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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

New Zealand. — General Description

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New Zealand.

General Description.

The Colony of New Zealand consists of two islands, called the North and South Islands, and a small island at the southern extremity called Stewart Island. There are also several small islets, such as the Chatham and Auckland Isles, that are dependants of the colony. The entire group lies between 34° and 48° S. lat. and 166° and 179° E. long. The two principal islands, with Stewart Island, extend in length 1100 miles; but their breadth is extremely variable, ranging from 46 to 250 miles, the average being about 140, but no part is anywhere more distant than 75 miles from the coast.

The total area of New Zealand is about 100,000 square miles, or 61,000,000 acres—the North Island being 44,000 square miles, or 28,000,000 acres; the South Island being 55,000 square miles, or 36,000,000 acres; Stewart Island being 1000 square miles, or 610,000 acres. It will thus be seen that the total area of New Zealand is somewhat less than Great Britain and Ireland. The North and South Islands are separated by a strait only thirteen miles across at the narrowest part, presenting a feature of the greatest importance to the colony from its facilitating inter-communication between the different coasts without the necessity of sailing right round the colony.

New Zealand, is very mountainous, with extensive plains, lying principally on the eastern side of the mountain range in the South Island, while in the North Island they lie on the western side, the interior, or more mountainous parts, being covered with dense forest; while those of the South Island are for the greater part open, well grassed, and used for pastoral purposes. In the North Island the mountains occupy one-tenth of the surface, and do not exceed from 1500 to 6000 feet in height, with the exception of a few volcanic mountains that are very lofty, one of which, Tongariro (6500 feet), is still occasionally active. Ruapehu (9100 feet) and Mount Egmont (8300 feet) are extinct volcanoes that reach above the limit of perpetual snow, and the latter is surrounded by one of the most extensive and fertile districts in New Zealand. The range in the South Island, known as the Southern Alps, is crossed at intervals by low passes; the greatest height of the main range is from 10,000 to 14,000 feet in Mount Cook, and it has extensive snow-fields and glaciers.

A considerable part of both islands is clothed with valuable timber. The proportion of forest land to the whole country, as ascertained in 1873, was as under:—
Percentage of Forest Land.
North Island—
Auckland 7.20
Hawke's Bay 8.19
Taranaki 65.56
Wellington 42.85
South Island—
Nelson 28.86
Marlborough 18.38
Canterbury 2.07
Otago 11.84
Southland 11.84

The indigenous forest of New Zealand is evergreen, and contains a large variety of valuable woods, which resemble the growths of Tasmania and the continent of Australia, most of them being harder, heavier, and more difficult to work than the majority of European and North American timbers. They vary, however, very much among themselves. Many varieties are very durable, and manuka, totara, kauri, black birch, kowhai, and matai appear to be the most highly esteemed, on the whole. A number of the native forest trees and plants furnish good dyes from their bark. The natives were acquainted with most of these, and dyed their flax mats and baskets with them.

Amongst the smaller plants the Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax, is of especial value, whilst large tracts of country are covered with indigenous grasses of high feeding quality, which support millions of sheep, and have thus been productive of great wealth to the colony. Many of the more valuable trees of Europe, America, and Australia, have been page 140 introduced, and have flourished with a vigour scarcely ever attained in their natural habitats. In many parts of the colony the hop grows with unexampled luxuriance; whilst all the European grasses and other useful plants produce returns equal to those of the most favoured localities at home. Fruit, too, is abundant all over New Zealand. Even in the latitude of Wellington, oranges, lemons, citrons, and loquats are found, whilst peaches, pears, grapes, apricots, figs, melons, and, indeed, all the ordinary fruits of temperate climates, abound. Boots and vegetables of all kinds grow abundantly.

The population of New Zealand increases very rapidly. A census is taken every three years. The estimated population on 31st December, 1879, exclusive of the aborigines, was 463,729, showing a centesimal increase of 93.2 on the population of 1869. In other words, the population has nearly doubled itself within the last ten years. This rapidity of increase has of course been much assisted by immigration; but the high birth-rates, coupled with the low death-rates usually prevailing in the colony, have also contributed largely to this satisfactory result. The-birth-rate of last year (1879) was 40.34 per 1000, considerably lower than for the three years preceding, while the death-rate for the same year was exceptionally high, being 12.48 per 1000.

