The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 61
as wellpage 28
Having lectured in all the chief towns of the Colony, and conversed with their principal men, I am able to state that I found an almost universal belief that the rates throughout New Zealand were uniform. This will show how difficult people find it even now to read them.
In another year or two, if the present system is allowed to continue, Mr. Maxwell will have attained his end; every one will have to go to "the station to inquire what his rate is." The authorities will be able to charge what they please, and so serve their political or personal friends, or crush their enemies; in fact, they could ruin any district, or any man, at their pleasure.
If this state of things is to continue and grow, what is to prevent something like the following being a matter of daily occurrence:—
Customer at Auckland Station: "I want to send 10 tons of potatoes to Hamilton; what's the rates? "Officer: "us. 3d. per ton.; but where do they come from?" Customer: "Just landed from Canterbury." Officer: "Oh! in that case the rate will be only 5s. per ton." Supposing such things to be done, who could detect them? if, as Mr. Maxwell desires, there were no published or readable rates.
If you hand ever the control of the roads of a country to any set of men, you must of necessity hand over with them the control of the a mm tree of the country.
Mr. Maxwell suggests fixing maximum rates and appointing a Court of Appeal. Does anybody imagine that we in New Zealand can do what the British Parliament has failed to effect? That body has passed thousands of Acts to attempt to control the Companies, but in spite of all they daily charge from 300 to 1000 percent, above their legal rates.* A Court of Appeal indeed! Who would be mad enough to bring an action against the Government to recover an overcharge of £5, or even £50? He would simply be ruined in the attempt, and would rather stand the loss than try it.
* See the evidence of Professor Hunter and others, given before the British Royal Commission of 1881. It is stated on reliable authority that between five and six thousand Acts relating to railway matters have been passed by the British Parliament.