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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

The Nelson and West Coast Section of the Main Trunk Railway of New Zealand

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The Nelson & West Coast Section of the Main Trunk Railway of New Zealand.

A Letter to the Hon. James Macandrew, Minister of Public Works.

R. Lucas and Son, Book and General Printers Nelson Bridge-St

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To the Hon. James Macandrew, Minister of Public Works.

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Sir,—I am induced to lay before you a summary of the reasons why the completion of the main trunk line via the West Coast to Nelson and Picton should be included in the Public Works Proposals of 1878, by the belief that the earnest and close attention you have paid to the southern end of this island has naturally prevented you from fully recognising the power of development existing at this northern end, and from comprehending the extent and authority of the pledges given to the people of Nelson, Marlborough, and the West Coast by the Government of this Colony in order to obtain their support to the Public Works Policy, and to secure that unanimity throughout the Colony, without which, the money to construct the very railways that have doubled and trebled the value of our Southern Provinces could never have been borrowed. Otago owes much of her present greatness to your patriotic and able government; and now that you have been raised to the higher position of Minister of Public Works for the Colony, I, and many other colonists look to yon, to investigate the resources of the districts hitherto strange to you, and to read and realise the promises on the faith of which we have bought, built upon, and improved our lands, and to extend to us the same successful and energetic aid and assistance, that you have hitherto bestowed on your own province. We trust that you will act so, that the Colony as a whole may see, that you are prepared to grapple with the colonial nature of your present duties, and we hope that you will prove your capacity to abandon the role of a provincial politician for that of a colonial statesman.

In support of the reasons for the completion of the main trunk line, I will try and lay before you a largo array of facts establishing them, and I invite your critical investigation. I feel confident of your cooperation, when you have really mastered the true state of affairs.

The Government Promise.

First I say That by the public Governmental promises of former Ministries, the present Government are bound, as a matter of public good faith, to complete the main trunk line of railway northwards via the West Coast to Nelson.

The main principle of the Public Works scheme of 1870 was the construction of a main trunk railway through both islands, and on the motion of Sir Julius Vogel, and after serious deliberation, the whole Colony agreed to unite to accomplish this great object, and to abandon page 4 the idea of each province making its own lines, as was then the case. The Colony would not have agreed to pledge its own lands and its credit for this end, if it had foreseen that any future Minister of Public Works would have proposed branch lines (however payable) before the main line was completed.

I have lived in Nelson and Marlborough twenty-eight years, have been a member of the Provincial Council for the City of Nelson, and know the minds of the people tolerably well, and I am certain that they would never have agreed to pledge their revenues on any other basis. Read Sir Julius Vogel's Financial Statement in introducing the scheme, and try and deduce from it any other principle than this one. Before that speech these railways had been provincial matters, thenceforth they were to be colonial undertakings. He said, "Why should the inhabitants of one province submit to a lengthened period of depression, whilst the means they partly contribute are devoted to consolidating the prosperity of another province ? It is all very well to talk about narrow views, but one body of settlers is entitled to just as much consideration as another. If the settlers in any province understood that they were occupying an outlying district, which would only be entitled to attention after more favored districts, had been served, we might then deal with this colony as we would deal with another; but it is quite otherwise. Each provincial community has been taught to believe itself on a par with its neighbors, and a colonising scheme, to aid which the whole colony was pledged would be looked upon as a gross injustice if it did not provide for due consideration to each province. This is why we must pledge ourselves to a large scheme if we wish to do justice to all."

Previous to this the Nelson Provincial Council (composed of practical business men well acquainted with the localities to be affected by the railway and therefore able to form a tolerably correct estimate of its success) had repeatedly by large majorities, passed resolutions favorable to the construction of a railway from Nelson to the West Coast, and had agreed that more than 2,000,000 acres, including the Brunner and Mount Richfort coal fields, should be given as a bonus to any company constructing such a line. And by the Nelson and Cobden Railways Acts of 1866, 1867, 1868, and 1869, the General Assembly repeatedly affixed its sanction to the provincial proposals; and we may presume the Legislature did not consent to the scheme until after due enquiry, nor until the minds of the members were satisfied that the railway would be an advantageous one.

