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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

How Different Districts are Treated

How Different Districts are Treated.

A Christchurch or Dunedin merchant gets his goods of classes A.B.C. and D. carried 100 miles at an all round charge of 12s. 6d. per ton. An Auckland, Wellington, or Napier merchant has to pay for the same service 49s. 4d., 41s. 6d., 33s. 7d., and 26s. 6d. respectively, and some districts are charged even more.

A Canterbury farmer often gets his produce carried 31 miles for the same price that is charged an Auckland, Wellington, or Napier man for 15 miles only, that is to say, the Canterbury man only pays half the rates the other men pay.

Te Aroha is 115 miles from Auckland, and the charges for classes A.B.C. and D. are 25s. per ton all round. Morrinsville is only 103 miles from Auckland, or 12 miles less, and the charges for the same service are 34s., 33s. 6d., 32s. 6d., and 27s. respectively.

I ask is it possible that charges like these can be made in the interests of the community as a whole? It appears to me that they are alike a disgrace to the department that makes them and the people that submit to them. Their object is to destroy our local shipping trade. A very worthy object truly for any Government department to have before it. Such charges are now illegal in England, and in America would send a man to gaol.

Lest anyone should think I am exaggerating, I quote Mr. Maxwell's own words; when he was called General Manager. In his report for 1884, he says:—'The system of rating differentially in this colony is not carried far enough, and the difficulty that stands in the way is the impatience of the public in submitting to different treatment in different cases, and the reluctance to place in the hands of the railway officers the power which would be necessary for carrying out the principle extensively. While retaining publicity by gazetting each rate, were such a principle more widely introduced, the public would not be able to do what it now, to some extent, essays to do—read and interpret the rates generally; but the practice followed elsewhere would be necessary; the customer would appeal to the station each time he required a rate quoted.' If the intention is to deal honestly, why object to the public reading the rates for themselves?

To show the fearful complication produced by this abominable 'no-system,' I may mention that on the Midland Railway of England there are over 30,000,000 rates. This it is that gives the rating expert his power; and it is because I seek to simplify the system that the Commissioners are so totally opposed to me.

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The statement is constantly made that the people will not settle on the land, that they hate country life, and only value the attractions and dissipations of the cities. The fact is that they cannot live in the country, they are barred back by the invisible turnpikes, and forced to keep in the cities. I speak from very considerable experience, and I say there is an ever-increasing demand from men of small means for land to live on, but they say, 'we must have a place near the city where we can find a market for our products and employment for our labour.' The question is, would the stage system supply these wants? It appears to me that it would, and if so no one can foretell the enormous advantage that would result from its adoption. Under it labour could afford to travel 150 miles in search of employment better than it can now travel 30 miles. But what we want above all things, in order to increase the national prosperity, to put an end to social discord, and to moderate the demands of the extreme socialists, is to create a numerous body of small freeholders, and this I contend the introduction of the stage system will do for us. It certainly would lead to a great subdivision of land say within 20 miles of all the cities, and this subdivision of the land must lead to good results. France and Switzerland are striking examples of the value of a number of small landowners to a country.