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OHINEMURI RIVER SILTINGS., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 65, 17 March 1909
OHINEMURI RIVER SILTINGS.
(To the Editor.) Sir,--r-As long as the-Hon. Jas. McGowan' remained. Minister for Mines Messrs. Barry and Co., of the big mine,, were'quite secure, and did not even trouble the """N.£. Herald" or Borough Engineers to help at the slaughter of the great agricultural and dairying industries in Ohinemuri. But a change has come over the scene; a new Minister has been appointed, and has given his views on the .matter, views that cannot fail to be appreciated and. upheld by all rightthinking men throughout the whole Dominion, who' must know that two of our greatest, national industries - are being needlessly sacrificed to mining in Ohinemuri. The "Herald," in a now memorable leading article of the 10th inst, makes most misleading statements when referring to our new Minister for Mines and; the river question. The writer says: "He (Mr. McKenzie) goes to Waihi and promptly commences to threaten one of the greatest of our national industries because tailings are dumped into a stream, the valley of which has little agricultural value, and which might be kept open without great difficulty by the occasidnal employment of a Government dredge. The employment of many hundreds of men, the distribution of hundreds of thousands of pounds yearly in wages, the payments of dividends which encourage gold-adventuring, not only in Waihi but in other fields, seems to have no weight in the mind of the new Minister for Mines, as compared with the agricultural use of a few inferior acres— and this while the Government carefully locks from use millions of the most fertile acres in the North."
Now, Mr. McKenzie did not promptly commence to threaten the mining industry—far from it; but he promptly pointed out the only feasible means of meeting the great difficulty that the Government for years, under Mr. McGowan's Tegime, has been hopelessly facing, thereby, showing himself to be a man capable of grasping the occasion, and one evidently who is determined to make a stand on behalf of the agricultural as well as the mining industry. Such a man surely is well deserving of support from all right-thinking men. Mr. McKenzie says "that he had consulted engineers of the highest authority, and he had been assured that there were no engineering difficulties attached to the conveyance of tailings from the batteries to the adjacent plains." Mr. H. P. Barry says that "it is impossible to do this withoyt enormous cost to his company." Mr. D. W. McArthur, Waihi's borough engineer, also talks about "enormous cost." To a company holding such enormous wealth as the Waihi company, it would be interesting to know -njiat is meant by "enormous cost" in this instance, in comparison to the national loss of a fine navigable river, supplied us by nature to drain and keep open many thousands of acres of the very richest alluvial soil in the Dominion, a soil whose products beat all other exhibits at the last winter show in Auckland. A soil that has raised cattle whose beef also surpassed all other exhibits in Auckland; a soil that has enabled our dairy company to produce a grade of butter inferior to none in the Dominion. Arfil this is the valley that one of our leading journals would make its uninitiated readers believe consisted of a few inferior acres of little agricultural value.
When the writer of the "Herald's" article says, "The river might be kept open by the occasional use of a Government dredge," he at once shows that he knows little or nothing about the subject he is dealing with. Will he further enlighten us, and tell us where and how the matter dredged is to be disposed of?
Needless to say that the readers of the "Herald"' in Paeroa, and all landowners throughout the Thames Valley, are amazed and bewildered at the stand taken by this journal on this now national question—a journal they have always looked forward to to support their just cause, now practically declaring that cause unjustifiable. It. will remain, however, for those attending a public meeting, to be held in Paeroa on Friday evening next, to express an opinion, for most decidedly the matter will not now be allowed to drop. Tho people are up ln arms, and determined to fight for their Tights.
