Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter V. Agricultural Settlement

Chapter V. Agricultural Settlement.

The early settlers have almost without exception done well. They had their difficulties, but these have been successfully surmounted, and many of them are in affluent circumstances. One may be cited as an example. He was a shepherd in Roxburghshire, and arrived in Dunedin with his wife and eight children in 1860. He found that the best of the land about Dunedin had been bought up, and he visited Southland. He bought 60 acres at Ryal Bush at £2 per acre. There were neither roads nor bridges, and the butter, eggs, and other produce were taken to Invercargill, a distance of twelve miles, page 37 by the settler, in a large bag slit in the centre, slung over a horse, often, when the streams were high, at the risk of his life. He made money, however, butter selling as high as 4s. 6d. per pound, and eggs at 4s. 6d. per dozen, prices being raised at that time owing to the great rush of miners into the country in consequence of the discovery of gold. Eighteen months after he started, he bought 60 acres more, at £2, 5s. an acre. In two and a half years more he secured 133 acres at £4, 11s. 6d. an acre, and continued to make additional purchases from time to time. The land became his savings-bank, and it has yielded him rich interest. He and his sons, who are settled near him, now possess 2628 acres of freehold, worth at a moderate estimate £25,000. The whole farm is managed judiciously, great care being exercised in the breeding of stock. His 30 cows are noted for their excellent frames and their milking qualities; and he sends to market beef which commands the highest price. His wife and daughter are famous for their butter and Dunlop cheese. Two or three years ago one season's cheese at a shilling per pound brought in £450. This season (1878-79) three tons sold at seven pence-halfpenny per pound. In connection with the dairy a number of pigs are fed yearly for the market. The sheep are of the Leicester-Lincoln breed, which yield a large carcase and a heavy fleece. Hoggets' fleeces average 11 lbs., and ewes 8 lbs., in the grease. His shorn hoggets have been sold averaging 68 lbs. weight. The machinery employed is of the most improved kind, and the whole operations are conducted with spirit and intelligence. This instance is but one of many which might be quoted to illustrate the fact that New Zealand is a country in which a man with small means for a start, may in a few years by industry and thrift push his way into a comfortable independence.

These interesting details have been culled from information supplied to the reporter of the Otago Witness. It may be desirable to quote another case to shew the working of the deferred payment system which has been only recently established, and we select that of Mr Thomas Reid, who owns the farm of Townend, Waikaka, near Gore.

The reporter states (June 1879) that' Mr Reid, whose father was a farmer in Perthshire, Scotland, left home for Victoria in 1855. After working upon farms for about two years, he determined upon trying his fortune upon the diggings, and worked at Creswick, Ballarat, and Jim Crow, with poor suc- page 38 cess, until 1861, when he and his two mates struck a deposit which yielded £480. They immediately joined in the rush for New Zealand, working first about twelve months at the Woolshed and then at the Dunstan, without clearing expenses. Mr Reid then thought it time to give up digging, and left for Southland, where, as a contractor he was enabled, in the course of a few years to save nearly £600. The most profitable work at that time was fencing, and that he was chiefly engaged in. Ten years ago it was worth £1 per chain, the same work now not being worth more than half the money. In May 1874, the first block of 5000 acres upon M'Nab's run, near Gore, was put up for sale on deferred payment, at Invercargill. It was divided into 200-acre sections, and Mr Reid fixed upon one, about a mile and a half from the township of Gore, for which it appeared there were eight other applicants. He first drew with five of them for 85 acres, and was successful. The five then withdrew, and he went in with the other two for the remainder of the section, and was again fortunate. His payments amount to £25 per annum for ten years. One hundred and twenty-eight acres of this land are rich river-bottom soil, fronting on the Mataura, and the remainder is terrace land, rather stony, and suitable only for grass. The loam upon the flat land is from two to three feet in depth, resting upon sandy clay and shingle.

'During the first six months, while living in a tent on the ground, Mr Reid fenced in 120 acres, some with sod walls, and the remainder with a bank, ditch, and four wires. He also had 24 acres ploughed by contract to lie fallow for twelve months. A sod hut took the place of the tent for two years, when a comfortable frame cottage was erected at an expense of over £100. At the end of the first twelve months he bought horses, a day, plough, and other implements. Having ploughed his fallow land he sowed twenty acres of it with long Tartarian oats, and four acres with wheat, and broke up more land for the following year. The oats yielded at the rate of 65 bushels to the acre, and the wheat 35 bushels. The following year the 24 acres were in oats, and yielded from 50 to 60 bushels to the acre. The third year it was in oats sown down with grass, and the produce was 60 bushels to the acre. The largest yield of wheat was last year, when each acre gave 45 bushels. This year the spring was wet and cold, and he put in only two bags of seed, which returned 38 bags of excellent wheat, some of which was ground into flour, at Gore, for home use.

