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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter VIII. The Cities—wealth of the Inhabitants

Chapter VIII. The Cities—wealth of the Inhabitants.

The flow of these three great streams of production, wool, gold, and grain, into our cities, and the reflux tide of merchandise, speedily created commercial centres of importance, in which manufactures of various kinds have taken healthy root. The leading cities are Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland, in which are to be found capacious and elegant warehouses filled with goods from all quarters, a complete division of labour in retail shops, and a bustle and enterprise, the indications of a large and profitable trade. About half of the population of the colony are dwellers in towns.

The quickness and stability of the growth of these colonial towns are very striking to a thoughtful immigrant from the old country. Take Dunedin as an example. It was originally to have been named New Edinburgh, but by a happy suggestion of Dr William Chambers, its name was changed to Dunedin, the Celtic designation of Edinburgh * Created a municipality in 1865, fourteen years ago, it has merged from its primitive condition of a small, roadless village by the sea-side, to a handsome city, about three miles in length, having 22 miles of well-paved, well-lighted streets, page break
Princes Street, Dunedin.

Princes Street, Dunedin.

page 66 and owning an annual income from various sources of £80,000. The ratable value of property within the city for 1879, was £281,000, which at twenty years' purchase makes the value of real estate within the city upwards of fivemillions sterling. The water-works, including a large extension just being completed, together with the gas-works belonging to the corporation, may be valued at £250,000. Numerous fine buildings, built of Oamaru stone, a cream-coloured calcareous freestone, capable of the same delicate carving as Caen stone, and partly of basalt and a volcanic breccia, adorn the city. The corporation offices, recently erected, with a fire-brigade station attached, cost £18,000. To complete the design, a town-hall is being added, at a cost of £17,000. In the meantime, the Garrison Hall, belonging to the volunteers, serves for all the purposes of a town-hall, being admirably adapted for public meetings, concerts, and other social assemblies. It is at once a monument to the public spirit of the volunteers, and a great ornament to the city. Substantially constructed of stone, with slated roof, the battlemented and turreted building is most appropriate and pleasing in its design. The basement floor is used for offices and a gun-room. Above there is a spacious hall, 100 feet long by 62 broad, exclusive of a semicircular platform, 18 feet deep. It has also a gallery 9 feet deep, ingeniously supported by brackets, so as not to interfere with the space below. The library, 50 feet by 19 feet, can be used as a refreshment room, and there are retiring rooms and other apartments. Here and in the other chief cities, the advance in the style, size, and accommodation of private structures within the last ten years has been very remarkable. Conspicuous among these are the banks and the insurance companies' offices; while the warehouses of the principal merchants, towering four stories in height, vie with them in beauty of design and solidity of construction.
The outward marks of wealth and prosperity, attracting the notice of strangers, are by no means deceptive. The inhabitants of New Zealand are as a community rich in this world's goods. The official estimated value of real estate in New Zealand is fifty-one millions without improvements. With improvements, it is under the mark to value it at eighty millions. The value of the sheep, horses, cattle, and other stock is understated at ten millions. The shares in public companies amount to at least five millions. Shipping and machinery are worth a million. Other movable estate may page 67 be reckoned at fifteen millions; and besides all these, there are eight millions of deposits in the banks, and a million in the savings-banks. All this makes up a total of 120millions sterling. A considerable amount of English capital is fructifying in the colony, which should be deducted in order to ascertain the net wealth of the population. Taking this at
Garrison Hall, Dunedin.

Garrison Hall, Dunedin.

Mason, Wales, &c Stevenson, Architects.

the high estimate of twenty millions, there is a balance left, as the value of the means and substance of less than half a million of people, of one hundred millions, a state of affairs highly creditable and satisfactory.

To those who know the general tone which pervades society, it is difficult to imagine a community where life is so thoroughly enjoyed, and where comfort is so widely diffused among all classes. The homes of the working-classes are generally models of neatness, and their wives and children are always tidily and often elegantly dressed. In the abode page 68 of many a man of comparatively limited means, the tones of the piano will be heard, adding the charms of music to the other elements of cheerfulness and content. Last year, 1242 pianofortes, of the value of £42,400, were imported, and also 694 packages of other musical instruments, valued at £21,000.

South British. Insurance Company's Building, Dunedin.

South British. Insurance Company's Building, Dunedin.

As the people have increased in wealth, they have naturally engaged in numerous enterprises in which their means could be profitably used. Next to the building trade, with its array of carpenters, bricklayers, masons, and other artisans, all of page 69 whom do well, earning from ten to fifteen shillings a day, comes the printing-press. Scarcely has a township been formed in the colony before some enterprising member of a 'chapel' breaks off from being a journeyman and establishes a broadsheet on his own account. Every person in business is bound to advertise; and as there is little change in these notices, the outside pages are usually kept as standing matter. The inner pages are devoted to new advertisements and a modicum of news. As the town improves, the newspaper is enlarged until it attains a respectable size. These country papers are usually sold at sixpence a copy. In the large towns, the penny sheet has forced its way, and is found in every cottage. The Evening Star of Dunedin has a daily circulation of upwards of 6000.

The income of some of the morning papers amounts to a large sum. At one time, in the height of the gold-fields fever, the Otago Daily Times had an annual revenue of £25,000. The expenses are correspondingly large, but on the whole the press holds its place, although the cost is considerably increased by the enlarged expenditure for telegrams. With a population not so numerous as that of Glasgow, the colony has 120 newspapers of all kinds, while Glasgow has only 25. The 12 printing-offices in Dunedin employ over 300 hands, besides a large army of newspaper runners, by whom the daily papers are delivered from door to door. Exclusive of the numberless papers delivered by the runners, there were four and a quarter millions despatched through the post-office in 1878.


The suggestion was conveyed through the medium of a New Zealand journal published in London.