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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50

Concluding Remarks

Concluding Remarks.

In conclusion, I shall consider shortly the general question of establishing and fostering Colonial industries; the advantages to be derived therefrom; the facilities for them that exist; the difficulties to be overcome; and the channels through which encouragement can be given.

As an indication of the possible expansion and development of our industries, I have analysed roughly the character of our imports. Taking them in round numbers at £6,000,000, I find that £1,500,000 is for articles which could be produced in Now Zealand by merely extending the industries already in existence; £1,500,000 for articles that could readily be produced by establishing new industries, the conditions for which page 56 are favourable; £1,000,000 for articles that could be produced when the resources of the Colony are further or fully developed; and £2,000,000 for the products of tropical countries and manufactures which there is no chance of superseding by local supplies. It is thus possible to produce and make three-fourths of the goods we buy from other countries.

No one questions the desirableness of establishing manufactures and other industries in a new country providing the conditions are favourable thereto, for without them the other resources of the country cannot be fully developed. As "we cannot live by bread alone," neither can we live altogether by producing bread. If we confine our colonizing operations to growing wool and corn, as we are frequently advised to do by political economists of the Old Country, our progress will speedily come to an end. Agriculture cannot live without railways, and railways cannot live on agriculture. The half-million people that inhabit New Zealand are all living on the fruits of the earth; but it only takes a sixth of the number to gather these fruits—the rest are camp followers, who minister to the regular soldiers, and without which the warfare cannot be carried on. The relative proportion of the two classes must not be brought below a certain point, otherwise the producers will suffer; and the more trades and industries are multiplied the better for them. Unless it is a positive and permanent burden, every fresh industry that starts benefits those already in existence, and the producer most of all.

The policy of the Colony all through has been one of progress, to make of itself a nation; but what nation can exist in these modern times that is composed entirely of tillers of the ground and shepherds of sheep?

In pursuance of the policy just referred to, we have page 57 made the most liberal provision for educating and raising the people to a high intellectual standard. Every latent faculty is to be developed, every talent brought to light and as there is such a diversity of faculties in humanity generally, and in colonists particularly, so must there be a diversity of pursuits.

According to the highest French authorities, "that country must be considered the most prosperous in which the inhabitants are able to have the largest ratio of meat for their food." Although there is so much poverty and destitution in the Old Country, the average Englishman eats more meat than any other European, his annual consumption being 110 pounds. The next highest meat eaters in Europe are the French, with 66 pounds; and the lowest the Portuguese, with 20 pounds. According to the dictum of the French philosophers, "Britannia rules the waves," not by the force of intellect, but through the power of roast beef; and by the same rule New Zealand must be the most prosperous country in the world, for it is estimated that each of its inhabitants consumes from 200 to 250 pounds of meat per annum. As shewing the superabundance of food in the Colony, it is calculated that the rabbits killed in 1882 would yield upwards of 100,000,000 pounds of flesh fit for human use, all of which is wasted. What a god-send this would be to the starving thousands of London, who do not know from personal experience that man is a carnivorous animal.

With such an abundance of food New Zealand can grow strong vigorous men, which is the main point, whether brain or muscle is most required. Although the rule does not hold good in individuals, it is well known that in communities the best eaters are the best workers. This, I have no doubt, is the secret of the success of many of our undertakings in New Zealand. page 58 Although wages are more than double the rate in the Old Country the cost of production is not in the same proportion, for men here do more work.

With the raw materials in the country colonial industries have a large natural protection in the distance we are from the seat of manufacture. The charges connected with sending wool Home and getting it back in cloth alone come to 3d per pound; this, on the quantity worked up by our wool mills, amounts to £26,000—a very handsome protection on £150,000 worth of goods. And we not only send Home the wool to be woven into cloth, but we send the corn to feed the weavers.

The magnanimity of England as a nation is proverbial, but in a matter of business her traders are quite as ready as their neighbours to take advantage of every favouring breeze. All the philanthropic writing about freetrade that we see is not disinterested. Open ports all over the world is, in a sense, protection to the manufactures of England, which are so firmly established. There is no doubt that every effort is being made to retain the Australasian trade, which is growing enormously, and any attempt made to encourage colonial industries is strongly deprecated. Only a few days since, the English telegrams said that the Times, referring to the proposal to manufacture rails in New South Wales, hoped that the industry would not be subsidised in any way. A recent writer in an English periodical deprecated the idea of cloth being made in the colonies—he said it would pay us better to send our wool Home and have it properly manufactured by skilled workmen. I fear we would never see our own wool again. It would come back in the form of shoddy; for blankets and certain kinds of cloth can be bought in England for 20 per cent, less than the price of the wool that is supposed to be in them. It is not so much cheaper labour and higher skill, but inferior materials and wholesale page 59 adulteration, that gives the English manufacturers the advantage.

One of the greatest difficulties to contend with in establishing industries is the prejudice that exists in the minds of the public against colonial-made goods. I have frequently observed this myself; and one of our leading manufacturers considers it a greater evil than the want of protection. With the reputation we have for belauding the Colony generally, it is curious that the other side should be taken when we descend to particulars. A senator waxes eloquent over the benefits that are to accrue from the establishment of native industries, "to keep the money in the country;" but when he retires to Bellamy's, to refresh the inner man after his exertions, he will not touch what he calls the "beastly colonial."

