THE FORESTRY DEPARTMENT. INTEBESTING FACTS FROM PEOFESSOR KIRK.
The determination of the Minister for Agriculture to re-oreate the Foreßtry Department led a representative of the Evening Post to seek out Professor Kirk, the former Chief Conservator of Forests, with a view to obtaining some information regarding the department which had been under his control. Probably no man in New Zealand has a better knowledge of our forests than Mr. Kirk, and he showed himself ready and willing to impart information regarding them. The Forestry Department was proposed about 1884, under the Vogel Administration, and Captain Campbell Walker was bronght from India to report upon the matter. He was assisted in his investigations by Professor Kirk, and reported strongly in favour of organising a department with rangers, nurserymen, foresters, &o. The matter was, however, left in abeyance till 1885, when, in December of that year, the Stout- Vogel Administration requested Professor Kirk to examine the chief forests and report "on their condition. These reports are still available, and resulted in the organisation of a department in the following December, with Mr. Kirk as Chief Conservator. The administration of the State forests was then in a very chaotic condition. In some districts timber-getters paid royalties, but as there was no supervision there was immense loss to the State. No attempt was made to exhaust any area, the bushmen simply picking out big trees here and there where easily aooessible, and leaving immense quantities of serviceable timber, less easily got at, to be destroyed by fires, rendered all the more liable to ocour by the presence of dead tops and dthrit. The lobs to the colony from this Btate of affairs must, Mr. Kirk oonsiders,-have run into millions. Mr. Ballance, who was an enthusiast respeoting forestry, was the Minister for Lands of the day. The State Forests Aot Amendment of 188i> was passed, regulations were draws up, and the maohinery of the new Department was set in working order. The first year showed a revenue of £3874, while the actual expenditure was £4800, which inoludod some £400 for the preparation of the illustrative plates for the "Forest Flora." Mr. Ballance desired to have plantations made extensively, and to establish village settlements near the large State forests, the inhabitants of which might work on them, and carry on arboreal pursuits and industries. Debentures were issued to pay the cost of plantations, and subsequently repaid out of forest revenue. For two years the Department flourished, but in the next the Government went out of power, and in the wave of retrenchment which followed Sir Harry Atkinson's return to power it was swept away. The plan of the plantations was always to have with the other trees a few acres of wattle. This gave a return in five years sufficient to pay the whole expense of the plantation. The wattles planted did splendidly. Had the Department lasted, Mr. Kirk had intended to plant puriri largely where shade was available, thus restoring exhausted forests and creating new oneß, for Mr. Kirk believes that large areas now idle and likely to remain so could be re-afforested with profit to the colony, both financially and climatically, 'and especially is there room for this in the South Island. He is also prepared to demonstrate that a Forestry Department, on a definite and proper basis, would not only cover its own expenses, but leave a direot monetary profit to the State, while other benefioial results would be incalculable — the conservation of streams, prevention of many floods, and permanency of timber supply, being only some of them. There is, too, Mr. Kirk points out, no other native product which provides proportionately so much employment for labour as the timber industry. £1000 worth of wool might be produced for an expenditure in labour of about £60, but in the production of £1000 worth of timber ready for use the item labour wonld be 80 per centum of the whole. To secure permanency to our State forests and timber industry would therefore be to secuMra permanent outlet for labour. | Tlw'only timber we export to any extent is the kauri, and that is now within measurable distance of extinction. Mr. Kirk thinks it is impossible to make a permanency of the kauri, but the existing forests, by better management, might be conserved. As it is we are sweeping off in one generation forests which have taken 4OQO years to develope, for Professor Kirk says that some of our kauri trees date back to the Noabian deluge, and are among the .very oldest trees on the face of the globe. x There is another tree which Mr. Kirk eon- '■ siders that we must, if we are to keep our r'tion as a maritime people, begin at once conserve. That is the pohutukawa, which once adorned tho coast line of tho northern half of the North Island, and over great areas has been destroyed, and is being destroyed in thousands of trees for firewood. For ships' timbers the pohutukawa is m vainable, yet we are wantonly destroying it along Anoklsnd coasts, so much so that shipbuilders are now looking about them for substitutes. Mr. Kirk reminded our representative that most of the New Zealand trees are of slow growth, but there is always a new growth of young trees replacing the old in tho forests themselves, and if these were properly conserved the seedlings would form a natural snooessioo, and it could be so managed ac to produce a valuable orop of ripe timber every 20 to 50 years, aocording to the oycle decided upon. There was one production of Prof c ssor Kirk to which our representative could not help referring, and that was his " Forest Flora of New Zealand." Mr. Kirk mentioned, apropot of this, that Dr. Huoker, most eminent of botanists, wrote to Mr. BaUanoe that it was " the best that had been written of any colony." Dr. Hooker said this in a letter urging Mr. Ballance to have a new and complete Flora of New Zealand prepared, and suggesting that the work should be put in the hands of the author of the "Forest Flora" as the most fitting. Just before the last stage of his fatal illness, Mr. Ballance sent for Mr Kirk in reference to the matter, tolling him at the same time that he hoped to see him onoe more at the head of a Forestry Department, and to enable him to produce the work whioh^Dr. Hooker had considered necessary botiTiD the interests of the settler and of - soienoe. The hand of death for a time blotted out that proipeot, but now it ie likely to take fresh life and vigour in the hands of the Minister for Lands, and we will, no doubt, shortly see the colony reaping the Department, suoh as the experience of older countries has shown to be an economic necessity.
■^6* Mount Morgan mine has paid in . t 4 .i3rla-£<loo ,?S
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