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THe OTAGO CENTRAL., Issue 7948, 2 July 1889
THe OTAGO CENTRAL.
Mb Vincent Pykb may fairly be congratulated upon having by his consistent persistency for many years induced the Government to bring in a Bill for the further prosecution of the Otago Central Railway. In 1876 the matter was first mooted, and some enthusiasm of a tepid nature evoked in Dunedin. In 1878 this line", amongst others, was authorised to be proceeded with under the provisions of the Railways Construction Act, and in June, 1879, exactly ten years ago, the first sod was turned at Wingatui by Mr Pyke himself. There was much cheering on that occasion, and the spectators of the usual spade and barrow performance went home with the comfortable conviction that they had done their duty, having imbibed the proper quantity of champagne and bottled beer provided by the generous contractor, and hurrahed to the legitimate extent permissible on such occasions. For five years that first contract for £55,000 dragged wearily on, and Mullocky Gully was made an Alsatia for all kinds and conditions of persons. Some sort of work was carried on j but whether the work done was of use to the country, or its pretence served as a soup-kitchen resort for the idle and disorderly, has ever
been, and is yet, a vexed question. One thing only is certain: successive Governments retarded it, sent " Lightning Commissions," charged to report against it, around, but not through the country, and in every possible way strove to prevent the making of a railway into the heart of Otago, whence mainly her future prosperity must be derived. Through ill report and good report Mr Pykb has stuck to it. Bill after Bill devising means for completing this highway to the interior has been brought in, at one time throwing the responsibility on the Government, at others asking for a grant of land to enable a syndicate to construct it. In 1887 he carried a Syndicate Bill through the House, and it was only withdrawn in the Council after its second reading, in consequence of a promise made by Sir Frederick Whitaker that he, as AttorneyGeneral, would frame a Bill, which
should be supported by Ministers. He certainly carried out his promise as to preparing the Bill, which was introduced by Mr Pyke last session, and we all know its fate. With a majority of 53 to 12 on the second reading, the manoeuvres of the Auckland contingent, seconded by Mr Fish and one or two other Otago members, brought about the withdrawal of the measure after prolonged debate, Sir H. Atkinson pledging himself to personally inspect the country, and, if satisfied that a railway should be constructed, to bring down a Bill -himself for that purpose. The Premier has fulfilled his promise so far. He has seen the country, and he has brought in a Bill to provide a trust fund for the construction of the Otago Central Railway from Middlemarch to Eweburn. It is not easy to understand why Eweburn should have been selected even as a temporary terminus. We believe it was Mr Scobie Mackenzie'who first suggested this peculiar place for the purpose. The preamble to the Bill, with the customary "whereas," sets
forth that the railway will " shortly " be completed to Middlemarch, and that it is essential, in order to render the line remunerative and bene- | ficial to the country, it should be ' carried a little farther—that is, to Eweburn, on the Maniototo Plains, which is alleged to be easily accessible to Ida Valley and other adjacent agricultural and pastoral lands. In point of fact, those who know the country are unanimously of opinion that, until the "Valley of the Molyneux is tapped, the true value of the line cannot be' ascertained or known. But lei; us be thankful for the progress made. Our Parliamentary reporter has furnished us with a brief outline of what the provisions of the Bill are likely to be, and it is quite certain that if the line once gets on to any part of the Maniototo Plains nothing can prevent it being carried down the Molyneux Valley, where it will really reach the gate of the interior. The £15,000 remaining from the unallotted balance of the past loan are to be applied to the purpose of construction, and an equal sum of £15,000 is to be annually applied and placed to the credit of a trust account, to be opened and kept for the same purpose in the Colonial Treasury.
So much for the Bill. But the question naturally arises : Why is not the amount so appropriated made very much larger? Seeing that the revenue from pastoral lands in the district to be benefitted by the railway is somewhere near £40,000 per annum, to say nothing of the revenue which will be derived from the sale and leasing of land for settlement, our country cousins those of them who. live beyond Eweburn, which is an. outlandish waste on the big plain—may not be quite satisfied. But they may be | quite sure that, as half a loaf is better than no bread, so they will find it to their interest to approve of what can only be regarded as a tentative measure. The worst part of the work has already been done. For the Government to take the business in hand, as they have now done, is a distinct advance in this long drawn out contest. Henceforward the completion of the Otago Central Railway becomes only a question of time ; and as Mr Pyke has repeatedly declared that he
cannot leave this earthly scene until he has driven the last spike on the shores of LakeHawea, as he turned the first sod, it would be cruel to him to hurry on the work unduly. Jesting apart, the taking of a railway into the great garden of Ofcago may now be accepted as an accomplished fact, and bears with it an earnest of the development of settlement which shall bring renewed prospects to our doors, and, in the favorite phrase of the late Mr James Macandkew, shall "make the desert to blossom as a rose."
THe OTAGO CENTRAL., Issue 7948, 2 July 1889
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