The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69
Reefton, January 15, 1889
January 15, 1889.
Dear Mr. Joubert,—I had wished to say a few words to you regarding your important scheme for bringing New Zealand more prominently before the world, before leaving Dunedin; as pressure of business prevented me, I take the opportunity presented by being weather-bound in this charming mining centre to write to you on the subject. There can be but little question that an exhibition such as you propose, if carried to a successful issue, would be of material benefit to the colony; and I only express the opinion of everyone in saying that if it is to be a success it could not be left in better hands than yours. Nor is anyone better qualified to judge of the means and influences that should be brought to bear in order not only "to deserve" success, but "to command" it. In undertaking an exhibition in London, however, you are doubtless fully aware that you pass into quite another sphere from that of your victories in Calcutta, Adelaide, and Dunedin. An exhibition in towns of the size of these last named—and we might even include Melbourne—meets, so far as experience proves, with a reception from the citizens that almost makes it, so to speak, a "civic institution"; and, when capably managed, and with a due regard to economy, carries the elements of success in the interest evinced from the outset by the people in whose district it is to be held.
An exhibition in London, however, is a totally different affair. The saying "that Londoners are sick of exhibitions" is no doubt a catch phrase that may be thrown at you; but I cannot agree with it. I believe the people of the colonics are more tired of them than Londoners, and the chief reasons why the "Healtheries," and the "Colinderies," &c., have been successes are because Londoners are getting educated up to good shows where novelties are introduced—where they can be sure of hearing good music, and where the attractions for promenading, little teas and suppers, &c., are of a high-class order.
But here comes the rub. The very fact that the good people of the British capital are so educated is at once your surest guarantee of success on the one hand, of distinct failure on the other. Success, if the undertaking can present features new to London, together with the good "stock pieces"—good music and outside attractions; failure, if merely an exhibition of New Zealand products, without any great attractiveness outside of the exhibits themselves.
The attention that the colonies are exciting in England is one distinct element in favour of your scheme; the position of Lord Onslow in this colony and the Old Country is another weighty adjunct; the ability and popularity of Sir F. Dillon Bell will he extremely valuable; and lastly, the fact that the country you seek to advertise is unquestionably the scenic colony of the Empire, and might become the granary of Australasia, is an element making your position extremely strong, more especially when the attractions that the Maoris and South Sea Islanders present to Englishmen is also considered.
To suppose that holding a small exhibition of New Zealand products in London, with the expenditure limited to £20,000, would be a success, you will doubtless agree with me, is absurd. It would profit the colony so little. I imagine, that the £20.000 would with difficulty come back to it; and yet I think that with co-operation (i.e., fitting in this exhibition with another), and the securing of powerful assistance in London from the commencement, a great benefit to the colony would accrue.page 9
It is more than probable that another of those pleasant musical "fairs," like the Colinderies, will be projected in London ere long. So soon as the decision is come to it will be comparatively easy for the A gent-General to apply for the space required for the New Zealand exhibits, and if at the same time Lord Onslow can be induced to represent the matter so as to secure the requisite interest of royalty and the Colonial Office, etc, the undertaking will be launched auspiciously. It then remains for the Colony to strengthen your hands (for I could not suppose any other hands hut yours will have charge of it, and in order to do this there must be a genuine effort made by all parts both of North and South Islands to join in the movement. No interurbian jealousy, no provincialism, but an effort that shall sink all petty spites for the good of the whole Colony. All the industries must be faithfully represented, and the details carried out. Flax, for example, should be shown in the growing state if possible, and the process of dressing traced through all stages. In the grounds there should be a genuine Maori village. And if it were possible to reproduce a portion of Whakarewarewa, for instance, with an artificial geyser, it would attract a large amount of interest. The South Sea Islands might be represented too, since New Zealand is the nearest important centre to the principal groups, and is so materially interested in trade being developed with them.
It is part of your scheme as published to have an inquiry bureau. I would make this bureau a very important feature of the Exhibition, it ought to be made a regular rendezvous, and while having comfortable chairs and tables for the use of people wishing to make enquiries, there should be various offices as well, notably an emigration, a land, and a tourist office.
In the first and second there should be officials, furnished with full particulars of the cost of living in the Colony, the price of farms, conditions of lease and purchase, etc., eve. In the last one there should be some one capable, not only of giving the requisite information—such as maps, guide-books, etc.—to enable people to find their way to New Zealand and to adequately describe the scenery and attractions of the Colony from a tourist, farming, health-seeker's, and miner's point of view, but also able to let them know the cost, to give them the required tickets, secure them passages, issue them drafts, ete, etc.
In his able speech at the Agricultural and Pastoral Asssociation of Canterbury's show last November, Lord Onslow remarked:—"I see there is to be a Tourist's Court in the Dunedin Exhibition, and I notice also that Messrs Cook and Son have taken New Zealand in hand, and for the future the man who you most want to see here is the commercial man, who requires rest from his labours for a time, and who will be glad to come out to New Zealand if he can only know the time it will take him, and what it will cost. I think you may be sure such a man will advertise your Colony, and he will send his sons, and his friends will send theirs... What is wanted is something more like modest 'Murray' which will show the people where to go and how to get there."
No one who has an acquaintance with travel and travellers but will endorse these words. People unquestionably want to know the time, want to know the cost, and then want to have trouble taken off their hands, and their tickets given them without any worry about securing berths, etc, etc. You have been pleased to say that Thomas Cook and Son helped materially towards your success with the Calcutta Exhibition. You likewise know how the New Zealand Railway Commissioners behaved towards them regarding the Exhibition in Dunedin. Possibly they might reconsider the wisdom of such treatment in the event of this exhibition being held in London; or if not, perhaps the people of the colony might take the matter up. But in any case we need not review that page 10 question here. Our efforts in every other direction have been crowned with success; and as you are personally acquainted with the heads of the firm in London (where the railway people co-operate with us a little more graciously), I think that when they know you had the matter in hand, there is but little doubt they would do their best to assist.
As regards the 'modest Murray,' you have probably seen my attempt to make a substitute for that valuable class of guide book in this colony in in 'Brett's Handy Guide to New Zealand,' which is just published. In addition to this, however, a large map of New Zealand, such as is at present in the Tourists' Court, Dunedin, together with those bird's-eye view maps of the North and South Islands in the vestibule of the art gallery, with wood photographs of the scenic resorts, the farms, homesteads, mining claims, etc., etc., also pamphlets folders, etc., for distribution, would be essential in order to have the court completely what it should be. It would be advisable also for the Union Company to send a model of one of their steamers, and the railway authorities a specimen carriage, and the coach proprietors a model coach, so that sceptical people might see for themselves the means of locomotion round and in New Zealand. Long as this letter is, it is necessarily sketchy, but if there should he anything in it which can in any way be of service to you and aid your endeavours to benefit the colony, it will be a matter of satisfaction to
G. Ernest Bilbrough,Chief Representative of Thos. Cook and Son in New Zealand.