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A LIGHT RAILWAY

SUGGESTED SALE TAUPO TOTARA COMPANY'S PETITION ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE AS TO THE LAND.

The hearing of evidence relative to the Taupo Totara Company's petition to Parliament was resumed to-day before She Select Committee, of which Mr. G. r. Anderson is Chairman. Sir John findlay appeared for the petitioners, Mr. C. B. Collins for the Wellington Trades and Labour Council, and Mr. Graham for the Taupo Railway League. Donald Crowther, coach proprietor, said that he had been driving on the roads between Waiouru and Tokaanii, and for twenty years had been a driver between Taupo. and Napier. For over forty yoars be had been continuously in the Taupo district. Forty years ago tho Hat lands south of Taupo were under wheat grown by the Maoris. They also had a nourmill, and grew kumaras, potatoes, and pumpkins. To-day the land was covered with bramble and tea-tree. Witness himself had grown good oats on pumice land. All the land through which the railway would pass could be profitably farmed. The old settlers knew that the fault was not in the soil, but in the difficulty of getting fertilisers carted in and produce carted out. Want of means of communication had killed the place. The country north of Lake Taupo would be well served by the railway, and that to the south of the lake could be well served by a steamer service connecting with the railway. There was an area of 2000 or 3000 acres at Tokaanu. Albert R. Graham, barrister and solicitor, said he resided at Wairaki, and had been asked to put the position as it appeared to the Taupo Railway League. He explained that he did not come before the committee at the invitation of the Taupo Totara Company. His own people owned the Wairaki block, which j would be as well served by a line from Rotor ua as the Taupo connection. On his own people's property they had grown oats with excellent results. They also iad an orchard with 500 appletrees, from which excellent crops were gathered. He endorsed at length evidence given by other witnesses as to the fertility of the soil when manures were used. There was not the slightest doubt in his mind that railway communication was the first necessity if the district was to go ahead. He condemned the suggested Rotorua route to Taupo, on tha grounds that there was no possibility of the Government undertaking the work for many years to come, and that the route would be a costly one, ifj far as construction was concerned. THE ROTORUA OBJECTIONS. Mr. Graham further stated that the objections of the Rotorua people to the Taupo line were not sincere. A lot of the objections of the Rotorua people were merely being put up as a bogey to prevent the Taupo people from getting their line through to Putaruru. The attitude of the extreme section in Rotorua was not endorsed by several men of standing there. In reply to a question witness said that the Taupo Company were fair to the settlers in their freight- charges. They had the right to charge £2 per ton for freight, but 22s 6d was the fixed figure. CHAIRMAN OF THE COMPANY. - F. G. Dalziell, solicitor, and chairman of the company since its formation, gave a history of the company's affairs in a type-written statement. Much pf the evidence was covered by Sir John Findlay in his opening statement to the committee. The company was naturally anxious to get back the cost of the line, but it was improbable that the line would pay after the timber was cut out unless it could rely on the traffic of the district in its settled state. The construction of the line had cost the company t £120,000, rolling stock £10,000, and it was estimated that another £50,000 would place it on the same basis in construction and equipment, as the Government lines— a total of £180,000. SHOW DEVELOPMENT. It was true, Mr. Dalziell continued, that development of the country along the company's line had been slow, but the reason' was that the land was held in large areas. It was the development oE the dairying industry at Putaruru and the experiments with pumice lands that had induced a feeling of confidence in the development of the district, and its ultimate destiny as a producing centre. Mr. Buchanan, M.P., rose at this stage, and asked that a better map of the district, showing exactly who owned the private lands in the vicinity of the company's line, should be furnished the committee. The chairman promised to see that the request was attended to. "Witness -went on to say that there were hundreds of thousands of acres of land that could be settled profitably as soon as railway access was provided. If the company's line was to have a permanent value it would have to be made equal to the requirements of the district. It was not a matter of importance to the company that its line should be immediately purchased by the Government, but it was a matter of importance to the company (and of still more importance to the State) that the public should know that the Taupo district would be served by a railway. There _ might be reason " for some prejudice to taking of the line by the Government orf the grounds that other districts might suiter. He could say at once that the company was prepared to get the price of the line out of the sale of Native and Crown lands by the Government. The company was prepared to take any risk attendant on proof that the whole district could be profitably settled. If at the end of fifteen years it could be shown that the line was not a payable one, the company would not ask for purchase by the State —this to show the faith the company had in the potentialities of the district. They suggested that the proceeds of land sales should be paid to the company under a bond that all such moneys were to be a charge on the company's assets, so that the State could be reimbursed in the event of the line not being taken over ultimately. The company had an alternative suggestion if fchis one were not adopted, that it should be given the right to purchase 200,000 acres of Native land at the present price, the land to be cut up in a certain period and settled. THOSE RUMOURS AGAIN. He took the opportunity of denying tho rumour, as Sir John Findlay did, that the company had acquired options over all the hotels in the district. He }«id acquired a property of eight acres at the suggested Taupo terminus (which included tne £3pa), but this had been done to facilitate the company's business in the event of permission being given to extend the line to the locaUty in question, and the whole of that particular property would be available to the Government at its cost price if the State took tbe railway. As far as he knew there was not a single director or share-

holder of the company who had any interests in the Taupo district other than their timber rights. Neither had the Taupo Company any connection with the Tonganro 'Timber Company. VARIOUS QUESTIONS ANSWERED. The company, of course, also had its freehold, on which the timber stands, of 43,000 acres. He concluded by saying he was quite willing to give any information required respecting the company's private affairs. Li reply to Mr. Buchanan, witness said that It was true the company could have cut up some of its lands, from which the timber had been cut, into areas of 500 or 1000 acres, but it was only in recent years that the value of pumice country had been demonstrated. Mr. Buchanan asked the witness whether the fifteen years the company estimated it had to run in cutting out its timber rights would not be sufficient for the settlement of the country? Witness replied that some of the land was still in an experimental stage, and no business man could be expected to go into a proposition such as Mr. Buchanan sefcmed to suggest. In roply to other questions, witness made it clear that on the terms he had stated it would be optional for the Government to take over the line. If it was not. paying the Government need not take it. If it was paying, of course the company would be quite prepared to continue to hold it if the State still declined to purchase. The main requirement of the company at the present time was finance. Mr. Collins: Do you suggest. that the Crown should purchase land compulsorily from tho natives? Witness : Not necessarily ; 1 say ' the Natives are willing to sell now at a price. Then if the Natives refuse to sell the project will fall through? — No ; we say that the Crown lands alone are sufficient for the carrying out of our project. Before adjourning the chairman said that the proposals now put before the committee in part superseded the petition, and it would be necessary for him to consult with the Minister as to the position. Mr. Dalziell explained that his statement was in amplification of the petition, and he undertook to put the matter in 'writing. The committee then adjourned till tomorrow.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19120910.2.44

Bibliographic details

A LIGHT RAILWAY, Evening Post, Volume LXXXIV, Issue 62, 10 September 1912

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A LIGHT RAILWAY Evening Post, Volume LXXXIV, Issue 62, 10 September 1912

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