THE RAILWAY TARIFF.
PUBLIC MEETINGS. Tinwald. A meeting of farmers and others interested was held, yesterday afternoon, in Mr. Joseph Clark’s Store, immediately on the conclusion of the sale in the Tinwald Yards, to protest against the unfairness of the existing railway tariff Mr. Thomas Bullock occupied the chair, and explained that the meeting had been called at the request of several farmers, who could not afiord the time that evening to attend the other meeting that was to be held in the Town Hall, but who heartily sympathised with the object of it and wished to express their dissatisfaction with the tariff The tariff was an unjust one, inasmuch as it was well known that under the old tariff enough was made to make the line that ran through this district pay, and it was unjust to us to raise our .tariff to pay for other lines that did not pay. A very large proportion of the grain grown iii the colony was grown in Canterbury, 1 arid when the increase on the tariff was made, and so largely upon grain, it was only adding another tax to that required to be paid by the already heavily taxed farmer. In America the same thing was tried by the railway companies as was now being tried here by our Government, but by the united action of the people, the companies had been compelled to give way. If the farmers held together and agitated on the subject, he was sure Government would soon have to “ cave in.” It, was now an.' ascertained fact that in many places on these plains cartage could be performed at 25 per cent, cheaper rates than those charged by the railway. It was difficult in a mountainous country, where roads were costly and not of the best character, to compete with the railway. In these places the railways had been a blessing ; but it was proportionately costly to make railways to. the costliness of roads. Where these costly railways existed, the people could well afford to pay the increased tariff, as the railways were really of more value to them comparatively than they were to the people on the more level country, and those districts had no alternative but to use the railway. ‘When no railways existed, those people paid a high figure for the transit of their goods, and now that the railways ran they ought not to complain, ifthe rates Avere ■ high, because they wore -not high, in proportion to the benefits given. On the flat land where roads were; good, it. was different; though the railway had been an inestimable blessing, it was. not so great a blessing to the level lands ,as it .had been to the hilly lands; nor had so much money been expended in its construction. This meeting had; -been, got up with a view to showing the .Government ; that farmers. had an interest in this matter of the tariff as well as the townspeople,, and. of. showing that the 'feeling,, against -the injustice of the new rates was not confined to the townspeople, but was general over the country. It was very hard that just at this time of the year, when they were about to bring in their produce, an impost like the tariff should be laid on. He then referred tothe understanding that existed when the railway scheme was first mooted —viz., that railways were not expected to pay interest on construction, but simply working expenses, the indirect good they would do to the colony being considered ample return. They had opened and settled large tracts of country, and increased the rateable population. They had caused 1 the sale of a great extent of Government land, and opened new districts. - Ashburton was one -of them. This district was only yet bearing, the heavy expenses incidental to a new district, and yet, just after Government had got the money for this .new land, and when settlers were struggling with their first expenses. Government turned round and asked them to pay this impost. ‘ He hoped the .agitation would be continued until Government reverted to the old tariff.
Mr. Clark, in the course of some remarks against the tariff, said that it would make a difference of a penny per bushel extra on wheat, and three farthings on oats, and this district would this year have to pay by this tariff something like L 5,000 more than it had paid on its last year’s crops. It was not in a position to afford that amount of money. It was specially a farmer’s matter, and he would ask them to take it into their own hands. In his own case, he would have to pay Ll5O more than he did last year, and the ratio to the farmer who-produced grain would be greater. He hoped the farmers would take united action. He would move—- “ That in the opinion of this meeting the present tariff was inequitable, and* against the best interests of .agriculture, and that Government should be asked to revert to the tariff previously in force. ” This being seconded by Mr. James Moore, and carried,. Mr. Thomas Taylor said he had taken steps to have a similar meeting held at Waterton, and he hoped the other districts would follow the example. This was a matter which ought to be a farmers’ question, for it' was simply an extra tax on such members of the community as had to use the railways. ? He would move—- “ That meetings be held in different parts of the district, to act in conjunction with the Ashburton.meeting.” Mr. White, Waterton, seconded the motion," which was unanimously passed, and after a vote of thanks to the Chairman, the meeting separated.
Ashburton. A public meeting, at which most of the influential men of the County were present, was held in the Town Hall last night. The meeting was called by the Mayor of Ashburton, and the object of it was to consider the railway tariff now in force.