Sir Julius Vogel proposed to extend the construction of the railways over several years, as the colony had neither the men nor the money to construct them all at once. Pending this delay in 1872-3 the Nelson people, whose determination to obtain the railway had never slackened (as shown by the above resolutions and Acts of Parliament), formed an Inland Communication Committee, comprising their leading citizens and several engineers and surveyors well acquainted with the back country. After collecting much valuable information, as evidenced by their Report, page 5 on the following points, viz., the necessity and importance of a railway—The resources of the country to be traversed by the proposed line including land, its character, &c.—The inducement available as remuneration.—The description and cost of the proposed line—and the estimated expenditure and income: the Committee decided to propose the construction of the line by a public company, with a bonus of the adjacent land and coal mines.

The Committee sat publicly for months and the data furnished to it was thoroughly sifted and criticised. Yet so earnest and confident were the people of Nelson in their belief in the success of the line, that all the shares would have been subscribed for. My firm offered to take £1000. Many business firms might have taken more. But the Government, seeing that We really meant business, and in order to prevent, our injuring their colonial loans, by placing our scheme on the London market, and in order to preserve the integrity of their trunk system, then came forward, and through our Superintendent, Mr Curtis, proposed that we should abandon the formation of the Company, on the distinct understanding that our line should be recognised, as part of the trunk system, and constructed out of colonial funds. Our Committee agreed to this. I recollect asking the Superintendent, whether we ought not to have a written agreement with the Government, and he assured us that an honorable understanding was perfectly binding, and that we might rely on the Government fulfilling their promise. And in pursuance of this understanding Sir Julius Vogel a few months afterwards in his financial statement of 1873 said (vide Hansard, p. 141) :—

"The Government recognise that, apart from the question of whether there are mineral resources in the district, it will sooner or later become necessary, in order to complete a trunk line through the Middle Island, that Nelson and the West Coast should be connected by railway." And again, "the proposal we intend to make is, that the Government shall in future confine their attention to works connected with main trunk lines of railway, and railways having especially for their object the opening up of coal fields. We shall ask for authority to fill up the three gaps not yet provided for in the main line between North Canterbury and the Bluff, and to make a survey with the view of deciding upon a main line which will bring Nelson and the West Coast into communication with Canterbury; and also if it should be found expedient into communication with Marlborough."

Then by the Railways Act, 1873, section 14, it is enacted :

14. "Whereas it is expedient that a trunk line of railway through the Middle Island should be completed, and it is necessary to that end, that a line of railway connecting the authorised railways in the province of Nelson with some principal town or authorised railway in Westland with the lines of railway in Canterbury, with, if found practicable, a branch of railway to Picton or Blenheim in the province of Marlborough, should be constructed.

"Be it enacted that such connecting lines shall be constructed by the Governor under 'The Immigration and Public Works Act, 1870,' and the page 6 Act amending the same, out of such moneys as shall from time to time be appropriated by the General Assembly for the purpose, and the cost of such construction shall, as between the colony and province in which the work is constructed, be charged against the Land Fund thereof.

"The Minister of Public Works is hereby authorised to cause the necessary surveys to be made preliminary to the construction of such connecting lines; and all necessary expenses in causing such survey to be made shall be defrayed out of any moneys for the time being standing to the credit of the Public Works Account on account of railways, and the cost thereof shall be charged as part of the cost of the construction of the railway.

16. "Whereas it is expedient that a line of railway from the termination at Foxhill in the Province of Nelson of the authorized line of railway, should be constructed to Brunner in the said Province.

"Be it therefore enacted that such line of railway shall be constructed by the Governor under the said Act and the Acts amending the same, out of such moneys as may from time to time be appropriated by the General Assembly for the purpose. The Minister for Public Works is hereby authorised to cause such enquiries, reports, and surveys to be made and such Acts and proceedings to be done and taken, as he may think necessary for enabling him to recommend to the Governor, for submission to the General Assembly during the next session, plans for the construction of the said Railway from Foxhill to Brunner; and all necessary expenses in causing such surveys, inquiries, and reports to be made shall be defrayed out of any moneys for the time being standing to the credit of the Public Works Account on account of railways, and the cost of such survey shall be charged as part of the cost of the construction of the line of railway which shall be charged against the Land Fund of the Province of Kelson.