The North Island contains a native population of about 40,000, divided into many tribes, and scattered over 45,156 square miles. The South Island natives number but about 2000, and they are spread over an immense tract of country, living in groups of a few families on the reserves made for them when the lands were purchased; for the whole of the South Island has been bought from the native owners by the Government. Whatever may be the cause, it is a fact that the natives of the South Island are less restless and excitable than their brethren in the North. As a rule, the Maories are middle-sized and well-formed, the average height of the men being 5 ft. 6 in.; the bodies and arms being longer than those of the average Englishman, but the leg-bones being shorter, and the calves largely developed. In bodily powers the Englishman has the advantage. As a carrier of heavy burdens the native is the superior, but in exercises of strength and endurance the average Englishman surpasses the average Maori.

The climate, which is singularly healthy, resembles that of Great Britain, but is more equable, the extremes of daily temperature only varying throughout the year by an average of 20°, whilst London is 7° colder than the North and 4° colder than the South Island of New Zealand. The mean annual temperature of the North Island is 57°, and of the South Island 52°, that of London and New York being 51°. The mean annual temperature of the different seasons for the whole colony is—in spring 55°, in summer 63°, in autumn 57°, and in winter 48°. The climate on the west coast of both islands is more equable than on the east, and the contrast between the respective rainfalls is most striking. Thus, in the North Island, Napier on the east has only half the amount of rain that falls in Taranaki on the west. But the South Island, with its longitudinal range of lofty mountains, exhibits this feature in a still more marked manner, for the rainfall on the west is nearly five times the amount on the east. The excess of precipitation on the coast is clearly illustrated by the distribution of the glaciers on the opposite sides of the range. Those on the west slope have an excessive supply of snow, and descend to a line where the mean annual temperature is 50° Faht., while on the east slope they descend only to the mean annual temperature of 37°. The winter snow-line on the Southern Alps, on the east side, is 3000 feet, and that on the west side is 3700.

The country is divided into counties and road boards, to which, and to the municipalities, local administration is confided. The seat of government is at Wellington, which has a central position.

The Colonial Legislature, which meets once a year, has power generally to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of New Zealand. Parliaments are triennial.

Any man of twenty-one years and upwards, who is a born or naturalised British subject, and who has held for six months a freehold of the clear value of £25, or who has resided for one year in the colony, and in an electoral district during the six months immediately preceding the registration of his vote, is entitled to be registered as an elector and to vote for the election of a member of the House of Representatives; also, every male Maori of the same age whose name is enrolled on a ratepayers' roll, or who has a freehold estate of the clear value of £25. The duty is imposed upon the registrar of each electoral district of placing on the electoral roll the names of all persons who are qualified to vote. Any person qualified to vote for the election of a member of the House of Representatives is also, generally speaking, qualified to be himself elected a member of that House.

Wool is undoubtedly the most important production of New Zealand, its value as an export being more than double that of gold. The mildness of the winter season, which does not require that any special provision for the keep of stock during that period should be made, and the general suitability of the country for grazing purposes, with the growth of a superior class of wool, caused the attention of the early settlers to be much given to pastoral pursuits; grass lands were looked up as sheep or cattle runs. The success attending the pursuit enabled the runholders to a large extent to purchase the freehold of their runs, or the best portions of them; and by improvements in fencing and sowing with English grasses, which thrive page 141 remarkably well in the colony, the bearing capabilities of the land were increased many fold. The extent to which pastoral pursuits have been followed may be estimated by the quantity of stock in the colony in 1878 (when the census was last taken). The numbers of the undermentioned kinds were as follows:—
Horses 137,768
Cattle 578,430
Sheep 13,069,338

These numbers do not include the animals in the possession of aboriginal natives, no estimate of which can be given; while, however, possessing a considerable number of horses, they own but small numbers of sheep and cattle. The export of wool has grown, since the first settlement of the colony in 1839, to an export in 1877 of 64,481,324 lb., estimated in value at £3,658,938. In ten years the increase in the quantity has been at the rate of 124 per cent. During the last two years the export value of wool has diminished, this being attributable partly to the increased manufacture of woollen goods in the colony, and partly to the lowered price of wool in the European markets.