His Worship the Mayor presided, and in opening the. .business explained the object of the meeting, stating that the tariff was unfair and inequitable to this County. They would have seen the result of the County Council’s correspondence in the newspapers,, and he thought the reply by the General Manager of Railways was anything but satisfactory. He would require to speak at a later period, so he would now ask Mr. Joseph Clark to move the first resolution, which he. did as follows ; “ That this meeting is of opinion that the railway tariff published in the Gazette of October Ist, and which came into force on October lltb, is in many respects deficient in principle, especially in relation to the increasing, charges for carriage of merchandise for different, distances; that it is also highly inequitable: to the agricultural interests, in so far: as . it raises the charges for carriage of grain, and thus imposes an additional tax upon this County of not less than . L6,oGoMper : annum. The difference on the freight meant just one penny per bushel more to Lyttelton than it used to be. When they looked to America and other countries, and saw the number of miles that grain was carried by the railways at a low figure, he thought the time had come when instead of raising the tariff it ought to be reduced. • • It would be remembered that, when the Vogel scheme was urged first, an argument was put forward that railways were indispensable to the colony, and. if they paid only Working expenses* they would do very well without troubling about paying interest. It was now the fact that the plain lands railways, constructed at a small expense, were doing a large traffic and paying well, but the mountainous land railways wore built- at a groat expense; and were not paying well, so the paying railways had to pay the loss. Referring to the railway management, he said the railways
were not managed, and never had been as a private speculation would. What was the case in the slack season ? There was no redaction of tariff’ whatever, and rather than carry goods at a cheaper rate the department would run empty trains. Sheep could be driven groat distances on foot at a very small rate, in some cases it could be done for 3d. a head, but when they were put upon a railway truck they were charged 9d. or lOd. a head. The increased charges fell more directly upon the farmer than upon anyone else. The grain merchant would not feel it, as he would simply put it on to the farmer. He hoped the settlers in every district would do theirbest to agitate against this tariff. Mr. John Orr seconded the motion in a few words, condemnatory of the tariff. Mr. Bullock, who spoke in much the! same strain that he had done at a previous meeting' that day at Tinwald, said the making of the railways had caused an increased revenue to come to the Government by the increase of population, and by the greater extent of land taken up. He contended that such a railway as ours ought not to have a heavy tariff, and it would be for the department to see.to it, that a very heavy loss indeed was not endured by the railway in this matter. The land was flat, and the roads were good, and cartage was cheap, and 'there- was a very large area of land where th ! e cart could be employed for traffic at a cheaper rate than carriage cost under this tariff. Already some farmers were moving in this direction, and if the matter were not watched by the Government, a great loss would be suffered. After referring to the first expense that had to be borne by people in a new settlement, and . the difference between their position' and .that of people in older settlements, and that a heavy tax like the new railway tariff was an injustice to the new settlement, Mr. Bullock defended the Mount SomersAiue against the attacks of .the Otago. Daily Times.
Mr. Clark’s motion - was then put and carried.
Mr. Passmore moved the next resolution—“ That the following gentleman be. appointed a committee to draw up a memorial to the Minister for Public Works, setting forth in detail the points of objection to the present tariff, and obtain- signatures to, .the same—viz., Messrs. H. Friedlarid’eiy F. B. Passmore, John Orr, T. Bullock, Joseph Clark, C. P. Cox, and A. Roberts.” In speaking in support of it, he said that he had a railway line running past his door, but it paid him better to send his drays into Ashburton. The cost of carriage of coal from Lyttelton to his place was just half.the cost of the coal itself. Mr. : Passmore made a comparison between the charges in New Zealand and those in America. The 'cost of grain going from Sherwood to Lyttelton, a distance of 52 miles, was just two-thirds of the cost, of carrying it between Chicago and Now York, a .distance of 900 miles. '
Mr. A. W. Roberts; seconded., The Mayor said if it had been the intention of Governments from the first to make railways pay the interest on the cost of construction, a large number of the political lines in the colony would never have been made. In England all the lines did not pay, and there were very many'of’lfiem that only paid three and four per cent, and that with the great population—five times greater to the mile than New Zealand. Therefore, the Government should not expect the colonial lines to pay the interest on their cost. We had two bad seasons in succession, and farmers had: suffered from them badly. It was no reason that an increased tariff should be imposed that two bad seasons had followed each other* and there was still less reason that' an especial and unfair increase should be made upon the tariff for grain. The farmers were the main support of the country, a,nd but for them and their produce the lines would not now be paying two and a half per cent. Why should the Government put an extra rate upon the farmer,, then, because he more extensively than any other class used the railway 1 He thought that instead of killing the go’ose which laid the golden eggs, as the Government were doing by this tariff, they ought to do everything in their power to encourage the farmer. ...
