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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

North Island

page 6

North Island.

All the best forage-plants and grasses thrive most admirably, continuing to grow throughout the year with little intermission. Stock of all kinds thrive and fatten rapidly on the pastures, coming to maturity at an early age, without the aid of roots or condimental foods. All kinds of cereals flourish equally well, more especially Indian corn, which produces from 50 to 80 bushels per acre.

So full is the soil of plant-food that several continuous crops of potatoes and cereals may be taken with little apparent exhaustion. Wheat, oats, and barley thrive where the soil is not too rich; otherwise they produce enormous crops of straw, without a corresponding yield of corn. The tobacco-plant thrives well, as also hops and sorghum, broom-corn, peanut, hemp, ramee or rheea (China grass), together with a large variety of economic plants, the growth of which will one day afford employment for a large population. In addition to these, oranges, lemons, limes, olives, and vines, with all the British, Chinese, and Japanese fruits, flourish, requiring but ordinary care. Potatoes are grown to a considerable extent, and yield heavy crops.

Much of the country along the south-west and west coast is being rapidly taken up, and the primeval forest is fast disappearing before the settler's axe. For the most part, the soil is fertile, and the growth of grass and clover is extremely rapid and vigorous when sown on the surface, after the felled timber has been destroyed by fire.

To the British husbandman it will seem almost incredible that the best pasture-grasses grow and thrive as they do with no other preparation than the ashes resulting from the burnt timber—no ploughing and no previous loosening of the soil, this, of course, being impossible amongst the forest of stumps; and yet, in less than a year from the date of scattering the seed, this same land will fatten from three to six sheep per acre.

So rapidly are these fertile forest-lands being cleared and converted into pastures that the demand for stock (principally dairy) has greatly increased, and this demand must continue for a series of years before it is fully met.

Before the introduction of the factory system stock were so unsaleable, especially in the North Island, that little or no attention was paid to this branch of rural economy; and the supply fell to the lowest ebb. The demand which has now set in is chiefly due to the settlement of the bush-lands with small selectors and the development of the dairy industry.

page 7

Those who in the past have watched the progress of New Zealand, especially of the North Island, have always maintained that as soon as the Maori difficulties should be ended, and other impediments to settlement overcome, the prosperity of the country would advance at a very rapid rate. The time has now come, and all that is now required to enhance and expedite the coming prosperity is wise legislation with respect to settlement, 30 that the unoccupied lands may be taken up by a thrifty class of small settlers.

There are millions of acres yet unoccupied, a great portion of which is of good quality, and only waiting the hand of man to make it carry, with very little cost, large herds of dairy stock, with flocks of long-wool and crossbred sheep. The west coast of the island is essentially a cattle-country. The midland districts are also adapted to long-wool sheep, as is the country along the east coast. The bulk of the country may be described as good sheep-land, a large portion of which is quite capable of carrying two sheep to the acre, and some of it as many as three or four.