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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 32

IV. Industries and Resources

IV. Industries and Resources

The fish, great and small, which abound in the ocean around the coasts of the Province have hitherto contributed very slightly to its prosperity in comparison with what they might have done. Strangers have been profitably pursuing, in these waters, the trade of whaling, and thus carrying away the profits which should have accrued to Otago. To organize and fit out a thoroughly efficient fleet of whalers would cost a comparatively page 34 small sum, as vessels and crews are at command. The suitableness of the port for this trade has from the first been recognized, and in former times was made good use of; but now, when the facilities it offers have been greatly increased, the trade has dwindled down to catching a few whales at the mouths of the harbors by means of whaleboats. It is proved that the whales have become much more numerous of late; and if regulations were enacted and enforced against the indiscriminate slaughter to which they were subjected during past years, they might yet become as plentiful as formerly.

Since the foregoing was written, advantage has been taken of the subsidy offered by the Provincial Government, two whaling ships having been equipped and despatched on this venture, and there is every prospect that success will attend their efforts.

Sealing, also, as a kindred occupation, merits notice. A few boats are at present engaged in this trade, chiefly hailing from the Southern ports; but it is capable of considerable extension, the oil and skins yielding a good profit, and finding a ready market.

Curing small fish might be made a sure source of wealth to a large number of fishermen. Fish are very abundant, and although somewhat different to those which frequent the British and Newfoundland banks, are, when properly cured, of first-rate quality, and there is a market for any quantity in adjacent countries. The method of curing adopted in Newfoundland might be suitable for some of the kinds of fish, the cost of salt being thus saved.

It is a question whether salt could not be produced here by evaporation at a cost less than that of the imported article.

Leaving the waters and turning to the land, the industries which present themselves to the enterprising colonist are numerous.

Glass-works for window-glass, bottles, and crystal are urgently required, and the requisite materials for the manufacture of all descriptions are plentiful and at hand. The Dunedin bottlers alone would require for their present trade from 300 to 400 dozen bottles per day; and with the prospect of a trade embracing other Colonies, India, and China, which is sure to be opened up, this quantity would be enormously increased.

Superior clay for pottery, delfware, and fire-bricks, has been discovered in several localities, and at the present time a company page 35 is being formed to establish this trade at Green Island in connection with the collieries.

In addition to the branches carried on at the foundries, the casting of holloware and fire-grates would be a profitable investment. Doubts are entertained as to whether the iron-sand with which the Province abounds can profitably be turned to account because of the great heat necessary for its smelting, but if the timber which is at present allowed to waste in the forests when not deemed suitable for saw mill purposes, is adapted for conversion into charcoal, then the difficulty will be solved, and sand that now lies valueless could be made of immense value by the introduction of a few charcoal burners. From the character of several of the native timbers, it is believed that as large a proportion and as high a quality of charcoal could be obtained as from the oak itself.

Roofing slate and flags for paving are imported to a large extent. In several districts stone adapted for these purposes can be procured, and these articles will, on the extension of the railways become items of considerable production.

True granite of different colors abounds on the West Coast, and the ease with which it can be procured and shipped indicates that that portion of the Province will become famous for its quarries.

The natural products of the soil, and what it can be made to produce, open abundant prospects of labor to the skilful and industrious.

The large consumption of paper of all sorts which is daily going on, attracts attention to its manufacture as an industry not yet in operation; and the bonus offered by the Government, and the facts that various tree fibres, as well as a grass similar to Esparto, are in abundance, both well adapted for the finer description of paper, and that the refuse from the flax-mills, which is valuable for the coarser sorts, can be had in plenty and at a cheap rate, point to this trade as one that must shortly be established. Preliminary steps have been taken to commence it.

Sugar-making from beet-root has long been pointed to as one specially suited for Otago. The clayey loams of the plains are eminently fitted for producing the root of the quality and size which experience has proved yields most saccharine matter, and page 36 the climate is equally favorable for maturing. Beet sufficient to carry on a large export trade, as well as supply the Colonial demand, could easily be raised, and would prove a source of great profit to the agriculturist.

Another enterprise in which the Province must embark is the growth of flax and hemp. Every element of success exists, and there is only wanted skilful adaptation of labour to bring about a profitable result. It will not do for the farmers to confine their attention to the production of the ordinary grain crops alone, as these change so much in value. The growth of hemp and flax commends itself for immediate adoption. The fibre which each produces is in constant demand both for home and foreign trade, and the prices usually ruling are highly remunerative. Besides the fibre, the seed of the lint yields a high price, and if not exported as seed, it can be pressed so as to produce oil, much used by painters, and the residue sent Home as cake for cattle feeding.

