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THE OTAGO CENTRAL.

♦ ! [From Our Parliamentary Reporter.J Speaking on Mr Moss's Property Tax amendment last week, Mr Fish said: During the course of this debate a great deal has been said on all sorts of things, and more especially has reference been made to the proposition of the Government with regard to the construction of the Otago Central Railway. In considering this motion, I cannot help recollecting that a large number of the members who rank now on the Opposition side of tho House and who are supporting this amendment are determined opponents to the construction of that railway on the lines proposed by the Government, or, as far as 1 can understand, on any other lines whatever. I ask my honorable friends this : Can I, being an Otago man and having the interests of that part of the country strongly at heart, as well as of the whole colony, conscientiously, and with a due regard to the people I represent, give a lift to put them . in power when I have such unmistakable ; evidence of their determined opposition to j this great and valuable work, as we con- ( sider it in Otago ? I say that no Otago j man, with any justice to himself or to those , he represents, can help to place in power a band of men who have shown such un- j compromising and, if I may use the word; without offence, unworthy hostility to thi3 [ great work. I shall presently show the. utter inconsistency of some of tho3o hon. ( gentlemen ; but let us first consider what ; are the proposals of the Government with; regard to this line. The Premier proposes : to lay out within a comparatively short, time—in two or three years—L2oo.ooo upon the extension of the Otago Central line, and he proposes to expend the money in this way : L 15.000 he proposes to take out' of the L 70,000 unallotted of tho loan of; 1888, and the balance he proposes to take" out of tho pastoral rents derived from the '■ land contiguous to the railway at the rate f of L 15.000 per annum. Thus, in order to pay for tho extension of the line, it would take thirteen years to repay the money thus obtained. _ Then, he proposes further in this Bill that, in anticipation of such sums being placed to the credit of the trust fund of the railway, the Government can borrow from time to time such amounts as they require, at tho rate of 5 per cent, per annum, from the funds in the hands of the Government available for investment. That appears to mo a very reasonable proposal. We have hearda great deal of talk from hon. members of this House about the Government proposing by this Bill improperly to interfere and meddle j with the trust funds of the calony. Why, j sir, can anything be more absurd ? Is there ! one hon. gentleman here whoso common i sense is undoubted, and whose word is of. any value in this House, who believes, when ! he says that, he is stating what is correct ?; What are trust funds, and what are the j funds from which the Government seeks to ; take this money ? From the Post Office \ Savings Bank deposits. Are they trust j funds ? No; they are funds which the Go- j vernment take and receive on deposit, and j on which they guarantee so much interest, j And how are the Government to pay j that interest on the Post Office Savings j Bank deposits unless they invest those j funds ? I say that in no eense are they | trust funds. They are funds which tho ' Government arc bound to lend out on in- j terest, in order that they may be able to give to the depositors that they have promised, j And have ws come to this state, in the his- j tory of the colony, thac, while we say to the .; Government, "You can lend LlO.OOOofthat j money out on mortgage of property," we, at the saino time, shall say to them, " but you shall not lend it to yourselves "—that is, to the colony? The implication is that, whilst you may and must lend this money on mortgage of freehold property, these Jinn, gentlemen tell you that it is an unsatisfactory security if the Post Office Savings Bank Commibsioners lend it to the Government. Can folly go further ? Is it necessary to say anything to show the striking insincerity of those who speak in such a way ? I trust we shall heir no more of these trust funds in connection with this operation. I say without fear of contradiction that this cry about trustfunc'sispoifcct"bosh." Letusconsider for a moment