The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, MARCH 6, 1880.
Engineers’ reports, as a rule, are a class of literature which does not gain much favor witn the general run of newspaper readers, containing, as they usually do, an appalling array of figures. Mr. Win. Baxter, the County Engineer, is an exception, and we have previously alluded to his reports as models in their way. The one presented by him to the County Council this week was no exception to his former efforts, as it contained an enormous amount of information of a very interesting nature, written in a concise and simple style, worded in such a manner that its intention cannot be mistaken by the merest tyro in public works. Mr. Baxter’s March report refers particularly to a general system of drainage for the County, and includes in his scheme all the important works of that nature required in the various districts in the County, and ■which are estimated to cost £15,730, of which £4,500 is placed down as the estimated cost of improving the bed of the Hinds River. This being a work of a different nature, and likely to be specially legislated upon, may be set aside for the present, and there then remains £11,230 to expend in drainage. The Treasurer reported having some £IO,OOO available for such works, and it was contemplated that there would probably be some smaller works still to undertake not yet inspected by the Engineer, which would absorb a portion of the balance yet remaining, and it was further decided that a statement of all moneys expended in the various ridings should be supplied in a tabulated form, to show how much each riding has as yet had expended in bridges, drainage, &c., so as to spend the balance equitably. We may therefore expect, at an early date, to hear of all these much needed works being put in hand, and thus place farmers liable to damage by flood ■water in a safe position. Indeed, some of the works mentioned in the schedule are already in hand. The only important work in the Wakanui road district—the drainage of the country on the north side of Wakanui creek near the now approaching completion, and a couple of very necessary works in the Longbeacb district were let at the late meeting, which will relieve a large number of holdings from the periodical deluges which destroy the crops and fences of the farmers. The report also deals with a matter partaking more of a legislative character for the Council to deal with than forming part of the Engineer’s duties, which, we take it, are purely of an executive nature. His opinion is that the variousßoad Boards ought to contribute towards the cost of the drainage works, and he asks the Council to fix the proportion of their payments. Here we must differ from the report; and we think the majority of the Council is of our opinion. The works are of such a nature, some of them being in two or more districts, that they must necessarily be under the supervision and control of a central body such as tbe Council, and the Council having assumed to itself the major portion of the Road Boards’ functions, in undertaking such works ought to be liable for the whole cost.
For our own part we would far rather have seen the largo sums spent by the Council in bridges devoted to works of the nature now proposed to be undertaken. Those bridges are built across streams where tolerable, if not first-class, fords exist; they are timber structures, which in six years’ time will require re-decking, and other expensive repairs ; they are not re-productive, and, more than all they could have been very well done without. Another reason, and a very strong one, against the expenditure on these bridges is the fact that a large proportion of their cost is not expended in the County, the whole of the timber and iron work, which constitutes by far the largest portion of the contract price, being spent in payments to Australian timber merchants, and Christchurch iron merchants. With works such as drainage the whole cost is in the direction of employing labor, and as there is a general feeling that the “ unemployed ” will be in strong force in the coming winter, we cannot but endorse the County Councils’ decision to carry out works which will absorb as much as possible of that labor.
In the report, the improvement of the Hinds river is spoken of as a work which will require Government support. That, we imagine^can only be obtained by the institution of a Board of Conservators, by whom those requiring work of this nature to be done can have it executed by paying a special rate for the purpose, and then obtaming an equal amount from the Gorex-nmeut in the shape of a subsidy. The work contemplated on tho banks of this river is of a peculiar nature, from the fact that the river bed is some seven feet higher than the adjoining land, which is principally swamp ; consequently heavy embankments will have to be thrown up on each side of the river to confine it within decent limits. As it is at present, the river-bed is dry for some nine months in the year ; and perhaps one day in the year, when an “old man” flood comes down, the river Hinds assumes a width of three or four miles, covering paddocks, crops, fences, cattle, and sheep. But all this extent of land, fronting on this river for some ten miles, is in the hands of three occupiers, and it is property of a kind that will require a large expenditure on the part of the owners before it will become reproductive ; and until it is drained to such an extent that the plough can be put into it, there is very little use in trying to cut it up into small farms, for the purpose of settling families on. The only possible method of utilising such properties is by the method now in vogue—thorough, but expensive drainage, followed by sheep and cattle grazing, as rapidly as the ground is rendered sufficiently film to carry them. Enormous sums have been laid out by the owners of these properties in draining the swamps, sums in comparison to which this £4500 is a mere flea bite, besides which, moro than that sum has been expended in the same sort of work to drain the roads near the Hinds, and we do not think that now all the arterial work is completed, the Council should object to finish tho work which is so .nearly done. The country to be benefitted by the Hinds being kept in a defined channel is most important, from the fact that the proprietors intend shortly to cut the whole block up into small farms ; and thfre is a sufficient area to cany fully a hundred small farmers and their families on one of the richest blocks of land in the world. But it would be a cruel thing to endeavor to induce such settlers to purchase ahomestcad, whilst there is the slightest chance of loss of life and property by the overflow of that most eccentric mountain torrent. Such a work would have been of ten times more real value to tho country at large than ten bridges over the Ashburton river.