The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14
The Colony's Progress During The Recent Depression
The Colony's Progress During The Recent Depression.
No thoughtful observer of the state of commerce throughout the world during the years 1885 1886 can regard it with anything bat profound dissatisfaction, but in Now Zealand we have been cheered lately by a welcome improvement in the price of our chief staple—wool, both in London and Antwerp, This improvement has been both substantial and progressive, and it leads to the hope that it may be the harbinger of a general trade revival in Europe and consequently of the advent of blighter times in New Zealand. To those who look forward thus hopefully it will be interesting to—so to speak—take stock and consider to what extent, if any, the colony has progressed in spite of the past four or five years of depression. This may also be considered a specially opportune time for an audit, as an eminent English author in a recent work asserts that we are retrograding so rapidly, and our financial position is so strained, that repudiation is a common topic amongst leading colonists. Another writer, in a London newspaper, goes rather farther, as after criticising most adversely the financial position of the colonies in general he concludes by asserting that New Zealand has mortgaged everything she possesses but her climate, and warns the British public against lending us any more British savings. It is incomprehensible how writers of repute can become to imbued with prejudice that they unhesitatingly make assertions which must tend to tarnish the commercial honor of the colonies from whom Great Britain has gained so much. Surely England's interests lie as much in the future welfare of her colonial possessions as those of the colonists themselves. Where indeed would Great Britain's boasted commercial supremacy have been to-day were it not for the markets she has found for her manufactures in her colonial and other possessions? Who but the British trader has reaped the benefit of the £1,700,000,000 worth of British manufactures and products that have been exported from the United Kingdom to British possessions during the past thirty years? Who but the British trader has received the £[unclear: 4]6,000,000 worth of Australian and New Zealand gold that hat been laboriously dug out of the bowels of the earth during the same thirty years and sent to England to pay for British manufactures? Only a few years ago, namely in the quinquennial period ending 1874, the United Kingdom's annual average of exports of home products and manufactures to all countries was £235,000,000, cut of which £60,000,000 worth, representing 25 5 per cent, of the whole, went to her colonial and other possessions. But, while the annual average exports to all countries for the quinquennial period ending 1881, had fallen to £234,000.000, the annual average exports to her colonies and other possessions had lisen to £81,000,000 or 34.6 per cent, of the whole. The colonies and other British possessions have supplied and are still supplying the misses in the United Kingdom with cheap meat, bread, sugar, coffee, and other articles of food, as well as with cheap wool for clothing; and, had it not been for the enterprise mainly of colonists in raising these articles of necessity in such profusion as to bring them within the reach of all, the life of the working classes in Great Britain would ere now have became all but unbearable. Are page 4 not these facts sufficient to show that the colonies have been a mine of wealth to the British public? And yet large-hearted public writers appear to think that they are doing good work in warning the said British public to beware of us. Isolated as we lie from the great centres of thought and action, we are no doubt prone to shut ourselves up in our own insular ideas and to ignore the necessity for getting outside of them, and reaching a standpoint from which "to see ourselves as others see us." Bearing this in mind, though foreign criticism may seem to us sometimes to present distorted views of our condition and surroundings, we ought not to shrink from the duty of ascertaining whether it has not in reality thrown a new and clearer light on existing facts. But what are the facts, more especially with regard to the position of our own colony? It is true that we have not advanced "by leaps and bounds" during the past five years; yet it has been a period of comparative unprogression rather than of actual retrogression, as will be manifest from certain figures which I shall adduce, and which go to prove that we have not only made some progress, but that we have positively increased our national wealth.