Second to wool only in value as an export is gold, which was discovered in 1842, less than three years from the foundation of the colony; but it was not practically worked until 1852, when the mines at Coromandel first attracted attention to the district of Cape Colville peninsula, which at the present time forms the chief seat of true mining operations in New Zealand. The yield from those mines has up to the present time been over four and a-half millions sterling, but is small when compared with the quantity of alluvial gold obtained more recently in the South Island. The principal quartz-mines in the North are in Coromandel and in the Thames districts, about thirty miles apart. In those localities the reefs have been "proved" to a depth of over 600 feet below sea-level; but the best mines have as yet been principally confined to the decomposed and comparatively superficial rock. Veins have been discovered, and gold obtained, at all levels on the ranges, from the sea-level to an altitude of 2000 feet. The quantity of gold that has been obtained from some of those quartz-reefs is very great; and for considerable distances the quartz has yielded very uniformly at the rate of 600 oz. to the ton. Such reefs arc, however, very exceptional in New Zealand, as elsewhere. Auriferous reefs are also extensively worked in the schistose rocks of Otago, and they occur at all altitudes, from sea-level to a height of 7400 feet, the most elevated gold-mine in the Australasian colonies being that opened during the year 1878 on the summit of Advance Peak, near the Wakatipu Lake. Several promising reefs have also been found in the Westland goldfields, amongst which may be mentioned a reef of auriferous stibnite at Langdon's Creek, near Greymouth, which yields from a few ounces to 99 oz. of gold per ton; but up to the present time these reefs have not received the attention they deserve, except at Reefton and a few other localities. The importance of Reefton as a well-established mining district may be judged of from the fact that nine mining companies there, during the single year ending 31st March, 1878, divided, as profit, the sum of £63,508 among the shareholders. So far as this more permanent form of gold-mining is concerned, there is every reason to feel confident that it is still in its infancy in this colony, and that it only awaits the judicious application of capital for its development to a vast extent. Alluvial gold is chiefly found in the South Island, in the districts of Otago, Westland, and Nelson, in which mining operations are carried on over an area of almost 20,000 square miles. The alluvial diggings at Collingwood were discovered in 1858, those of Otago in 1861, and in 1864 the goldfields near Hokitiki proved a great attraction to the mining population of New Zealand. The richest alluvial diggings in Westland usually occur in places very inaccessible for water supply, the streams having cut their channels much below the surface of the country, so that an organised system of irrigation is necessary to obtain the required amount of water for the gold-washing. The value of the gold exported from New Zealand for the year 1879 was £1,134,641, making the total value of New Zealand gold exported from the year 1857 to 1879, inclusive, £35,073,478.

Copper, which in the earlier days of the colony formed a very important item of export, has, of late years, almost entirely disappeared from the Customs' returns. Its value as an article of export has been more than replaced by the more precious metal, silver, that which is exported from the colony being chiefly extracted from the gold obtained at the Thames, which is alloyed with about 30 per cent, of the less valuable metal. Within the last two years, however, several mines have been opened where the ore is argentiferous galena, that yields 20 to 50 oz. of silver to the ton. In some cases the galena is mixed with iron pyrites that yields a fair percentage of gold. A mine has recently been opened in Nelson, at Richmond Hill, where the ore is a form of tetrahedrite, a mixed ore, containing silver, antimony, zinc, bismuth, and copper, the silver being at the rate of from 20 oz. to 1792 oz. per ton. The total quantity of silver entered for exportation from New Zealand from the year 1869, when it was first exported, up to 31st December, 1879, amounted to 338,581 ounces, valued at £90,457.

