REMINISCENCES OF A TOUR TO SOUTHLAND.
When one has been suffering from indisposition and severe debility, medical men say there is nothing like a thorough change of scene, provided there is sufficient stamina left to endure the fatigue of the journey. After weighing over the unplesantness likely to arise out of a long and wearisome tour from the Christchurch city to Southland by rail, I resolved, after considerable meditation, to make the attempt, being assumed that the result would have a restorative effect. The first resolution being surmounted, the necessary preparations .were made, and this venturesome jour my commenced. Tlie railway horse left the great city of Canterbury Plains punctually to the time, 8.40 a. m., as advertised in the fairly compiled Smith’s Canterbuiy Bradshaw guide for railways, steamboats, and coaches. Being armed with the store of information in this creditable production, I made a start. The journey from Christchurch to the capital city of Southland—lnvercargill—is put down at 3G9 miles. The first class return fare for travelling this 738 miles is £6 18s. sd. ; while one can travel overland, by rail, from Sydney to Melbourne, and back (over 990 miles on the railway) for £4. The contrast is apalling nevertheless true. The progressive people of New Zealand have potent reasons to be proud of their position in many respects ; but in some they suffer oppression. They can fairly boast of one fact, namely, having the longest railway from any two given centres, that is opened and running, than in any of the sister colonies. Upon this point New Zealand stands the foremost. But as to the direct profitable returns earned by these lines is ahorse quite of another color —despite the unparalleled outrageous high tariff rates imposed. At a time such as at present, when there is a strong political controversy going on, it may he highly interesting to place upon record a few undeniable facts, with reference to the comparative results, from the working of the railways in the other Australasian Colonics. It may bo a seasonable opportunity to make this startling exhibition of results, with a view of instigating some of the recently elected political aspirants to a course of wisdom, ijn carrying out a prudent system of railway extension, but upon a common sense principle. Two objects should he clearly aimed at—developing the rich lands which are now in almost an unproductive state from want of railway communication, and carrying out such additional railway extensions upon a reproductive footing as to pay a reasonable interest upon the outlay, with a tariff rate for goods and passengers fully 50 per cent, loss than those now in vogue here. At present the rates imposed in New Zealand are more than double the tariff scale charges in the other colonies, while the cost of the railway lines in Victoria and New South Wales stand in over £14,000 per mile, and ours only cost £OOOO per mile. Up to the present the people’s' representatives, and the various political advisers have truly merited the charge of £Tosa] mismanagement in the nialter,' and that to a mo. t unrighteous extent.
New South Wales stands first of all tlio Australian colonies, as showing prudence in making railways (o give profitable returns, working upon a lower tariff rate than any of her neighbors. The whole of the railway linos opened in New South Wales—6BSl, miles, costing £14,212 per mile, including roiling stock and machinery, giving a net interest return, after paying working expenses, on the total capital invested, £4 4s 5.1 per £IOO nearly 4| per cent. The minimum railway charge in New South Wales for carrying one ton a distance of 150 miles to f.o.h. at an export port, is only 15s 2d, while in our adopted country of New Zealand, the lines only costing £OOOO per mile, the minimum railway charge for carrying one ton a distance of 150 miles to f. 0.1). at an export port, is 21s 3-id. The general outcome of the railway linos here is still more alarming. By the last published railway returns, to earn £IOO it cost £B9. This is the general percentage of expenditure to the gross receipts on all (.he lines. On one line in particular, and the fact is worth chronicling, to earn £IOO it costs £126. In the latter case there is a positive loss in working expenses of 26 per cent, on the gross earnings. Thelines in the sister colonies cost, for working expenses, about 52 per cent of the gross earnings. The summary of this is that while New South Wales paj's on an outlay of £14,212 per mile with a tariff'rate nearly 60 per cent, less than ours, some 4.\ per cent interest on the gross outlay, New Zealand, with her railway lines only costing' £6OOO per mile, and her excessive tariff rate, is estimated not paying throe per cent, interest on the gross outlay, resulting in the difference of the rab* <u interest payable on cur debentures having to bo charged to the general revenue account. This is an unwholesome sMfce of affairs. The Now South Wales Kailway results reflect great credit on its governments, which have proved so beneficial to the tillers of the soil, while the reverse is the practical outcome of the deeds of our improperly named politicians. Tilers is now a howling cry for a "West Coast railway line, which, if carried out, may entail stationary engines being fixed, on account of the excessive gradients, with prospective results of not an encouraging nature, while other parts of New Zealand—Southland may be particularly instanced—with country unequalled for productiveness, are at present in a state of idleness. In Southland, lines could be made at a minimum cost, opening up agricultural land for settlement, and coalfields of groat magnitude ; in fact, this part of New Zealand has a back bone, and is destined to support a large population of thrifty people. The railway particulars I have ventured to submit, the excessive tariff rates here, and the inference I have drawn, may bo pardonable on my part. They are substantial reasons why I have so fully entered into these details. The facts disclosed and the allusions made are, no doubt, unpleasant, but in the interest of the taxpayers, it would bo wise to have a commission of inquiry into the present railway management, and also to take practical evidence as to the further extension of railways, with a view of redeeming the present deplorable state of affairs. Profitable development of the land suitable for agriculture and settlement should be the order of the day.