page 39

'This year Mr Reid had 40 acres in oats, 4 in wheat, 15 in turnips, 1 in potatoes, and 40 in English grass. There are upon the farm, 12 head of cattle, old and young, 9 horses, 220 sheep, two or three pigs, and about 100 fowls. The farm is all fenced in and divided into five paddocks; there is a goodbyre, a shed, and a stable, and now it will be necessary to erect a granary. Mr Reid has found no difficulty in paying his rent, or rather purchase-money. He says he found the third year the hardest, as by that time his cash was exhausted. Of wire alone for fencing he used about two tons, and he had to pay cash for harvesting, carting, &c. He sold most of his oats last year for 3s. 3d.; this year he is offered 1s. 8d. Last year he sold wheat at 4s. 4d. He has five cows, but only two of them are in milk just now. They are of ordinary colonial breed, and yield from 12 to 14 lbs. of butter per week, which is sold fresh at Gore. Earlier in the season the price obtained was 1s. per pound; now it is 1s. 6d. His English grass land is too newly laid down to be of use, but is very promising, and will tell hereafter in the production of butter. A neighbour who is a year in advance of him has an English grass paddock in splendid condition.

'Three years ago Mr Reid commenced with 160 merino ewes, which he crossed with Leicester rams. When the lambs were six months old, he sold the ewes, and bought 100 Merino-Leicester lambs from Mr M'Nab, at 5s. per head. The whole flock now comprises 120 hoggets and 100 lambs.

'Mr Reid is now about to plant fruit and forest trees. In several low places upon the farm, where water collected, he has sunk shafts to the gravel These have been filled up with boulders, and they have served to carry off the surplus water. This year he purchased from Reid and Gray a side-delivery reaping machine for £33. He paid for threshing 10s. per 100 busnels, and 1s. per hour and rations to men.

'Miss Reid finds that it pays her well to attend to the poultry, which are a cross between the Coehin-China and Spanish. In winter she gives them a warm bran mash in the morning, wheat at noon, and a few oats in the evening. They have two houses, the old thatched hut affording most of them comfortable quarters. In the best season they lay from 28 to 30 dozen eggs per week, and at present from 7 to 8 dozen. The lowest price obtained for eggs was 10d. per dozen. They now bring 1s. 9d.

'It appears that the first block in Waikaka was put up for settlement in May 1874. It was sold in 200-acre sections at page 40 £250 per section, payable at the rate of £25 per annum. Two months afterwards another block was put up, and it brought from £1, 10s. to £4 per acre; each section, where there was more than one applicant, having been put up at auction. The third block was put up eighteen months ago, at an upset price of £3 per acre. Some of it went at £5 to £7 per acre, and one section at £10, 2s. 6d. per acre, payable within ten years. With the capital with which he commenced, Mr Reid does not see how it would be possible for him to pay such rates.'

These cases illustrate how much the price of land varies. It may be laid down as a general principle that it is more profitable to purchase good land even at a high price, than to buy land of inferior quality at half the cost. The expense of cultivation is in each case the same, and the more abundant and certain yield in the one case, far more than outweighs any apparent saving in the purchase price. Care should be taken that a settler should not occupy more land than he is able to pay for and stock properly without having recourse to the money-lender. If he has to borrow and pay colonial discounts and commissions, amounting to rates from 15 to 22 ½ per cent, per annum, farewell to his prospect of success. His history then is a series of sacrifices to meet his engagements, until the final day when he has to cede possession with little else than the coat on his back. The accompanying illustration of Shag Valley, Otago, shews the character of much of the land now agriculturally settled. There is a fertile valley highly cultivated, surrounded by well-grassed hills. Fifteen years ago it was a sheep-walk. The thriving borough of Palmerston is now in its centre, and all around are numerous farms in a prosperous condition.

Companies have been formed in Britain, which have purchased large estates in the colony, with the intention of retailing parcels of land to be occupied as small farms. The New Zealand Agricultural Company have commenced operations; and the following extract from the prospectus of the British New Zealand Farms Association (Limited) shews how a farm may be purchased advantageously on long terms. Such a plan, if successfully carried out, may be useful to intending settlers who may have sufficient capital to stock their land, but not enough for the immediate purchase of the freehold.

The purpose of the proposed company is the 'purchasing land in New Zealand in large blocks, and afterwards subdividing and selling the same in conveniently sized farms to page break
Shag Valley, Otago.

Shag Valley, Otago.

page 42 suit purchasers, upon terms of either immediate or deferred payment.

'It is believed that the present depressed condition of the agricultural interest affords a very favourable opportunity for the successful operation of such a company.

