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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter III. Production—Climate—Vital Statistics

Chapter III. Production—Climate—Vital Statistics.

The progress of the colony may be estimated by the following facts: In 1854, only four years after Canterbury, the latest of the original settlements, was founded, the colony had a total population of 32,554; and the exports amounted to £320,890, of which £70,103 was for wool, and £220,360, wheat, provisions, timber, and other produce. The total imports amounted to £891,201. Even in these early days when Canterbury and Otago, now the leading provinces in production, were only on the threshold of their existence, the total of the imports and exports shewed that the foreign trade of the country amounted to the respectable sum of a million and a quarter. This result from so young a colony proved that New Zealand, like an infant Hercules in his cradle, was from the very first giving manifest indications of the strength and vigour to which it would attain in its more mature years. As it grew it continued to maintain its page 24 early promise, and the present amount of its trade does not belie the hopes previously entertained.

The best measure of the advance in wealth and resources is the total annual value of the exports, excluding the value of imported goods exported from the colony. In Australian colonies quantities of goods imported from Britain are often exported in the way of intercolonial trade. In considering the figures to be quoted, it is necessary, in order that you may fully apprehend the astonishing progress of New Zealand, that you bear in mind that it is the latest born, the youngest of the seven sister colonies. These thriving colonies, it is hoped, will erelong be united in a lustrous constellation, a glorious political Pleiades, shining yearly with increasing brilliance; a powerful confederation, to be named the Southern Dominion, the aggregate exports of which (44 millions) already average nearly three times that of the great Dominion of Canada (16 ¼millions), although the Australia? have a population one-fourth less. New Zealand was founded in 1840, only a generation ago; while New South Wales dates back to 1788, almost a century ago. Already New Zealand stands third in the list in point of production, being only capped by Victoria and New South Wales. The value of her exports in 1878 amounted to £6,015,700; being greater than the value of the combined exports of Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania—all older colonies. That a handful of people (414,412) scarcely amounting in number to the population of a second-class English city, should be able in the thirty-eighth year of their existence as a colony to export produce of such a value after satisfying the local demand, is a fact without parallel, and is sufficient in itself to establish that the industry of the inhabitants, and the fertility and productiveness of the country, are of no ordinary kind.

Excluding the Empire of India, the Straits Settlements, Canada, New South Wales, and Victoria, New Zealand excels in productiveness all the other forty administrative divisions of the dependencies of the British Empire. It exceeds the fertile island of Ceylon, the extensive colony of the Cape, the wealthy settlements of Mauritius and British Guiana, and the accumulated production of the fifteen West India Islands, deemed the tropical garden of the Imperial Crown. It overtops more than one of the European kingdoms. The exports of Greece are only one-half of the value of those of New Zealand; and our ancient ally Portugal, page 25 with its four millions of people, is also below the colony in the amount of exports. If at this early stage of its career, the colony has achieved such progress, what may be expected in the ensuing generation, when her production and commerce are aided and stimulated by broad rivers having been bridged, good roads made, more than a thousand miles of railway in profitable operation, 3307 miles of telegraph (7530 miles of wire) open, a fleet of powerful steamers traversing the coast, and convenient harbours constructed at various points? It is difficult to estimate what the advance may be; but strangers of experience who have visited the colony, and our governors, without exception, are of opinion that we are only on the threshold of the vast productiveness and prosperity yet to be attained.

The basis of the remarkable prosperity is undoubtedly to be found in the fertility of the soil, and the delightful climate of New Zealand. The high average return of agricultural and pastoral produce is not fitful or likely to be temporary. The fertility and healthfulness of the colony are not the result of incidental or ephemeral causes such as virgin soil and the like, but are the natural and constant effect of geographical position and climate. The islands extend from 35° to 47° south latitude. Dunedin has the advantage of its Scottish name-mother in being nearer to the tropics by 10 degrees, its latitude being 46° south. Lyons, Geneva, Odessa, and Astrakhan are cities on a corresponding parallel in the northern hemisphere. Oamaru, in North Otago, corresponds with Venice; and Auckland, in the North Island, with Syracuse, Pekin, and San Francisco. Although changes of weather and temperature are often sudden, the range is limited, the extremes of daily temperature only varying throughout the year by an average of 20°; whilst in Europe, in places of corresponding latitude, the variation extends to 30° and upwards. London is 7° colder than the North Island, and 4° colder than the South Island, and less moist. The mean annual temperature of the South Island is 52°; that of London and New York being 51°, and Edinburgh 47°. In summer, the heat is tempered by cooling breezes, so that a fine day in summer is most enjoyable. A New Zealand fine day has become proverbial, as something peculiarly pleasant and agreeable. In 1877 the rainfall in Dunedin was 37 inches; Christchurch, 24; Wellington, 52; and Auckland, 40. The greatest rainfall was at Hokitika, on the west coast, 136 inches; and the least at Cape page 26 Campbell, on the east coast, 16 inches. The west coast maybe described as a wooded fringe of the great Alpine range, and is chiefly occupied by a mining population. In New Zealand there is no suspension of work either from the heat or from the cold. Cattle do not require protection as in Italy during the heat of summer, and in many places no shelter is deemed necessary even for the work-horses during night in the middle of winter. It is stated by Surgeon-major Thompson to be the opinion of persons who have sojourned in different parts of the world, that the Anglo-Saxon race can work and expose themselves to the climate of New Zealand without injury, during more days in the year, and for more hours of the day, than in any other country.