Strong efforts are being made to start a wool-pack and bagging manufactory, to bring the native flax into repute. If, in addition thereto, inducements were offered for the culture of hemp and lint to be manufactured into fabrics, from coarse cordage and sailcloth to hand and table linen, a source of great wealth and industry would be opened up, for which the Province can supply every requisite except the labor, which might be introduced from the north of Ireland, where the flax industries are the staple of the country, and the east of Scotland, where flax and hemp goods are principally manufactured.

Growing rape for oil and feeding cake could also be gone into by the farmer with confidence.

Clover seed is another product well worth attention. White clover particularly grows so luxuriantly and spontaneously as to be almost accounted a weed. Ripening early, and with the simple machinery needed for saving and cleaning, a large quantity of seed could annually be produced for export.

Hops grow very freely and produce an abundant crop, whilst the steadily-increasing demand and the prices ruling are great inducements to holders of land in favorable localities to grow shelter to protect the vine from the gusts of wind which prevail during summer. It will take some years to grow a supply page 37 sufficient for the provincial trade: meanwhile, the introduction of a few hands acquainted with the growing, handling, and drying of this valuable plant would be advisable.

Chicory is another agricultural product which is largely imported, when it might be successfully cultivated.

Dairy farming is another branch of industry needing development. Cheese factories, with good management, would produce a first-class reliable article, not only for the limited local consumption, but for other markets.

The manufacturing interests of Otago are varied, extensive, and extending. As the cultivation of the soil was the first pursuit in which man was engaged, the preparation of its products for his support claims first notice.

There are at full work at the present time nearly thirty grain-mills, driven either by water or steam power, some of them able to produce fifteen tons of fine flour daily. For a considerable portion of the year, several of these mills are at work on the double-shift system, so that the quantity of flour sent to market is large. That the machinery employed is on the most approved principle, and that the management is in practical hands, is certain from the fact that the provincial manufactured article has completely shut the market against foreign competition, and has, in addition, been largely and profitably exported to supply the wants of neighboring Provinces and Colonies. Several of the mills have also appliances and machinery for oatmeal and pot and pearl barley, all of which are produced largely.

Biscuit-makers have established for themselves wide-spread reputation, so that both hand and steam power are in constant work to meet the demand which the quality of the article has created.

To provide the farmer with manure, and thus enable him to produce the largest quantity of grain, and of the best description, several bone mills are in constant work, producing hundreds of tons annually.

But manuring the land with the most approved stimulants will not produce any description of crop to the fullest extent without proper attention is paid to drainage. To meet this necessity, pipe and tile manufactories have been established both in towns and page 38 country districts; and this working of the clay is not confined to the ordinary requirements of the farm for drainage, but extends to brickmaking, which has assumed large proportions, requiring the services of a great number of hands in different capacities. Salt-glazed pipes, for railway and sewage purposes, have also their producers; whilst flower-pots, vases, and other useful and ornamental articles, are produced in endless variety, and Potteries have been started at Milton and Invercargill.

The brewing of the Province is in high repute, and although at present of large dimensions, is not sufficient for the home trade and exportation. Dunedin is the principal centre of this business, seven extensive establishments being in full work, and an additional one in course of erection. The estimate of the aggregate production is over 2,000 hogsheads per month.

Distilling has also an extensive representation, as in the one distillery existing, over 6,000 gallons of proof spirits are produced each month, in addition to a large quantity of malt supplied to brewers.

Coming now to man's second department of labor, viz., the pastoral, the shearing of the sheep having been performed—for which the shearer is this year paid 20s. a hundred head, with rations—scouring the wool and other processes employ a considerable amount of labor. Choice wool being selected, it passes into the newest industry of the Province—its manufacture into cloth and other material. This industry will rank amongst the foremost in importance. It is true, an attempt was made in early days by a worthy weaver from Paisley to produce webs by the hand loom, but that slow process not meeting with success, the Mosgiel Woollen Factory may fairly claim to be first in the field. This establishment occupies a fine healthy site on the Taieri Plain, and around it the cosy cottages of the workers, with their tidy garden plots, are situated. Every appliance which modern invention has produced, to enable the factory to bring to market the best of its kind in every department, is at command; and, as a result, its tweeds, blankets, stockings, and worsteds, have been pronounced so excellent as to require a large addition to the buildings and machinery, to permit of the orders on hand from the Colonies, India, and Great Britain to be executed. The page 39 factory is now in the hands of a registered company, and with the extension of the trade an additional supply of skilled labor will be required. A second factory of a similar kind has also been started in the Kaikorai Valley.

The material, being finished at the mills, is brought into town where several factories keep a large number employed in making it up into wearing apparel and other goods, as many as 400 to 500 hands being recently wanted by one factory alone.

Hat and cap manufacturing has two firms in the city giving it their sole attention, and producing every style, color, or shape which the most fastidious could desire, and at prices which defy importation.