As to. Mr. McArthur"s reporti on the question, as telegraphed to the "Herald," and appearing in Saturday's issue, tho position is unusual; it does seem strange that the Waihi Borough Engineer should embody the river question—altogether outside his domain —in his report to his councillors. (But let us analyse his report. In the first place he is careful to admit "that up to five or six years ago damage might have been done to the low-lying areas if the coarse tailings had been continued. (Mr. McArthur was at ono time our County Engineer, and resided in Paeroa, 'and no doubt reported then on the river question.) Since then, however, owing to improvements in the machinery, the stone is crushed so fine that there is little or no settlement in the river." I cannot claim professional knowledge like Mr. McArthur in the matter, but considering that I have lived within a stones-throw of the river ever since its waters first, became discoloured by the silt, I think I may claim to have some practical knowledge of the course of events. So, now for real facts. During the last five or six years most of the damage done has been done within that period. GTcat banks of tailings, containing thousands of cubic yards, have been formed above and below Paeroa during the past six years. The small launch containing Mr. McKenzie and party a few weeks ago she stuck in bailings, where six years ago heavily-laden scows sailed over. One, however, finds it somewhat difficult in taking Mr. MoArthur seriously when he states that "tho dust from the tailings if deposited on the plains in dry weather would he a menace to human beings and stock." Now, if there is one redeeming feature about this silt, so far as Paeroa is concerned, it is that we find it excellent material for our yards and footpaths! I have it laid down all round my house, and yet, during* all the dry weather we have recently had, I have never observed the slightest dust from it. Our County Engineer has had many of our footpaths top-dressed with tailings, yet I have never heard of any unpleasantness arising from it. Again, Mr. McArthur says: '-What would not be iblown away in the dry weather would assuredly be ultimately carried back to the river by rain and floods; and so, when getting into the river in enormous masses, say, through the breaking away of dams, damage to the land might accrue." As to the breaking away of dams, I fail to understand. However, none knows, or should know, better than Mr. McArthur, that the silt in wet weather 6ets almost as hard as cement. The river bed at the present time is as hard as a metal road, and where laid on roadways in winter a loaded waggon going over will scarcely make an impression. Along the river may be seen great banks of tailings standing almost perpendicular from the water's edge that the winter's rains have failed to wash away. During the big flood, in* January, 1907, tailings six inches or more deep were deposited
over niany acres of valuable land at Nether.ton and elsewhere, causing almost the total, financial ruin of the owners; indeed, many E*ave not yet recovered from that disaster. Even since that time, tbe channel of the.river has got so blocked up by the tailings that it is the opinion of many here that if we had at present only half the quantity of rain that fell then the result would be as big a flood. Yet, in face of all this, Mr. McArthur has stated in his report that, "during the past five or six years, little or no settlement took place in the river."
It is -positively criminal to evade facts much longer. If the mines are not compelled, to cease dumping the tailings into the river, it means only a question of a few years, arid a" few days' rain, when the Ohinemuri River will be found to cut out a fresh channel for itself at one of the Ibends near Paeroa, very probably through the town of Paeroa itself, destroying in its course an enormous amount of property right through the valley. Indeed, the potentialities for evil are so great that there is no knowing where that evil may end. In this opinion I am not alone; there are many in Paeroa to-day who have been, like myself, watching the course of events for gome years past that will earnestly and fully support mc in what I say.—l am, etc., C. M. B.
(To the Editor.) I Sir, —The "Herald," in its "Miss"Leading Article of Wednesday, March 10th, states that "the Hon. R. MciKenzie has displayed an astonishing lack tof sympathy with the North." But, Sir, I ask what sympathy does the "Herald" evince to the settlers of the Thames Valley in publishing such obviously downright mis-statements, as that "tail- , ings are being dumped into a stream, : the valley of which has little agricultural value"? The first part of the sentence is correct, for tailings are being dumped at the rate of 50,000 tons or more a month into a stream "that was once a navigable river." But when the "Herald" says that the land bordering that stream "has little agricultural value," it displays a degree of ignorance rare to find in one who holds such a responsible position. In future, before making such rash mis-statements, it would be advisable to look up tne returns of the Thames Valley Dairy Association, also the land value of the said land. Every facility for doing so would be gladly given at the office of the Ohinemuri County Council. Perhaps the writer is not aware that the rivers of New Zealand are national property, and by allowing the mining companies to ruin the rivers of the Dominion, they are not only ruining the settlers on the banks, but are destroying the property of the community at large. As for "the employment of many hundreds of men, the distribution of hundreds of thousands of pounds yearly in wages"— if the tailings, instead of being dumped into the river, were stacked or otherwise disposed of, it would give employment to some of the many unemployed at Waihi. The ■ bogey cry would no doubt be raised that the mines would have to close down. The late Premier, R. J. Seddon, hit the nail on the head when he said, let them close down, "though there is not much fear of it." And we will run the mines, and run them in such a manner as not to be a nuisance and source of loss to the agricultural interest by silting up the rivers of the colony.
No doubt th<» "Herald" would think and advocate the theory that, in order to increase the. dividends of mining shareholders, it would be quite a right and proper thing to drive the settlers off their land, after, in some cases, the work of a lifetime had been spent in bringing their land into its present state of cultivation. Oh, yes! Let them start afresh in their old age, and take up <;ome of "tbe Government carefully locked land in the North."—l am, etc.. C WHITMORE. Puke-road. Paeroa.
OHINEMURI RIVER SILTINGS., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 65, 17 March 1909
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