THE LAIR OF THE WILD CAT.
[From Opr’Special Correspondent.]
:’-Ti . . '(i s- Fondok,- September 4. The‘FihanciaTTimes’ has recently been publishing, at intervals . series of articles entitled ■* Travels in. the Goldfields,’from the pen of, a ‘‘pandering correspondent,” who very cautiously;'only signs his effusions ’’This gentleman’s latest effort concerns New Zealand generally, but Auckland particularly. On skimming it over I intended to just curve out a few choice morsels for jo ar edification, but a more careful perusal of the article' has convinced me that it is far too precious a screed to be tampered with in any way. So here yon have it holus bolus, unscathed of the blue pencil, and well worth a column in any colonial journal which delights in “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing bub the truth ”
Auckland is a very deadly place. Its people have been so mixed up in mining matters, and that for so many years, that they deserve no sympathy. I cannot love i wild cat, be it; ever so beauturn. There are plenty of wild cats in Western Australia, bub they are not coldblooded swindles. They are merely the mining mistakes of a warm-hearted prospector. But the Aucklander very deliberately pegs oat a hundred acres of hill, floats it into a no-liability companv with a nominal capital of £IOO,OOO, and then works day and night to sell it to an English comta <y at the moderate profit of, say, £IOO,OOO. He does as little work as he possibly can, and the Government doesn’t care if ho does none. His work lies in the framing of reports, in the manufacture of prospectuses We fancy we are pretty smart in London, but we are mere children compared with the veteran mine-maker of Auckland. lam rather sorry for the New Zealander. He had some good mines, many, many years ago, and he is always trying to float new ventures upon old records. At this game ho beats the Yankee. Modern assays he cannot get, because, ns far as I could see, very few of his mines have any appreciable ore value. But he is great upon records. He can always fall back upon statistics, and his Government help him by publishing a yearly puff of all New Zealand mines. The New Zealander for many years past has been accustomed to look upon-Eng-land as a country with, a reserve fund of wealth upon which he can draw at sight. The motto of the native is “Borrow,” cheaply if possible, honestly if you can—but borrow. It is now part of the national character, and, unfortunately, as far as mining is, concerned, the, lender has no tangible security. They made a boom in Auckland about two years a ß°- A remarkable boom. It was intended that England should read glowing accounts of how New Zealand had gone mad about the mineral wealth of her North Island, and should at ones cable out large buying orders —just as she did in South Africa, just as she did in Western ■A.ustrsrlift* But she did not, which was a mean thing, if a wise one. So the poor Aucklander was stuck with his own stock, and every man, woman, and child in the city haa hundreds of thousands of penny, twopenny, and threepenny shares upon which exists a vast liability which will never be met, and which it was never intended should • be met —at least by the Aucklander. The nominal price of most Auckland shares is £1 sterling a nice respectable sum. But the amount called up is often only a penny, sometimes twopence, or in very extravagant companies threepence. And they have a beautiful law called “Ac Liability,” by which you may apply for as many shares as you like, but ■wnich does not in itself carry any obligation to pay a single cent. If you don’t pay, no one can make you. The shares may be put up to auction and sold, but if you don’t want the shares that won’t worry you very much. When a call is made, and you think it will pay you to forfeit your shares, you do so, and buy them back again at the auction, free of any call whatever. This sounds farcical and impossible except in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, but it is done continually in Auckland. I don’t quite see where the company comes in j but that is a, minor detail. In these Auckland companies no one. ever worries about the poor unfortunate mine. So long as the mine manager, the secretary, and the directors can get something the mine is never considered. In a semi-civilised community this might be called swindling; but the Aucklander has got beyond this. With him it is business. _ He has, indeed, lost the ancient appreciation of meura and tuum in his thirty years of mine manipulating. And my remarks do not apply to a small section of the mining fraternity. They are sweeping assertions, and they are distinctly meant’ to be sweeping. In Dunedin, in Christchurch, and in Wellington they shrug their shoulders when Auckland is mentioned. There is no getting away from the fact. Auckland, commercially speaking, is ahead of London.
As for the financial condition of the country, it appears to an outsider to be almost hopeless. No attempt is mads to encourage immigration, and so the land rema’ns uncultivated, and the progress towards a better financial condition is so slow as hardly to be appreciable. Things were very bad indeed in Australia after the great bank failures in 1893, but as most of the banks failed and out their losses the situation righted itself gradually, and Australia is now rapidly progressing. But the New Zealander hit upon the wonderful scheme of making the bank liabilities his own, and so placed the reckless speculations of the few upon the shoulders of the many. I have very little hesitation in saying that this was the worst thing that could possibly have happened to the colony. What the result will be weemnot at present accurately say. But the wisest beads in the land are utterly despondent, and rightly so. The banka have not written off their losses, and they are running dozsns of estates and businesses at a loss. They never charge interest in their books upon any of the assets they have been compelled to take over, and they thus continually credit themselves with fictitious profits, when, if proper interest were charged, these so-called profits would be turned into losses, The country is rich—of that there is no doubt—but it laoks colonists to develop the riches, and the capital which has been put into the country has been wasted recklessly, and not spent upon productive works. And New Zealand is probably the worst governed of any section of the English-speaking race.
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THE LAIR OF THE WILD CAT., Evening Star, Issue 10452, 23 October 1897, Supplement
THE LAIR OF THE WILD CAT. Evening Star, Issue 10452, 23 October 1897, Supplement
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