OTAGO CENTRAL RAILWAY.
A public meeting was held at the Choral Hall last evening to consider the position with respect to the Otago Central Railway About 150 people were present, and tb Q Mayor presided. The Mayok said that the completion, or partial completion, of the Otago Central Railway must of necessity affect, to a very great extent, the commercial interests of Dunedin.—(Hear,) He could only say that if half the money that had been voted from time to time by various Governments for the line had been spent there would have been little call for a meeting there that evening. Sir Robert Stout had requested him to apologise for his absence on the ground of indisposition, and Mr John Barron had also requested him to apologise for his absence. Mr J. Roberts said he had been asked, in the absence of Sir R. Stout, to move the first resolution, which was as follows:—"That this meeting cordially approve of the proposals made by the Government for continuing the construction of the Otago Central Railway."—(Applause.) He need not detail the proposals of the Government for constructing the line, but would confine himself to a few "remarks on what he believed to be the merits of the line itself. He had been a consistent supporter of the railway scheme from the time of its first inception. The first ground upon which he based his opinion that the railway was desirable and necessary for the province was the ground of commercial speculation. If he were the owner of all the land between Dunedin and the Maniototo, he would in the first place conserve the land, then build the railway, and afterwards dispose of the land. —(Applause.) Instead of that they found that through the dilly-dallying behaviour on the part of different Governments, and through the lukewarmness of other parts of the colony to the works, they had reached this stage: that nearly all the land between Dunedin and the Maniototo had been disposed of, so that some of the benefits that would have accrued from opening up the land had vanished. He was very gratified to know that the result of the inspection by the Government, and by those who attended them when they went over the entire route of the railway and formed an opinion for themselves as to whether the land was ot such a nature and the country of such a character as to justify them in proceeding with the work, had been to force them to the conclusion that the railway was very necessary, and ought to bo pushed on with. He was not one of the enthusiasts—and never had been—who dreamt of seeing the railway carried as far as Wanaka and Arrowtown for some time. Their children or their children's children might see the railway taken to Wanaka, but he believed that the wants of the next twenty years would be met by having the line carried to Eweburn. At that point it would tap the Maniototo Plain, and form an
outlet for a large number of settlers who had for years been fighting an uphill game, and had been almost stamped out of existence owing to tho serious difficulty they had in getting their produce to market. He would content himself with proposing the resolution ho had read, leaving it to Mr Davie <-<.' amplify the remarks he had made. Mr J. Davie, in seconding the motion, said that the meeting reminded him of a nii.etinu held, about ten years u.';o in the same haii, when they passed a series of resolutions in favor of the Otago Central Railway.—(Applause.) On that occasion ho happened to take a part in the proceedings, and, as he always took a deep interest in the subject of railway communication with the interior of the province, he presumed that under the altered circumstances of this meeting that was why he was called upon to second the resolution which had just been moved by Mr Roberts. This subject of railway communication with the interior was no new one in Dunedin. It occupied public attention twenty-live years ago, and the direction it then took was that of roads and bridges. Ten years later the question took a step in advance, and it then came to take the shape of a movement in Dunedin for opening up communication with the interior by means of a railway. At that time the Provincial Council was in existence, and (being in session it took up the matter and remitted it to a committee with full power to inquire into it. He was a member of that Committee, and he could tell the meeting that the Committee sat for nearly a fortnight; that they made most exhaustive inquiries; that they took a large amount of evidence; and that they endeavored on the one hand to avoid anything like exaggeration, and on the other hand to arrive at the true facts. The result was that the Committee reported to the Council recommending that the railway should be constructed from Lawrence to Roxburgh, and thence on to the Dunstan. That was the first of the movement in favor of the Otago Central Railway. There were several considerations which influenced the Committee in making the recommendations they did. The first was the general one, of the great advantage which must obviously and necessarily accrue to the province and to the City from the construction of an interior line of railway. The next was the great impetus which the construction of the Otago Central Railway would give to settlement all along the line. Further, there was the greatly enhanced value which the construction of the line would give to the unsold lands of theCrownallalongthe line; and, asthe area at thetimetowhich he referred was very considerable, theymightreadily understand that this consideration was viewed with peculiar interest looking at ways and means. And finally, the evidence that was brought before that Committee went far to satisfy them that there was a fair and reasonable prospect that the traffic receipts, after paying working expenses, would leave a surplus sufficient to pay moderate interest on the working capital. Such were the considerations which fifteen _ years ago influenced them in recommending the con struction of this railway, and threshed out though the subject had been since, he ventured to say that those arguments had never been assailed.—(Applause.) If the circumstances of the province fifteen years ago demanded that this work should be commenced, how much more, with the