tho sincerity of those hon. gentlemen. What were thoso hon. gentlemen willing to do and proposing to do last session with regard to the construction of the Otago Central Railway ? I shall read the names of some of them presently. They were prepared to hand over absolutely to a syndicate half a million acres of some of the finest lands that remain to the Crown in New Zealand, and in handing these over to absolutely give them for ever no leas a yearly revenue than LO',ooo, or thereabouts, which is being derived now by the Government from those lands. That proposition was carried in this House by a majority of 53 to 12, and yet some of tho3e hou. gentlemen who wero prepared to give tho freehold of the land and a revenue of 6,000 for ever from the revenues of the colony to a syndicate last year are now objecting to a sum of L 15.000 being given annually for the construction, not of the whole of the line, but part of it. I think when those hon. members who arc not eaten up with jeabusy as against Otago think of what I have said in this respect and contrast what thoso who were willing to go that length last session and arc now opposing this proposal of tho Premier they will see what utter inconsistency they are guilty of. Let mc read the names of a few of those who voted for tho giving away of this half-million acres of land, and who are now declaring against the carrying out of the undertaking: Mr Feldwick, Mr Fitnherbcrt, Mr Fraser, Mr Grimmond, Dr Hodgkinson, Mr Hutchison, Mr W. P. Reeves, Mr Samuel, Mr Perceval, and Mr Turnbull. They are among the gentlemen who last year voted for giving this to this work, and who are now prepared, so far as we can judge by their utterances, to oppose tho giving of the small sum of L 15.000 annually, although in the one case wo were giving away the freehold as well as tho rents, while in the other wo retain the freehold to ourselves. I again ask, in the face of a fact such as this, can I, as an Otago man, be expected to support a party com posed so largely of gentlemen who act in sm.li a way? Why, sir, I am surprisod—l may say, in passing, that it does not apply to all tho members, and I am glad of it—l am surprised that there should be one Canterbury member opposed to the construction of the line as proposed by tho Government. I say the Canterbury members should be exeedingly grate• ful for what has been done for them by this House in regard to tho Midland Railway ; and it came with exceedingly bad grace from the hon. member for St. Albans when ho said last night that the Canterbury members had nothing to be grateful for to the Otago members. I myself votod for and spoke in favor of their railway; and yet, whilst the colony has given away hundreds of thousands of acres of land to this railway, we are told by the hon. gentlemen who got that gift that they will refuse the small boon asked for by the Premier. I say it is hard, whatever the main issue may be, that an Otago man should be expected to support a party so largely composed of those hon, gentlemen; and I tell members from Otago, and especially those in the contiguity of towns, that they will have to look for their seats if they support a party prepared to do such injustice as this. And now let ; me refer briefly to a trifling incident cer- i tainly, but ono which shows the petty feeling of opposition on the part of the Canter-! bury members through their jealousy of i Otago. When we had the Dunedin Exhibition Bill before us the other day, and when the matter of the license was being con- ] aidered, we found that the members for I Canterbury—and notably tho hon. member for Ashburton, the hon. member for Christ-! church South, and the hon. member for St.' Albans—walking into the lobby against this ' small concession being made to Otago. And why ? Could it be for any other reason J than that it was for Otago ? At all events, ' it bears that appearanco. I can understand that hon. gentlemen who are actuated by strong teetotal feelings could act in that way, but to think that the hon. members to whom I have referred, who aro all men of exalted intellect, and who are supposed to entertain broad views, should be swayed by such small influences as this positively appals me. No less than nine millions and a-hal acres of land have been reserved for the Midland Railway, and yet not one of those gentlemen who •' nibbled "