17. "The railways hereby authorized to be constructed shall be deemed to be railways, authorized and determined to be constructed under 'The Immigration and Public Works Act, 1870,' and the Acts amending the same, and as to such railways as are hereby declared to be charged on the Land Fund of any Province, such charge shall be made in the manner provided by the twelfth section of ' The Immigration and Public Works Act, 1871.'"

Is not this sufficient evidence to satisfy you and the Members of the House as to the existence of the promise which the present public works proposals ignore and break ? Besides this, the testimony of the Members of the Inland Communication Committee to the truth of my statements can readily be obtained, if you desire to test their accuracy.

If further evidence is required, see Sir Julius Vogel's Financial Statement of 1874 (Hansard p. 16) where he said "that last year he had indicated the railways yet (then) to be authorized in order to complete the main trunk lines through each Island." And "if it were necessary, the Government would be prepared to come down at once with proposals to relieve the provinces of all risks and responsibilities in connection with the payment of interest on the amounts expended page 7 and to be expended on the construction of the railways already authorized and those which are necessary to complete the trunk system." Will your Government do the same and fulfil your predecessors promise or not? Again he said (Hansard p. 162). "But the limit of Railways needs precise definition. I allude to the railways already authorised and those necessary to complete the gaps in the North Island system which stand in the way of through railways between the Kaipara, Auckland, New Plymouth, Napier and Wellington as well as those necessary to complete the "gaps" (your own present expression and what you pretend to do) of through communication between Picton, Nelson and Hokitika, North Canterbury and the West Coast." And he further said (Hansard p. 163) "My colleague the Minister for Public Works will describe to you the works proposed to be taken to complete the great work the country is pledged to, the trunk system of railways." And accordingly the Hon. E. Richardson, Minister for Public Works, said (Hansard p. 235) "It has been stated by my honorable colleague, the Colonial Treasurer, in his financial statement, that the Government, consider the railway scheme, as adopted by Parliament, embraces the main trunk line from Kaipara in the North, &c., then from Nelson to Hokitika, the main line running through the valleys of the Duller and the Grey, and into the Amuri by the best routes procurable, and passing through Canterbury to the Bluff."

Surely this is sufficient confirmation of the understanding upon the faith of which many of us have based our business arrangements and have bought land and built houses, and adopted Nelson as our home. At all events, we trustfully embarked our families and fortunes on this fleet of Government promises, thinking that the word of an honorable man (and were not your predecessors honorable men ?) was as good as his bond, and these promises are as binding on you as if made by yourselves; for I cannot believe that your sense of honor is no higher than that of a Yankee repudiator. Can you and your colleagues with honor to yourselves and the Colony, whose honor you represent, break these pledges ?

It is no answer to say that you doubt whether the line will pay. I will endeavor to show that it will do so further on, but that cannot legitimately affect the question of fulfilling a public promise. Sir Julius Vogel said, as quoted above "that the Goverment recognized the necessity of our line apart from the question of whether there are mineral resources or not," and I have endeavored to show, not so much by any arguments of my own, but by the speeches and conduct of former Ministers, that they always fully recognized the compact so made with the Nelson people; and as the Government for purposes of contract is deemed continuous, though individual members may be changed, I claim that these speeches and this Act of Parliament are the strongest evidence I can adduce against you. They are admissions on your part—on the part of the Government—of our right and not merely affirmative evidence adduced by our side.

There are some other matters which are worthy of attention and which may fairly influence your ultimate decision. The Buller and Grey page 8 Valleys (hereafter briefly termed the Coast) were to a great extent opened up and colonised by Nelson settlers. In the early days of the Bullergold fields a large part of the revenues of Nelson was yearly devoted to the construction of roads to open up the back country, and offshoots of Nelson families, supplied and supported at first by the parent steins in Nelson, settled themselves in those valleys. The Nelson people treated these valleys as their own property, in the same way as England treats her Colonies; and money spent there was not considered as money spent on the property of strangers, but as an expenditure from which a return, direct or indirect, was fairly expected. The enterprise of a Nelson firm established a regular line of steamers devoted entirely to the Coast trade. The more the Coast progressed the better (we thought) for Nelson.