greatly increased settlement, did the circumstances of the province demand now that it should bo finished.^ — (Applause.) After tho period to which he had alluded an interval of four or five years occurred ; and during that period there happened what, in bis humble opinion, was a great misfortune for the province. He alluded to abolition.—(Applause.) He did not allude to that for the purpose of tracing, as he might trace, the intimate connection that there was between abolition and the delay that occurred in carrying out the interior system of railways, but with the object of reminding them that at that time occurred the battle of the routes. Their friends in Oamaru urged strongly that the line should go by way of the Maere■whenua; their Pahnerstou friends said it should go by the Shag Valley ; while those in Dunedin maintained that the point of departure should bo from their own side. So the matter went on till ten ycar3 ago, when the subject was taken up in earnest by Parliament at Wellington ; and there, after full discussion, the principle—that was to say, the desirability of constructing an interior line of railway—was reaffirmed. Further, it was then determined that the line should be constructed at the cost of the colony, and that it should be known as the Otago Central Railway. Finally, such importance was attached to it by Parliament that a vote was passed and a start was made with the conairuction of the line, and every year from that year to the present Parliament had voted large sums o£ money to carry on thi 3 important work; but every successive Ministry from that time to the presentwell, he would modify somewhat: that Ministry of which the head was Sir Robert Stout did not sin to the same degree as the others in this respect, and therefore he would say that almost every successive Ministry had vied with the one before it as to which wouldspendthesmallestpossiblesum out of the vote. The consequence was that after ten long years of weary waiting and watching, what had they ggot? About ten miles of railway had been constructed at a cost of about L 400.000, involving a large outlay in interest, and not a penny had been received in return.—(Hear.) He was one of those who thought that this state of things wan largely due to themselves.—(Applause.) Unfortunately for them here in Otago and in Dunedin, whenever a question came to be discussed involving the interests in the smallest degree of either the province or city, immediately there were two views and two parties, and very frequently three (laughter)—and the consequence was that when they made demands to headquarters their demands did not receive the attention that the weight of uaani.nity would gain for them, in this respect he wished they would take a leaf out of tho book of their friends at Invcrcargill, who got almost all they wanted—at any rate they got all they asked for, and that was about the same thing.—(Laughter.) Then let them look at the spectacle that Canterbury presented over its Midland Railway. All the province was one compact phaluix, led by Matson, ready to " bust " unless tfiey got the railway, the whole raih way, and nothing but the rail way—(laughter and applause)—and they got it.—(Renewed applause.) If they in Otago brought to bear on the powers in Wellington the same
unanimity as Canterbury did over its railway, they would have had the line to ■\Vanaka. years ago, and that would iwve advantageously affected the whole provincial district. For the last year or two he had bad a feeling somewhat akin to absolute despair over this railway. With him the thought for the railway always came first, and the thought of th 9 how or the by whom came afterwards. At the same time he always had held, and he continued to hold, that the construction of the Otago Central Railway was an essentially colonial work, and as such should be undertaken at the cost of the colony.—(Hear.) They all knew the history of last session's legislation regarding the Otago Central Railway; how Sir Pyke's Bill was shelved on the Premier giving a promise that during the recess ho would visit the district and make a personal inspection to judge for himself whether the railway was necessary. The Premier visited the district, and the result was that he bad brought down a Bill providing that the railway shonld be earned to Eweburn—a point at which it would tap the extensive Maniototo Plain, and at which it was likely to be of nse in promoting interior settlement. In conclusion, what he (the speaker) desired was this', that the voice of that meeting should go forth that evening with no uncertain sound to tell the Premier that while they thanked him for fulfilling his promise to the letter by bringing down his Bill to the House, they looked to him to fulfil his promise in the spirit as well as in the letter by bringing the united influence of his Cabinet and his party to bear in carrying the Bill through the Hoaso. i Applause.) Further, he hoped the voice of the meeting would reach the Otago members and their City members, bo that in view of a general election, and of the«ifcy decorates being amalgamated, every one of them might give his aid to carry the Bill through. —(Loud and prolonged applause.) The motion was carried mm. con,
