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NEW ZEALAND MIDLAND RAILWAY.

\FinantifaAl 'News, November 80.]

The third ordinary general meeting of the New Zealand Midland Railway Company, liimited, was held on Wednesday last at the ■Cannon-Btrea*' Hotel, Mr Thomaß Salt, M,P. (the chairman?! presiding. The Secretary (Mr JEneas R. MacDonell) read the notice calling the meeting, the report being taken ab read. Tho Ohairman: ffentlemen, it is now my duty to *,move the adoption of the report, and, in doing so, it ia customary for me to offer a few remarks, and I do xo the more willingly upon thia occasion beoause I have various matters of interest and -importance to put before you. You are aware that the accounts, from the necessity of the case, are brought down only to June 30; but I shall be' able to carry on the history of the company somewhat further, because, since that date, one or two circumstances of intereat have ocenrred. You will, naturally, ask me what has been done during the past year. It has been a year of progress with the works of the railway, but it has been principally a year of negotiation. In the autumn oi. 1187 we found ourselves in a position to make an offer to tho New Zealand Government. We were able to offer to them, as we believed, onffioient money to build the entire line apon certain conditions. We felt that the offer was co important and so neoessary to be oonoluded at an early moment, that we took thi somewhat deoided step of obtaining B contraot ourselves, sealing and signing it In this oountry, and sending it direot to the New Zealand Government, stating the circnmgtancee, and with the hops that the contract wonld be accepted. It was a fair, business' like contraot, no doubt favorable to the company, but it was also eminently favorable to the people of New Zealand. Unfortunately when the oontraot arrived in New Zealand the country was in a state of politioal conlusion. There was a change of Government and there were strong feelings with regard to the railway; and it was impossible for tho Government at the moment to accept the offer whioh we made. I regret it exceedingly beoanse I believe that it was nearly, if not quite, the beßt offer tbat has ever been made by any commeroial company to any colony

of Groat Britain. But it was no fault of the Government or of the people of New Zealand that they were not able to acoept it at the ti me We havr, consequently, spent the whole oi the ynr in the meet anxious and difficult negotiations. We bave had to de-.l under "•ry intricate and peculiar oiroumst^toea w-ih people who are very kindly and friendly but who nro srpir.Ved f-cm u-5 b? a dietn**-ce of more than 10,000 milo ; and you a9busi« pe?B men will know h;.-w difficult, muit be negotiation: earned on !?y telegraph ir.sf6ad of by perron al interviews. However, I hope tbat tho time bas not beon lost. I will ex. plain to you tho contract ihit hns been sigt-ed by the Now Zealand Government, and by ourselves, wbich we are assured by our friends io New Zealand is as good as, and probably better tiian, any oiher contract thni we had before had under consideration, and with that assurance we are bound to te more i-han amply satisfied. We bavo been progressing with the building of tho railway fcboogb poasibly not bo rapidly as we should have done^ under other circumstances ; but all the timo we and the p-iople of New Z' aland hr.ye boon gaining information, for t*hey themselves wero ctrUinly not fully awsre of tho capacity cf th<-ir own country especially on the w^etero cca^t. Though, therefore, we have been much harassed by these long and difficult negotiations, matters have, on tho whole, been ripening for a good future. You will be glad to hear that we have received great help from our friends in New Zealand where we have a committee of advice, composed of the most eminent and influential gentlemen in that country, and they have given us a warm, cordial and energetic support throughout. We have also had friendly and constant help from the Agent-General of New Zealand in this country, and I have, only within the last few days, received a kindly letter from Sir Henry Atkinson, the Premier of New Zealand, with reference to our affairs. The letter is a private one to myself, and I mention it only to show the important fact that our relations with those on th.c other side are most cordial. Valuable as this undertaking is, and must be, to you, it is equally valuable to the people of New Zealand. Thoy have met us .in a fair, honourable, an J business-like manner ; but m doing good to us they have dove quite as i^uch^ if not more, good to themselves. .*£ *"? c w *-*l °P eil U P their country and will bring land into the market in a convenient manner, which ib would not have been so easy for them to do otherwise. They will encourage immigration of the very best kind, and as our works proceed they will provide ample labour for the whole ef their population, ihese will be yery great benefits to the country. With regard to the railyway, you must remember that the first progress is naturally very slow and difficult, but by-and-by, when we are able to make large contracts and get the surveys completed, I hope rapid progress will be made. I will now give you a brief summary of our contraot. The seoond clause enacts that the railway should be finished within 10 years from January 17, 188., and I hope it will be finished and in prosperous working order long before that .time ; but there is power given to the Go™rn°r of the oolony to extend the time sbouia it be necessary. Clause 4 ia an important one, and contains power to substitute an. incline line for a tunnel On the route between the east and west of the middle ll * D< L o£ New Zeal and it was contemplated mat there should bo a tunnel, which would a*Z* i en a Work of Borne considerable dimoulty and importance, and the engineering; difficulties were suoh »s to oause anxiety. I nave had many discussions with our engineer upon the subjeot, and we have for some time .come to the conclusion that on all acoounts it would be wise to avoid the making of the tunnel if possible. The main reason tnat affected my mind was this: fchat the making of the tunnel will tako a very great deal of time— certainly some years— in making the route between the east and west of tne island, which we are, of corurse, anxious to complete as rapidly as possible ; and I saw at once the importance a saving of timo was, not only to ours?lves, but also" to New 4e_Jat.d. Bat these reasons certainly weighed very much with mo, and last winter our engineer was good enough to go with me into Germany, in order to see a railway winch is carried over certain inclines in tho 1-Tf Mountains . nnder a eyefcem which ia called the Abt system. We examined it carefully, and o»mo baok very well catisfied with it. Ono of our direotors has also been thare, and has written a short and interesting account of it. And tho Agent-General has