Attached to the train in which wo left Christchurch was one of the newly imported railway passenger cars. It was gorgeously got up, and was calculated to give extra comfoit and accommodation to travellers. It gave one the impression that it was well suited for a moving concert room on a smalt scale. The first stoppage, according to the time-table, was at Rakaia, the distance being 35 miles. The rate of speed was 20 miles per hour. The dreary Canterbury Plains wore passed over with a disagreeable drizzling rain. The land, as a rule, has a barren formation of shingle, in many parts unpleasantly too near the surface t > render agricultural operations anything but uncertain ; the results must lie v ery precarious. The width of the noted Rakaia river, which in the old days lies daunted the courage of the bravest of the bushmen, is, according to the inquiry 7 i made, the major part of a mile ; it is now bridged over from bank to bank. Until Orari or Geraldine is reached, eighty miles from Christchurch, the land is m l high class. From Orari to Timaru, eighteen miles further south, the country hears unmistakable evidence of fertility.
The situation of Timaru and its surroundings have a well-to-do appearance. The town is full of bustle. Unfortunately the drawbacks to shipping are almost insurmountable. The roadstead, as its is named, is open to the full force of the ocean from almost all points of the compass, except west. With a reasonable land tariff rate, it is worthy 7 of the consideration of our law makers whether it would not he more beneficial for the present to utilise the ports of Akaroa ami Oamaru, instead of trying to make a secure harbor in the open sea at an immense expenditure of capital, without much show of justification. It is practicable to moderate the land carriage so as to afford the agriculturist in the Timaru vicinity substantial advantages—a course which seems sensible to many 7 men who have the credit of being considered thoughtful.
Oamaru is south of Timaru 52 miles. The country is mostly 7 well suited for carrying on corn cropping. Judging from the reported yields in unfavorable seasons, it is destined to bo a large producing part of New Zealand. Although Oamaru is naturally 7 more sheltered than Timaru, it will no doubt be made a shipping place, affording ordinary 7 facilities when the present breakwater is completed. With the port of Dunedin 79 miles distant, it is contended by some tint, wnh the cheaper freights available—and which could be offered at Port Chalmers —for the foreign markets, the shipping advantages at the port of the Otago capital would have been as great as those to be gained by attempting to make an artificial harbor at Oamaru ; that is, counting on the conveniences which are expected to be accomplished by a modern system of present railway management. The natural formation of the subsoil of the land in the Oamaru locality is admirably 7 suited for producing wheat of rmexceptionally high quality for mixing purposes. Its future cannot but be a noted wheat producing district. The shipping facilitiesofOiiiua.ru have been considerably improved since the breakwater has been extended. In moderate weather, vessels and steamers of light draught of water, can load and discharge cargo alongside. But even with this advantage there are
still further drawbacks of great commercial hinderance, entailing greater uncertainties, and risks of a highly objectionable nature. It. is not an unusual oceurauco for vessels to bo ordered to haul away from the breakwater in bad weather ; woiso than this, when a .storm is threatening, with the wind and sea coining in from unfavorable points of the compass, into this open roadstead, vessels are signalled to run out to sea for safety, and this invariably happens at some busy part of the grain season. The vessels are frequently driven away with less of gear and anchors, and have to seek safe ports of refuge. These (briic'ibies are trifles compared with the. existing ones at Timavn. The romantic adventurers of landing and shipping cargo at Tna.tru occasionally one hears of, are seen hen., in a practical way.