Mr W. I)a\vsgn said tiiat after the eloquent speech l>y Mr Davie lie felt rather at a loss, but woulil endeavor to give expression to his feftiim;-) on the question of this railway. In the first phi.ee he would move the resolution with uhieh he had been entrusted. It was this— "That in view <l' the rapid development nl the Nenthorn goldfields, this meeting views with satisfaction the fact that the construction of the railway to Middle-march is now under contract, ami that the !h : will ho opened for tr;.liie about the end <<: dune next/' His view of the p..itt;-r was that it y:a» a disgrace that this important line fihould" have been e.llowed to hang so Urns,'. There were railways and railways.— (Hilar, hear.) Tl'er-.; were many railways in New Zealand whi -:\\ led practically nowhere, unless it was to the back door of somo member of Parliament.—(Laughter.) Thei-.e lines should certainly not have been made for many years to come, but in the case of the Otago Central line it was entirely different. If it was made up to a certain point it would open up large tracts of agricultural and pastoral land, which people would be enabled to settle on ; and it would also open up, he believed, some of the richest goldfields ever found in New Zealand. In his opiniou their gohPields were only in their babyhood—Otago nad only been scratched for gold.--(Laughter ) When he was in liallarat last year lie visited some of the mines and found many of them 1,500 ft deep, and the quartz, obtained had only a very small percentage of gold. \et they made it pay; and why 7 Because they had the machinery, and the railways were mining to their very doors. For years past tin) New Zealand Governments had been building railways along the sea coast, and thus they were brought int:> competition with sea carriage, instead of pushing on the railwaj a into the interior to open up the vast resources that lie there. This country would never go ahead until they got more population.—(Hear, hear.) There was another fact he would like to bring before the meeting, and that was that they had large educational reserves which this railway would tap. Only a small rental was received at present from these reserves, for the reason that the settlers had no means of bringing their produce to market unless at very groat expense; whereas, if the railway was made, they would get their produce to market with but little outlay, and the reserves would bring in double the amount at present received as rental, and in this way a large amount of good would be done to the educational institutions of the City.—(Hear, hear.) The railway was started on June 7, 1879, and he iound on very good authority that the amount of money expended on it since was L 550.000, and yet that small section was not opened, and so there were no returns from it, while the interest at 5 per cent, on the amount expended was no less than LG8,700. Then the line was slowly going lo ruin, and would require ex tensive repairs. It appeared to him that Parliament was very ready to vote sums of money ; they were very good at giving promises, but bad at fulfilling them. New Zealand railways would never pay if they were to be constructed in the slipshod manner shown in the making so far of the Otago Central.—(Hear, hear.) If railways were asked for the first question should be—Are they wanted ?If so, then they should be constructed in a reasonable time, and not be allowed to eat their heads off and rust away.—(Hear, hear.) Last session he noticed that a deal of provincial jealousy was shown in the House over this railway. TheCauterburypeoplehad fought for andhad obtained their Midland Railway ; the North Island people had their trunk railway pretty well finished, and yet this railwaycommenced years ago—was not half done. He thought there should be more enthusiasm aiiong the people of Otago over this matter, and they should demand it as a right. In the past they had not been hearty enough.—(Hear, hear.) They would have to put their foot down and say : "We want the railway, and we shall have it."— (Applause.) It was not a political railway. As had been ably said by Mr Roberts and Mr Davie, the construction of the line would do good not only to Otago but to the colony. He heartily endorsed Mr Davie's remarks when he said it was a mistake to abolish provincialism. They were not ripe for the change, and if the province had been kept intact theywould be further forward than now, and this railway would have been started long ago.— (Applause.) Mr M. Cohen said he had very great pleasure in seconding the resolution, because he took it that the spirit of it was thatthei e had recently arisen a strong reason why the Government should be asked to push forward this railway with despatch. It was in that very hall a year ago that the citizens of Dunedin were divided as to whether the railway should be made by means of a syndicate, or whether the Government should carry it out as a colonial undertaking. He had ao dou'ut tkat u\a.ny of the parsons who voted at that time for the work being given to a syndicate did so because they had lost all heart of ever getting the Government to carry it on to a successful termination.— (Applause.) Thty affirmed then, and with some show of reason, that there was ground to expect that the provincial jealousy t!u.t went on in the House would be to the detriment of the railway, and they found that to a certain extent subsequent events had justified that belief.—(Applause.) When the Bill for the railway came before Parliament it was fairly "stuck up" beciuse representatives of other districts had lines in their constituencies which, they thought, stood on the same footing as this line, and they were determined that if their lines were not put on tho same schedule as the Otago Central the Bill would not go forward. He would ask tho meeting, and people beyond for that matter, if any of those members could put forward claims as strong as the Otago Central possessed ?