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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Commerce and Resources of New Zealand

page 21

Commerce and Resources of New Zealand.

In transmitting the report of the trade of New Zealand for the calendar year ended December 31, 1888, according to official statistics issued by the Government, I have to state that the general movement as compared with the preceding year (1887), shows a material increase of exports over imports, amounting to $9,127,125. A slight advance, it is true, yet it is indicative of a healthier and more satisfactory condition of trade than has existed for several years past.

The wave of depression in all avenues of trade and commerce which passed over New Zealand during the years 1885, 1886, and 1887, sweeping almost all kinds of industries and interests before it, continued with unabated fury through the greater part of 1888. It came down upon the hitherto happy and prosperous colonists, paralyzing all industries. Capital became frightened and was locked up, all kinds of public works ceased, and labor was almost wholly unemployed. The mining industry, which heretofore was considered the main-stay of the colony for years, had almost entirely collapsed or ceased to be remunerative. Everything was at a stand-still, and remained so for two or three years.

It is pleasing, therefore, to note that now the prospects of a brighter era are gradually assuming definite shape. Confidence is being restored, money is slowly but cautiously issuing forth from its hiding-place and is being circulated more freely. Trade of all kinds has an upward tendency, while labor is hopefully looking forward to a speedy return of the good old days when wages and employment were both to be had in abundance. In this, however, I regret to say, I fear day will be disappointed. It can scarcely be expected to have a revival of those days in the near future. At least nothing approaching the unparalleled prosperity of a few years ago can reasonably be expected, unless a greater mining excitement, or a Los Angeles, Cal., land-boom should unexpectedly break loose among the populace. In this event I am not prepared to say what might be the result. The land and mineral wealth is here in abundance, and only requires the occupation of the former and the development of the latter. Until either one or both of those much-to-be-hoped-for events occur there is no immediate prospect of the condition of the New Zealand laborer being materially improved.

This is no country for the laboring man to come to at present. Employment is scarce and wages correspondingly low. But for a man with a little capital, desirous of taking up land, I know of no better country. Land can be purchased very reasonably, the soil is deep, rich, and mellow, and will produce abundantly. I believe, however, it is safe to predict that New Zealand, owing to her isolated situation and remoteness from the greater centers of population and markets of the world, must necessarily be slow in the de- page 22 velopment of her vast resources and accumulation of population, unless special inducements are held out by the Government to encourage immigration and capital.