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POLYNESIAN LABOUR FOR AUCKLAND .

To the Edi6or of the Daily Southern Cross. Sir, — The introduction of South Sea Island labourers, per 'Lulu,' opens up a question of great importance to all classes of the community. Nothing so generally affects a people, socially and commercially-, as the state of the labour market j and we should do well to carefully consider the effects before "W§ enter extensively into a traffic affecting us so materially, and the benefits of which, in ouy case, are at least doubtful. It is not two months since a ory waa raised by the working classes in the province that they were unable to obtain employment ; and, although much of the destitution then existing has been ameliorated by the scattering of many 1 of the sufferers through the various out-districts, it cannot, even now* he deputed that the supply o4 }a.hp,u.r excessive, compared w^th. wesnwwitQf capital which w-e h.a,ve fct employ it. TWa beini ' \t win he. n.e^essa.ry to show th»* ■" - oase » sia.n. khqiirevs pasaes» - - one Polyneriovl^y ever ** ooine fe .ture of supeiieoo'-- Europeans, which renders it -.^ary to import them, in order to carry on that branch of industry for which they are specially adapted. On this point, however, speculators will find it difficult to show sufficient ground for the trade. We have neither sugar nor cotton cultivations, and, although we had, it would never be contended that Europeans were not as capable of becoming adepts in attending to these crops as their coloured brethren. The only reasons which have ever been put forward in favour of the trade are that the supply is unlimited and the labour cheap. Both these grounds, however, may reasonably be disputed. With regard to the first, the experience of the ' Lulu ' seems to show that, unless force is employed, it is difficult to induce the men to leave their homes. Nor is this to be wondered at. If desire were limited to necessity, the inhabitants of the islands of the South Seas might be considered to be in a far better condition temporally than residents in more civilised countries. The natural fertility of their soil supplies them with sufficient food and clothing, without entailing upon them the necessity for spending the greater portion of their lives to produce what they actually require, or their "society" requires of them. It relieves them also of that fruitful source of anxiety and distress to which the civilised labourer is exposed — dependence upon others for the means of subsistence, or, as the poet expresses it, "leave to toil." Captain Ponsonby's diary seems to indicate that those natives who have tried the pleasures of qolonial employment do not appear generally to have been favourably impressed with it, but decline to again engage themselves. We now come to consider the question of cheapness. Agricultural labourers in Auckland are receiving generally from 4s. to ss. a day, without board, and at this price a sufficient number can readily be obtained to carry on all the operations at present being contemplated. This wage, it will be admitted, is not more than sufficient to feed, glothe, and find shelter for a man and family. Now, in the case of Polynesian labourera, we must take into account the expense of bringing them to the colony, and conveying then* back again at the end of three years, which is always stipulated for. They require to be fed and clothed during their residence here, and at the end of this engagement to receive some amount of remuneration, Thus, reckoning that a European labourer earns no more than sufficient to keep him, and applying the same rule to South Sea Islanders, the passage-money and remuneration is a clear saving which others would only be too glad to be able to make in three years. The moat important aspect of the trade, however, is its general influence upon the community. At the _end of their engagement these men are" taken back to their native place after having contributed but little to the colonial revenue, or to the general advancement of the place. On the other hand, Europeans spend what they earn here, contributing to the maintenance of law and order, and supporting local institutions. They have a vested interest in the country, and their families are its chief support. I certainly believe in the introduction of labour, but, a3 resolved at a meeting of the inhabitants at Honolulu when called to consider the same question, let it be labourers of the same class as the inhabitants of the country itself, and not such as will leave after a short residence, The comfortable settlement of a. large labouring; popufotiQa. j§ the only meana of rendering «ie country permanently prosperous ; and however cheap capitalists might find it in the outset to swamp the place with inferior labourers, the result would inevitably be a stagnation in trade which would re-a(jt irresistibly upon them., 4t present it ia oqntoajiy 1$ th.p lawa oi supply and demand which govern all commerce, and fatal to our interests as a province. — I am, &c, Operarius.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/DSC18700524.2.37.1

Bibliographic details

POLYNESIAN LABOUR FOR AUCKLAND., Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 3979, 24 May 1870

Word Count
844

POLYNESIAN LABOUR FOR AUCKLAND. Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 3979, 24 May 1870

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