Leaving the wool, and coming to the skin and hide branch, several extensive tanneries are in full and constant work, employing a considerable amount of labor. From the steam mill grinding the bark, through all the different processes necessary to produce leather of every description, the best methods of operation have been adopted, the wants of the local trade supplied, and a large quantity exported.

Men and boys are wanted to enable the different branches of the boot factories to keep pace with the requirements of this rapidly-progressing indispensable trade. There is no use in sending away the leather to be made into boots and shoes, and in that shape sent back again, when boots and shoes can be made as well in the Province. The importance of this industry may be judged from the fact that one firm turns out over 120 pairs a day, and only wants labor to increase this number.

To save any waste of the raw material at the tannery, the manufacture of glue has been established, competent judges pronouncing in its favor, and the manifests of homeward-bound ships showing it as a part of their cargoes.

Having disposed of the wool, skins, hides, and bones of the animals, the utilizing of the carcase forms an important question. It would require at least one hundred times the present population to consume the surplus stock in the Province. It must be either thrown away or turned to profitable use. The latter course has been adopted, and several meat preserving establishments have been started to prepare the beef and mutton to help to feed page 40 the under-fed population of the old country. Tallow is also an important item, in both of these branches. Slaughtermen, butchers, tinsmiths, coopers, carpenters, and other trades are largely employed.

Nor should the first-rate quality of the soap and candles made be overlooked. Soap making is a staple manufacture, several works being in active operation in preparing this indispensable acticle of domestic comfort.

Material for agricultural and pastoral manufactures having been introduced by the settlers, what has been done in regard to native products? Besides preparing the native flax for export to a considerable extent, a very large amount has been manufactured into rope, ranging from 6in. in diameter downwards. From some cause, the flax trade has not been flourishing lately still there is no need to despond. Probably in a few years the native fibre will be exported in a manufactured state, not in flax, and tow, as at present.

The timber trade in its different branches of manufacture is one of the greatest in the Province. Saw-mills exist, containing circular-saws from the largest size to medium, cross-cut with radial bench; all the saws sharpened by patent machine; planing, tongueing, grooving, moulding, tenoning, morticing, shaping, boring, and turning machines, producing flooring, skirting, moulding, architraves, buckets, tubs, broom-handles, and every article necessary for house building and furnishing, can be readily obtained. An idea may be formed of the extent of the trade when it is stated that one house, during the past twelve months, sold glazed windows of a money value of £4,600; and panel doors, £5,150.

From the largest and heaviest stage-coach or wagon to the handsome chariot, light buggy, express, or common cart, the coach-builders of Dunedin are prepared to execute any orders entrusted to them.

Furniture and cabinet makers are also developing their trades to an extent that surprises everyone. Some of the largest and most commodious warehouses in the city are connected with this trade.

Workers in all sorts of metals are busy plying their trade from page 41 day to day. Taking the iron department as first in importance, some firms give their attention principally to rivetting, and from their shops the incessant clatter of the hammer indicates great activity. Iron vessels, boilers, vats, tubes, girders, and works of a similar character, in course of construction, indicate the prosperity of the establishments.

Equal in importance with the previous branch are the machine shops, where will be constantly found in course of construction land, marine, and hydraulic engines; quartz crushing, flax dressing, and lithograph printing machines; wool, tin, and calendering presses; plate and tin rollers; and preparations are being made to build locomotives. To show what this trade can do, a crane to lift 40 tons weight has been satisfactorily made in Dunedin.

Other houses make standards for wire fencing, castings of various designs and patterns, galvanized piping, spouting, ridging, and a specially patented iron fluming.

Tin, copper, brass, lead, and zinc manufactories give employment to a great number, especially to the boys of the community; and the ease and exactness with which every item can be wrought, twisted, moulded, cast, or hammered, either by machine or hand, has made these trades special features of industry.

The limits of this sketch prevent particular notice being given to every trade, so that what is to follow must be condensed.

Mills for grinding coffee, spices, rice, and such like commodities, are in steady operation, and a large portion of these necessary articles of consumption in the Colony are ground and prepared in. Dunedin.

Several factories to supply liqueurs, aerated waters, &c., also afford employment; and at the Vienna Exhibition, a certificate of merit was awarded to an exhibitor from Otago. Wines made, from the different fruits grown, are daily gaining favor, and the latest enterprise in this direction is cider, equal to that of Devonshire.

Monumental and ornamental work in stone is a prominent trade, and one house makes varnish and polish to meet any demand. Paper bags, ink, and blacking have their producers.

The Peninsula can boast of a cheese factory on the American page 42 principle, which has been in operation for some time, and is annually improving the quality and increasing the quantity of its products.

Cod-liver oil cannot be overlooked as an industrial pursuit. The Port Chalmers made oil, from its purity, clearness, and other qualities, has drawn forth the approbation of the medical faculty, and the producer is fully occupied in supplying the orders that are sent to him from other places.

