The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69
The Proposed New Zealand Exhibition in London
The Proposed New Zealand Exhibition in London.
H. A. Atkinson, K.C.M.G.,Wellington, N.Z.
Sir,—The very keen interest excited by the publication of my proposal to hold a New Zealand Exhibition in London has induced me to collate and lay before you the opinions on both sides which have appeared in the public Press.
This, with your permission, I will preface with a brief outline of the project itself.
The success which has attended the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, now open, has been altogether beyond expectations. Such a thoroughly representative collection of New Zealand exhibits, showing so clearly the advanced progress of the Colony, was a surprise even to those with extensive previous experience of these matters, and at once induced the thought:—"Enlarged and elaborated but a little more, trimmed and polished to suit the London taste, what a revolution this Exhibition would effect in the popular impressions of New 'Zealand, if it were held in the world's metropolis instead of at, the Antipodes!'
|1.||That no amount of lecturing or canvassing could possibly bring New Zealand before the British public in the tangible, easily understood form which such an Exhibition as that proposed would achieve.page 2|
|2.||That despite the efforts of lecturers and agents, despite, and in fact partly because of, the exhibits New Zealand has sent to previous European Exhibitions the impression remains amongst the masses even of the well-to-do middle class at Home that New Zealand is a very beautiful but very barbarous country, producing gold, wool, ferns and cannibals, and that the shepherd tends his sheep, or the miner delves lor the unwilling gold, if not at the risk of his life, certainly amidst the rudest surroundings. The ignorance regarding New Zealand at Home is positively inconceivable.*|
|3.||That had thousands of people at Home, possessed of some small means, any idea of the civilization and conveniences to which the Colony had attained they would leave the bitter struggle for inadequate returns amidst the millions who vegetate in Europe and flock to these more favoured shores, greatly to the benefit of the Colony.|
The argument that New Zealand can become better known by its products than by an Exhibition is true only in a perverted sense, and shows the most extraordinary ignorance of the way in which New Zealand products are dealt with at Home. In the first place, the proposed Exhibition will not be a mere show. It will be a collection of the very best samples of the very products that are to make New Zealand so well known. It will serve as the best of introductions to those very products. It will introduce to notice under the most favourable circumstances products now not sent Home at all, and will further advertise far and wide products now regularly shipped, and but very little known. To imagine that these products can become known without some such introduction shows a child like innocence of the ways of the world, which is almost ludicrous. Despite the efforts of our very able Agent-General, New Zealand would never become known if this weak reed is to be leaned upon. Nothing is more certain than that the bulk of New Zealand frozen mutton goes to the consumer as Scotch; that New Zealand cheese is sold as American, butter by any name that is temporarily.popular, and that even wool and grain are often treated in a similar way. Tallow and flax are the only two products that we can really be certain are always sold as of New Zealand growth; and it seems to me a somewhat difficult task to build up the agricultural, pastoral and industrial reputation of the Colony on such slender foundations.
The proposal is then to gather together really representa- page 3 tive exhibits of, primarily, our pastoral and mineral resources; next those representing agriculture, then our manufacturing industries, and lastly our timbers. Large numbers of these exhibits could be obtained from the present Exhibition, and promises of further exhibits from others not taking part in the present Exhibition are already coming forward. Certain lines would undoubtedly have to be purchased by the Government, the money so expended not being permanently sunk even in paying for so good an advertisement, but returned, at all events in large part, if not in toto, by the sale of the goods in London after the Exhibition is over. It would be worse than useless to have these exhibits upon a small or insignificant scale, and from the first it should be borne in mind that in such a city as London everything to have a good effect must be on an extensive scale.
It has been pointed out that Londoners will not come to sec exhibits. That is very true, though it applies less to Now Zealand than it would to better known countries. The idea is to group these exhibits round a number of attractions of such a a nature that they cannot fail to draw immensely. Once having got the people in the building the exhibits will be so arranged as to force themselves upon the visitors' attention. Among the attractions, business should be combined with pleasure, for the principal feature in the centre group should be the Intelligence Bureau, where a land and immigration agent would have his office stocked with pamphlets upon our resources, and the fullest possible information regarding all matters connected with the Colony. In the Bureau it is proposed to have an extremely large relief model of the Colony, on which could be marked the nature of the country, whether bush, mountainous, auriferous, and if agricultural and pastoral, whether rich, medium, or poor. The Crown Lands for sale or lease would be distinguished on it, and a key map would hang close by with enlarged plans of the blocks of Crown Lands. A suggestion which might be carried into operation with considerable advantage to the Colony is this:—That the lands for sale should be so priced as to admit of the land agent, upon receipt of the deposit for a piece of land, and satisfactory assurance that the purchaser was not without some means of working it, giving him a free passage to New Zealand. It is perfectly clear that if judiciously worked this would result in the introduction of the very best class of immigrants, while the settlement of Crown Lands with a teeming population of happy and prosperous people would largely increase the revenue of the Colony year after year, would decrease the amount of taxation per head, and would advance the value of property already held privately in the Colony, and in this way also would prove a source of great gain both to property owners and the Govern- page 4 ment. I am aware that in theory people are supposed to flock to the Agent-General's office in London to purchase land in New Zealand. This has even been seriously contended in the public press. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Home affairs is aware that this is an utter fallacy, and despite Sir F. Dillon Bell's best efforts very little disposition is shown on the part of small capitalists to emigrate, and if we wish to populate our waste lands with a busy, happy people, some such special effort as this is an absolute necessity.