i’ho charms of the savor's life in working tho surf boats, the tourist lias the opportunity of witnessing, and how the people’s requirements are landed and the produce of the country shipped. The whole of this business is carried out in. the face of great natural obstructions of a most formidable character, • which would seem to tho generality of people almost hopeless to encounter. The vessel, for instance, is anchored in the open sea at some considerable distance from the mainland. In many places the sea lashes with immense force against tiie shore, which is protected seaward with a rocky toce of almost per-re-.di-nlar height. It has a forbidding appearance, even in fine weather. In
stevi'iy weather the scene is wild and t;i i' 10. The surf boats are hauled up through the breakers considerably above bpg'i water mark, upon what tie skilled man •..■air? permanent ways, by a stationary me;,::i engine. The landing and shipping m go'bis and produce is performed in the s-.iia- way as a vessel is taken upon the ;■! ■;> iv.il launched therefrom. These
7i-.rnr.il obstructions incur heavy shipping ch.i-.p- 3, which have all to ho paid by prods, ms, i’csidcs all the risks, delays, and 1.1 her objectionable incidentals, which have to he encountered in attempting to carry out a shipping trade in such a roadstead as Tiniarn, completely void of natural advantages. The difficulties which have to be got over artificially I am strongly of opunion may be likened unto burning the candle at both ends. The suggestion which seems feasible namely—under a modern system of railway management—whether it would not be cheaper to utilise the port of Akaroa than to endeavor to light against nature, strikes one as a matter worthy of consideration. The port of Akaroa is certainly unequalled as a port, possessing every natural advantage needed to secure the bulk of the shipping trade of the east coast, from the south of Canterbury to the Timaru district, once reasonable railway communication was opened up. lam informed that Akaroa is not only one of the prettiest places in the whole of Now" Zealand, but, besides, possesses an historic.;! interest, as being the very spot where the British flag was first hoisted in the Middle Island. The Peninsula, as it is named, is well wooded, and. abounds in numberless picturesque bays. Providence has made this part of Now Zealand lit for the greatest shipping port of the south east part of the Province of Canterbury, without expending enormous sums of momy, and heaping up interest in making an artificial port. It is said those who succeeded in planting the British flag were possessed of talent in making a landing at such a good port ; and it would have been well if the early pioneers, who subsequently followed, had displayed morn acuteness in following up and establishing the port of Aharon as the leading port in the Middle Island, in place of aiming at expending huge sums of .money in attempting to ge t over difficulties which it would have been prudent to have left alone. It is within the bounds of possibility that the rising generation will live to see Akaroa flourish as one of the fuie-
most shipping ports in Now Zealand. Before taking my leave of Oanraru, it will be well to notice the almost unbounded limit of white stone there is in that locality. It extends along the railway lino, and will no doubt open up a l isting trade with other parts of the Ausr. a asiau colonies. This stone has been use.l for some year shack in the conspicuous |m.;s of the higher classic buildings in -. .rue m the larger cities. It is very suit;J.io for tine and ornamental work. The .-/.■■ins cutlers speak highly of it, as it is easdv worked.
After leaving Oamaru, the country is first-class agricultural land ; some of the paddocks, in English grasses, look most luxuriant, and show evidence that a good system of husbandry has been followed. The sight of the eastern ocean is lost for a time until the 17oth mile post from Christchurch is reached, which is somewhere adjacent to Kartigi station. From here to J ort Chalmers the whole coast line is skirted through a somewhat unproductive part of the country ; in many places the moving train is in too close proximity to overhanging perpendicular dill’s, with the roaring sea heating below, to be pleasant —a nervous traveller would declare it dangerous. 'ln fact, for some miles before making Port Chalmers the gradients are steep, curves sharp, the cuttings deep, with costly tunnels made. One of my Dunedin acquaintances, who possessed intelligence of a practical kind, besides being desirous to be communicative, informed mo that the first railway contract for making 2-i- miles from .Port Chalmers cost about E 48.000 ; the next c of a. mile cost about Lt>o,(*oo ; tiio th.vd, or Parakanui, contract, L!iS Ov'O for seven miles, to the Plneskin 1 think it was named. An engineering man he must he, for he was well up iu railway lino contracting. The conclusion 1 came to was that, according to his Incas, a. much better and cheaper line could have I.con made, ami opened up good country in place of, as he termed it, running against engineering diiiiculik-s. The evening of the arrival of the train in Dunedin was anything, 1 ut cheering, thick, drizzling rani falling. However, with mine Imst Watson I found comfortable and nice reared qua'tors, with, a capacioni: reading loom supplied villi a good collection of newt-papei s and periodicals, all filed in peifoit order, which was quite relieving after being coeped up in a railway carriage from 8.40 a.m. to 7.35 p.m., travelling only 230 miles, barely averaging 21 miles per hour. It is contended that the construction of these narrow gauged, light railway linos in New Zealand, will not admit of a much higher rale of speed being attained, so the taxpayer will have to be satisfied with resales of a -'ineagre ■ kind, i-Dunedin, has .> Ihju. making of one of the fiKesi’-metropolitaiH cities ill New Zealand. The back hilly
ground is really magnificent. In approaching the city it gives one an idea of terrace after terrace of splendid homely residences, the occupants of which seem to be in affluence. The discovery of the gold fields in the Otago province about the year 18(11, has been truly tlie making of this great city. There is an air of substance about the buildings ; the streets are well formed, the in,iking of which, with the water supply and the system of "drainage carried out, must have cost a large sum of money. The building of this fine city has been accomplished within the past 18 years. This progress Is truly marvellous, and creditable to the people. They seem to be full of .enterprise, Tho street steam tramways are in full swing, tho establishment of which have fairly run tho poor cabman otr.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 28, 29 November 1879
REMINISCENCES OF A TOUR TO SOUTHLAND. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 28, 29 November 1879
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