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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50



Coming now to gold-mining, one of the four distinctly marked epochs in the colonization of New Zealand, we find that the production of the precious metal went up with a bound during 1861 and 1862, reaching £2,432,479 in 1863; it fell to £1,855,830 in 1864, but recovered immediately, and for the next seven years fluctuated between £2,897,412 and £2,163,910. Since 1872 the exports have gradually decreased to £921,664, the amount for 1882. The total value of gold entered for export up till December, 1882, is £39,464,143.

The extent to which the gold-mining industry has benefited New Zealand is a debatable point. Some go so far as to aver that it would have been better had the precious metal never been discovered—that it would page 15 pay better to leave the gold where it is in the bowels of the earth and cultivate the golden grain on the surface. I am not prepared to offer an opinion as to whether gold-mining has in itself been a profitable investment for the Colony. It is not only quite possible but highly probable that the sovereign has cost far more than twenty shillings, for in the matter of trade the greatest balance against the Colony was in the "golden years," when we imported a little over £200 worth of goods for every £100 worth of Colonial products we exported. But on the other hand the benefits derived from the industry in the impetus it gave every other branch of settlement are incalculable. It is the lever that starts the engine—the train that fires the mine. Taking the rate of progress for the last twelve years as determined by the exports, and starting from the level of 1860 instead of 1864-5, our trade now would only be about three-fifths of what it is, and our present position would not be reached for at least twenty years.