Round the large relief model should be placed, opposite the various localities, samples of the products from that locality, and round the walls of the bureau should be stationed enlarged models of our harbours and large cities, with series of photographs, the object being to give those at Homo some idea of the size of our towns and the extent of our civilization. The Bureau should be placed close to our grain trophies and not far from the Mineral Court, so as to enable ready reference to any point of interest, and facilitate the introduction, with immigrants, of cheaper money in quantities sufficient to materially assist in the development of our resources, and the extension of our industries. Other sources of revenue should not be overlooked. A Tourist Court with models of the Hot and Cold Lakes, and West Coast Sounds, guide-books and fullest information as to routes, hotels, expenses, etc, and in connection with it an Art Gallery of New Zealand pictures by New Zealand artists should be an important feature. Lectures upon New Zealand scenery, resources and progress, illustrated by limelight views, should certainly be given. Very considerable prominence amongst the attractions should be given to a Now Zealand Fernery upon a very extensive scale. This in full frond during a London winter could not fail to attract attention. Looking into the fernery I propose to have a restaurant, where absolutely nothing but New Zealand food products should be served up, and served up in such a way as to make them popular. The immense amount of good which could be done for our frozen meat, dairy, grain, and fruit trades by this project is simply incalculable. At Paris a small cpergne piled with New Zealand fruit caused exciting struggles only to see. Tons of the same fruit selling in our Exhibition in London at a season when the city is bare of fruit would create a furore. Running on from the fernery, as another attraction, I would suggest an artificial New Zealand gully, with native plants and shrubs on the banks of a rocky creek. Here, and here alone, would I allow the Maori to have a place, and that only to the very limited extent of a few whares, with natives making mats and kits, and, possibly, also, used with caution, as a Haka troupe. Working dairies should be another feature. Details of numerous page 5 other attractions which I have planned need not be gone into here.
It will be seen in such a scheme as this there is no room for provincial jealousies. To bring the project to a successful issue every part of the Colony must unite in one long, strong pull, or the advertisement fails to do good to the part which has been so short-sighted as to lag behind the others in its efforts to be adequately represented; and yet no single province can, if my proposals are carried out as they are intended to be, come more prominently to the front than all the others.
The question of expenditure is one to be very closely looked after. It is easy to say that such an advertisement is worth all the money that can be expended upon it. So it undoubtedly is. But how much better, even as an advertisement, it would be if sufficient attractions were added to make people flock to the Exhibition in such numbers as to make it the financial success I confidently predict, in the light of my past experience, that it can be made if carried out on the lines suggested. The £20,000 which would meet all requirements up to the time of opening must be regarded only as an advance to be returned from the profits of the Exhibition. I see no good reason why it should have cost the Colony one single penny piece by the time the exhibits are sold. On the contrary, enough profit should be made by it to leave behind in London some permanent advertisement of the Colony, say in the Colonial Institute.
To make a thoroughly effective display, the total outlay could not, as some have supposed, be limited to £20,000. Neither would the receipts. If in a little over two months an Exhibition, with but a fraction of the attractions I should introduce in London, can, in a small centre like Dunedin, show cash receipts amounting to over £15,000, what could be done during six months in the largest city in the world? Any London financier would see the force of this point, and a credit, therefore, of £20,000, with the usual railway and postal concessions, would be ample.
I should most earnestly deprecate the adoption of a suggestion made to amalgamate this Exhibition with any other. For New Zealand to obtain the full benefit of the advertisement and escape being eclipsed by wealthier countries, she must stand absolutely alone in this matter. Other colonies will only be too ready to seize upon the idea now it has been formulated and follow New Zealand's footsteps. In fact an Australian Federal Exhibition in London has been already spoken of and should be forestalled at all risks.
If the Colonial Institute building is available and suitable, that seems to me to be the best place for the Exhibition. Failing that, I am assured there can be no difficulty in securing page 6 another site in London rent free. If connected with the Institute we secure the co-operation of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (a matter of considerable importance), who would in return for the fillip we should give the Institute, doubtless grant New Zealand the choice of the best position in it for her permanent exhibits.
The exact time of holding the Exhibition is not very material so long as a part of the London season is included; and further, it is not much use holding it during the hotter summer months. The only point requiring any urgency is that the matter should be so far settled before the close of the present Exhibition as to save the difficulty and expense of re-collecting such of the exhibits as are to be taken Home. It will be necessary to pay freight Home, and to grant exhibitors space free, and to add to this the expense of re-collecting those exhibits now here would be a serious matter. The promise of the Government to support the proposal would be quite sufficient guarantee upon which to collect exhibits, leaving all details to be arranged when Parliament next meets in the ordinary course.
No time is so suitable as the present year, for beside the fact that New Zealand is beginning to attract some little attention at Home, money is especially cheap and plentiful in London, a very necessary point to consider if the Exhibition is to prove the very material aid to the Colony which it can be made to be.
Final y, it seems to me that not only would the Exhibition be of immense service to the Colony in increasing its population and introducing cheap foreign capital, but it would also very materially strengthen the hands of the Agent-General in London who would, I presume, be placed officially at the head of any such enterprise, aided by an honorary body of advising Commissioners, formed of distinguished New Zealand colonists, in London, and a similar body appointed to act here in the Colony.
Your Obedient Servant,
Jules Joubert.New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition,
February 17th, 1890.
* [Only a month or two ago a letter came to a member of the House of Representatives asking him to meet some friends coming by the next direct steamer, and to kindly provide some accommodation for them, such a thing as a good hotel, they took it for granted, being unattainable in New-Zealand yet!]