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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Primary Objects of the Stage System

Primary Objects of the Stage System.

The three chief objects I had in view when designing the Stage System, were: The promotion of land settlement (and thus relieving the congestion of the cities), enabling the great mass of labour to live on land, and the creation of a large body of small freeholders. That it will accomplish these objects a slight study of the diagrams given, and of the stage-distance table will, I think, convince anybody.

Take the Auckland section as an example, and it will be seen that in the districts around Frankton there are 49 railway stations (in other words, 49 districts), to which the passenger fare, or the goods rate, would be precisely the same. All these would also pay the same fare or rate to the port or other chief market town or towns. A glance at the diagrams given will show that there are similar districts on all the lines south of Auckland.

Let anybody imagine, if they can, what would be the effect a system like this would have on land settlement. The selector seeking a farm, a factory, or a residence site, would have an enor- page 28 mous area to select from, and he would be at full liberty to select the spot most suitable to his requirements, without having to ask the now all-important question—What are the railway charges? For within these districts they would all be the same, and would be enormously reduced on the present prices.

Then, as to Frankton and similar towns, the effect on them must be that they would rapidly increase in population and importance. They would be the receiving and distributing centres for these districts, and would soon make local markets for the surrounding farmers. The farmer asks for cheap transit to the market. The Stage System would not only give him this, but would also bring a market to his door.

Let me point out that the Stage System is the only system in the whole world that makes special provision for assisting distant country settlers and the poor districts. No other system makes even a pretence of doing this, but, on the contrary, do all they can to oppress them. I hold that this is thorough bad policy, both as regards these districts, the large centres, railway traffic, and social conditions generally.

If the country districts were assisted as they ought to be, the development of railway traffic and construction would soon be very great. If we could create inland towns, and I am sure the Stage System must do this, there would of necessity be a large transit traffic between them and the port, towns. Nothing pays a country like a large transit-traffic. I believe a very great portion of Auckland's prosperity is due to its large suburban transit traffic. Let anybody think what a number of tram-cars, omnibuses, drags, cabs, drays, carts, etc., this employs; of the number of men and women employed in building, maintaining, and driving these, the horses to be bred and fed, the harness to be made, the stables to be built, and the thousand other things it leads up to, and they will then have a little idea of the importance of the suburban traffic of only one city. What, then, would be the result if you were to largely develop the transit traffic of the whole country? Let me repeat a little:—

My Object is:

1.The distribution of population, and the settlement of a much larger proportion of people on the land.
2.The creation of inland and internal trade.
3.The development of inland towns, and a consequent creation of fresh trading centres and local markets for our farmers and manufacturers, and to enable manufactories to be established in these country towns.
4.To enable the great mass of labour to live on land, and thus make the workers much less dependent on the sale of their daily labour for their daily bread.
5.To secure equal treatment to all users of railways, and to place their beneficial use within the reach of the poorest citizens.page 29
7.To introduce a fixed system of fares, raws, and charges, under which every man and every district would be treated alike, and thus do away with the oppressive and injurious power now exercised by railway controllers.
8.To remove the invisible, but really existent, turnpikes which the present system has placed at every mile along the great highways of the world, and which thus bar the flow of its trade, commerce, and social intercourse.
8.To give temporary assistance to poor and thinly-populated districts, and thus enable them to gather strength, and ultimately to treat all districts alike.
9.To restore the value to land and its products.
10.To largely increase the railway and general revenue.
11.To restore the social conditions that existed prior to the railway era, as regards the distribution of population and the existence of local markets, and at the same time to retain all the advantages of railway transit.

These are the results which I claim the adoption of this system would secure, and in this opinion I do not stand alone. Parliamentary Committees have carefully investigated it, and reported that it ought to be tried. Railway experts, Chambers of Commerce, and known business men have also investigated and reported in its favour, and none except a few railway officials have condemned it. What I have endeavoured to do is to lay down an expansive and adjustable system—one that will be good for all time.