The resolution was duly carried. Mr. 0. P. Cox moved the nextresolutipn —“ That when the memorial has been duly signed, the Committee appoint two, or more gentlemen to wait upon the Government and present the same. ” He thought the sending of a deputation to the Government would have a very great weight with Ministers. There was a feature, of the tariff which had not been referred to at that meeting.. That was the progressive increase of the tariff over a number of miles. After a certain distance, say ten miles, the charge rose 2d. per mile,; then for the next ten miles it rose 9d. of ‘ lOd., and then took another jump of sd. or 7d. There had been some reference made to the higher coat of the railways in the hill country over that of the lines in the flat land. ' Before the railways : were constructed the cost of the carriage of goods over-hilly country was higher than it was on the fiat land, and there was no reason now that the railway’s charges should be made on an equality all over the colony. It was a fact that between Rangiora . and Christchurch, it was found that carting was actually cheaper than railway carriage. Whether railways should pay interest on construction or not was a question he was not open to discuss that night, but he was prepared to support the assertion that the interest ought not to be paid by an extra rate on any one commodity, as was being, attempted by the- Government in the matter of grain. Mr. Hodder in a few words seconded the resolution. He was sure that all the farmers’ signatures could be procured to' a memorial made to the Government, if the copies were got up smartly. Mr. B. Hughes thought it would be far better for Government to raise a revenue in a rational way than by following.,th e course they had done with the railway tariff. If they were to discharge such very incompetent men as the Minister for Public Works, and save his salary they would do a good thing. The Minister had shown his utter want of knowledge of what was required of him, and instead of retaining Oliver and Co., and enjoying the luxury of such an able statesman as the Hon. John Hall, it would be better to save the large salaries that were paid to them. The colony imported large quantities of goods from England and from America, why not tax these, so that a revenue could be raised, and industries nursed. (A voice—Ho.) Some people did not like protection, but he was in a position to prove that England had' practised it, that America had practised it. until their industries were in a position to fight their own way; They had been speaking that night about the hill country. They got some things .from the hills they - could not do well without, and he thoiight' it was an advantage to get these as cheaply as possible. The Otago hills \pent down timber for instance,, and he's did not think it wise to raise the price of that article. Still he did not like the tariff, and he thought he had expressed his feelings in regard to it when he said that a load carted to Tinwald by a carrier was- ai cheaper means of' carriage than the railway. ' ■ : ' - The Mayor said that the rates for; distances were very anomalous. IfjgoodA were sent from Christchurch to TimaruJ! thence back again twelve miles to Temuka, 16s. per ton- would be saved, for it would bo found that that was just the difference between the cost of carriage all this distance and the cost of carrying the goods direct from Christchurch to Temuka.. The passenger from Christchurch to Duhedin paid only 2d. more than the passenger from Ashburton to Dunedin, and yet the Government said the railway did not pay.
The Mayor then went on to show the rapid strides America had made within the last twenty years, and how formidable a competitor in the grain market she was to New Zealand. Her wheat produce in 1860 was 173,104,924 bushels, and in 1880 it was 440,000,000; her wheat export in 1860 was only 4,155,153 bushels, but in 1880 it had risen to L 175,000,000. Competing in grain with a producer like that the colony ought not to be handicapped with an exorbitant tariff Besides, but for the increase in grain exports there would have been a far heavier decrease in the total value of goods exported and imported last year. In his Financial Statement Mr.' jOliyer attributed the falling off in the railway returns to the depression of 1879, -and the imports deficiency while the general exports also fell off L 272,574, making a total deficiency of L653,G56. The redeeming feature of this was that grain exports increased by L 153,051, and blit, for this increase of grain the railway department* would have lost the carriage; of' E 425,625 worth of goods in the shape of exports. When grain then was such an important factor in the colony’s prosperity it was gross foolishness to injure the grain interests by putting an almost prohibitive railway tariff ■ upon - it'; as | Mtfl cftjier cbn\raoditi6s„- l.Ospddialliyi wiM ? ; America had to bo competed with in the English market. The. Mayprlfflso! gave : several instances' ,o,f, ; tliq ; gross : anomalies of the tarifl'j*:and ,\yppt,pn;to .say that;if Government had allowed us to retain our land fiind and mak,e us work our own railways,, we shpuld h|yej Leevv ■sdmd profit on bur lines; and the Mayor considered that each, section should be estimated upon its "own merits, and its tariff regulated by the profits it made.. ~ > The'iyds6lutlpn : wa§C|imed;ffnani^aou^ly, • .Thtg Maydr s having read "‘a ' letter of ; apology for the absence of Mr.; W. C. Walker, : 'a v6tb : 'of ’’tlian|ts ‘-.was passed to the chair, and the meeting'adjourned.
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