Other valuable mineral ores are found in various parts of the colony, such as chrome, lead, zinc, antimony, and manganese. No iron mines are at present worked, though almost every known variety of iron ore has been discovered in the colony; the workings being limited to page 142 the black sands, which occur plentifully on the coasts. There are also few soils or stream gravels that will not yield a considerable quantity when washed; the chief deposits are, however, on the sea shore of the west coast of both islands, the best known being that at Taranaki.

The extensive coalfields existing in New Zealand are likely to prove a most valuable possession to the colony. Coal mines are being worked in the provinces of Auckland, Nelson, Canterbury, and Otago, including Southland; those in the provinces of Auckland, Nelson, and Otago producing, at present, the largest quantities. At Mount Rochfort or Buller mines the seams are on a high plateau, are 10 to 40 feet thick, and from 900 to 3000 feet above sea-level. Accurate surveys of this coalfield show it to contain 140,000,000 tons of bituminous coal of the best quality and easily accessible. A railway 17 miles in length is now completed along the level country at the base of the ranges in which the coal occurs. At the Brunner coal mine on the Grey River, Nelson, the working face of the seam is 18 feet, and it has been proved to extend one-third of a mile on the strike without disturbance, and to be available for working in an area of 30 acres; the estimated amount of coal being 4,000,000 tons in this mine alone, most of which can be worked above the water-level. Coal Pit Heath is a second mine lying more to the dip of the same seam. A third mine is being opened on the south side of the river, which, with a 370-feet shaft, will command 300,000 tons. The coal from the Brunner mine, Nelson, which has now been worked for 12 years, yields vitreous coke, with brilliant metallic lustre. A railway has been constructed by Government to connect the mine with the port, and harbour improvements are in progress, whereby a larger class of vessels than at present will be enabled to enter the river. The small quantity of this coal hitherto obtainable in New Zealand and Australian markets has been eagerly bought up for gas-works and iron foundries, whose managers generally pay for it from 10 to 20 per cent, more than for any other coal. Engineers of local steamers esteem it 20 per cent, better than the best New South Wales coal for steam purposes. Coke made from it is valued at £3 per ton. Coalfields in other parts of the Nelson District have also yielded excellent coal. At Pakawau, and in the same formation at Collingwood, thin seams of hard, bright, bituminous coal have been worked. The area of this coalfield is about 30 square miles; the facilities of access and shipping, and the abundance of iron ore and limestone, will probably make this an important mining district. In the province of Auckland, at the Kawa Kawa mine, Bay of Islands, the coal is taken from a seam 13 feet thick, containing much sulphur. This coal is now very extensively used by steamers. The total consumption of coal in the colony for the year 1878 amounted to 332,445 tons, of which 158,297 tons were derived from New Zealand mines, the balance being imported from New South Wales.

In 1866 attention was directed to the resources of the colony in respect to petroleum, and some very fine oils were found. There are three principal localities, and these produce each a distinct kind of oil—the Sugar Loaves, in the Taranaki province; Poverty Bay, on the east coast of the province of Auckland; and Mauntahi, Waiapu, East Cape. The oil from the first has a very high specific gravity, .960 to .964 at 60° Faht., water at 1. It has thus too much carbon in its composition for its commercial success as an illuminating oil, but is capable of producing a valuable lubricating oil. It resembles oil occurring in Santa Barbara County, California. The second kind from Waiapu, Poverty Bay, is a true paraffin oil. Resembling the Canadian oil. By three successive distillations, and treatment with acids and alkalies, about 65 per cent, of a good illuminating oil is obtainable, with specific gravity of-843. The third produces a pale brown oil, nearly or quite transparent; specific gravity, .829 at 60° Faht.; which burns well in a kerosene lamp for some time, and is therefore of a very superior class. It contains only traces of paraffin, and produces 84 per cent, of an illuminating oil fit for use in kerosene lamps by means of a single distillation. Specimens of petroleum oil shales have been found at D'Urville's Island in Cook Strait; Mongonui and Waiapu, in Auckland; Kaikorai, Blueskin, in Otago; and, quite recently, at Orepuki, in Southland, an extensive and apparently valuable formation of shale has been discovered.