plso visited this railway with the same view, 1 think we are all of opinion that tbe Abt system will bo eminently suitablo for our particular wants, and will relieve us from ■to great diffionlty and rick of making this 'o n g tu° n 6l. Thero is nob only the advantage of timo in i\ voiding tbo making of the tunnel but fche.ro is 'd.^o a very euV-st_i.\-tial raving of oxr.enre. I will not enter in-.o the qu-gii;*}*.*. of figures, b-:.cau=e it is vory difficult (o quote oxaC* fi/rui-rp when tho.? aro onlymvde prospectively ; but. tie s_viri|; ie, very much and wo bave practically como to nn ag-rrc-ment under this clause tb-ab (his incline sj'etem may bo ado; ted aud substi<utcd foj iho tunnel, if we can satisfy the New Zoa. nnd Government that tha conveoience and cost of working ia as advantageous both to the company and to fho publio aa tho other system. Arid this wo believe wa can do, You will remember that the whole cost oJ this railway was taken, for purposes of calcuation, at £2,500,000. If, by substituting the noline system for fche tunnel syßtem, we reduoed the whole oost of the railway below that specified sum of £2,560,000, then we should take, in proportion, so much less land from the Government. That, of course, ia quite a fair arrangement, and one which, I think, we proposed oureelves. It dots not affect our position in tho least, because if we spend less money and get less land, we should not bo a bit worse off, but rather better, if possible. That, however, is a matter which wih not be brought to a conclusion until the finishing of the railway, but I was anxious that you should understand this clearly at the outset. Then in clause 7 there is an arrange ment by whioh two short sections are to be maae as soon as the surveys are completed and other preparations can be arranged. The people of New Zealand are very anxious that work should be commenced at the Springfield end of the line, and also at the Nelson end of the line, and they will set aside land purposely to provide a great part of the money for this purpose. They will also agree, as soon as these small sections of line are made to work them on terms which will be arranged: so that we are not to b 3 put to any disadvantage by- making the two little bits of «ne away from the parfc of the railway which we are working upon in order to convenience the public of New Zealand. Then in Clause 11 there is an arrangement that public land shall be given to the railway for the railway stations, works, and otherwise, ao put that "» other language, the Government of New Zealand give us the land on which the railway goes, exoept such land as is already in private nands, and whioh, I believe, we can obtain upon reasonable terms. A great part of the lnnd is in the hands of the Government, ylause 12 contains arrangements for workmg oertain portions of the line that are open, if we require it, by the New Zealand Government, and there are also mutual running powers. Clause 15 to 27 are clauses relating to the acquisition o land by the company. Those clauses

(Continued on Fourth PageA)

p ' ■ Continued from Third page.

