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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 61

£8,000,000 or £10,000,000

£8,000,000 or £10,000,000

to extend railway construction into the interior of the country. I venture to assert that not only would every copper of interest be lost, but that we should also have to resort to a large amount of extra taxation in order to pay working expenses, if the present system of management is to be continued. How can these extensions pay when the distant portions of the present lines lose so heavily.

I am, however, equally certain that it is quite possible, indeed an easy matter, so to manage our railways that we could, if we thought proper, borrow and expend another £10,000,000 without adding a single penny to the existing burden of taxation, or that we could appropriate £500,000 per annum towards further construction out of the revenue of existing railways.

There appears to me to be something absolutely absurd in the idea of investing £13,000,000 in a commercial concern, and receiving as a result at the very outside 2¾ per cent. on the outlay; and that miserable 2¾ wrung out of the country by the most oppressive extortion, and unjust and vexatious regulations.*

What possible use can there be in investing more money in such a concern? Who would be benefitted by it? Simply those who have the squandering to do.

That our railways have failed to meet the requirements of the country is manifest from the intense dissatisfaction that notoriously exists from one end of the colony to the other. It will be time enough to expend another ten or twelve millions when we have found out how to utilise the amount already invested.

For the present unsatisfactory position of our railways no men are so largely responsible as the Hon. Edward Richardson and Mr. Joseph Prime Maxwell. They have held supreme power longer than any other men; they have held this power in the most prosperous times of the colony; they both claim to be "railway experts" of a very high order, and yet the result of their administration has been to land us in a very slough of financial difficulty, instead of launching us on the sea of prosperity that was predicted in 1870.

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If the financial loss had been brought about by serving the country too cheaply, something might be said in their favour, for then we should have had a large indirect advantage somewhere; as it is we have no direct advantage, but we certainly have an immense indirect crushing, as the following table will show:—
Present Rate per Ton per Mile for a 50-mile Distance.
Class A, Merchandise 7.56 per ton per mile.
Class B Merchandise 6.44 per ton per mile.
Class C Merchandise 5.5 per ton per mile.
Class D Merchandise 4.18 per ton per mile.
Class E, Grain, &c. 2.08 per ton per mile.
Class N, Minerals 2.36 per ton per mile.
Class P, Native coal 1.84 per ton per mile.
To the above excessive rates must be added, for "Terminal Charges—
In Auckland for A, B, C, D, E 1/8 Per ton.
In Christchurch A, B, C, D, E ½ Per ton.
In Dunedin A, B, C, D, E 1/1 Per ton.
In Invercargill A, B, C, D, E ¼ Per ton.

The rates quoted above are those for the most highly-favoured districts. In Auckland and throughout the North and some parts of the South Island, many of the rates are 25 per cent, and more higher than those given above.

I again repeat my assertion, that it is the management alone that is to blame for the state we are in. We have a grand country, a splendid climate, enormous undeveloped resources, energetic people, plenty of capital; and yet the whole progress of the Colony is barred because we allow men like Mr. Richardson and Mr. Maxwell to rule our roads and therefore rule our commerce.

For a convincing proof of the utter incapacity of these men to deal efficiently with the important Department they preside over, I have only to refer my readers to paragraph 31 of Mr. Maxwell's report. How they could pen, pass, and lay it on the table of the House I cannot imagine. For an exhibition of downright commercial imbecility I have never seen it equalled—a greengrocer's apprentice might well be ashamed of it.

It is important to bear in mind what these gentlemen have done for us, as it is well known they expect to be appointed "Railway Commissioners" under the Bill they hope to get passed during the coming session of Parliament.

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They cannot claim want of power to act for the best, for legally, or illegally—as I believe, and further on shall endeavour to prove, they have exercised supreme power and have done exactly as they pleased; therefore, no one but themselves is responsible for the universally acknowledged failure.

* If an insurance and depreciation or renewal account was kept, as it certainly ought to he, not only would this per cent, all disappear, but a portion of the working expenses would have to be provided for out of the general taxation. I very much doubt, if in the whole annals of British commercial enterprise, we could find a more pronounced and contemptible failure than that of the present managers of the New Zealand railways.