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 50

Further Industrial Development

Further Industrial Development.

Food.—As already shewn, the Colony now grows far more food than it can consume, and its capacity for further development is very great. We are on the right track in this matter, and nothing is wanted to increase our production to an enormous extent but more people and more facilities for inter-communication.

The frozen meat trade will undoubtedly be a great impetus to the pastoral industries. The arable lands will be broken up more rapidly and laid down in English grass. Instead of having three acres for a sheep, there will be three sheep on the acre. The old race of squatters, whom I have heard derisively styled "tussockers," will give place to sheep-farmers, tillers of the soil, like their humbler brethren, the "cockatoos." Before we reach the full measure of our productiveness our flocks must be doubled, and the number of cattle and other domestic animals increased about twenty-fold.

Many of the imports under this head, such as rice, sago, and arrowroot, are grown only in tropical countries, consequently they can never be replaced by the products of New Zealand. The largest item connected with ordinary page 45 breadstuff's is seeds, which must always remain a considerable import if agriculture is to advance as it promises to do.

Another large item is fruit and nuts, of which we import annually £130,000 worth. So far as soil and sun are concerned, the greater portion of these might be grown in the Colony. Why they have not been so grown is probably due to the fact that we have not yet settled down to the systematic cultivation of anything but the "staff of life."

The largest food import now existing is sugar, which in the raw and manufactured state amounts to upwards of £500,000 a year. The question of producing this article in the Colony has received considerable attention, and the cultivation of both sorghum—sugar grass or cane—and sugar beet has been practically tested in the North Island.

Although scarcely known in international trade, sorghum is much cultivated in America for Home consumption. It grows in a much colder climate than the ordinary cane of the tropics, and is said to produce an equally good sugar; the plant is also useful as fodder, being of the nature of maize. Some of the sorghum extract produced in America is manufactured into syrup and sugar, in large works, but the greater portion is worked up by the farmers themselves. The plant was unknown in the United States till 1857, but ten years afterwards the quantity of syrup produced from it annually had amounted to 15,000,000 gallons.

In two papers contributed to the New Zealand Institute, Judge Gillies shows that sorghum grows freely in Auckland, and that it contains the necessary quantity of juice. Several acres have been planted by himself and others, and some 50 tons of the cane crushed and otherwise experimented on. The results are so far favourable, so is also the chemical page 46 analysis; but further experiments are required before the extract can be pronounced of the proper quality, for sugar boiling, like brewing, is a process which very little upsets. It is supposed that the climate of the isthmus of Auckland, where the greater portion of the sorghum has been tried, is too moist to give rich juice. If this is the only objection it is not a serious one, for any number of places can be got where the climate is much drier though quite as warm.

According to the latest recorded experiments—those of Mr Pond, of Auckland—the cultivation of sugar beet of the proper quality is an accomplished fact. Considerable quantities have been grown in the Waikato, which contains 12 per cent, of sugar. This is something like 3 per cent, more than is common in the beet from which the sugars of Continental Europe are manufactured. Ordinary beet sugar is not so agreeable to the English palate as that made from cane, consequently it is unknown in New Zealand as an article of food. But this is not the case in other countries:—the annual consumption of sugar in the world is estimated at 3,190,000 tons, of which 1,900,000 is cane, 1,190,000 beet, and 100,000 other sorts. Nearly all the beet sugar is produced in France, Germany, Austria, and Russia. In those countries it is rapidly superseding all other kinds for Home consumption, and large quantities are exported. The unpleasant flavor of beet sugar is due entirely to defects in manufacture; when properly refined it is identical in every respect with cane sugar.

About 7,000,000 gallons of spirits are also distilled every year in France from beetroot. Possibly this is the source of the famous pale brandies so popular in the Colonies.

The proximity of New Zealand to cane-growing countries, and our prejudice in favour of that kind, will retard the production of beet sugar in New Zealand; page 47 but it is certain to become an important industry some day, for this article is rapidly superseding all others of the kind in the principal markets of the world. Extensive works for refining the ordinary cane sugar are in course of erection at Auckland.

