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CHRISTCHURCH, May 7. A very big deputation from the Canterbury Progress .League and other bodies waited on the. Acting-Prime -Minister (Sir James Allen) while he Has m Christen u'reh to place before him various matters connected with the Otira tunnel and other, public works iv Canterbury. Air L. M. isitl, in introducing the deputation, baid that it was representative of ' nearly all the public bodies in Chnstchurch. lie read to the -Minister the following resolutions asking for improved railway facilities between Lytuilton and Chnstchurch, the compietion ol the Oura tunnel and the intension of elocmeal feeders in various directions— Tnat vi view of,the amount of present congestion and the probable increase or imports and exports, the Government be urged to provide adequate accommodation for both pas>benger and goods traffic at C'hnstchuich on the hues indicated by the I General Manager of Railways in | 1914. That the Minister of Public Works be strongly urged to take steps to proceed with the construction of the Utira tunnel at a greatei rate of pro- ! giess by employing more men at an adequate wage consistent with the i nature of the work, so that the line I may more speedily become remunerative and save the present loss of interest on the amount already expended, which can best'be achieved Dy the early linking up of the east arid west coasts. That the Public Works Department be urged to extend the-primary feeders without delay as' follows* Eastward to Akaroa, northward to Culverden, southward to Leeston, and a branch at Methven and Ashburton, and a supply at Hororata, Dariieldj Oxford and other centres. ' • The people of Canterbury, Mr Isitt £d<led, were of the opinion that they were being played with by the most transparently evasive answers of the various Departments. For instance, die Public Work's Department, in connection with the electrifying of the Utira tunnel, stated that it could do. nothing because it was in the hanTTs of the Railway Department, and on top of that a reply was received from the Railway Department that it could do nothing because the matter was in thehands of the Public Works Department. The answer was very irritating. Dr. Thacker, M.P., in stressing, the' probable coal shortage ahead, said that lie had authority for saying that there v\as no luck of shipping or coal, and all chat Vaa required was labour to hew the coal, he hoped that. Sir, James Allen would concentrate on obtaining labour for this purpose. As Mayorelect, he could assure the Minister that Canterbury was going to get busy, es=i pecially as there was an election' in sight. Thousands of tons of goods Vere held up in the North Island because they could not be shipped south, and the old policy of centralising shipping at Wellington was being pursued. \Vhen at Timaru lately, he had seen three ocean liners discharging cargo that ought to have been jmt out at Lyttelton. The general Government in ihe early days commandeered railways and other public works and. hospitals, and the bleeding of Canterbury w ould have to stop. Ihe Government, besides winning the war, should have concentrated oa giving the people a fair deal. This it had failed to do. > Mr \V. Goss said that in 1912 a commission on the Otira'tunnel had found that it was a national work and should be completed. Seven years later it was far from completion, but it was manifest that its completion would greatly relieve the congestion at Lyt-' celton for timber and coal. For the last four years the average. importation of timber from the West Coast was fifteen million feet a year, and if it could have been carried by rail it would have meant a saving of £90,000, in addition to which slab timber, at present burned on the coast, could be railed to Christehurch as firewood. The same remarks, applied to the carriage of coal. Mr G. Witty, M.P., said that Christchurch had been in the position of a village with only one .carrier, who did not care whether he worked or not. Canterbury had suffered too long, and was going to fight unitedly for' its rights. - Sir James Allen, in reply, said that he had just come back from Duncdin, where he had received a similar deputation in regard to Otago's needs, and some time ago he,had received a similar Auckland deputation. He was now j going to' Wellington, where he expected ; to receive another. He recognised that it was the duty of the Progress Keaguc to do what it was doing, but it was the duty of the Government to select the most essential,works and carry them out a? rapidly as possible. He did not promise that all that had been asked would be done in a year, or in two, for the 'League had a very big programme, and- the Government had limitations in 'money, which it could meet, and limitations in.labour, which could not be got over.' As for the Otira tunnel, Sii James, Allen-continued, the Minister of Public 5 Works' and the Cabinet were just as anxious as the people of Canterbury to see it completed, and ho regretted .the piecemeal policy, adopted largely for political purposes, of spreading public works over as large a field as possible. (Hear, hear). The principle was unsound, and it would be better; to appoint a*n impartial expert committee, which would report to the Government the works that ought to : be completed first. (Hear, hear). Ihe East and West Coast; tunnel would go on as rapidly as possible .As for electrification, he understood that was in the hands of the Railway Department, I but as ;spon as he got back | he would place*' the matter! before his colleagues, and the deputation could be assured of an early answer. (Hear, hear.) The 1914 scheme : of, railway re-organisation was devised by Mr Hiley, and but for the war a good part of it would have been, concluded-by now, but it would-be gone on with as soon as possible. There were still 20.000 fit men to return, to-New Zealand, but these men showed a great, disinclination'to undertake public work, and the Minister found a difficulty in that matter.

Mr Goss: Will he pay the wages ? Sit- James Allen said that if the Minister went into competition with other industries it was a question what the farmers would say. The farming industry must be maintained, and if the labour market, for farming was curtailed the country might get' into serious difficulty. He thought it was necessary to pay decent wages, but care should be exercised in the matter. The other

Questions. Sir James added, had been noted, and as soon as b© got back to Wellington he would consider them and sive an answer. ". ■ .;

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Bibliographic details

PROGRESS LEAGUE, Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9603, 7 May 1919

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PROGRESS LEAGUE Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9603, 7 May 1919