of oonrse oontain a goad deal of technical J details. We are aßß_re_ by our friends in J New Zealand that the terms of thoso clauses are quite satisfactory. You know the amount of tho land grant is something: like two million acres, aad we lake this land in a oertain proportion, ns lhe railway is completed in sections. Bat tbe most important clause ia the oontraot is Clause 36. wbich oontains what to us in tbis country h a v-ry valuable provision. Wa were onrpelvps satisfied from the very first, of the valug, of tho lnndg the Government of Now Zealand proposed to give us, '. at it was not so easy to s-iti.fy other people who h'd not gone fo oloafly into the matter, Th-dine, wlm oompleted, is estimated to ccm £2.500,000, an.l for the purposes fi this agreement, the £2.500,000 is taken aa a fixei sum, _nd fcbe New Zealand Government have agreed that if, when the railway is completed, the land that we bave cold, aooording tb the valuation nt whioh ifc is handed ovrr to ue, dors not prodnoe £1,250,000, then, in that or.se, they shonld give ua more land, sufficient to bring tbe sum up to £1,250,000, so that that clause con' ains what is practically a very iair agreement for ns and the New Zealand people, We have reason to suppose fchat, if we sell the land with judgment and care, it will produce more, perhaps considerably more, than that sum. Wo bave something in the shape of a firm guarantee that, the sam we receive will not be less than £1,250,000. Tho clause ha 3 been put dearly and dieino:ly in that shape, and it has beon accepted by the New Zealand Government, wi:.h the intention of showing that they really w-rre handing over to us something that was eubstantial and real in value. The lost clause of the oontraot contains a provision that this contraoc should be substituted for all tbe others whioh bave been mala previously. The oiher contracts ar. embodied in this, co this is tho document nportiwhioh wo haye to rest. I om jnst mounded that if we realise the sum of £1,250,000 cleat, and the roilway costs .£2,500,000, wo shall only require to mako abont £10 per mile per week to pay 5 per cent. I hope we eholl do better. ' .

You will naturally ask what are onr proßpeots of Belling land. Of course, thit ia a matter we do not wißh to hurry, Wa have had a good macy applications ; tut the line we ara laying down is thia— that while we are anxions. not to appear to lock np the land in a selfish manner, we do not wish to Bell to people at a very low price, in order that when our railway is made thpy shall Bell again at a very high price. Our inBtructioDS to onr friends in New Zealand are to cell very generously whenever tb<-y find bo_&-fide. applicants for bond-fide settlement. We have effeoted one sale for £23,000, and 3 am expeoting a telegram to cay that the matter has passed through tho Government office. The price is something tbe s»me ns th»t at whioh the land was handtd ov.r to us by the Government, and the money is to ba paid in cash. Thab is a pieoa of land on the east side of the island. Our interest will be to sell largely in email lots, because we should get more settlers, whioh is what the people wish ; and we hope, as the railway progresses on tbe west coast, that the small lots of land will beoome valuable. We have had very strong advice from people intimately acquainted with New Zealand to hold on to our land, and let it develop in value, and they say if we only hold on to the land we shall make an enormous profit out of it. Bat we do not want to aot in a selfish manner in regard to this; We feel we have a very great publio duty to perform, as well as our duty to our shareholders, and I may venture to say we shall try with a strong hand todoexaotly what is right, both to our shareholders and the publio in New Zealand, and shall endeavour, as far as possible, to cell for bona«fide settlement. With regard to the sale whioh, we believe, has been effeoted, though not quite oompleted, I would point out that this £23,000 is more than double the whole of the interest we have yet paid on bur capital, the amount np to this date being £10,065, or about that sum. Of course, to a oertain extent, this land must be used for paying capital and sundry expenses during construction ; but I think I am not putting our prospects beyond what is reasonable if I say we shall ultimately be able to sell the land for the £1,250,000, and also clear quite enough to pay onr interest and expenses during construction. If we do not get as far as that, I confess— from all the information I have reoeived, and the valuations we have obtained with regard to the value of timber and other matters— l shall be disappointed. I would BBk you, before I sit down, to consider very calmly and quietly what is this property we have got. It is really a very good thing. There is no sham in it: there is nothing of bogUB in it. It is a real good, solid, and sound undertaking. You have property in land, and as soon as the railway is built you will have property in a railway. As you know, lands in a good country, and railways in a good country, are in the long run the two most substantial properties that any company can hold. There may be times of doubt or times of difficulty, but, sooner or later, given either a railway or a large estate in a fine country, with all the proper qualities that either of these properties may have, you are bound to succeed. You have, moreover, I would remind you, two strings to your bow— the railway and the land, and they are both very good strings. That ia not only my ©wn opinion. The position of the railway is a valuable position. Here is an extract which I will read. It is only two or three lines from a report by the Agent- General of New Zealand which was published a short time ago for quite another purpose. It is simply a matter of opinion, and as such I am giving it you. He says:— "The chain of railway communication in the middle island is completed from Foveaux Strait to a point about 40 miles north of Christchurch, embracing all the settled country on that portion of the east coast. The extension of the chain so as to unite the southern settlements with Nelson and the goldflelds of the weßt coast has been undertaken by the N«w Zealand Midland Railway Company in consideration of a grant of tbout 2,000,000 acres. There will then be hrough communication from north to south, and aoroas the centre of the island from easi to west." I quote that on absolutely independent authority, and from a document written for another purpose to show you the value of the position of your railway. Therefore, I am justified in saying that this one string to the bow, so far as your financial prospects are concerned, is an extremely good one. With regard to the land, I have just indicated that we are anxious to sell land where there is a bonafide demand for it, and we have shown that desire by having already effected a substantial sale. We find in other portioas of New Zealand that the lands have been sold extremely well for railway purposes ; there have been some excellent sales in the North Island ; but beyond all that I would remind you of what the character of this land is, xo have the selection, under certain reasonable conditions, of 2,000,000 acres of land These 2,000,000 aares of land must produce. under the arrangement with the Government, at least £1,250,000 j but if it produce more— and it may produce a great deal more— you get the full benefit of it. The country is a remarkably fine country, the olimate quite special, and the population English. All along in the east centre of the island, you have most excellent pastoral land; which, for reasons I could explain we have no difficulty in selling. On the west coast we have a district less known ; but we know this, and have ascertained this for ourselves ("we have surveys, and we have estimates) • it contains forests of most valnable timber which will find a ready sale in Australia' whioh wants timber, and in the east coast of New Zealand itself. We have ooal, the export of whioh is alreapy largely increasing —I have the figures here ; and we know, also, that there are gold and other minerals whioh will be developed as time goes on. Beyond that, the railway on the west coast goes up a valley, along whioh there is already considerable traffio. The traffio is now oarried on in wagons, at considerable expense. It is a heavy and continuous traffic, and the whole of it, as soon an we are ready to take it, must oome upon our railway. It must be, further, very mnoh developed and increased, because we ghall be able to carry the gooda which now come on wagonß at a very muoh lower coat per ton. That is our position as regards the land, and, therefore, I say that not only is the railway a good ptring to your bow, but the land also, and taking the two things together—taking the friendly feeling we have