—(Hear, hear.) One reason why the people in Otago applied for the railway was for the purpose of getting to the goldfields ; and had not Parliament actually voted the sums asked for by successive Ministers 7 But their complaint was that there had been too much tinkering at the work ; and the province as a whole, and the interior especially, had suffered in consoquence. He agreed with Mr Davie that Otigo had much to thank the Premier and his colleagues for in their determining to carry out the line, after they had seen the country that it would open up, but they must now ask them to remember that their honor is pledged to carry on the line to a certain point. When the Midland Railway was proposed, they in Otago, and others in New Zealand, were opposed to it, but after it had been sanctioned by Parliament opposition in.this quarter went no further.—(Mr Colclougii : No; that is not a fact.) He contended that that was so ; when the Midland Railway received legislative sanction all agitation against it, so far as Otago went, ceased.—(Applause.) Before the Bill became law they felt that the railway was not winded, and thty thought they were entitled to say that tho railway should not be made, in the interests of the colony, for many years to come, but beyond that took no action, and when the Bill became law closed their mouths. The people of Otago said that this Central Railway was looked on as a colouialwork, and had received the stamp of legislative approval, and to those members who opposed it they should say : " Now that tho colony is committed to tho work, we call on you to support it by your votes and by your acts." The circumstance towards which the resolution pointed, and which, he thought, was a fair ground for urging the Government to go on with the work, was that there was reason to think that Nenthorn would turn out to be a really good goldfield. All he could say was that tho existence of such a goldfield near Duncdia would do as much to restore prosperity as anything he knew of.— (Hear, hear.) The large expenditure which had been made at present remained unproductive, and it was due to the people in the interior, who had been misled and buoyed up with hopes not yet realised, that the Government should say : " You have waited long enough and patiently, and we are now about to redeem our promise of past years,' —(Applause.) Mr C. Colclougii said the railway was one in which he was deeply interested, as he h«4 Jived in the interior of Otago for twentyseven yes.r?, and went to Wellington eight or ten years ago fa connection with it. He spoke just to say that ii was simply an old story that was going on now. If there was a question on the board as to the widening of the Anderson Bay road, or about an oyer-
bridge, nothing would be said about this railway, and it was just because the people in Dunedin had nothing like that to consider now that this matter was taken up. (Cries of " No, no.") Thousands of people up country were of that opiniou, und to show that they were not supported by the people of Dunedin he would refer them to the pages of the ' Otago Daily Times' of some years ago. When the money was first voted for that railway the Otago members were not uuunimous about it; but if they had been, and if the Dunedin members had also supported the work, there would be no i cry heard about the raiiway to-day. While speaking in th.it way, he was glad to find some steps were being taken to push on tho railway, but, so far as up-country men were concerned, they looked on it as too late. People had bought land ten or twelve years ago, and paid big prices for it, expecting that the railway would soon be passing their doors ; but who, he would ask, had that land now? The big companies.—(Applause.) He was not a speaker, but he felt very warmly on this subject, and he must say that the Dunedin people and the Duucdin Press had treated it in a half-hearted way for years past. Mr J. Wells said he took exception to the remarks of the last speaker, because he was certain there was money voted session after session for this railway. And how was this money voted 7 Was it uot at the instiI gation of their members ? The greate.it difficulty was experienced in getting the money voted, and he himself spoke, at meetings on the subject on many previous occasions—meetings which were much better attended than the one that night; although he believed they would have had a fuller meeting if it had been held at a later hour. Mr Coi.cr.oufin : Had it been about an overbrid -;e.—(Laughter.) Mr Wklls: No. How that gentleman could get up and say that the public of Dunedin had not their heart in getting this railway constructed he could not understand. On a former occasion when there was a big meeting it wa3 stated that there was to be a sum of L 200.000 or LHOO.OOO appropriated for this line, and their members were there in great force. The Mayor said, if his memory served him rightly, he was correct when he said that I during the Stout-Vogel Ministry's time the Government spent mor<? money on the Otago Central than all their predecessors had done. —(Hear, hear.) He thought that went far I enough to show that it was not the fault of the Dunedin members at all events that the I (, tago Central Railway was uot completed.
The motion was then put to the meeting, and carried unanimously.
Mr Dawson moved—" That copies of the foregoing resolutions be forwarded to the Premier, and also to our representatives in Parliament." He hoped that they would have tho desired effectof getting the railway pushed on.—(Hear, hear.) Mr W. A. W. Watiien* seconded the motion, which was carried vem. con. The meeting then terminated with a vote of thanks to the Mayor for presiding.
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OTAGO CENTRAL RAILWAY., Evening Star, Issue 7973, 31 July 1889
OTAGO CENTRAL RAILWAY. Evening Star, Issue 7973, 31 July 1889
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