The building of wooden vessels must not be omitted. Although the trade is not in a very lively condition, yet it gives signs of improvement. A more grave fault would be the omission of agricultural implement works, in which Otago excels. There is now no necessity to import horse gear, hay rakes, harrows, hoes, yokes, cultivators, grubbers, subsoil, single, double, or treble furrow ploughs, reaping, mowing, or threshing machines, or any other farm requisite, as these are all made in Otago, with the particular recommendation that they are made by men who know the country, and the kind of implement required. Cart, coach, and saddle harness, in all the different styles of manufacture, can be obtained from Dunedin and up-country makers.

There is a large demand for all kinds of labor; of course, in some trades much greater than others. For instance, the supply of female domestics for town and country is quite inadequate to the demand. Farm servants and laborers are also in great demand in all the agricultural districts. Good wages, carefulness, and cheap land, soon enable the farm servant to start farming on his own account. For railway construction, saw-mill purposes, road making, and generally for unskilled labor, the demand is large, and many useful works are at a standstill for want of men suited for such work. Brickmakers and layers, masons, carpenters, turners, blacksmiths, engineers, boiler-makers, wheelwrights, printers, workers in brass, copper, and lead, could, to a considerable number, find employment, the demand for labor not being confined to one locality, but extending over the whole Province.

In addition to the animal and vegetable products already described, Otago is rich in mineral resources. Gold has as yet produced the largest amount of wealth. It is found in almost page 43 every district of the Province, from Marewhenua to Orepuki, and from Awarua to Wakawa, either alluvially or in quartz, giving good ground for the remark "that it would pay to wash all its soil and crush its rocks." The great value and extent of the gold fields can hardly be estimated. At the present time their development depends in a great measure on individual enterprise, so that very large workings are not yet in operation, but awaiting the investment of capital, in combination with labor to open them up. The occupation of gold digging is an exciting one, causing many of its discomforts to be overlooked. Mining is a less precarious trade in Otago than in most other places; still it is not the occupation best suited for new arrivals or the generality of immigrants.

Coal comes next in order of value. From the earliest days of the settlement, coal seams have been more or less worked. The distribution of this great source of wealth is very general, and it is in beds of great breadth and thickness. Brown coal, or lignite, is at present most in demand, being more largely distributed and near the centre of consumption. The coals of Kaitangata and Shag Point are of superior quality, and as better means of conveyance are opened up, and the price consequently reduced, their merits will be more fully recognized. Bituminous shale has been discovered in different places, and inquiries are being made as to its value and extent.

Oamaru stone ranks as of first importance. Easily obtained and plentiful, workable with a carpenter's chisel and saw, capable of being cut and carved to any design, of a light, cheerful color, and becoming harder the longer it is exposed to the atmosphere, it will soon make the district from which it is obtained a scene of constant and increasing labor. Its value and superior quality have already been recognized in the Colony of Victoria, and one of the best public buildings in Melbourne is now being erected of it. In Oamaru and Dunedin, it is in very general use. Stone of a similar character, and considered to be in point of durability, superior, is found in different parts of the Province. In the Oamaru district, also, the material from which Portland cement is made has been discovered, and promises good results.

page 44

Lime is abundant, and kilns are at constant work on the Peninsula, and at Waihola and Kouroo.

Ironstone of a very superior quality has recently been discovered in the district of Riverton on the south-west, and at Catlin's Cove on the south-east, from which great results are expected to be obtained.

Antimony is already an article of export, and is steadily increasing in supply. Specimens of copper ore, plumbago, and cinnabar have been obtained on the Carrick Ranges, Dunstan district, analysis of which shows them to be valuable. Different descriptions of useful clay are also abundant, and will amply repay the labor of practical hands.

The Rock which confers the native name on the Middle Island "Pounamu" green-stone, or jade, and from which the battle axes, as well as ornaments of the Moaries were made, and which is still in much repute for pendants, is found chiefly in the sounds on the West Coast.

Should Otago present no other inducement, her mineral resources alone would be a great attraction; but when combined with her other advantages, no country can offer greater promise of prosperity to the industrious, steady emigrant.

Licenses are granted by the Government for cutting timber either by pit-saws or saw-mills, certain areas being prescribed and conditions attached. The southern railways afford great facilities, for bringing the sawn timber to a shipping port; and on the West Coast the numerous sounds or harbors, all having good access and shelter, as well as bold water along their coasts, enable vessels to make fast to the cliff on which the trees are growing, and to load with great ease. For driving power on the low-lying forests, steam engines are most in use, as they can be bought and worked at a cheap rate. For hill forests, water power is abundant, so that, as regards quality of timber, supply, facilities for sawing, and convenience for shipping, every inducement is held out for extended enterprise; and the great and increasing demand, together with the prices, render success certain to those embarking in the trade.