Now, sir, your proposal to tap the West Coast from Canterbury, and not from Nelson, and to run a line up and down the Coast at right angles to your Canterbury branch line, simply means diverting the whole of the trade from Nelson to Canterbury. No Government ever attempted such a high-handed interference with private vested interests before. The settlers in Canterbury have had hitherto but little to do with the Coast,—their steamers do not trade there,—their merchants and solicitors have no agencies there, like the Nelson merchants and solicitors have. Hitherto the Coast banks have made all their exchanges at Nelson. By your action all these business connections are to be upset; these ties, domestic and financial, rudely broken; and the people of the Coast left to seek fresh connections and support on the eastern side of the dividing range. We do not object to the construction of the railway referred to, on the contrary, we desire it, but begin it at both ends, and let Nelson, Picton, the Coast, and Canterbury, be all connected with the main trunk railway, and let trade find its own level, and favor the place that presents the greatest advantages. Although at present in possession of the Coast trade, no narrow selfish feeling influences us, and such possession has no weight with us against our desire to remain an integral part of the life of the colony; nor against our determination to resist and never to forgive the infliction of isolation and ruin.

Sir Julius Vogel, in his Financial Statement of 1873 (Hansard, page 134) said, "What I desire to establish is this : That every part of New Zealand is in our charge, that we want every district to be improved. We don't seek for a few splendid and isolated though prominent examples of prosperity, with depression and stagnation elsewhere,—silk on the surface, rags beneath." Without a main trunk line you may have a splendid example of prosperity in Otago, but you will certainly have depression and stagnation in Nelson, and as a colonial and not a provincial politician, you will be answerable for such a result, and the future historians of the rise of this Colony will not forget it.

I cannot help noticing, sir, that, our Premier declines being made a party to this breach of faith, and it behoves you therefore to consider, if you are prepared to act without his concurrence. Sir George Grey said on the 12th September last (Hansard, page 130) referring to what page 9 he himself termed" the trunk railroad from Nelson to Christehurch." "I deny that there is any justice in the accusation made against me of having neglected the interests of the Province of Nelson. I am not the person to blame for that." I demand, the people of Nelson will demand, to know who is to blame? By these straws one can judge the direction of the current.

Besides this, the non-construction of our promised connection with the Coast, and the severance and diversion of our trade, will compel the more enterprising of us to leave our fair Nelson homes and to emigrate to the more favored parts of the colony. Your proposals will expatriate the Nelson settlers, as surely as the Maori war did those of Taranaki in 1861. You are a Scotchman. Do you recollect how in the early part of this century certain of the Highland landowners, by the same high-handed, and perhaps perfectly legal, though utterly immoral, action, depopulated vast districts and demolished the homes of their Highlanders to make room for immense deer parks for the selfish profit and advantage of sportsmen from Southern Britain? Are you not proposing the same kind of action for the selfish profit and advantage of the people of the southern part of this Island, to the injury and ruin of the Nelson settlers? You must know how, to this day, the names of those Scottish Lords are execrated by those whose homes were forcibly removed. I fear that your name will be similarly gibbeted by all fair and impartial enquirers, and by a large part of the people of the colony, unless your public works proposals are modified. You will find it useless to reason with injured men, and you may find the men you forcibly transplant to Otago, virulently opposing you in your own special domain.

Let me beg of you and your colleagues to pause and gravely consider the position in all its bearings. Let me appeal, through you, to the members of the General Assembly, not to permit this faithless wrong to be done to the people of Nelson. The names of those who ably advocate our rights will be graven in the hearts of thirty thousand of their fellow-colonists.

Secondly, I say That there is every reason to believe that the Nelson and West Coast part of the Trunk Railway, will be a fairly payable one.

Cost of Line.

