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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62


page 420


The Royal Colonial Institute, under whose auspices we meet this evening, claims, and justly claims,

to promote the increase and diffusion of knowledge respecting the Colonies, and the preservation of a permanent union between the Mother Country and the various parts of the British Empire;

in short, it is a society for the propagation of knowledge of the Empire.

No one who attends the monthly gatherings of this Institute, and listens to the various papers which are read, can fail to be impressed with the vastness, the wealth, and the mighty force of our great Empire, and to acknowledge the importance of making the inhabitants of each portion of that Empire better acquainted with the history, the people, and the resources of its constituent parts.

Distributed as that Empire is over the four quarters of the earth's surface, we find within her limits every climate, every variety of soil, every product; so much so that the British Dominions can supply almost all the wants of every member of the Empire, without going outside her own possessions. What a glorious heritage, what a field for the energy, brains, muscle, and money of our people! What an estate to develop! And yet we see England allowing her people and her capital to go to foreign lands. Money almost fabulous in amount has been sunk in the Argentine, in Egypt, in Turkey, and in a hundred other places, and money has been lent whenever asked for to European nations to build machines of war, possibly to fight against and weaken each other, but also possibly to be used in warring against England herself. While this goes on, Canada, South Africa and Australasia have vast areas of fertile land crying out to be tilled and peopled. There our own kith and kin are waiting, as an advance guard, to welcome us; there our own language, religious instincts and traditions coexist; and there that liberty which is the characteristic of our glorious constitution has been transplanted. Yet we allow this vast estate to remain only very partially developed, letting most of it lie waste while a large portion of England's population is half-fed and half-clad. Statesmen spend their time in talking about model dwellings, compulsory insurance against poverty, in devising engines of war, and squabbling over the extent to which an island may be allowed to manage page 421 her own affairs, to the exclusion of the larger questions of Imperial moment, which, once settled, would settle at the same time what appear now as problems defying solution.

From the discreditable indifference shown in the early part of this century to the miserable condition of our poor, we now bid fair to rush to the opposite extreme by supporting so-called philanthropic schemes, many of which, if carried out, would be a premium to improvidence and educate the people to a helpless leaning on the State as the universal provider. Given the land, labour, capital, intelligence and energy possessed by the British Empire, it is not to the credit of the statesmen and political economists of this enlightened century that such a large proportion of the people of the Empire should be in misery and want; not the want which must always exist as the legacy of crime, waste and improvidence, but the want which coexists with the desire to be thrifty and industrious, and the inability to get out of the ruck of poverty and misery. It is presumption for any one man to suppose that he can solve such a mighty problem; but, in my poor opinion, a condition precedent to the solution is a state of mind which regards the Empire as a whole, and which recognises the undeveloped resources and latent power of that Empire. Forgive me for expressing the opinion that English public men and Englishmen generally are too prone to consider questions from an English rather than from an Imperial point of view, hugging the erroneous idea that the British Isles are the British Empire. The chief work of this Institute is to educate the British public to a more intimate knowledge and higher appreciation of what has been aptly termed "Greater Britain," for it requires little penetration to see that the time is not far distant when the offspring will be more powerful than the parent, when the Colonies will be more populous, richer, and more important than the Mother Country.

My task to-night is to say something about a small, but nevertheless important, part of our Empire, a land which to know is to love—New Zealand.

It would be easy to write a paper more attractive than the one I am going to read to-night; but I shall not try to be either scientific, philosophical, or poetical. I feel I shall be prosaically practical, to such an extent, I fear, that I shall somewhat try your patience. I hardly think, however, that any apology is needed for the effort I make to render my paper useful to those who desire to make New Zealand their home. For convenience I shall divide what I have to say into three heads, viz.:— page 422
1.New Zealand as a Place for the Safe Investment of British Capital.
2.New Zealand as a Home.
3.New Zealand as a Land of Wonder and Beauty.

