The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 1882. The Railway Tariff Question.
TOWN EDITION. f lssued at 4.20 p.m. i
We are pleased to find that the New Zealand Farmers’ Co-operative Association at Christchurch have taken up the question of the railway tariff for colonial produce, with a view to its reduction. As a preliminary step the Association has lately been issuing printed circulars, one of whicli it has sent to each of the various road boards, borough councils, and county councils within the district of North Canterbury, inviting the assistance and cooperation of the before-mentioned bodies in effecting the object aimed at. In the Ashburton county the appeal has met with a hearty response, and doubtless it has been received with equal favor elsewhere, for the question is one that affects all alike whose business necessitates the use of the rail to convey their produce to a distance for shipping or other purposes. The circular referred to states that “ there is a strong feeling growing up amongst the farmers of Canterbury against their produce being taxed (by high rates of carriage) to pay for unprofitable railways existing in other parts of New Zealand. Compared with the rates ruling on articles of export in other countries, the expense of getting his produce to a seaport is heavily handicapping the farmer here, and, after careful consideration, the directors of this Association are of opinion that, to be more on a par with producers elsewhere, the rates of carriage on all colonial produce ought to be somewhat as follows -.—Three shillings per ton for the first twelve miles, and one penny per ton per mile for each mile after. This would doubtless Introduce a system of differential rates.” In order that the concession suggested may be fully understood by our readers, we may mention that the present tariff for the carriage of grain up to thirteen miles is at the rate of four shillings and a penny per ton, twopence per ton for each additional mile up to thirty-nine seen that the proposed reduction, if it is effected, will be a very important one for the farmer, who now finds the gilt taken off his gingerbread to an alarming extent by the Railway Department. It is to be hoped that the present movement may bring about the introduction of the differential rates, as referred to in the circular before us. It is a notorious fact that the Canterbury railways pay exceedingly well, and it is a very great hardship that this island should be called upon to make good the deficit caused by the non-payable character of some of the North Island lines. Let us look at the matter from another standpoint. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Government, in addition to our railways, “ ran ” our grocery stores, for example, to the exclusion of private enterprise in that most necessary line of business— would it not be a monstrous injustice that we, in this island, should be asked to pay ten shillings per pound for our tea merely because the North Island stores were so badly distributed over the country, and involved so great an outlay to maintain, that they could not show a balance on the right side of the ledger? And yet the injustice would be no greater in the one case than it ts in the other. As the grain tariff now stands the farmer has undoubtedly reasonable grounds for grumbling. Because “ political railways ” and other useless lines exist in the North that is no reason why we, in the South Island, should be made to suffer pecuniary loss. Under these circumstances it is very satisfactory to learn that the County Council, thanks to the Cooperative Society’s circular, has called a public meeting for an early date to consider the tariff question, and we trust that the resolutions passed at that meeting may materially assist in bringing about the much-needed reform.