Allusion has been made to the area of country occupied by mountain ranges in New Zealand, and the general position they occupy with reference to the geography of the country, and it may be further stated that, with the exception of the higher Alps, every part of the country is more or less adapted for settlement of some kind. A clearer idea of the value of the country, and the purposes to which it is applicable, is, however, obtained by the comparison of the rock formations, the decomposition of which produces the soils. In the whole of the colony there are about 12,000,000 acres of land fitted for agriculture, wherein the form of surface is suitable, and about 50,000,000 which are better adapted for pasturage; but from these estimates allowance must be made for about 20,000,000 acres of surface at present covered by forest. The progress made in agriculture has been very rapid, and the number of persons engaged in this pursuit is, as compared with other countries, very large, about one in every five of the adult male population being in this way possessed of a permanent stake in the country. The number of holdings of one acre and upwards of cultivated land (exclusive of gardens attached to residences and native holdings) enumerated in March, 1878, was 20,519, an increase of 1769 on the year previous; and in February, 1879, the number of holdings had page 143 increased to 21,048. The exports of agricultural and farm produce increased from £262,930 in 1875, to £763,635 in 1879.

The average yield of wheat for the year 1878-9 was 22.94 bushels per acre for the whole colony, the average for the last five years being 27.62 bushels per acre.

For Otago, the average yield was 28.18 bushels
Canterbury, the average yield was 20.83 bushels
Wellington, the average yield was 24.47 bushels
The average yield of other produce for the same year, 1878-9, for the whole colony, was:—
Oats 30.11 bushels per acre
Barley 24.76 bushels per acre
Potatoes 4.98 tons per acre

The greater portion of the best and most available land has been for some time taken up, and can now only be obtained from the original settlers at enhanced prices. The Government, however, offers every facility for the acquisition of Crown lands by bonâ-fide farmers or settlers, either by direct purchase or by a system of deferred payments, spread over a period of years. The price of Crown land ranges from ten shillings to two pounds per acre.

The total area of Crown land sold, or otherwise disposed of, from the first return in 1856 to 30th June, 1879, amounted to 14,014,632 acres, of which total 11,672,651 acres were sold for cash, realising the sum of £11,210,412. The number of acres of Crown lands held for depasturing purposes on the last-named date was 12,253,876, in the hands of 918 holders, the rents and assessment of which amounted to £111,000.

About three-fifths of the whole import and export trade of the colony is in direct connection with the home country, the remainder representing the commerce carried on with Australia, America, Mauritius, and South Sea Islands. The imports for the year 1878 amounted to £8,755,667, and the exports to £6,015,700—the former being equal to £20 13s. 6d. and the latter to £14 4s. 1d. per head of population.

Manufactures in New Zealand have hitherto received very little notice or encouragement. Beyond the industries naturally arising in connection with the wool trade and agriculture, such as fellmongery, tanning and currying establishments, boiling-down, meat-preserving, and agricultural machinery works; or industries needed to supply the immediate requirements of trade—such as saw-mills, ship and boat building yards, foundries, carriage works, &c.—very little had been done in the way of manufactures until lately. Still the progress in the industries referred to, and others not specially named, has been considerable, the census returns indicating an increase of nearly a third during the period between 1874 and 1878—the total number of industries in the former year being set down as 637, and in the latter as 942. Several woollen factories, paper-mills, pottery works, and other industries have been success, fully started during the last few years, and the subject of local industries generally is now receiving a share of that consideration which its importance merits, the present superabundance of labour in the colony tending not a little to promote enquiry in this direction. The recent industrial Exhibition at Sydney has done something to encourage the movement, and doubtless a further stimulus will be afforded by the Melbourne International Exhibition. Possessed of extensive coalfields and other natural advantages, there seems no reason why New Zealand should not become in time distinguished as a manufacturing, as well as a gold-exporting, pastoral, and agricultural colony.