do for a house. He is advised to take a tent, or a framed house from town—if the latter, at a cost of £12 or £14, exclusive of carriage, to nobody knows where, at an expense of nobody knows what. Why, a "bush-man" would run up a "settler's first home" at a tithe of the expense. He knows that either raupo, ti-tree, tree-ferns, nikau-palms, bark, or slabs, are to be found everywhere, and in double-quick time—his trained and ready hand runs up his hut—"shanty," or whatever else you like to call it. Probably he would prefer a framed house, and, when he has more money and more time, he will have one, but meanwhile the other does very well.

page 87

"When to fall his bush? When to burn off? What to sow first, grass-seed or wheat? What to fence or leave unfenced? What cattle to begin with, bullocks for ploughing, or cows and pigs for milk and pork?" These and many other questions are sore puzzles to the new-comer.

Now, many of the difficulties I have referred to have been encountered and overcome by many of the earlier settlers. In the midst of much toil and hardship, through a variety of conflicting and confusing theories, there are some amongst us who have worked out the problem for themselves to a satisfactory result.

These instances are, however, to be found in connection with such a variety of soils and circumstances, that as yet, and in their present form, they are not of much practical use to new comers.

This experience, so invaluable, has not yet worn out for itself a plain and beaten track. It must be collected, stereotyped, utilized in some plain and practical form, so that any man of industry can set to work at once.

Until this is done, we shall see labour uselessly expended, and the same mistakes made, which have hitherto done so much to retard the settlement and cultivation of this Province.

Why should the new comers have to fight through the difficulties the early settlers contended with? Why not, as far as possible, put them in possession of our knowledge, and let them begin with the experience we have already gained, instead of each one having to work it out for himself?

I have endeavoured to enumerate some of the "lions in the way" of the new comers. To the old settlers they have become "chained lions!" Ought we not to endeavour to render them so to our new friends?

To assist in doing so, I would suggest, that at the foot of every announcement of new blocks being open for selection, the Government should give a few lines explanatory of the general features of such block—say, whether fern, or bush, or clay, or volcanic soils, adding a few simple instructions as to the readiest way of getting to it,—naming boats, or other means available for reaching it, naming also some well-known block, inn, river, or harbour, nearest to it. If, in addition, the names of one or two well-known settlers near each block could be given, and with whom tracings of the block might be deposited, who would be willing to point out the lands and give such other information to new settlers, as would facilitate their location, I think all parties would be benefited.

With regard to the questions:—

1.How to select the land?
2.How to settle upon it?
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I would suggest that a small pamphlet be written, embodying reliable information on the points to which I have alluded, together with estimates of the cost of the articles absolutely required for the first six months' settlement on a 40 acre section; and of how much, or rather how little capital might be made to do, with such other hints as a man who has gone through the same thing would well know how to touch upon.

I think, sir, if a shilling pamphlet of this nature, with its statements well authenticated, could be prepared, much valuable information would become immediately available to new comers, and a great deal of useless suffering and unrequited labour could be prevented.

The Land Regulations which are bringing those people here may be good, or they may be bad. That is not the question. The question for our consideration is, the probability that within six months 5,000 souls will be added to the European population of this province.

Under any circumstances, so large and sudden an addition to a population of 20,000 would involve considerable difficulty. But if we reflect that the coming thousands are mostly without colonial experience, the difficulty becomes so much the greater. The Government is bound to provide land for them. It must keep the surveys well in advance of all probable demands. Land must be ready for all comers. If not, woe be to the Government.

We must not, however, say that the people have no responsibility.

In the present position of this hitherto feeble and insignificant colony, so large an addition to our population will be either a great blessing or a great curse. Which of the two will depend much on ourselves.

If we stand idly by, and let the whole matter drift as it will, without lending a hand to help or a word to encourage, we must be prepared to expect an amount of suffering, which may well be considered alarming. Then, indeed, the progress of the Province of Auckland, and the interests of every man in it, will suffer a blow from which we shall not easily recover.

This matter has ceased to be a party question. It will not do for any of us to say, "These Land Regulations are not our work, and we will not be responsible for the result." The time for such a protest has gone by. For weal or woe, we are—every man of us—committed to the consequences. There is no escaping them.

The tide of immigration has set in with no measured flow; and if, with firm and steady hand, it be taken "at the flood," will "lead on to fortune:—

page 89

Omitted, all the voyage of our life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."

Interest and duty alike demand that we be ready and willing towards the emergency. That degenerate Roman who could fiddle whilst Rome was burning, ought to have no imitators amongst us. Nelson, when he gave the signal, "England expects every man to do his duty," struck a better chord, a chord to which the heart of every true Briton loyally vibrates all the world over.

At this crisis our countrymen expect us to do our duty. They have a right to expect it. Let them not be disappointed.

Yours, &c.,

J. C. Firth.

Auckland, Sept. 6th, 1859.