The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29
The report of the Inland Communication Committee and that of Mr Calcutt show, what is common knowledge to many of us, that the Bullet', Grey, and Inangahua Valleys, along whose course the railway would run, are all covered with timber, that on the flats comprising totara, rimu, and white pine, whilst the hills are covered with good birch forest. There are some very valuable belts of totara in the Inangahua and Grey (overlooked by Mr Calcutt in his hurried journey) that of themselves are worth some thousands of pounds. The timber near the Nelson Saw Mills is mostly cut out, and there is no doubt that the mills would move down the railway, and continue to employ in new sites, the large number of men hitherto supported by them in Nelson. From the central position of Nelson a large trade in timber is done to Wanganui, Patea, and Wellington, and this trade might be indefinitely increased with the influx of population now settling and requiring houses on the West Coast of the Northern Island. The birch forest round the gold mines is perfectly invaluable for timbering the mines, and tend to lessen the cost of working below that of Australia, where timber is costly and difficult to get.
I have now briefly pointed out the quantity of land, gold, coal, and timber existing along the proposed line, and I think you must admit that page 14 no district in the colony possesses such a combination of four sources of wealth.
Other districts may have more land without the gold, &c., and some may have more timber without the coal, but none have all four combined as Nelson has.
In former years the line was deemed a payable one, as a branch line; as part of the Trunk Line the prospects of its being remunerative are immensely increased, because many people would travel through the island by rail instead of round it by steamer, and would make Nelson the point of arrival and departure from Australia, and en route from America via Auckland. And, as the Bishop of Nelson in his eloquent letter to the Premier points out, many persons having capital invested in the South would, for the sake of its climate, reside in Nelson, which would then be within easy reach of their business and property, and these receipts would be in addition to the receipts from sources along the line itself.
No doubt the head of the Buller Valley seems narrow and unprofitable to take a railway through, but the line must not be condemned because of one unprofitable portion. There are instances in the Colony viz., near Mercer, in the Waikato, where, for sixteen miles the railway intersects bare clay hills not worth as many pence, yet, as part of the line to Waikato and the South, the whole railway may be fairly payable. And this railway must be now considered as part of the trunk line, and not as merely a branch line to Greymouth.
In conclusion you may urge, that had Nelson to pay for the railway she seeks herself, she would not so eagerly demand it, and that she only asks it, as her share of the Public Works expenditure, without reference to it being payable. On that point I may remind you that by the Immigration and Public Works Act of 1871, the cost of construction, maintenance, and working of each railway was to be charged against the provincial revenues, and any deficiency was to be met and recouped to the Colony by direct taxation levied within the province. And yet, as evidenced by the work of the Committee of 1873, and authorization of this railway in the Act of 1873, the Nelson people were never before so desirous of having the railway, as when they knew that they would have to meet any deficiency by direct taxation. This, I think conclusively proves the bona fide action of Nelson. Nelson wants nothing but its own. But as shown by the Colonist of the 26th September, 1878, the annual interest that would at present be chargeable against Nelson, were the Act of 1871 still in force, equals 4s. 5½d. per head only, whilst we actually pay in common with the whole Colony, 12s 1d per head, or nearly three times our share for the railways we have. Surely the members from the rich provinces of Otago and Canterbury, who ignorantly talk of poor little Nelson, must blush with shame at the discovery that we ate paying a considerable annual sum towards the interest on their railways, and that we are, by law, forced, out of our means, to pay for enhancing the value of their boasted freehold estates. Will they, on realising their unconscious, if not unconscionable, action, make page 15 voluntary and honorable amends by supporting such an amendment of your Public Works Proposals as shall, out of the new loan now to be raised, secure to the Nelson people their long promised connection with the trunk railway of this Colony ? Nous Verrons !
The extensive quotations I have been compelled to make in order to avoid founding my arguments on my own assertions, and in order to give you the opportunity of examining the data for yourself, must be my excuse for the length of this letter. I think it right also to say that, after your receipt of this letter, I intend to publish it in the form of a pamphlet and to forward a copy to every member of the House.
Your most obedient servant,
W. Acton B. Adams.Nelson,
1st October, 1878.
R. Lucas & Son, Printers, &c., Bridge-street, Nelson.