In the first instance, the line will not be so expensive as you may imagine, because it will chiefly run through land belonging to the Crown and thickly timbered, and, therefore, neither the land nor the timber for the bridges and sleepers will cost so much as on other lines, and there is plenty of metal the whole way. Mr. Wrigg's estimate of the line did not show it to be so very costly, and it is notorious that the calculations of Mr. Rochfort, who made the only working survey, were loaded after their arrival in Wellington, and increased, some say, to afford an excuse for postponing the construction of the line. The estimate of the Inland Communication Committee is, however, far too low, as they propose a page 10 very cheap line with 30lb. rails, such as was not suitable for part of the trunk railway. The only heavy works are the bridge and tunnel at the Lyell Gorge. It may fairly be estimated to cost about the same sum per mile as the Amberley and Brunnerton line, on which the tunnel through the crest of the dividing range will be longer than the Lyell tunnel, viz., £8500 per mile for 143 miles—£1,215,000.


Land is, of course, the main item in considering the probable profits arising from the construction of the line.

In 1868, Mr. Wrigg, C.E., estimated the good flat land to be rendered available by the railway at 150,000 acres.

In 1872, Mr. Dobson, F.G.S., the Nelson Provincial Surveyor, estimated the land available for settlement at 222,000 acres.

In 1873, the Inland Communication Committee did not over-estimate it in fixing the area of rich timbered flat land at 150,000 acres.

Mr. Calcutt, the man specially sent by the Government to report upon the land, estimated the comparatively level land at 200,000 acres, and valued it at £288,000.

By the Nelson and Cobden Railway Acts, the Nelson people agreed to devote 2,000,000 acres of land towards the railway, and probably the careful estimate of 900,000 acres by the Inland Communication Committee is an approximately correct estimate of the land that will ultimately be made available by the railway.

As to price, the flat unimproved bush land in the Buller, Inangahua, and Grey Valleys at present without a railway readily brings in private hands £1 10s. per acre, and the cleared laud £6, whilst I know of 100 acres in Inangahua, without buildings and miles from any township, that sold for £12 per acre.

In my professional capacity I am cognizant of most of the transactions in those valleys, and a search in the Land Register offices will prove the correctness of my valuations. After the main line is made you may fairly estimate, as part of the colonial estate, the 900,000 adjacent acres to be worth, say—
200,000 flat timbered land at 60s. £600,000
200,000 slopes fit to be cleared for pasture at 20s. 200,000
500,000 back gullies and hills at 10s. 250,000
900,000 acres 1,050,000
Sale of township sites, say 50,000
Total value of land £1,100,000


Gold is the main product of the district. The whole country intersected by the railway is auriferous, and is now more or less worked— page 11 the Buller end by scattered parties of miners, who with difficulty obtain the necessary supplies—the Grey end by mining township communities, who for years have largely contributed, directly by gold duty and indirectly by the Customs, to the wealth of the colony. In spite of the cost of obtaining supplies, about £15 to £20 per ton above Nelson prices, the Warden's reports show that thousands of miners have for years been working gold in the district. But the alluvial workings are as nothing compared to the permanent gold bearing quartz reefs proved to exist over a belt of country twenty-five miles long from Reefton to the Lyell. I rode up the Inangahua before a single road was made, traversing the river as the only available passage through the bush, most of the way, and I saw the commencement of the quartz-crushing industry, and can speak as to the difficulties to be contended with. I saw the boiler of the Golden Fleece battery parbuckled up a wooded hill 500ft. high by the sturdy arms of fifty miners. In 1872, these mines were almost unknown, and the main roads were not formed until 1876. The surest test of the value and continuity of gold is the dividends they pay during successive years, and in spite of the immense difficulties of conveying machinery on to the ground. The Warden's Reports to the Government show that the Reefton mines have paid to their owners the following dividends :—
1873 dividends £7,000
1874 dividends 13,000
1875 dividends 13,000
1876 dividends 27,000
1877 dividends 50,000

This proves during the last three years the enormous increase of about 100 per cent., and as yet not one-fourth of the mines have got machinery on the ground. I know of my own knowledge that the average cost of erecting machinery and putting a mine in working order has been £10,000. You will, therefore, understand that until more capital has access to the field, the power of development by the local settlers, is necessarily limited by the extent of their means. In the report for 1877 of Mr Warden Shaw for the Inangahua District, be states "that from an examination of Victorian statistics the average output of gold for each quartz-miner is 43ozs 2dwts per annum, whilst at Inangahua, where the labor-saving appliances are more primitive and limited, the average per man is 54ozs 16dwts. This difference is no doubt attributable to the fact that here only the richer reefs are considered payable, no company having been able to declare a dividend from less than 10dwts to the ton, whereas in Victoria one-third of that amount is highly profitable, but this explanation argues well for the future of this enormous field when worked more extensively and more economically. Notwithstanding all that has been said and done, I still deplore the want of proper communication with the coast. After a few hours' rain all traffic is suspended, and enormous rates for carriage are consequently charged. The small population of this town (Reefton) and its vicinity, in all some 1500 souls is paying a surtax of £20,000 per annum for freight, over and above the page 12 cost of goods supplied. A 20-head stamper battery with engine boiler sold in Melbourne for £2000 would cost erected here £4000. It is not astonishing, therefore, to find the development of this district to be but gradual and slow."

