The Railway Tariff.
We give below the representations of the Committee of the County Council on the railway tariff, to Mr. Maxwell, General Railway Manager, and that gentle-
man’s reply : Ashburton, 11th Nov., 1880. Sir, —The committee appointed by the Ashburton County Council to draw the attention of the General Manager of the New Zealand Railways to the unequal charges imposed by the new tariff, beg to make the following representations: — The Committee mainly considered how the interests of agriculturists within the County are affected by the tariff, and desire to draw attention to the following facts, viz.:— That from the published returns of grain exporters during the first six months of this year it appears that nearly onefourth of all the grain carried by the railways in the Middle Island was grown in the County of Ashburton. That under the old tariff the charge for CO miles (the average distance for all grain grown within the County) was 11s. Bd., and under the new tariff is 14s. 2d., being an increase of about 21i per cent., and the Committee fail to see that any necessity existed for such an increase of taxation on one of the chief exports of the colony, as under the late tariff the working expenditure on the Canterbury section of the New Zealand railways was reduced from 58 to 40 per cent, of the receipts during the grain season, showing conclusively that the charge for grain was most remunerative to the Department. If all classes of goods were carried at rates proportionate to the cost of each particular service, and it were then found necessary to raise all rates in equal proportion in order to make the railways more profitable, the settlers in the County would have no special ground of complaint, but the Committee beg to represent that an analysis of th 6 new tariff shows unmistakably that, in the first place, all classes of goods are not carried upon relatively equal terms, and, second.y, that agricultural produce is charged not only higher than the produce of other industries but is singled out for an excessive increase of charge. . The Committee also desire to point out that the increase in the freight of cattle
and sheep is almost prohibitive, and that many people who formerly trucked their stock to market, notv find it more economical to drive them. The traffic returns will show that stations which contributed largely to the stock traffic three or four years ago, contribute little or nothing under the existing tariff.
The Committee would also draw atten-; tion to a hardship affecting the settlers in the neighborhood of the Rakaia and Alford Forest railway. They learn that the Department treats it for purposes of traffic as a separate line, and on all goods conveyed on that line, and forwarded by main line, a charge equivalent to a second terminal is imposed ; and in calculating mileage, the calculation begins afresh at the Rakaia ; so that forwarders of goods lose all advantage of reduced rates for long distances, and for all distances, short or long, have the initial mileage at the higher rate reckoned twice. The Committee feel sure that this hardship, considering that Government works the branch line, has only to be stated, and that it will be remedied.
The Committee beg to show in the following instances how the charges under the present tariff bear unequally upon agricultural produce. The charge for car riage of the undermentioned goods a distance of 52 miles is as under :
Goods Per Ton Per Truck Load Grain ... £0 13 6 Z’S 7 6 5 tons Wool .. 176 411 8 — 3% tons Timber 088 234- 510ns showing that timber has an unmistakeable preference. The charge for the carriage of the following goods from Ashburton to Invercargill, 317 miles, is as under Goods Per Ton Per Truck Load Grain r 16 1 90s Hone Dust .. i 16 i 9 o 5 .. Wool .. .. .. 4 19 6 16 it B—3^tons Agricultural Machinery 2 17 5 14 7 1 Timber .. •. 1 1 8 5 8 4 —2000 ft. Native Coal.. .. o 17 4-4/5 3 9 7 i/S'^ons showing that timber again, and native coal to a still greater degree, are favored under the new tariff. With reference to this marked difference in charge, the Committee would respectfully draw attention to what appears to them to be the only logical conclusions under these figures, either that every ton of timber and native coal carried at these rates bring a loss to the Department, and that an excessive charge is laid upon agricultural produce to help to cover the deficiency, or that the timber and native coal traffic is fairly assessed, and that agricultural produce is charged at a very excessive rate. The Committee also draw attention to the following anomalous charges : Goods Class A, carried direct from Rakaia to Dunedin, per ton ... £4 2 0 From Rakaia to Ch.ch £l3 6 and back to Dunedin 1 19 3—3 2 0 £0 19 3 the sender thus saving 19s 3d per ton, while the Department carry goods 70 miles additional. Again, from Shag Point to Ashburton, a distance of 132 miles, native coal is charged per ton, 11s 3d ; bone dust for a like distance, £1 0s Bd. The Committee also submit an instance of a differential charge in favor of native coal as compared with agricultural produce between Taupivi and Auckland, a distance of 69 miles. Native coal is charged tis. 6d. per ton, whereas native coal in this island is charged Bs. lid. for the same distance, and grain 13s. lid., under the same conditions as to loading and unloading. In conclusion the Committee beg to state that as it is a well ascertained fact that, the growth of grains in New Zealand at the prices now ruling is but slightly remunerative to the producer, it is, therefore, most important to the interests of the Railway Department and of the colony, that agricultural products should not be unduly taxed for the sake of revenue. That the agricultural industry has now become the mainstay of the colony, and that any increase in the cost of transporting gram, which would sensibly reduce the profits, would preclude the New Zealand grain grower from competing with the American, and would lead surely and rapidly to the land being devoted to wool growing to the expulsion of grain, and thereby cause a loss to the department of that traffic which i* its main support.— We have, &c.
New Zealand Railways, General Manager’s Office, Christchurch, Nov. 13, 1880. Gentlemen, —I have the honor to reply to your letter of the 11th inst., touching the newrailway tariff, and drawing attention to the inequality of the charges. Though not responsible for the present tariff, and considering it capable of many amendments, some of which have already been gazetted, and others of which are now under consideration, I cannot say that I think the grain rate imposes any great hardship on the Ashburton County. I find the present grain rate almost identical with that in force in the province of Canterburyin 1876, which was retained in force until December last, and under which tariff the wholq £/'■'”•' ' jC oanterpury has grown with such enormous rapidity. The reduction of the grain rate in January of this year, was an error which the railways could ill afford to bear at this time, and the re-establishment of the rate on the same basis as that under which the grain trade has so vigorously developed, can scarcely be looked upon as a hardship. In deference to your own and many other opinions, I have advised the Minister to make a reduction in the sheep rates.
The present position of the Rakaia Forks railway, I have been given to understand, is due to an arrangement put into operation with the consent of the company. The company has within the present week represented to me that it is not satisfied with these arrangements, and I have advised the Minister to work the line in such a way that it shall be on practically the same footing as the Government branches.
To your table of freights for fifty-two miles, which I quote below, I venture to add the probable value of the goods carried. Goods. Per ton. Probable value Grain .. .. 13 6 £7 ° ° Wool .. .. 176 93 o o Timber .. .. 088 2xoo From this you will perceive that the rates are charged somewhat in proportion to tlxe value of the goods, though not wholly so, because such a tariff would be an absurdity, and unworkable. It cannot be for a moment supposed by you that coal, timber, firewood, Ac., Ac., are competitors with the grain. They are, on the contrary, the direct means which assist the farmer in producing, and the lowness of the tariff for these articles should bo hailed by your Council as a great and substantial boon to the district, rather than treated as a disadvantage. I hiay add that the special rate you allude to is open to several grave objections, though at the same time it confers some advantages. It will be easily considered. In conclusion, I have to thank you for drawing my attention to sundry points in connection with this tariff. I shall he glad to hear any farther objections which may be raised, as it is my intention to continue to carefully consider and revise it, so as to endeavor to place it on a footing satisfactory to all interests.—l have, Ac., J. F. Maxwell, ‘ General Manager. To the Tariff Committee, Ashburton County Council.
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