Drinks.—The liquor bill of New Zealand is a very large one, but it is satisfactory to find that the "cup which cheers without inebriating" still holds the first place. We expend far more on tea and coffee than on wine and spirits.

I have already referred to the large consumption of imported beer. There is no territorial reason why this beverage should not be made of as good a quality in south New Zealand as on the banks of the Trent. This state of affairs must either be due to defects in the local manufacture or the prejudice of the consumers. As previously remarked, the cultivation of hops is fast becoming an important industry in the northern districts of this island. Like many other crops in the virgin soil of the Colony, the yield is very large, nearly double of what it is in Kent. There is an impression abroad in Nelson that the quality is much inferior to the English article; but on making inquiries in Dunedin, I find this is not the case—there is no inherent defect in the plant, but it is not harvested and dried in the best manner. New Zealand hops have already been sent to England, and there is no reason why the export trade should not become an extensive one.

As you know, the distillation of spirits was begun in New Zealand some years ago, but it was shortly afterwards discontinued on account of the loss to the revenue by the concessions made to the promoters. They got a remission of half the duty, which at that time amounted to six shillings per gallon. It is difficult to say what amount of encouragement, if any, is required to again start this industry. In Victoria, where every page 48 local manufacture is supposed to be thoroughly protected, the concession only amounts to four shillings, and there are seven distilleries at work. I do not know what quality of liquor is manufactured, but, from the number of establishments, it is reasonable to conclude that the industry is financially a success. New Zealand is better adapted for this manufacture than any of the Australian Colonies:—we have all the materials required, down even to peat, which gives the peculiar flavour so much affected alike by Celt and Saxon. That we can or ought to make spirits cheaper than our neighbours across the water is evinced by the fact that one of our few exports to Victoria is barley and malt, the principal ingredients in the manufacture of spirits. I understand some steps have recently been taken in Christchurch towards establishing a distillery, but I do not know that the proposal has yet assumed a practical form.

Vine culture and wine making as a local industry in New Zealand is a subject which has received considerable attention, the conclusion being that it is well adapted for the country. When we consider how well the industry is succeeding at the Cape of Good Hope, and in Australia, and California—all new countries—there can be no doubt of a similar result in New Zealand. There are many places all over the Colony where the vine grows freely; but the future wine country par excellence will, in all probability, be the interior of Otago, notably the Upper Clutha Valley. In addition to other advantages, a uniformity of climate can always be depended on. The appearance even of the country favours the idea; the slopes of the ranges in the Dunstan district always remind me of views I have seen of the wine districts in Spain and Portugal.

Several proposals have been made to the Government to begin a tea plantation in Auckland; I believe page 49 the only real difficulty in the way is the labour question. The various experts who have investigated the matter are satisfied that the soil and climate are quite suitable.

Clothing.—The wool mills now in operation and building are quite up to our present requirements in the particular class of goods for which they are adapted, but there seem to be wide openings in other directions. Independently of the large quantity of woollen manfactures included in drapery and slops—the total of which for 1882 amounts to £1,358,661—we still import about £240,000 worth of blankets, carpets, hosiery, and other goods which are or ought to be wool. The value of the woollen articles imported under the head of drapery and slops is at least £500,000, consequently we are still importing about £750,000 worth of clothing, the raw material for which is the staple of New Zealand. It is of course impossible to meet all this by the local manufacturers, but many more of the articles just mentioned might be made here as well as lighter fabrics for dresses.

The imports under the head of linens are comparatively small, being only about £20,000, but that "Maelstrom of attire"—drapery—undoubtedly includes considerable quantities of linen goods. We are now cultivating European flax for the sake of the seed, which is used in making oil. The plant grows freely; so there is only one step to be taken in establishing the cloth industry—the utilisation of the fibre. Unfortunately, the two industries of oil-pressing and linen-weaving do not work together, for the flax has to be cut at different times to suit the two purposes.