This depreciation of home productions is by no means a new experience, it has been the case all through. In the olden times it was an accepted theory in Otago, that crops would only grow on the cleared bush lands, and that the milk of cows fed on native grass would not make butter; and many of you will remember how difficult it was to get people to use Colonial flour.

Another difficulty in establishing certain industries is the serious effect it may have on the finances of the Colony. Two of the manufactures most likely to succeed in New Zealand are the cultivation of tobacco and the distillation of spirits. The duties on these articles in 1882 amounted to upwards of £700,000—nearly half the Customs revenue. If large concessions are necessary to make them Colonial industries, and if the benefits to be derived therefrom are worth such concessions, it is clear that the revenue must be made up some other way. To use the popular expression, "the incidence of taxation must be altered."

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The labour question is another serious consideration in establishing certain industries, notably the cultivation of tea, tobacco, olives, grapes, and other subtropical products that require a considerable amount of manual labour. One of the English companies that offered to establish a tea plantation in the North Island stipulated for a certain proportion of Maori labour at a given rate. It was, of course, impossible to comply with this condition; neither can we depend on the South Sea Islands for cheap labour, as Queensland is at present doing. It would not be desirable to see New Zealand over-run with Chinese; but it seems to me that if the class of industries just mentioned is to be developed it can only be done through them.

Many of the industries hitherto established by public companies have been unsuccessful, simply because they were not gone into as an investment or a regular source of income, but as a speculation to be got rid of on the first opportunity.

Among the minor objections to manufactures is that the occupation has a tendency to raise up a grimy, sickly race of mortals in which the higher attributes of humanity are deteriorating. It is true that factory hands have not the physique of their brethren who work in the fields; but it does not follow that they are less comfortable or less happy—they have certainly less "care for the morrow," for their bread is sure in all weathers.

Leaving out bonuses, protection, and the other direct means of encouraging Colonial industries, which are questions for politicians to determine, I shall notice a few of the more general requirements. One of the first is a thoroughly systematic inquiry into the industrial resources of the country and a wide-spread diffusion of the knowledge thus obtained. The necessity for this is illustrated by a paragraph which lately appeared in the papers, stating that a great difficulty in page 61 butter-making is the want of proper timber to make casks. This is quite incorrect, the most plentiful timber in the Colony—birch—being as suitable for the purpose as English beech or oak. We have another illustration in the fungus previously referred to, the properties of which were unknown to the settlers. There are possibly many such products in the country of which we have no knowledge. In addition to the fullest information about our resources, we want periodically an authoritative record of the progress that is made in the various industries. The Royal Commission of 1880 made recommendations in this direction, and the Government is the proper body to undertake the work; but much can be done locally. The holding of exhibitions and the establishment of an industrial museum or permanent exhibition, to be replenished by new products and manufactures, are valuable agents in promoting Colonial industries.

The prejudices against home-made goods already referred to will undoubtedly wear away through time, as the public get to learn that they are unfounded; and, in the meantime, any foundation that exists should be removed by the production of nothing but first-class articles in every branch of trade. On the other hand, public bodies as well as individuals should give the preference to colonial manufactures, in every case where they compete fairly with the imported article. Loyalty to our duty as colonists demands this sacrifice, if sacrifice it is.

Another important factor in the promotion of every colonial industry is the improvement in inter-communication that is constantly going on, and which will undoubtedly be continued till all the resources of the Colony are opened up. This is one of the engines started by the golden lever. Without it in the past our present position would not have been attained, and without it in the future our progress must soon come to page 62 an end. Facility for inter-communication benefits every branch of industry, and equalises trade by putting materials in the right place. For want of roads the; price of potatoes in the Wakatipu district, in 1864, was about £60 a ton; three years afterwards they could be bought for ten shillings, for exactly the same reason. I; paid sixteen shillings a bushel for oats on the Kawarau in 1864; the price at Tapanui, in 1879, was tenpence. The extremes in one direction were due to the want of facilities for bringing the produce into the district, and in the other, to the want of facilities for taking it away.

The last and most important requirement in extending the industries that already exist, and establishing new ones in the Colony, is men. With the cry of the "unemployed" still ringing in our ears, this statement may appear open to question, but it is nevertheless true. In New Zealand we want most of all men, women, and children-" all sorts and conditions of men," and of all "kindreds and tongues," to develop the varied resources of the Colony. Anglo-Saxons to trade, grow corn, and drive engines; Italians to plant olives; Frenchmen to make wine; and Mongolians to grow tea and tobacco. If a tithe of the industries we have discussed to-night were fully developed, and the population increased in due proportion, there would be fewer unemployed. We have them now so often simply because the sources of employment are so limited.

The patience with which you have listened to my long attempt to lay before you the past, present, and future of the industries of New Zealand is a proof that you do not consider the subject a dry one. We might even go further and find a ray of sentiment amid the smoke and din of busy labour, for in opening out new fields of industry we are contributing our mite towards the building up of a State which may eventually occupy a prominent position among the nations of the world.

W. N. Blair.