with the New Zealand Government— taking into consideration that the success of this undertaking really means the sucoess of the country, with whioh we are oloaely united in common interests, I am justified in saying that thia is a sound and solid undertaking, and infinitely superior fco a great many other undertakings whioh you see brought out every week, though I do not want, of course, to throw any shadow on any other undertaking.

I would remind you, before I sifc down, that a railway requires three things. It requires good surveys We have surveys sufficient to go on with the contract, as soon as we are ready co make arrangements, which, I hope, will be very soon ; bufc a great deal of onr surveys require re-examination and reconsideration by our engineer on the spot, and there may be some changes which may be desirable, both in our own interest and that of the colony. But I may say that we have engineers in whom we possess very great confidence, and, so far as the aoouraoy and care connected with the surveys go, and the building of the line, you may be satisfied that nothing shall be wanting to make your property really good and valuable. The next thing wanted is time. Well, time comes to all men, and time, as it goes on, will increase the value of our landed estate, will enable us to build more portions of our railway, will oauee the people of $Tew Zealand to understand us better, and in many ways time is in our favour. Though we have made, apparently, but slow progress during the laßt twelve months, I am bound to say that we havo gained much by the lapse of time in opinions upon this subjeot beooming ripened, knowledge beooming more matured, and the people of the oountry coming to understand that we are a solid and respectable undertaking. And, lastly, there is money. You oannot build a railway without money. We have speDt the small sum that has been plaoed at our disposal, and we shall have very shortly, as soon as the proper arrangements can be made, to appeal to you to entrust, us with further funds to carry on our undertaking, the oharaoter of whioh, I believe, I have fully described to you, as I hsve wished to do, and without any exaggeration. When that moment comes I believe we shall have the cordial help and goodwill of all our shareholders. (Applause.) The Chairman concluded by moving the adoption of the report. Mr E. Brodie Hoare, M.P., seconded the resolution, whioh, after a few remark, from shareholders, waa put and oarried unanimously.

The Obairman next moved the re-election of the retiring direotors (Sir Charles Clifford, Bart., and Mr H. V, Hart-Davis.) Mr Hoare seoonded the resolution, whioh was agreed to.

The auditors (Messrs Cooper Brothers and Oo.) were also re.eleoted.

A cordial vote of thanks to the ohairman olosed the proceedings.

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

NEW ZEALAND MIDLAND RAILWAY., Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXIII, Issue 8, 10 January 1889

Word Count
3,956

NEW ZEALAND MIDLAND RAILWAY. Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXIII, Issue 8, 10 January 1889

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