In following up the contention that we have not actually gone backwards, I purpose comparing our position with that of some other countries, for, so long as our material and social well-being is intimately bound up with the progress and position of other nations upon whom, directly or indirectly, we have to rely as customers for our goods, so long will their prosperity or adversity be of vital importance to us.
|1st April, 1881
|1st April, 1886
We here have an increase of 96,264 persons or within a fraction of 20 per cent, in the five years, and when it is remembered that the times have not been such as to attract immigrants, the increase may be considered fairly encouraging. In Australia and Tasmania the population increased from 2 252,490 in 1879 to 2,668,737 in 1884, or about 18½ per cent, for a similar term of five years, but this period included the prosperous times of 1880-1881. Perhaps the most satisfactory feature in these figures is that it is mainly owing to our healthy climate that we have been able to obtain this ratio of increase. On comparing the annual death-rate per 1000 of mean population in the Australian colonies and Great Britain, we find the following results:—New Zealand, 10.39; Victoria, 14.18 New South Wales, 14.52; South Australia, 14.83; Tasmania, 17.06; Western Australia, 17.93; Queensland, 18.82; Great Britain, 21.3. Now, as the death-rate in Great Britain is almost the lowest in Europe, we may conclude, even after making due allowance for the character and average age of our populalation, that we in New Zealand are blessed with the healthiest climate in the world—an important consideration, which is perhaps not sufficiently known or appreciated by the well-to-do classes that leave England to settle in the colonies. A climate such as ours has the additional merit that the better health enjoyed by our people enables them to work to greater advantage than other nations.
|Percentage of increase.
|Percentage of increase.
|31st May, 1880
|31st May, 1885
This increase in our flocks is eminently satisfactory, and it bears a most favorable comparison with the progress made by our neighbors, as well as with that of every other country. In 1880 the sheep in Australia and Tasmania numbered 59,175,024, and in 1884 they had only increased to 60,289,688, or by barely 2 per cent. In the United States, as shown by official returns, there were 50 350,244 sheep in 1884 and only 48,322,331 on 31st December, 1885, or a decrease in the twelve months of 2,037,913. The total number of sheep in Europe in 1884 was returned at 191,000,000, which shows a slight falling off as compared with ten years ago. The other countries of importance are the Argentine and Uruguay Republics, in the Argentine Confederation there were 61,000,000 sheep in 1880, 69,000,000 in 1883, and they are supposed to have increased to 73,000,000 in 1885, but there are no official returns to that date. This increase, however, vast as it appears, is only some 19.67 per cent, for the five years, as compared with 26.11 in New Zealand. In Uruguay there were 18,000,000 sheep in 1874, and the number had fallen to 14 536,000 in 1884, or a decrease of about 3½ millions in the ten years. It is thus seen that, with the exception of the Argentine Republic, New Zealand is the only country in the world that is increasing its flocks in any marked degree.
|Australia and Tasmania
The official figures of the number of sheep in New Zealand in 1880 and 1855, and the corresponding shipments of wool, axe as follows:—
These figures show that there has been the marvellous increase in our production of wool of 26,770,568 los, or over 43 percent, within the live years, and this increase is the more encouraging in that it is partly owing to the average clip having improved from 5.33 lbs per sheep in 1880 to 6.07 lbs per sheep in 1885. Now, when it is noted that the River Plate sheep averages only 3 8 lbs of wool against 607 lbs from the New Zealand sheep, and furthermore, when we find that the average price realised in Europe during 1885 is estimated at 5½d per lb for a Plata wool against 9d for New Zealand, we may reasonably infer that our farmers must enjoy far greater natural advantages than their congeners in South America. If also we estimate the expenses of selling New Zealand wool in London at the extreme rate of 1½d per lb., and the clip at 6lb, we have a net return to the farmer on these figures of 3s 9d per sheep, whereas, deducting only ld per lb for expenses on the River Plate wool, there is left 4½d per lb for 3.8lb, or only a fraction ever is 5d per sheep.
In further considering the colony's progress, we cannot do better than examine the agricultural statistics, showing the land in cultivation and sown with grasses in March, 1881, and March, 1886, respectively From these I have collated the following figures:—
Holdings and a reage under cultivation, and artificially sown grasses.
Thus, while the total extent of land under cultivation and broken up for crop in 1881 was 4,843 718 acres, it had increased in 1886 to 6740,993 acres, or by nearly 40 percent. These figures are most striking when compared with the returns of 1885 tor England, which show a total area under cultivation of every description, including permanent pasture, of only 21,880,307 acres. The comparative magnitude of operations in this country becomes manifest when it is noted that the ratio of cultivation in New Zealand is 11.65 acres per head of population against barely one acre per head in England.
