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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Experiments in State Socialism

Experiments in State Socialism.

The State in New Zealand has undertaken, in addition to such Unties as the Postal Service, many functions which are new to us, and some of which I will briefly describe.

English municipalities, recognising their duty in the direction of; promoting the health and cleanliness of the people, have for many years been entrusted with the supply of water for those purposes page 16 but in New Zealand the Government supplies water to enable workers to earn their living in the business of gold-mining.

Gold-mining, especially in the Antipodes, is connected in most men's minds with rapid accretion of fortunes at comparatively little trouble. Those days have passed away and the alluvial gold-mining in New Zealand yields to the careful and industrious miner who is fortunate enough to possess a claim, an average earning of 30s. a week—a rate of remuneration not higher than ordinary wages. Every particle of earth on a man's claim has to be carefully washed, so that the gold dust may be "panned" out of the soil. For this purpose it is necessary to have a copious supply of water at a high pressure. In privately owned mines dams are constructed, hose laid on, and tail-races to carry off the waste and debris washed away, are provided at an expenditure of capital wholly beyond the means of the working miner.

Here the State in New Zealand steps in. In 1877 the Government bought up the existing water rights at a place called Kumara and constructed a water-race from a reservoir at a high elevation at a cost of £37,367. To carry off the tailings it was necessary to construct a sludge channel in 1884 at a further cost of £17,000, At that date it was estimated that the profit on the undertaking for seven and a half years had been at the rate of ¾ per cent, on the capital invested, but that, taking into consideration the amount received for gold duty and for miner's rights, with the estimated contribution of each miner to the general taxation, it was calculated the Government had received at the rate of £9,966 per annum, equal to 4? per cent, on the total outlay.

Last year the sales of water amounted to £6,645 and the expenses were £1,584, leaving a profit of £5,061: 172 men used the race, and produced £39,932 worth of gold.

Unfortunately constant alterations are required to the sludge channel, as it from time to time gets filled up at the outfall by the enormous quantity of debris coming down. These alterations are carried out by the miners on the spot, and are paid for by the Government, not in cash, but by subsidy, allowing to the miners a supply of water up to the amount of the subsidy after the channel has been constructed.