The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62
the present position
the present position.
|Assessment, 1882.||Assessment, 1885.|
|Proportions of Crown pastoral lands on which rates are payable by occupiers, included in 1882 totals, stated separately for 1885||3,700,000|
The serious complaints that have been made of both trade and agricultural depression during the past five years are not reflected in the above figures as much as might have been expected. On the contrary, they show a total increase of not less than 6,650,000l. in the rateable value of our town and country properties during the past three years; and, when we remember that the valuations are practically assessed by the owners rather than by the assessors, we may reasonably infer that, as a whole, they have not been overstated.
Again, upon examination of the published banking returns, we find that there were in Australia and New Zealand on 31st March, 1886, twenty-seven banks of issue doing business in these colonies; that their capital and reserves amounted to 22,004,534l., their total assets to page 6 125,984,240l, of which 13,941,0602. was represented by coin and bullion, and their liabilities to 92,506,003l., 86,577,371l. of which consisted of deposits. On 31st March, 1881, on the other hand, the deposits with these banks amounted to 58,933,163l., so that they have increased by the enormous sum of 27,644;208l., or some 46.9 per cent, within five years. These figures show the strength of the chief financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand, and also that there must have been a considerable accretion to the wealth of the colonies as a whole during the five years under review. Of the six banks doing business in New Zealand, three are practically branches, with colonial headquarters in Australia, so that it is impossible to say with accuracy how much of the 22 millions of proprietary capital is allocated to or owned by New Zealand. The official returns for this colony show, however, that deposits in Banks of Issue have increased from 9,293,497l. on 31st March, 1881, to 10,602,934l. on 31st March, 1886, or by 1,309,437l. It is true this increase is only a trifle over 14 per cent., but none the less it is an actual increase of nearly one and a-half millions, and should help to show that our present position is very far from being desperate. In Great Britain the deposits, including those in the Bank of England, were 512,000,000l. in 1881, and 559,000,000l. on January 1st, 1886, or an increase only slightly over 9 per cent. These figures approximately make deposits per head in Australia (excluding New Zealand), 282.; in New Zealand, 182.; in the United Kingdom, 152. Passing to the Savings Bank returns in New Zealand we find that the deposits advanced from 903,765l. in 1880 to 1,638,035l. on December 31st, 1885, or over 80 per cent.—a result that speaks volumes for the thrift and general well-being of the industrial classes, from whose ranks the bulk of these depositors are derived. Looked at from the same point of view, the following figures lead to the conclusion that the working classes in this country are better off than in any of the three wealthiest European nations.
|Population.||Deposits.||Rate per Head.|
|United States (1884)||121,180||57,000,000|
|Australia & Tasmania (1884)||6,927||2,668,737|
|New Zealand (1885)||1,613||578,283|
This fact, however, may have led to our being reproached by certain English capitalists for having built railways in the hope that people would come here to use them, rather than for the purpose of supplying the wants of an existing population.
As further evidence of the soundness of New Zealand's position, the following figures indicate that the volume of our foreign trade, unlike that of other exporting countries, has steadily increased, in spite of the heavy fall in prices.
|Exports and Imports.||Exports and Imports.|
The visible improvement in the general industrial situation of America, and the signs of a revival of trade in Great Britain, lead to the hope that we shall before long see an expansion both in the volume and value of our trade. If we have been able to hold our own so well in the struggle for material advancement, or even make a little headway during a time of commercial quietude, it is not unnatural to expect that we shall move onwards more rapidly when the turn of the tide sets in.
Whilst considering our position I cannot refrain from a passing reference to the value of our timber industry. It is often alleged that our forests are being so fast depleted, that in the immediate future the supply will be imperilled. But the experience of the world scarcely supports this view, as, according to estimates that have been made, the whole area annually felled is only nineteen millions of acres, and may be increased to forty millions before reaching the annual average increase in the growth of forest trees in exporting countries. Hence, as the area of forest trees in New Zealand in proportion to that which is annually felled is probably equal to the area in the majority of most timber-exporting countries, we are entitled to infer that, with no material increase on our present consumption, we need not be much alarmed about impairing our capital in trees.
In concluding the consideration of our present position, it is a consolation to feel that, whatever may be said about the condition of the commercial and agricultural industries, New Zealand has at least been able to maintain the great bulk of its industrial classes in a higher degree of comfort than any other country. There can be little doubt that the increased consideration which of late years has been given throughout the civilised world to the study of the social sciences, has had the effect of reducing the percentage of abject poverty in it. At the same time we must admit that so far we have been unable to remove entirely this blot upon modern civilisation. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, a certain amount of destitution, more or less severe, appears inevitable, but any impartial observer who has travelled must come to the conclusion that the percentage is very much less in this country than in any other, and that as a matter of fact gaunt hunger is page 7 practically unknown. We Lear much about the unemployed, and doubtless, there may be a few who from time to time have to suffer through want of work, to say nothing of those who are unable to obtain what they consider remunerative employment; but the heart-breaking misery that may be seen in any of the larger cities in Europe or America, and in a less degree in Australia, does not exist in New Zealand. Indeed it bus been well said that New Zealand is the working man's paradise, and in no other country are the poorer classes as a whole so well fed or so well clothed as they are here. It can be readily shown that per head of our population we consume far more meat, more bread, more sugar, more tea, more coffee, and more of all the everyday articles of food than any other known country, and also that the ratio of income per capita is greater, so that, whatever our burdens may be, the masses are not the sufferers therefrom. The fact is, that the present generation are not so well satisfied with their lot as their forefathers. There is nowadays a greater tendency than formerly to exaggerate trouble. At any rate there are better opportunities for airing grievances, real or imaginary, and it is probably this facility for making complaints that causes us to imagine that our ills are very much greater than they really are.