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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Productions and Industries

Productions and Industries.

New Zealand is primarily a pastoral country. In May, 1890, there were over 16,200,000 sheep, nearly 774,000 horned cattle, and about 180,000 horses in the colony. In 1890 the export of wool was 101,000,000 pounds, valued at £4,172,226. The Hawera plains, in the North Island, are so excellent a pasture-ground for horses that Colonel Carré, of the War Office, has reported that the North Island of New Zealand is the best adapted of all the British colonies for breeding horses for the Indian army.

The trade in frozen meat—that is, entire, dressed, and trimmed carcases of sheep and oxen frozen in New Zealand, kept in that state during the voyage in special chambers, and landed in London or elsewhere in exactly the same condition—has in the short period of its existence, namely, eight years, attained vast proportions. It was in 1882 that I myself witnessed the shipment of about 3,000 frozen sheep to London by the ship Metaura. The greater part of these proved to be unfit for food on arrival in London, three months later. Increased knowledge corrected these failures so perfectly that the direct mail steamer Tainui, by which I returned, in September, 1888, to England, delivered 30,000 frozen sheep at Rio de Janeiro and at London, in perfect condition. Last year (1890) there were 32 large steamers engaged in this trade, and the value of frozen meat exported up to the end of June, and afloat, reached one million pounds sterling. Already, thanks to this beneficent traffic, our working man is able to provide meat for his family three or four times as often in the week as he could have done before this importation of a commodity so cheap in the colonies that both in Australia and New Zealand thousands of sheep are skinned and boiled down merely for tallow, their flesh being absolutely thrown away!

Secondly, New Zealand is an agricultural colony. Both its wheat and oats are well known in the markets of the world for their very excellent quality and weight. The Hawke's Bay district grows, in some years, the high average of 37 bushels of wheat to the acre, and the Wellington district grows (1890) 36 bushels of oats to the acre. The total value of the cereals (wheat, oats, barley, and malt) exported during the year ending 30th June, 1889, was £970,659.

The forests of the colony afford millions of feet of most useful timber. The special timber of New Zealand is the kauri pine (Dammara Australis), which now grows only in the northern half of the North Island, and is becoming scarcer year by year. page 28 Its tough, silky, durable wood, capable of taking a high polish, is much in demand for house-building, small sailing vessels, and furniture. Of this, besides other timber, the value of £176,608 was exported in 1889.

Kauri gum, which is greatly in demand in England and America for coach varnish, is another speciality of this colony. It is the amber-like gum-resin that has exuded in past ages from the kauri pine, and is found underground by digging beneath the sites of former kauri forests. In 1888 no less than £380,900 worth was exported.

The native flax or hemp (Phormium tenax), a plant which grows like a common weed throughout all damp places in the colony, is now so successfully manufactured into ropes, mats, twine, &c. (after many failures arising from the gummy nature of the leaf fibre), that its export has more than quadrupled in the last two years, the value of the export for 1889 having been £361,182. During that year there were 246 flax mills in operation, employing 4,804 hands.

Thirdly, New Zealand is a mining and manufacturing country. Gold is found in almost every district, though not always in paying quantities, and the Government tax of 2s. per ounce forms in some years a considerable item on the right side of the colonial Exchequer. Sometimes, as in a new goldfield I visited in the Coromandel district of the Thames peninsula, the gold deposit is so near the surface that fine grains of it can be picked out of the soil by hand; but a good deal of the gold in the North Island is found in hard and often refractory ores. Up to the end of 1889 no less than £44,000,000 in value of gold had been produced from New Zealand sources.

Silver, copper, quicksilver, antimony, and manganese are also found in various parts. Large deposits of tin have been lately discovered in the South or Stewart's Island.

Coal is abundant in New Zealand. From its 130 coal-mines are now turned out about 600,000 tons of good steam and household coal every year. Lignite and petroleum are also found in quantity.

Iron exists in immense quantities, in the curious form of titanic iron-sand (72 per cent of iron blended with titanium, mechanically mixed with 28 per cent of siliceous sand), along the shores of the Auckland and Taranaki districts, and in the common forms of hematite and chrome-iron ore in several places in the Middle Island. After proving an expensive crux to capitalists for years, at last, in 1889, Messrs. Minett and Jones succeeded in working this iron-sand into malleable bars.

Good building-stone is found everywhere; lime is abundant. A huge cliff of "Carrara" marble, 80 feet high, and of 800 acres in area, has been recently discovered near Nelson. I could enumerate quite a long list of other minerals and deposits of page 29 economic value, and fresh discoveries are continually being made. But capital, employed with intelligence and integrity, is much required for the development of these productions.

The Annual Industrial Exhibitions held in the four chief cities (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin) afford opportunities not given to many English towns for the display of new inventions, products, and newly-discovered materials for manufacture. The great number, variety, and good finish of articles of food and clothing, of carpets, woollen goods, and household matters, all made within the colony, astonish the stranger. So inventive are the New Zealand colonists, encouraged, as the inventor is, by the cheapness of the process of legal patenting, that the number of patents issued per head of the population exceeds that of the United States, though the Americans have hitherto been considered the most inventive nation in the world.

Great Britain sends two-thirds of the imports received by New Zealand, and receives more than two-thirds of her exports. In 1889 the total value of our trade with the colony was estimated at £10,725,000.

New Zealand has indeed been passing through a grievous financial and business depression since 1885; but now, under the wise and economical management of her affairs by Sir Harry Atkinson and his colleagues, her financial position is being righted, and confidence in her securities restored. In place of an annually-recurring deficit, the colonial Premier was enabled last year (1889-1890) to announce an actual surplus of £115,000. The trade of the colony during the same period had so vigorously revived that the exports exceeded the imports by no less a sum than £3,500,000—always a good sign. The revenue of New Zealand averages four millions a year, chiefly derived from excise and customs duties, the only direct Government tax being the property tax of one penny in the £ on everything one possesses above the sum of £500. Thus the working man escapes all direct taxation.

Possessing still above thirty million acres of land for sale or lease, 1,900 miles of railway, 5,000 miles of telegraph, 9,000 miles of road, 800 bridges, profitable postal and telephonic services, valuable public buildings, waterworks and harbour-works, having among its citizens (in 1889) 100,000 thrifty men and women, who possessed two and a half million pounds sterling in the Government and other savings banks, the colony of New Zealand is not only perfectly solvent but is now on the way to a prosperity more solid and lasting than that which Sir Julius Vogel forced upon her from 1870 to 1884 by the rapid and too lavish expenditure of borrowed money. I allude, of course, to the public works and immigration policy upon which that astute financier was floated into office in 1870, 1873, and 1876. The absolute page 30 necessaries of life—corn, meat, milk, eggs, &c.—are wholly untaxed, and the semi-necessaries, such as tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, and salt, are but lightly taxed. Upon luxuries and all imported manufactures the tariff is heavy—from 15 to 25 per cent.