[from our own correspondent.] j Our Alford Forest correspondent writes drawing attention to an important matter.
“ It is certain that for a number years to come, our forest will be, if properly husbanded, the mainstay of the district, but is it properly husbanded 1 I emphatically 1 say, no. More timber has already been J destroyed by fire than by the axe ; only a few short months have elapsed since a fire was star! el, its progress, fortunately, was checked, and what might have been an end to our fair prospects, ought to act as a warning to us all, not only to the owners of bush land, but to the whole inhabitants of the district. The danger is there still, over and over again fires can bo started accidentally, or even maliciously. Let us face the difficulty, great evils require powerful remedies ; great dangers, great precautions. The forest will maintain a population in our midst, let us, therefore, guard jealously the great source of wealth God in his goodness has given us. The forest once gone, the population will follow ; pleasant homesteads will tumble into decay, and our district bo turned again intoahugesheepwalk. It is useless to say precautions are taken to avoid such great danger, and to laugh at the idea of a knave setting fire to the bush would be still more childish. I have the highest opinion of the colonists of New Zealand and Australia generally ; but I speak from experience of what I have known happen. Yea, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that there are black sheep in the flock, who, to avenge what they
call a wrong, would think no more of setting the incendiary torch to work, than of tossing a glass of whisky down their throats. Can any one, for instance, accent as a matter of accident, six fires lighted at the foot of the straining posts of a post and rail fence, running through a hush for something like three miles without a break 1 Yet I know such a thing has been done, having myself put out the fires —moreover, I am certain that I pul them out effectually previous to my riding from the spot, yet the incendiaries could not have been far off, and musf have set to work afresh as soor as they thought themselves safe from detection, since two hours latei the bush was in a blaze beyond all humar efforts to put out. This incident happened in Tasmania, not more than eight mile! from Launceston. Should such an are: of bush as was destroyed by that fire bi consumed in our forest, I would give litth for what was left. Looking at the facts who can deny that it was the work of ai incendiary ? And this sort of thing i always liable to happen—a severe drought a strong nor’-wester, a villian who ha quarrelled with his employer and bee “sacked”—and the dead may be done “ Early to bed, early to rise ” is the mott of the bushman and his family. Befor the crackling noise or glare of confligrt tion has awakened the thinly populate district, the chances are that the fir will have caught such hold that nothin will be left us but to mourn and look or Such wretches are, happily, few. This know, that if detected by the bushme working for wages in the Alford .Fores
an incendiary would stand a very good chance of being lynched, and should a hangman ever be wanted for the occasion, your cori’espondent would gladly offer his services on a pinch. The Waimate fire was caused by shepherds signalling to one another during muster. In the evidence brought forth at the trial it was distinctly stated that it was customary in hilly districts to light fires, so that parties engaged in mustering may know the whereabouts of each other. It was adduced also that certain laws were in force regulating the lighting of these fires, but laws are too often made to be ridden through, a long purse and a clever lawyer .will whitewash many a black spot. It was also stated that a fire had been actually started in the bush, and never properly put out. Lot it be as it may, I have no idea of scratching old sores. What I want to arrive at is simply this—thousands of feet of good timber, fit for building purposes, were destroyed ; that Waimate, by that fire, lost more than the bulk of its inhabitants ever thought of ; and that wo ourselves were indirectly heavy losers, yet at the same time thought little or nothing about it. We have no timber in our forest fit for building purposes, yet we want houses. The Waimate bush was our store-house. The bush worked out, or all burned, means dear building material, therefore I am not “ stretching” when I say we were heavy losers. No, there is some similarity in the situation between the Waimate bush and our forest. Waimate bush is surrounded by sheep runs, the back of our hills are in the hands of runholdors. I presume in both instances, both districts being hilly, the custom of signalling by lighting fires exists, or did exist. At Waimate they have sawmills ; we have had sawmills at work, and will no do doubt have some more erected, or the old ones started afresh. We have, therefore to dread for our forest the same fate that overwhelmed the Waimate district. Fire is our most dreaded enemy ; I cimut, therefore, conceive that too much emphasis can bo put on the warning. I must, however, refer your readers t<> my next letter, knowing full well that other matters have to appear in your columns ; but I will put as little delay as possible in the completion of my task, and I hope before I have done to show that a great deal can be done to ensure the safety of the bush, as well as a more beneficial and systematic method of working can be easily arrived at. In my next I shall have something to say on osier growing and the manufacture of baskets.
Permanent link to this item
ALFORD FOREST., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 629, 6 May 1882
ALFORD FOREST. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 629, 6 May 1882
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.