At this early stage of our history it is premature to consider cotton manufactures further than to say, that our proximity to the South Sea Islands, and the fact that we will have an extensive trade with them, gives us a locus standi in the matter. If New Zealand is to work page 50 up to the ambitious future of the Britain of the South she cannot do without a Manchester.

A number of experiments have been made in growing mulberries and breeding silk-worms. They show that nature has done all that is required for the successful production of silk in New Zealand. It will be many years before we can support a silk mill in the Colony; but there is no reason why the raw silk should not be produced for exportation. The industry is one that requires little capital, it can be carried on to a considerable extent as a pastime, like bee-keeping.

Household Requisites and Luxuries.—Reference has already been made to the large imports of furniture and other household appliances. If we only had the courage of our opinions in these matters the Colonial manufactures would soon supersede the imported ones, for the native materials can scarcely be excelled.

China, and glass, and earthenware is another class of goods of which an immense quantity is imported, although we have the raw materials for them in the country. The imports of china and earthenware alone amount to about £70,000. There is no physical reason why a large portion of the commoner articles should not even now be manufactured in the Colony.

Referring to tobacco, the principal item to be dealt with under the head of luxuries, the Colonial Industries Commission's Report says:—" The evidence establishes the fact that any quantity of tobacco, equal in quality to the first American, can be grown in New Zealand, and that there is no reason why the whole of the tobacco consumed in the Colony should not ultimately be produced and manufactured in it." The Commissioners attribute the failure of the industry entirely to the operation of the "Tobacco Act, 1879." Prior to the passing of this Act there was no restriction to the production of Colonial tobacco, which was equivalent to page 51 a protection to the full amount of the duty; but now there is no concession whatever, the local and imported articles being on an equal footing. In Victoria the duty on unmanufactured tobacco is only one shilling, still there is generally about 2,000 acres under crop, and in 1880 the exports were greater than the imports, thus shewing that the consumption could be met by the home supply.

Building Materials.—In 1882 £600,000 worth of building materials of all kinds was imported; and of this amount at least £400,000 worth could be produced in the Colony forthwith, and £100,000 worth more when our resources are further developed. In fact, all the articles in this class might be produced here except a small portion of the metal work and some of the painting materials. There are three items particularly that ought to have disappeared altogether or become much less long ago—timber, and cementing, and roofing materials. The former has been already dealt with; I shall therefore only consider the other two.

In the case of cement, there are two reasons why the imports should diminish—First, because we have a good substitute in the hydraulic limes that are found in the country; and second, because the manufacture of cement is pre-eminently a Colonial industry. The bridge now in course of erection over the railway station will take about 3,000 casks of cement, all of which might be saved if the hydraulic limes on the Peninsula and at other places near Dunedin had been worked. Cement is used in this and similar works simply because the ordinary rich limes in the market have not the necessary strength, and do not set in a damp situation. With the exception of some special cases, where quick setting or extra strength is required, there are few works in New Zealand for which the native hydraulic limes are not quite suitable. These limes could possibly take the place of nine-tenths of page 52 the cement. On the imports of 1882 this represents £90,000.

The reason hydraulic lime has hitherto not been made in the South Island is that it costs a little more, and the general public are indifferent to quality. This is not the case in the North; the superior quality of the material is recognised on all sides, and as a consequence the industry has become of considerable importance. The lime is carefully manufactured and prepared; it is first calcined, then broken by stampers or rollers, and finally ground like flour, the process followed in the manufacture of cement. Auckland lime is fast superseding cement in the local market; it has even found its way to Dunedin, but, strength for strength, it is not, at this distance, as cheap as the imported article.

The existence of hydraulic lime obviates to a great extent the necessity for manufacturing cement. If the former is properly utilised there is little room for the latter; but if the present system of burning nothing but common lime is continued in the Middle Island a good opening is left for cement works. We have the raw materials in profusion—it is a low-priced article, the price of which is doubled by the charges of importation, and little skilled labour is required in the manufacture, all of which are in its favour as a Colonial industry.