We have observed at our residence in the vicinity of Dunedin, that, as a rule, the spring comes fully a month earlier than in Edinburgh, and the glories of the flower-plots continue two months later. A good bouquet can be gathered all the winter through. On a day corresponding to 2d December, in Britain, we have counted in our borders forty different flowers in blossom. Many annuals, considered as half-hardy in England, sow themselves, and the seedlings make early and vigorous plants in the following season. Among such we have noticed mignonette, French marigolds, sweet-peas, nasturtiums, helichrysums, petunias, and golden feather. In May last we saw in a garden in Moray Place, Dunedin, an American aloe (Agave Americana) in full blossom, with a flower stem upwards of 20 feet in height. The annexed illustration is taken from a photograph. A supply of excellent vegetables may be obtained from the kitchen-garden all the year round. The Chinese, who now monopolise the market-gardening of all our large towns, produce a constant succession of vegetables throughout the winter, and take four and five crops from their land in the twelve months. We visited one of their gardens on 12th June (1879), a date corresponding to December in Britain, and found five acres under full green crop. The spinach, or 'spellech,' as John, from his dislike to the letter 'n,' called it, was being daily gathered, and there were some beds recently sown. These industrious people traverse the cities and suburbs in all directions, with their large heavily loaded baskets suspended from the ends of an elastic pole resting on one shoulder. With these they trot along in true Chinese fashion. Some, however, have got the length of a horse and cart.

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With all this fertility and luxuriance of vegetation, the question may still be fairly asked, Is the climate healthy?

Agave Americana—Dunedin, 1879.

Agave Americana—Dunedin, 1879.

Fortunately it can be easily answered. Concurring testimony establishes the fact that the climate is remarkably healthful, and singularly adapted to the European constitution. A page 28 hundred years ago Captain Cook put into one of the sounds of the South Island to refit, with his entire crew affected with scurvy. In fourteen days they were restored to health. Surgeon-major Thompson in his interesting work, The Story of New Zealand, adduces statistics which prove that the colony was the healthiest of all the military stations in the British empire, and much more so than England itself. The colonial statistics confirm his statements. In 1877 the total number of deaths was 4685; equivalent to 11-47 per 1000 of the population. This is little more than one-half of the average death-rate in England, which may be taken at 22 3. We can also add our personal testimony to the fact. One element which weighed with us in making up our mind to leave Britain, was the circumstance that the close confine-ment necessary for the conduct of business was telling prejudicially on our constitution. In the winter season, a month never elapsed without a touch of bronchitis, or as it was called, taking a bad cold. During sixteen years' residence in the colony we have enjoyed excellent health. For the last six years, while occupying a judicial position, with a large amount of hard work, there being on an average 3500 civil cases disposed of yearly, many of them important and intricate, we have never been a day absent from illness. The same good health has prevailed in our large family, eleven of them residing with us or settled in the neighbourhood. We are therefore fully justified in expressing a confident belief that New Zealand is one of the healthiest countries known. Travellers from the adjoining colonies, where the same high conditions in regard to health do not exist, are invariably struck with the ruddy complexions and vigorous healthful look of the children in Dunedin. It is so noticeable, that in a family where the elder members were born in Victoria, a marked difference in favour of the children born in Dunedin could be observed.

The healthful character of the New Zealand climate is partly owing to the clear elastic atmosphere, the evaporative power and the rainfall being nicely balanced; to an absence of extremes of either heat or cold; to an abundance of running water, without pestilential swamps; and to cool, refreshing nights, even in the height of summer. It is not only in human life that a healthy existence is to be found. The same condition is observable in animal life generally. Among sheep, diseases are almost unknown. Horses, cattle, poultry, all thrive amazingly. Imported birds and animals page 29 increase at an unprecedented rate. Starlings, introduced only a few years ago, are now found in clouds of flocks through the winter; hares and game-birds are abundant, and rabbits on runs in Southland, where not checked by cultivation, have multiplied so as to be a pest. To the breeder and cultivator, this characteristic in animal life is most encouraging. Surveyors and early settlers could encounter tent-life for months with impunity, and the former still do so. New Zealand maintains the same pre-eminence in other branches of vital statistics. It stands first in order among the Australasian colonies, and much before the United Kingdom, in reference to birth-rates. For 1877 the birth-rate was 42 per 1000 of the population; while in the United Kingdom the rate may be taken at an average of 34·4 per 1000.

New Zealand is thus rapidly increasing in population by natural increment, the proportion of deaths per 1000 being, as we have already shewn, less than in England or any of the sister colonies, and the proportion of births greater. The excess of births over deaths in New Zealand is higher than in any of the Australian colonies, the pro-portion being 197 per cent. In England, which stands the highest of the European countries, the mean annual excess of twenty-three years, from 1853 to 1875, was only 57 per cent.; being considerably under the Australian colonies, the lowest of which is Tasmania, which stands at 77 per cent. These facts have an important bearing in proving the remarkable healthfulness of the climate. It may be added, for the moral credit of the colony, that the proportion of illegitimate births to every 100 children born is greatly less than in any of the other colonies, or in England, the proportion in 1877 being only 2 per cent., and the average of five years a fraction less; while in England the average was 5 per cent. As another indication of the climate, it may be mentioned that the rate of infantine mortality (under one year of age) is much less in New Zealand than in England, the average of ten years being 10 ¼ per cent.; whereas in England it was 15 ½ nearly. The deaths from phthisis or consumption in 1877 amounted in number to 81 ¼ per 100,000 of the population; whereas the proportion in Victoria was 128, and in England, on an average of twenty-five years, 257, or three times that of New Zealand. A shopman in Dunedin one cold day in spring complained to us of the weather. We said no one here was justified in grumbling; that those very sharp days were really good for us. He replied: 'I daresay you page 30 are right; but I come from Sydney, where it is very warm. However, to speak the truth, I was seldom free from liver complaint there, while here I have gained a stone-weight.'