The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, JULY 29, 1890. PUBLIC WORKS STATEMENT.
The Public Works fund shows a net balance on 31st March last of £732,533. The estimates for the current year are £523,972, and the balance of £208,561 is now practically all that is left of the great Public Works and borrowing scheme, initiated in the early days of the colony. Roads, railways, bridges, telegraphs, public buildings, and so forth, must in futui*e be provided for directly from the pockets of the tax-payer instead of from the exchequer of the foreign money-lender; either this, or recourse must be had to further borrowing in some shape or other. This is the plain position as shown by the Works Statement just delivered, and the electors will do well to make a note of it. Incoming Governments will not be able to buy support by the scatter-cash process, and there is a hopeful prospect that in future only necessary and urgent works will be undertaken. One of the greatest mistakes in connection with our vast public works expenditure has been that public works have preceded instead of following settlement, and the position has resolved itself into this : That we have now railways, roads, telegraphs, public buildings, postal and telephone services, and all the other etceteras necessary for a thickly-populated colony—but we lack the people to avail themselves of them. The colony has gone to enormous expense to provide for the wants of a teeming population, and a handful of people are left to pay the cost. Under these circumstances all the colony can now do is to go out into the highways and by-ways and compel the strangers to come in, or wait patiently until they come of their own free will and accord. Certainly no more elaborate preparations should be made until there is a > prospect of some return for the expenditure. The present Government are not disposed to take this view, and if permitted would go on in the old groove until they can go no further. Left with only some £730,000 in the public works fund, £500,000 is to be scattered immedia T tely to finish a railway here, construct a roadway there, or to erect elaborate Court houses, lunatij asylums, etc., in various centres far in advance of the requirements of the colony. The Atkinson Government are unpopular, and arc up to the old trick of New Zealand Governments. . If populariey cannot be won it must be bought, and a careful study of the public works estimates will show that the present Government, on the eve of an election, are making a bold bid for votes. It is the last chance they will have, and the most is being made of it. Fortunately the House, in obedience to the will of the people, is keeping the Ministry well in check, and the estimates arc being cut down in a wholesale manner. Highsalariod officers and superfluous works must be docked, and the House .are evidently determined that this shall be done, even if an appeal has to be made to the country. Not only this, but old buildings, old telegraph and post offices, old court houses, etc., must be content with a coat of paint, and other structures must be content with moderate repairs, until the colony is in a position to undertake their reconstruction. It is doubtless true that many of these structures would be more ornamental if reconstructed, but if, as at present, they can be made to serve the purpose of a better class of structure, it must be done. Beggera cannot be choosers, and it is better to wear a patched garment than a new outfit that cannot be paid for. The unfinished railways are in a similar position. They can only be carried to a paying point by large expenditure, and this the colony cannot afford to spend. What little of the Public Works fund there is in hand will be urgently required in the course of a few years for repairs and reconstruction of works already in use, and the Government's proposal to spend it all at once on works that can he done without in the meantime is in direct opposition to their previous ultra-economic professions.