As you all know, the ingredients of English Portland cement are chalk and clay, in the proportion of seven of the former to three of the latter. After being mixed together the raw materials are burned in a kiln and thoroughly pulverised in the manner just described. In Germany, where there is no chalk, hard limestone is used. The quality of the cement is the same in both cases, but the latter process is somewhat more expensive.

On account of the chalk and the proximity to the page 53 Malvern coalfield, the best place in the Middle Island for cement works is Oxford, and after it the Kakanui and Otautau districts. A small cement factory, with English plant and machinery of modem type, has lately been established in Collingwood. The raw materials and fuel are very convenient, but the market for the product is too remote.

Our bill for roofing materials of all sorts, in 1882, amounted to £192,072. As already stated the native slate is equal to the best imported kinds, and the supply is practically inexhaustible; still the attempts hitherto made to establish the industry of slate-quarrying have not been successful. This is due to a variety of causes—want of sufficient capital, the inaccessible situation of the quarries, and the prejudice of buyers, more particularly as regards the size. To save freight nothing but the largest and the lightest slates are imported; this has established a fashion in the Colony for the large size, and no other will be taken although the smaller sizes are in reality more serviceable. Had there been a ready market for all the produce of the quarries the industry might possibly have pulled through. Notwithstanding its drawbacks and previous failures, I have no doubt slate-quarrying will ultimately be an important Colonial industry, not only to supply our own wants but for exportation, as the New Zealand slate is much superior to anything hitherto discovered in the other Australasian colonies.

An important item in building materials is glass, more particularly if we include the bottles and other glass wares in the classes already noticed, which bring up the total imports to about £100,000. There is a glassworks in Auckland which produces first-class articles, but it seems to be on a very small scale. Several proposals have been made to begin one in the South Island, but they have never assumed a practical page 54 form. The raw materials are abundant, and the market is extensive, consequently the industry is one that ought to succeed. I understand the greatest obstacle is the introduction of skilled labour—glass-blowers, like potters, being a peculiar people, difficult to deal with.

Mechanical Industries.—The most important point connected with the mechanical industries of New Zealand is the production of iron. Including corrugated iron, fencing wire, rails, pipes, and other articles that have only been through the first processes of manufacture, we import annually about 40,000 tons of iron, valued at £500,000, which is sufficient to keep one or two small furnaces and mills at work.

Numerous attempts have been made to utilise the iron sands found in such abundance on the shores of the North Island. After many failures the problem of converting them into metal at a reasonable cost seems to have been solved in Auckland, which is rapidly becoming the seat of industries of various kinds. A furnace, on an American pattern, which embodies some new principles, has been erected at the Manukau, and, according to the latest accounts, it promises to be a success. The hematite ores which occur in such profusion in Nelson are well adapted for making steel by the new processes, now everywhere adopted. It is thus seen that there is a fair prospect of our having at no distant date a supply of the material most wanted in the mechanical arts.

It is impossible to consider individually the future prospects of the various branches of the mechanical industries; and, indeed, it is unnecessary to do so, for there are few of them untried. All that is required is to develop those that are now in existence—to build on the foundation already laid.

Mining.—The only important point connected with the mining industries that has not been touched on is page 55 the possibilities of the coal trade. The demand for coal in the Southern Seas and other places commanded by New Zealand is at least 2,000,000 tons per annum, of which New South Wales at present only supplies about 750,000, the remainder being obtained from the mines of the Old World. This shews what an extensive field is open to the coal industries of the West Coast.

Minor Industries.—I have in this section considered in detail the more important industrial developments attainable in the immediate future, and others have been referred to in previous sections. I shall now simply enumerate minor industries and manufactures that it is possible to establish, and which, although small individually, would in the aggregate contribute largely to the local trade of the Colony. Products:—Mimosa Bark, Osiers, Pea-nuts, Currants, Mustard, Castor Oil Plant, Saffron, Perfumery, Opium, Honey, Teazles, Garden Seeds and Peruvian Bark, and other medicinal plants. Manufactures:—Vinegar, Felt, Mats, Starch, Whiting, Blacking, Ink, Glue, Basketware, Brushware, Paint, Varnish, Oils, Fuse, and Tobacco Pipes.