'By giving long terms for the price—say twenty years, as a maximum, repayable in the manner of drainage advances in Scotland, calculated on a basis of 8 per cent.—the purchaser would acquire a valuable freehold at a yearly payment almost nominal, while the shareholders would reap the benefit of a large percentage, in addition to the increase of their capital, by the advantage of the difference of the wholesale and retail prices, secured in the best possible way, on the land itself.

'It is calculated that, assuming first-class improved agricultural land can be obtained at £12, 10s. an acre on an average, and retailed at £15, then on the purchaser paying one-third in cash, and having the balance made repayable in twenty years, he would receive his freehold clear for the small annual payment of 20s. per acre. The net annual average profit from agricultural land is £3 per acre. From £10 to £30 per acre, according to quality and position, has been given at auction for freehold land in New Zealand within the last few months.

'As one-fourth only of the capital necessary to stock a farm in Britain is required in the colony, owing to the lower prices of sheep and cattle, £3 an acre for stocking being a safe average, many enterprising farmers whose capital may now be limited would, it is believed, gladly avail themselves of the opportunity to settle in New Zealand. Power of redemption on favourable terms would be granted.'

Besides the ordinary modes of obtaining land, either by purchase from the government or private individuals, associations have been formed for the establishment of special settlements, under agreements with the government. The contract for the Feilding settlement was arranged in 1871, under which the corporation became the purchasers of 100,000 acres of land, chiefly bush, situated in the Manawatu district, North Island, at 15s. per acre. The immigrants have the right to take up 40 acres of rural land at a rental of £5 per annum, or 2s. 6d. an acre, with a right to purchase at £3 per acre at the end of seven years. On landing they were placed in possession of a two-roomed cottage and an acre of town land, for which they paid a rent of seven shillings a week, the payment of which for three years conferred a freehold right upon them. The first settlers arrived in January 1874. The settle- page 43 ment has had to encounter various difficulties, many of the immigrants having arrived with exaggerated expectations, which led them to be dissatisfied with the hard bush-work, and a Maori tribe in the neighbourhood having made heavy exactions for a right of way over their reserve. The settlement is nevertheless making good way, and the immigrants who have settled on their rural land are rapidly improving it. In August 1877, there was a settled population on the block of 1600, and the corporation had sold 21,501 acres for the total sum of £67,563, being an average price of £3, 2s. 10d. an acre. If to this average be added the cost of clearing the land, each acre may be estimated to have cost the settler from £6 to £10 an acre. While we write (1879) the corporation have a large extent of their land still to dispose of, affording an opportunity to any hard-working labourer to obtain possession of 40 acres, and by his own industry eventually to attain to a position of comparative comfort. Population now 3000.

Another experiment in the way of special settlement is now being tried. Mr George Vesey Stewart, of Ballygawly, County Tyrone, Ireland, entered into an agreement in 1874 with the government for the purchase of 10,000 acres, the Katikati block, Tauranga, in the Auckland provincial district, at 20s. an acre. He became bound to settle on the land at least forty families, to each of whom an allotment should be given, not exceeding in extent 300 acres to one household. According to a parliamentary return, August 1877, there were then 43 separate allotments in occupation, and 1302 acres under cultivation, the remainder being in natural pasture. Mr Stewart subsequently obtained an extension of the settlement of 10,000 acres, under which one family might possess 1000 acres. It is understood that a superior class of immigrants have been introduced in the course of last year, and they are pleased with their location and prospects.

A special settlement was opened up by the government in Jackson's Bay, a secluded part of the West Coast of the South Island. On 30th June 1878, it contained a population of 402, owning among them 144 cattle, 55 pigs, 6 horses, and 30 sheep. The officer in charge reported, 19th August: 'Reviewing the whole circumstances in connection with the settlement, I think the result will not be found unfavourable. For instance, a number of families have been permanently settled there, overland communication has been opened up with Otago, cattle runs have been taken up, and stock brought over to supply the market. A saw-mill has been erected which finds page 44 employment for twenty men; cattle-breeding, gold-mining, farming, and seal-fishing are also carried on; and lastly, from the Bay prospecting parties have been fitted out and started to explore the coast, which were the means of discovering the copper mine in Dusky Sound, and a marble quarry in Caswell Sound.' It is not probable in this out-of-the-way place much good can be done, until it is connected with the interior of Otago by a passable track, or it enjoys greater facility of communication by sea. The attempt to carry on their coastal traffic by means of open boats led last year to a sad accident in which four men and a boy lost their lives, it is conjectured by the boat, which was light, having capsized in a gale.

Some particulars may now be given shewing the mode and cost of cultivating the best agricultural land, and the results which may be expected from ordinary good management. It is not necessary for a farmer to keep up a large staff of men and horses. He can always get his operations carried on efficiently by contract. Many of the settlers lay themselves out for this kind of business. The following estimates have been carefully prepared by an experienced landowner near Oamaru, in the very centre of the finest wheat-growing district, and may be considered reliable: