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RIVER SILTING IN OHINEMURI

•MENACE TO AGRICULTURAL SETTLEMENT. We have received from the Silting Committee at Ohinemuri the following statement, shewing the objects which they have in view: —

"As some misapprehension exists as to the objects of the recently-appointed Silting Committee, we desire, through the columns of your journal, to make better known what these objects are. The silting trouble, which has brought the committee into existence, is well known. At the time the Government proclaimed the rivers to be sludge channels, the then few settlers in the district did not object. Settlement had not progressed, and the cyanide treatment of ore was then practically unknown outside a few mining engineers and chemists. The knowledge of the residents was based purely on the then crude methods of treatment in use in the district.

"The extensive use of cyanide, and the finer crushing of quartz in later years caused the matter to assume a very different aspect, and when it was found that the rivers were filling up, drainage affected, and large areas of land being destroyed, the same agitation sprang up against it as has sprung up in Australia, California, and elsewhere. Ruin was staring the settlers in the fare. In 1907 the matter was fully placed before. the Mines Committee of the House of Representatives, and the House recommended the matter to the Government for prompt action. Nothing has been done, and the evil goes on iniTeasing, Taking the Thames and Ohinemuri Counties together, the area surface sown in grass is 208.075 acres, ploughed and sown in grass 17,001 acres, in crop 3,185 acres, and in garden and orchard 532 , acres, the capital value of such in 1007 I being £1,311,331. The greater of the above lies in the Thames Valley, iand is all either directly or indirectly affected by the silting up of the rivers.

"The objects for whicli the committee ■was appointed can best he BUiwmarised by the lines appearing over your leader column, aud for that purpose the committee is obtaining information beafing upon the matters mentioned below, recording the same for future use, with the object of obtaining a satisfactory solution of the present difficult question, and providing a remedy. What form that remedy shall take is not a matter for the committee to determine. It, is recognised that the difficulties are great, and that the question is one to be ■lealt with by the best engineering talent, but the committee is firmly of opinion that if a remedy is sought for by the Government, it can be found, and I will prove that it is possible for two great industries, farming and mining, to be carried on for the mutual benefit of each other. The advantage to the farmer of having a local market on tho goldfield for his produce, and the advantage to the mining community of being able to obtain local farm produce are self-evident, but nt the s-atne time it must not be overlooked that the principal markets for this district are London and Auckland.

MIXING AXD AGRICULTURE CONTRASTED. "The Thames Valley comprises some oi • the finest agricultural and dairying land I • in the Dominion, and a iiuiiiUt of settiers from the South are now turning I . their attention to this district and tuk- ' ing up land, ilen who have saved , money made by mining have also settled on the land aud made for themselves permanent homes. More still are coming. The preservation of these lands and the encouragement of permanent settlement is a vital one to the business people of Auckland, as it is to the farmers that the city must ultimately look for expansion of trade and business. The establishment of experimental farms and agricultural colleges has in recent years enabled land that was formerly looked upon as worthless to be brought into a highly productive state, I and this added to the large area of rich I alluvial land makes the Thames Valley j a national asset of great value. The itti- j petus given to dairying by the establish- I ment of Government grading, and by i the establishment of the Thames Valley I Dairying Company, has greatly assisted, j and the £40,000 per annum paid out by the company to its suppliers is mostly j returned to the land in improved cnltiration, improved stuck, and otherwise, j the money being expended in the district. I The two counties. Thames and Chine-| mini, now carry upwards of 10.000 bead j of cattle, of whicli upwards of 7,0X10 are I dairy cows. The dividends from a mine j are net spent in the district, but go principally into the pockets of persona not resident in the Dominion. I "The population in a mining district is a fluctuating one, rising and falling with every rise and depression in the | ruining industry. In Otago townships of | 20,000 and 25,000 inhabitants ceased to j exist when the alluvial workings ran I out. Instances of such are Cromwell, i Hlackstone Hill, Macrae's, Gabriel's I Gully, and many more. It is true that a quartz field is more permanent, but the population cannot in any sense of the word be said to be a permanent population, and in 1007 the export of gold showed a decrease of £55.110 as against the amount exported in 100 ii. "On the other band, in a farming district tho population is tied to the soil that supports it, and becomes a settled and permanent one. ever seeking to improve the land for the purpose of deriving greater results and increased prosperity, leading to increased national prospurity, and sharing a heavier burden of national taxation for the material benefit of the Dominion as a whole. Jf the land is destroyed by tailings, a farming population cannot occupy it when the mining population has gone. The mining industry is a precarious one, sometimes prosperous, sometimes depressed. Nothing permanent is looked for from it. The 'more mining operations are carried on the less becomes the value of the mine, until eventually, when the mine is worked out, the value ceases to exist at all, and it can no longer be looked upon as a source of revenue fur the country or for employment for the population. It is always a question of 'How long?" or. as mining mon put it. 'What is" the life of the mine?' The wages of those engaged in it are high, but the occupation is a hazardous one, and is classed foT insurance purposes as a 'hazardous risk.' Many of those en- • | gaped in ii are doing r>o, tempted by the . j higher wages paid, with t':e ultimate object of Fettling on the land ami providing 11 for themselves and families a permanent i home. The percentage of men so en- ' i gaged in this district is known to bo .'fairly Hsfn. ' "Although the life of i> farmer is a ', hard one. with long hours, it is ai.-o a .free and healthy one. and the sett!?r who 'feels that his place is hi? own. and the ! results of his toil helong to him'clf, r:,- . periences a feeiing of satisfaction that •■is unknown to one that works for an- ' other. A well-known writer has said, '('The man who works for wages is a

slave, but he who thoroughly tills his own ground is a king among men.' To this may also be added, that 'he who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew befoTe is a benefactor to his country.' How many of the best farmers in this district were minei'3 who put their savings in the land? They are all well known between Paeroa and Thames, solid men, and a credit to the Do-minion. Whicli class of population, farming or mining, is destined to eventually occupy the soil and produce the best results for the Dominion? The Waihi Miners' Union answered this question when it asked for a large area of the Hauraki Plains to be set apart as a special settlement to which the Waihi j miners could ultimately retire and make permanent homes. The union was looking to 'the future in the distance.' PROGRESS OF THE THAMES VALLEY FARMS. "The increases in number and improvement in quality of the stock has j been most marked during the past five years, and local farmers can point to ! the results with pride. The Weddell Shield, won by the local dairying company in London in competition against the world, the first prize for exhibition of the products of the Ohinemuri CounIty at the recent Winter Show in AuckI land, the first prize in London for the best pen of cattle for killing purposes, lure some of the instances referred to. Horses from this district i..c bringing high prices in outside markets; the prize cattle are becoming known throughout the North Island; and all this from 'the few inferior acres of agri-cultural land' that the. superintendent of the Waihi Mine says can be compensated for I for A'oOO. What are the results to be when ninety thousand acres of the Ilaurnki Plains are opened up for I settlement and added to what we now !have? | THE OBSTRUCTION TO NAVIGATION j BY .SILT. j "The Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivera are natural drains and public highways. I The filling up of these rivers with tailings is a national evil. Not only are hundreds of acres of fertile land being destroyed, but drainage is being materially affected on a very large area of land not directly injured by tailings, including the Hauraki Plains, on which •the Government is expending thousands of pounds in drainage operations. What will be the use of growing flax there? I The millers refuse flax affected by silt, jas it destroys their machinery. The impeding of navigation is a detriment to tho community as a whole. The people are as Rtirolv pntitlfd to have their navigable highway unobstructed'as they are to have a public road unobstructed, and the stoppage of water carriage will be far-reaching in its effects. In Engjland, so .well served by railway systems I nnd cheap freights, attention is now he ing agtiin directed to canal eonstruc- | tion and canal transport, entailing the . I expenditure of thousands of pounds. I Why, then, permit the destruction of our i own natural waterways? 'For the future in the diftar.ee' it is imperative that they should be kept open. REMEDY EASILY PROVIDED. "The Superintendent of the Waihi Mine estimates that it will cost o/- a .yard to shift the tailings from the bat- ! . teries instead of allowing them to flow '' Unto the Ohinemuri River. The commit- { tee has an offer to do the work for 1/- - a yard, with £ 1,000 deposit as a guar- ' niitpc of bona tides. The Waihi-l'aeroa (Juld Extraction Company's estimate ■lor lifting the tailings from the river ' into punts, treating it, and depositing it on ils tailings site is under sixpence ; a it on. Surely 'the Waihi Company's superintendent must be in error, as the ; Extraction Company would have twice ' the amount of handling to do that the Waihi Company would have, nnd the Ex- ' traction Company is bound by law not to return its tailings into the river.

"It would appear that the only real remedy for the evil is the revocation of the proclamation, of the rivers as a sludge channel. In California the Courts' by-injunctions restrained the mining companies from discharging debris into the rivers, and in Victoria the matter became so acute that a Sludge Abatement Board was specially created to deal with it. On the West Coast of New Zealand the proclamation of rivers as sludge channels was refused. No injury will be done by the immediate revocation of the proclamation so far as

regards any future mines or mining , nil■■, ,iii,'-. leaving only the existing oncrt to be dealt with in arriving at a solution of the problem. About 1,000 tons a (lav is being discharged into the Ohiueiiuiri River, ami there is no reason why the present enormous deposits should be allowed to .be in.rcasr.l. The talk of dredging is nonsense. What dredge could shift this 1.000 tons n day out to sea, and also cope with the enormous deposits already existing? "As to the ultimate revocation of the proclamation as a whole, a good deal of capital Ins been attempted to be made out Of the supposed injury that would result to the mining industry. Tl'.is supposed injury is only n 'bogey.' A similar cry was raised when the Waihi Gobi Mining Company was stopped by 1;, w from hewing quartz on Sundays. No injury resulted to the company, and more men found employment. Again, when the mining companies were stopped by law from running their batteries and treating' ore ou Sundays, tbe same old civ was raised. The result lias been that the companies have not -suffered, men have got their Sunday rest, employment of more men was necessitated, and increased pay found necessary for Sunday work. The stoppage of the flow <Vf silt into the rivers will be found to be of benefit to the mining community by the employment of more men in handling the tailings, and this; can be done without materially increasing the burden on the mining companies. When the position is better understood, we expect to receive the support of the people of Auckland in 'a cause that needs assistance,' and one that has a direct bearin., on the future of one of Auckland's best markets. "Thanking you for past assistance, we are. i "THE SILTING ' j _

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RIVER SILTING IN OHINEMURI Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 85, 10 April 1909

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