The export of gold for the year ending 31st March, 1877, was—
Inangahua District £191,000
Westport do 93,000

Most of this gold was derived, not from alluvial workings, which are more or less fluctuating, but from permanent reefs. It is impossible to give an opinion on the future of these reefs (which the underground workings have proved to be more permanent than any others in the Colony) without stating figures that would probably seem to you to be extravagant. But as each mine gradually gets its machinery up, we may fairly expect to see a similar rate of progress to that of the last three years maintained, and with a railway lo bring machinery and supplies on to the ground, and to tempt capitalists to visit the mines, I think that this hitherto isolated inland district will excel the richest fields of Australia in its output of gold. The fact of timber, coal, and water existing on the ground in abundance, which enables the mines to be timbered and steam power to be supplied at a nominal cost, compared with Victoria, is an important factor, in estimating the value of these as yet infant mines.


The valuable coal seams of this Province offer the third inducement for the construction of this line. Already the output of the Brunner mine is considerable, whilst the coal is admitted to be of excellent quality. The want of any outlet, otherwise than by small steamers over the Greymouth bar, alone prevents this mine from supplanting the New South Wales coal in the market altogether. The inducements relied upon by you for making the Amberly-Brunnerton line are land and coal, and you yourself estimate the coal traffic at 1000 tons weekly. If the Brunner coal can be profitably carried by rail to Lyttelton over the dividing range of the Island, then it can be more profitably carried to Nelson along a line with much easier gradients. Mr. Wrigg's report estimated the annual profit of the Brunuer mine at £30,000. Mr. Dartnall's report of 1871 says the Brunner mine coke will command a higher price by 10s. in Melbourne than English. And the Inland Communication Committee report states that the coke is pronounced in Melbourne to be better than that from Branspeth, and they estimated the profit to be derived from coke at £2000 to £3000 per annum. More recent discoveries prove that coal exists in payable seams at many places along the course of the line. At Reefton several small mines compete with each other for the little possible trade of a small isolated inland town. The Golden Eleece, Energetic, and other companies each possess their own coal, and have used it for driving their engines during the last five page 13 years with approval. Reefton is forty miles nearer to Nelson than Brunnerton, and as you rely upon coal being profitably carried from Brunnerton to Lyttelton, a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles a fortiori it can be taken to Nelson a distance from Reefton of about one hundred and twenty miles. Nelson possesses a small but secure harbor, and a splendid wharf, and a large quantity of coal would be exported by small craft, as well as supplied direct to steamers. Coal has also been found at the Hope, a distance of sixty miles from Nelson, and outcrops can be seen at many places along the line, but the present impossibility of carrying it away from its site, has hitherto prevented persons from attempting to work it. I therefore only rely upon the seams at Reefton and Brunnerton, which have been successfully worked for years. But I apprehend I have written enough to show that a very considerable profit can be made by conveying coal, besides the immense indirect advantages of working the mines on a more extensive scale, and affording employment to both capital and labor to an, at present, incalculable extent.

Many minerals, including copper, silver, iron, and lead have been found in this province, and are worthy of development, but we know too little of them to urge their existence as a reason for the railway paying. The day may be distant, but it is certain to arrive, when the mineral wealth of this province will more than compensate for its small extent of pastoral land, and by attracting mining and manufactory capital and labor, on a large scale, may raise it in wealth and population to a leading position in this prosperous colony.


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.

I have the honor to be Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

W. Acton B. Adams.


R. Lucas & Son, Printers, &c., Bridge-street, Nelson.