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NEW ZEALAND’S POSITION., Evening Star, Issue 7990, 20 August 1889
NEW ZEALAND’S POSITION.
Tho following letter, over the signature cf Mr J. M. Ritchie appeared in a recent issue of the ‘ Argus ’ : New Zealand has nothing to complain of from tho ‘Argus,’ whoso criticisms of her policy and appreciation of her capacities have always been fair and generous. I am therefore encouraged to ask you, sir, for a little space, in order that I may draw attention to some of Mr Haytcr’s statistical figures, which seem to me to afford grounds for encouragement to our colony. I ask this favor, further, because I fully believe that the time will come when an intercolonial or Australasian policy in many matters cf the highest moment to all the members of the group will bo forced upon the attention of tho colonists and their Governments, and when the “selfish” policy hitherto pursued, and pursued naturally enough by each colony, will be found impossible-—as impossible as if it were attempted by each, or even by groups, of the United States of America. I venture to believe, therefore, that it is well in every way to take note of each other, more than perhaps has been done in tho past, and if possible spread the knowledge of each other’s progress and natural capacities, because I cannot imagine that any artificial bonds can continue for ever to restrict the natural growth, nor any influence of whatever kind permanently turn the stream from its natural channel, within the bounds of such a territory es comprises the various colonies of Australasia. Permit me to say, first, that our loss of population, which is a grave fact against us, is almost certainly to be traced to the stoppage of public works. It is a question whether it would not be inevitable in that case, even if tho colony and its labor market were otherwise flourishing. The effect of this stoppage, us well as of the curtailment of public borrowing, with tho prospect of this latter bung indefinitely suspended, must be experienced to ho understood. It cannot bo calculated ; it can hardly be imagined. It upsets both public finance and private enterprise, and for the time seems to destroy all confidence in the country. But the ultimate benefit cannot be questioned—when it is forced upon a community by the certain knowledge that borrowing to advantage has reached its limit, and cannot bo continued without makiug taxation unbearable. And so, I think, even our loss of population is not an unmixed evil, if it is inevitable in the case of suspension of expenditure of borrowed money on public works. But while wo have been engaged in this exhausting struggle to free ourselves from what had almost become a fixed and demoralising habit, the production of our soil has proceeded apace, and its fertility has answered amazingly to our colonising efforts. Comparing with Victoria, I find that for the last year, which I believe to be not materially different from tho four or five which preceded it, our total exports are but 4s 4d per bead less than hers, and I believe that a considerable portion of hers is the product of the neighboring colony. Our total acreage under cultivation bears nearly tho same proportion to our population as hers does; but our farmers, in order to get the same field, require to cultivate much less ground than those in Victoria. Of * wheat they get as much from one acre as the
Victorians do from three and a half; of oats double the quantity; of barley more than double; of potatoes and hay oil but double. And so, from a comparatively email area, we get an equal total quantity of wheat with her, we grow four times the quantity of oats, and a trifle more of barley and potatoes. And with all this, ov.r total number of sheep have risen to 50 per cent, more than hers; of which a large number are valuable croos-breds, which are being exported to London at present at the rate of about 100,000 every month of the year. Of my own knowledge, I can apeak of the cheapness of production of our cereals. I know of wheat last year being placed on the railway trucks at a cost of Is 2d per bushel, and oats at a trifle less, which includes every item excepting rent of land. Turning to our taxation, in spite of a very heavy debt, the rate per bead is not more than 13s (id in excess of Victoria’s; while our public expenditure is 17s 4d less, and our total public revenue 21a Id per head less. Our imports are L1215s per head less, beneath which fact lies, I suspect, the secret of much of the prosperity of Victoria. However, I must not enter upon a discussion of what may be deduced from any of the facts I have act down. lam well aware that there is nothing necessarily conclusive in them as to the general well-being of New Zealand, but they point to certain welldefined and satisfactory characteristics of the colony, which fortunately are not subject in any year to serious variations, which have been becoming more and more marked year by year, and which have been doing so in the face of highly depressing conditions during the past year or two. I make the comparisons with Victoria so pointedly as I do because the great prosperity of this colony accentuates what seems to me to be a somewhat remarkable series of comparisons. The truth is that New Zealand 4 is much more weighted by private than by public debt. Her fertility and high prices for her agricultural products a few years ago caused a rural land “boom,” from the effects of which she is only now slowly aul painfully recovering, and recovering chiefly through a huge writing oil' of losses by public institutions and private individuals, and through the Bankruptcy Court. The natural capacities of the colony stand out more clearly than they ever did, and it has only been shown that the highest natural capacities of any country may be abused by the imprudence of its inhabitants. Many useful lessons may bo learnt from thb course of events in New' Zealand by all who will take note of them.-—lam, etc., J. M. Ritchie, President of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce.
NEW ZEALAND’S POSITION., Evening Star, Issue 7990, 20 August 1889
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