so much from the colony for a work which was practically for the benefit of Canterbury—l do not say entirely, but, at aay rate, it was a work on which Canterbury had set her heart—now refuse this trifling concession which the Premier asks for Otago. It looks as if there was a jealousy of Otago, which does not do tho intellect of the gentlemen to whom I have referred any credit whatever. Now let us see what good will bo effected to this lino by the proposal of the Government. Here again, I say, if hon. gentlemen will ne patient enough to listen to me, that any member of this House who is impartial, and who desires to do what is fair and honest to each part of the country, must vote for that Bill when it comes on for consideration. Just let mo mention two or three things that must accrue from the passing of that Bill. In the first place, it will open up for settlement at least half a million acres of agricultural land. Secondly, it will improve the value of those lands by at least 100 per cent. The extra price which would be derived from that land would more than ! two or three times cover the cost of extendj ing the line. Thirdly, it will confer an inestimable boon upon a large agricultural j and mining population which is settled ) adjacent to the route of the proposed extension. Fourthly, it will render the line | which is now constructed, and which has ; cost L 500.000, and which is of not the ' slightest use, at any rate self-supporting, ! and it will then also pay working expenses, J at least, upon the extension directly it is • completed, Now, I ask, and I ask it with ■ no feeling of jealousy to any other part of ■ the colony, what other line is there which ! has such claims as these for completion to a paying point ? Mr Goldio : There are a dozen of them. Mr Fish : Not one. And, in addition, at ; least from L 300.000 t0L500,000 of borrowed I money has been allocated to this line, but j has never been spent on it, but has been ■ taken away from it and spent on roads in t the North Island. That is a fact beyond a shadow of dispute. Mr Fisher : Why did you oppose the line last year ? Mr Fish: The hon. gentleman reminds mo that I opposed the Bill of last year. No doubt I did; and the fact of my opposing it last year, and the fact of others from Otago opposing it last year, Bhow that we have the greater claim upon hon. gentlemen this year for their assistance. Had it not been for the action of myself and the hon. member for Waihemo and several Northern members the House would last year have passed the Bill then presented to it, and which would j have led to the sacrifice of L 6.000 annually j and half a million acres of land. If the hon. i gentleman reminded me that I opposed the j Bill of last year because he thought that fact i was to my disadvantage and to the advans tage of the opposition to the Bill, I have to i thank him for unwittingly doing me a ser- | vice. I say we acted most unselfishly then, i and the fact should be remembered to our i advantage. Wo did not desire to see a large i sum of the colony's money wasted ; we did | not want to give this vast area of land away { —this vast amount of money away—simply 1 to get done that which is a necessity in con- •: nection with this line. What was the result ? i The Premier made a promise, which I am ] pleased to be able to acknowledge he has most I honorably fulfilled, that he would visjtthe [ country and see whether, in his opinion, there should bo an extension of this line. What has he done ? He has goue over tho j country in company with myself and other j Otago members, and, having done so, ho : ha* come to the conclusion that it is abso- ! lutely necessary in the interests of economy, apart altogether from the interests of justice, that this lino should be extended to the place known as Eweburn, I say that this House, when it agreed to the Premier'n making that visit, became a party to a compact, and that compact was that if the Premier, as a result of his personal investigation, thought the line ought to be constructed they would support his proposal for doing so. It they did not mean that, they should have said at once " Wo do not want any investigation; because no matter what recommendation may be roadtj we will not grant any money for it." I ask hon. gentlemen not to stultify themselves by refusing to support the Premier's Bill, and I feel certain that they will not do so. Lst us see what the Premier says in this memorandum attached to this Bill. He says : " It is quite clear that we have done either too much or too little. Either the railway should never have been commenced, or it should be carried to a point to reach which was one of the main objects of its commencement ; and it is now at the threshold of the country from which alone any satisfactory return could be reasonably expected. In order to obtain any substantial advantages from the large expenditure already incurred, the line must be extended to Eweburn. This will give the command of a large and valuable district, for tho most part the property of the Crown, and now rented by pastoral tenants, most of which ia suitible for the settlement of an industrious population. Thero is also in some parts of the districts to which the railway would give convenient access a considerable mining population that would be benefited by the railway, which would also give encouragement to further enterprise in extending that industry." The Premier of tho country having given utterance to that as a result of his personal investigation, hon. members should require very strong motives for failure to acquiesce. Then there is another clause in the memorandum, which goes on to show that, by the extension of the line, at a cost of L 200.000, revenue will bo secured which will, at any rate, greatly lessen the loss on the alreadyconstructed portion of it. Then let us see what the Commissioners of Railways say —and you must bear in mind that the Chief Commissioner is Mr M'Kerrow, than whom there is no man in the country who knows more about the land. Tho Commissioners say : " The extension of the lino from Middlemarch to Eweburn —thirty-eight miles —would take it to the centre of the Maniototo Plain, and to a point that would absolutely command the traffic of an open country of about one million acres, mostly Crown lands, now accessible in every part by a network of excellent roads, and occupied by a pastoral, agricultural, and mining population of about five thousand person?. It would also bring another million acres of similar country in the Upper Clutha Valley nearer the railway system than at present, with an additional population of about four thousand persons. If hon. members from the North Island who live in districts where thero is nothing but huge pumiceflats were to come to the part of the country I have been describing they would be amazed at the quality of the land ; and if they could seo, as tho Premier has done, the merits of the country, they would agree to the extension of this line as desired. The Commissioners go on to say : —" Tho goods traffic from the coast would be,general merchandise, mining appliances, and timber; and from tho interior districts wool, stock, grain, and other agricultural produce, and the distribution along the line of the native coal. There would also be some passenger traffic. The cheapening of carriage would give a decided impetus to the agricultural settlement of the Crown lands and to the mining industry." They conclude by saying:—"But, apart from the foregoing, and the direct paying results of i the lino, the extension of it to Eweburn will ; enhance tho value of the largest and most j valuable estate of Crown lands in the colony." The last clause alone is sufficient ! to justify the House in constructing this i ine. ____________

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THE OTAGO CENTRAL., Evening Star, Issue 7995, 26 August 1889

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THE OTAGO CENTRAL. Evening Star, Issue 7995, 26 August 1889

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