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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48


The retiring Committee have now to present the usual Annual Report of their proceedings for the past year.

During this period the Committee have held 27 meetings, besides eight General and Special Meetings of the Chamber.

The Committee deeply regret having to record the loss of two members of the Chamber by death during the past year—Mr. H. Tewsley, and Mr. James A. Walcott, both for many years associated with this Chamber, and successively the Chamber's representatives on the Harbour Board at the time of their decease. The vacancy on the Harbour Board thus caused has been filled by the appointment of Mr. G. C. Matheson.

The commencement of the period covered by this Report found our commercial interests in a state of extreme trial and depression, caused in great measure by the reaction of the monetary crisis in the Home country which followed the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank. Our staple Wool fell to a very low range of value, trade was impeded by dear money and by the extremely stringent policy which the Banks and other monetary institutions were compelled for the time to adopt, and the resulting depression was all the more severely felt in that it followed closely upon a period of very free money facilities and an undue inflation of values, accompanied by much speculation, especially in landed property. It is surely no small testimony to the general soundness of our trade and the prudence of our traders, as well as to the substantial character of our resources, that this time of trial has been passed through without serious disaster, and that in the Otago district comparatively few commercial failures and none of importance have occurred. There is good ground for believing that the bad times are passing away, and that we are now entering upon a period of renewed prosperity. Nothing is lacking in the resources of the country—abundance of fertile soil for agriculture, excellent pastures, an unrivalled climate, facility of communication by rail and ready means of shipment of produce with a short land carriage,—these are advantages which united compare favorably with those of any country in the world, and should enable us to hold our own in the race of competition. The time of trial through which we have passed ought not to be without its uses in enforcing the lessons of prudence and economy and the application of diligent and persevering effort to the development of these resources.

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The harvest of grain in this and the Canterbury districts although it has not come up to what was at one time expected, is nevertheless the largest crop ever produced in New Zealand. A large quantity of Wheat is being exported at a value which gives a fair return to the farmer. A new point of much importance, particularly to the southern districts, has also been established in finding a market in Europe for our surplus produce of Oats at prices for the better qualities which, with moderate rates of freight, will pay the producer. Happily, also, a great improvement has occurred in the value of wool, and there appears to be a marked revival of mining enterprise throughout the mining districts.

The Committee therefore consider that they have good grounds for congratulating the Chamber upon the hopeful outlook for the future.

The annexed statements of Imports and Exports exhibit a marked decrease of the former from all countries, with the single exception of Mauritius, for the year ending 30th June, 1880, as compared with the year preceding, which may be taken as indicative of the prudent action of importers in the curtailment of their operations during the period of depression. The total decrease amounts to no less than £653,000. The value of exports shows also a decrease, but to the much smaller extent of £112,000. A separate return shews that the export of Wool for 1879-80 exhibits an increase of 2,251,305lbs. on that of the previous year.

Through the courtesy of the Commissioner of Railways, returns are furnished giving summary of traffic on the Middle Island Railways for the years ending 26th June, 1880 and 1879; also for the four-weekly period ending 24th July for each year.

A point of much importance in connection with the Railway Returns is the increased consumption of native Coal for railway purposes. The use hitherto almost exclusively of imported Coals over certain portions of the line has been a needless extravagance of the administration of a very hurtful character, involving not only a serious loss to the public of the very considerable difference of cost, but, the payment out of the Colony of a large sum which would otherwise be applied in the prosecution of an important local industry. It is to be hoped that the Government will issue peremptory instructions for the use of local the coal in neighbourhood of its production, wherever its use can be shown to be possible at a cost not greater than that of imported coal.

The following subjects have been brought by the Committee under the consideration of the Chamber at large, which, after discussion, expressed its views by resolutions which were dealt with in accordance with its instructions:—Property Tax, Alteration of Tariff, Otago Central Railway, Harbour Board's Borrowing Powers Bill.