With regard to the first point (New Zealand as a place for the safe investment of British capital), it is pleasing to note that the time has passed when New Zealand was pointed at as the spendthrift Colony. She is now in the proud position of being regarded as a commendable example, illustrating what marvellous results economical administration and a policy of self-reliance can achieve. The Colony of New Zealand is an especially interesting study at the present juncture. History repeats itself, and New Zealand has been through a phase of economy and abstinence from borrowing which the other Colonies seem just about to enter. May the same happy results attend their efforts as have crowned hers! In New Zealand, in proportion as the Government of the Colony diminished public expenditure, so her people, being thrown on their own resources, turned their attention to the natural industries of the country. The result has been a marvellous impetus to land settlement—not the acquisition f large areas for speculative purposes which was seen during the expenditure of borrowed money, but the bonâ fide rooting of the people to the soil, and the consequent increase of the small farmer class. As a result of this increased settlement, and the steady attention paid in previous years to the development of our agricultural and pastoral industries, our exports during this period of trial have increased to a most gratifying extent, and the economy practised by individuals as well as by the Government has caused our imports to fall off, so that the value of our exports during this period has exceeded that of our imports by a large amount. The accompanying table shows the imports and exports during the last five years, and also the expenditure of borrowed money, and the amount of land settlement which took place during the same period.

Total value of imports Total value of exports Expenditure of borrowed money Land under cultivation Total area of lands sold or otherwise disposed of by the Crown since commencement of the Colony
£ £ £ Acres Acres
1886 6,759,013 6,672,791 1,583,723 6,845,177 18,558,231
1887 6,245,515 6,866,169 1,572,786 7,284,752 18,914,371
1888 5,941,900 7,767,325 824,880 7,670,167 19,244,345
1889 6,308,863 9,341,864 515,058 8,015,426 19,378,511
1890 6,260,525 9,811,720 398,817 8,462,495 19,666,917
page 423

This table tells the whole story: the tapering off of the expenditure of borrowed money, the spread of settlement, the increase of production and the balance in hand after paying for the goods imported. The Colony has been weighed in the balance and not found wanting, and she has proved that her progress does not depend on having borrowed money to spend. Her public debt may be large, but her people are well able to bear the burden which the annual interest imposes, and every year, as population and production increase, that burden grows lighter. The test which is frequently applied, viz. of indebtedness per head of the population, is not as true a test as ability to pay.

Judged, however, by either test, New Zealand need not fear the result. In making a comparison between the respective indebtedness per head of the people of England and New Zealand, we must, if the comparison is to be fair, remember that the English National Debt does not include the indebtedness represented by the expenditure incurred in the construction of the railways, and other public works of the United Kingdom, for in the case of New Zealand a very large portion of her debt has been contracted for those purposes. The net public debt of New Zealand amounts to £37,359,157, which has been expended as follows:—
On railways 13,208,374
On roads and bridges 3,598,163
On immigration 2,145,150
On public buildings (including schools) 1,780,785
On land purchases 1,196,479
On lighthouses, harbours and defence works 881,818
on telegraphs 606,647
On waterworks on goldfields 561,101
On coal mines and thermal springs 25,171
On native wars (previous to 1870), defence, provincial government expenditure (previous to abolition) &c. (approximate) 10,000,000
Miscellaneous 300,000
Unexpended 1,053,248

It will be seen from the above table that, with the exception of the money spent over native wars, nearly the whole of the money New Zealand has borrowed has been spent in reproductive works. This is a fact that cannot be repeated too often, that whereas England and all European countries have expended a large portion of their public debt in wars, the Australasian Colonies have (with the exception of the money New Zealand has spent) expended nothing on war, but all in the construction of works either immediately or prospectively productive. So true is this, that I feel page 424 certain New Zealand could to-morrow sell her 1,842 miles of railway and 5,061 miles of telegraphs for a sum not far short of the whole of her public indebtedness.

It is needless to say such a course would be foolish in a new country where the railway system has to be used as an aid to settlement and means of development. New Zealand has shown that, without borrowed money, she can pay her way without putting too severe a strain on her people, and the wealth of the Colony, both public and private, is increasing so fast that no reasonable man can have a doubt as to her future.

The accumulated public and private wealth, and public and private indebtedness, may be expressed in a balance-sheet in something like the following form:—

Assets and Liabilities of New Zealand on March 31, 1889.

Real property:—
Crown lands. 12,205,703
Native lands 5,790,366
Education, church, municipal and other reserves 8,933,415
Real estate of persons and companies 84,208,230
Personal property 85,530,210
Public works:—
Railways (cost price) 14,875,187
Telegraphs 577,601
Lighthouses 153,255
Buildings 2,250,000
Harbours 3,000,000
Water supply, goldfields 509,996
Net public debt of the Colony 35,680,143
Debts of local bodies 6,668,889
Mortgages 30,502,231
Indebtedness exclusive of mortgages 16,661,466
Surplus 128,521,234

Note.—No later figures than the above, which are taken from the property assessment returns for 1888, are obtainable.