The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1880.
Perhaps there is no district in the colony that has become so well acquainted, from familiar use, with the word “ depression” as has this district of Ashburton, for it has been in every man’s mouth for the past eighteen months, and in too many cases with good reason. The depression weighed upon this district with double force. The county was young, and though widely-settled the settlement was only of recent date. Every farmer was but, so to speak, breaking up new ground, and his capital was all laid out in the expenses that all new beginners must incur. Nor was this condition the case with farmers alone, traders aud tradesmen generally were similarly situated. The farmers are the backbone of this district, and upon their success depends that of the township, and of everybody in the neighborhood who does not follow agriculture for ‘ a livelihood. In this matter all our eggs are in one basket, themore’s the pity. Let us hope the speedy introduction of manufacturing industries will change this condition of things, and to some extent at least relieve our almost total dependence on the price of wheat and wool in the London market. We said we felt the depression ■ with double force. A commercial crisis that affected the whole world touched New Zealand’s shores as it passed, and the colony, also young, suffered from the impact. Young Ashburton suffered in the general convulsion, but more intensely, for in addition to the depression that everywhere was being felt we encountered two bad seasons in succession, and the general hard-times reached us when we were suffering most from the effects of a harvest that yielded - scarcely anything. It was then that all over the colony our credit fell, as a district, and to mention Ashburton in any of our leading towns was to speak of a district that was in bad odor, and people ominously shook their heads, as though a place had been mentioned upon which a curse had alighted. It was, perhaps, after all, not an unmixed evil that th; county was so regarded, for the hungry name the place had got helped to keep away from it many people, who, driven out by the hard times from the reputedly more prosperous places, would Lave made Ashburton a land-fall and a rendezvous. Had we maintained the name we possessed for being a sort of second Caanan, or Land of Promise, the place would very soon have become a second Cave of Adullam, and the refugees to it would have been considerably less select than were those that flocked to the standard of the youthful future King of Israel. We have to a great extent got over all our troubles. The financial atmosphere has been greatly purified, and we are once more on the high road to prosperity. We are led into this strain by what we read and learn of other towns and districts. From the one end of the colony to the other we hear of rapid depopulation taking place—of emigration flowing in a steady stream of no small volume from this colony to the adjacent ones and to America, and of general slackness everywhere. A correspondent tells us that at this moment there are from three to four hundred empty houses in Wellington that even the sitting of Parliament failed to fill, and we know that were a Commissioner to visit every town in the colony with a view to reporting on this subject, his report would take a more or Jess dark color. The same correspondent tells a sad tale of the state of the labor market —a tale that we fear could be too generally told over the colony, and when we compare our own district with others around us we certainly have reason to congratulate ourselves. True, we are not yet at the highest pinnacle of prosperity—very far from it; but, as compared with many other places with a better name, we are a good deal better off than we might have been, and there are few districts so well, all things considered. After all, it is perhaps better that we should have been set down as “ rotten” by our high-headed neighbors, for that character saved us from an influx of the halt, and the maimed, and the blind —financially speaking, of course, —and enabled us to pull through, bearing only the troubles that were our own. We can at least afford a living to our working men, if that living is none of the fattest, and the cry that arises from other towns shows that they cannot all do so much.