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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 22


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Read at a meeting of the Southland Institute, on the 18th September, 1883; together with comments by members.

A meeting of the Southland Institute took place on Tuesday evening, the 18th September, in the Supreme Court buildings, Invercar-gill, the President, Mr J. T. Thomson, F.R.G.S., in the chair. Amongst those present, besides several ladies, were the Revs. P. W. Fairclough and T. O'Callaghan, Drs Closs, Galbraith, and Wardale, and Messrs G. Bailey, T. B. Bennett, W. E. Bews, H. Garswell, R. F. Cuthbertson, T. Denniston, A. Dolamore, G. Froggatt, J. Garmson, J. B. Greig, W. S. Hamilton, W. Handyside, J. E. Hannah, J. Harvey, F.R.G.S., J. Johnstone, J. H. Kerr, J. Kingsland (Mayor), R. Macleod, J. Manson, J. T. Martin, T. Pratt, R. H. Rattray, W. R. Robertson, Watson Shennan, John Thomson, W. Todd, G. Trew, G. Webber, T Waugh, and others.

The President stated that the object of the meeting was to hear a paper by Mr W. B. Scandrett on "Southland and its Resources."

Mr Scandrett, who was well received, said—

The Southland district, commencing at a point on the south-east coast of the South Island of New Zealand known as Chasland's Mistake, and which lies about half-way between the mouth of the Mataura and Clutha rivers, stretches northwards to Lake Wakatipu. Its natural western boundary is somewhat west of the River Waiau, although the western boundary of the County of Southland extends only to the Waimatuku and Oreti rivers. The natural features of this large district vary considerably, the extreme north and west being mountainous, whilst the southren portion comprises undulating country, plains and forest.

Southland comprises the sub-districts of Toi-Tois and Waimak Valley, with its township of Fortrose; Wyndham, Edendale, and Tuturau, with the township of Mataura; Waikaka, Chatton, Otama, and Knapdale, with the townships of Gore and Gordon; the Hekonuis, Waimea Plains, Waikaka, Nokomai, and Athol districts. In the central district is the valley of the Oreti, including Mararoa, Dipton Winton, and Waianiwa; whilst to the west lie Otautau, the Waiau country, Longwood, Orepuki, and the old township of Riverton.

The whole district is well watered, the Mataura, with its numerous tributaries, running nearly parallel with the eastern boundary, from as far north as Lake Wakatipu; in the centre of the district the Oreti, with the many minor streams adding to the volume of water it daily carries to the sea, and on the west the important Aparima and Waiau rivers, with the many water-courses which flow into them, effectually preventing the necessity for irrigation in that portion of the country.

The climate of Southland is undoubtedly healthy and invigorating, approximating to that of the south of England, with a much milder winter, and altogether without the fogs which so often overcloud all parts of Britain.

This immense stretch of country, approaching in extent to five million acres, was, comparatively late in; the history of the colonisation of New Zealand, occupied by those pioneers of civilisation, the squatters or run-holders. The soil of the district is particularly well adapted for raising rich and nutritive grasses for feeding sheep and cattle, the hills especially forming dry and healthy runs in summer time, on which stock thrive and increase in the most satisfactory manner. The laws of the Coleny in the early days permitted tracts of land from ten thousand acres upwards to be taken up as rims for grazing cattle and sheep. Amongst the earliest settlers in the Southland district who still follow that vocation, although they have page 2 changed the tenure of their holdings from leaseholds into freeholds, are—Mr Alexander McNab, of Knapdale; Dr Menzies, of Dunalister; Capt. Francis Wallace Mackpnzie, the present M.H.R. for the Mataura district; Messrs Peter and David McKellar, Captain Stevens, and others. Other settlers who maybe classed as pioneers still reside in the district, and amongst these may be mentioned Mr John MacGibbon, the senior partner of the firm of Messrs John MacGibbon and Sons, who was occupied twenty five years ago in ferrying the traveller across the Mataura river, and who still lives in the locality of his old occupation to this day.

The squatters or run holders devoted them-selves almost exclusively to raising stock and producing wool, and for years the only exports consisted of the last named staple; and the wealth which wool annually brought into the country in those days, assisted the progress of the infant settlement in a manner that can be appreciated best when we look over the statistics of exports and the census returns for the same period showing the population of Southland.

As population increased in the Colony, it became desirable to subdivide the runs into areas suitable for farms, and, as may have been anticipated, the lands on the banks of the Mataura river were eagerly sought after "by intending settlers. It seems singular that those who desired to buy land thereabouts had to enquire into and study different sets of land laws, there being a different set for each side of the Mataura river. If land was required on the east bank, away one had to ride to Dunedin to lodge an application and conform to the law as it then stood, whilst if another person required a section on the west bank of the river he had to proceed to Invercargill. This anomaly, so far as application for land on the east bank of the river is concerned (and that is only about thirty miles from Inveroargill), still exists, although, fortunately, for the best interests of the Colony there is now only one land law, and this is so comprehensive that a settler can easily decide what system and regulations under it will suit him best. There can be little doubt, however, that the Waste Lands Board of Southland should be empowered to deal with all lands within the Southland County, instead of intending buyers or settlers being compelled to proceed over 100 miles to Duncdin to lodge their applications, and wait on the Otago Land Board to grant them.