A reference to the returns from our coal mines also reveals a rapid and sure progress, year by year, in this important industry. Here are a few figures extracted from various official sources, which may prove interesting:—
This important industry is evidently expanding so rapidly that the day cannot be far distant when the West Coast coal will rank as one of our most valuable exports. The bituminous coal of Greymouth is now fully recognised as one of the finest in the world for gas making, and that from her twin sister Westport is equally sought after for steam purposes. Perhaps it is not commonly known that one ton of Grey-mouth coal can be depended upon to yield 12,000ft. of 16½ candle-power gas, while the very best Newcastle coal will only yield 9000ft to 9500ft per ton, and the residuals from the Greymouth are the more valuable. These facts are gradually being recognised in Australia, and it is gratifying to know that the Ballarat Gas Company has contracted with the Brunner mine for all its present requirements and that Hong Kong has recently ordered 8000 tons of West coast coal. Any one giving a little consideration to the study of mineralogy must come to the conclusion that New Zealand possesses an important and valuable asset in her coal mines, and when the harbor works on the West Coast are sufficiently advanced to give security to ocean-going ships, we shall doubtless see a gigantic coal trade established to Australia and the East.page 6
Another cheering feature in our statistical position is the rapid development in the exports of manufactures and miner products, as shown in the following table compiled from the official Gazette :—
|Animals — Live stock horses, sheep and cattle
|Bacon and hams.
|Bran and sharps
|Provisions—Salt beef and pork
|Sundries—Consisting of woollen manufactures, and other miscellaneous goods
An increase of over 400 per cent, within five years in twenty article? of comparatively minor importance, though dealing with such proportionately large figures, is hard to parallel in the history of commerce.
|Estimated quantity of wool used by woollen mills in the U. Kingdom.
|Number of hands employed.
|Pounds of wool need per employe.
These figures establish the great economy of labor effected by improved machinery and the consequent reduction in the cost of the manufactured article to the consumer, even after allowing for increased remuneration to the factory hands. It is said that the climate of New Zealand is more suitable for dyeing wools than that of any other country in the world, and consequently a better color can be given to the highest qualities of tweeds and fancy coatings. If this is correct, it opens up a vista of prosperity for our woollen mills, the magnitude of which we cannot at present pretend to estimate.page 7
The progress of the merchant shipping of a country is often accepted as a test and measure of its commercial importance and development, as, ceteris paribus, that country is usually most prosperous and progressive which has the largest dealings with the rest of the world. It must be evident that a command of the means of economical transportation of commodities from its own to other ports will, other things being equal, give the country possessing such means a decided advantage in the race for wealth. The following summary collated from Mr Giffen's and Sir T. Farrer's reports, as well as from the trade and Customs returns of the shipping in New Zealand and other countries is, therefore, of interest, as it shews that, with the solitary exception of Great Britain. New Zealand owns the largest steam fleet per capita of any country in the world.
The rapid increase of the merchant shipping of New Zealand in both steam and sailing vessels is mainly due to the enterprise of the New Zealand Shipping and Union Steamship Companies, and they can fairly boast that both in point of equipment and speed their favorite passenger steamers will compare with those of the most celebrated lines. We are, however, in need of a cargo-carrying service that can be worked at a minimum of cost to convey our bulky products, such as wheat and frozen meat, to the markets of the world. As giving some idea of the economy of the present time it may be mentioned that towards the latter part of 1885 shipbuilders on the Clyde were willing to contract for steel vessels at £9 10s per ton. They were also offering at a relatively low cost a class of steel steamers fitted with triple expansion engines, which steaming at a moderate speed, can accomplish a long voyage with an average consumption of half an ounce of coal per ton per mile. At this rate, assuming paper to be as efficient a fuel as coal, the burning of a half-ounce letter on board such a steamer would generate sufficient steam to transport one ton of freight one mile. A line of steamers of this description would carry our frozen mutton, wool, tallow, wheat, &c., to England at a much less cost than is possible by magnificently fitted-up passenger and mail steamers worked at the great cost which a high rate of speed involves.
|Letters despatched, 1880.
|Letters despatched, 1885.