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THE WAIKATO LIGNITES. EVIDENCE AT INQUIRY. ] SLACKNESS OF THE MINES. } The Hoard of Inquiry appointed <o ascertain whether New Zealand coals are suitable for consumption in locomotive engines run upon the New Zealand railways and can b'i used in preference to Newcastle and other imported coals, took evidence at Huntly last evening. Mr. T, Thompson, manager of the Waipa Railways and Collieries, said that his company rati a branch railway connecting with the department's system at Ngaruawahia. They had had considerable difficulty with fires caused by sparks ernanaling from the engine, and so serious did the position become that one engine could not ba used during the summer months. It had been found that most spark arres- . ters were internal in the funnel and weri® detrimental to ' the draff.® produced a design of a spark arrestee he. bad evolved which had been most successful. The apparatus, he said, aided combustion and so broke up the sparks in the funnel that no damage was caused by them after leaving the engine. The engines used Waipa coal and carried out their work successfully. During the years 1914 to 1919 the department purchased! up to 500 tons of screened Waipa coal a week. Ibo output of the Waipa mine., was 400 tons a day. During this year the mine had been working three days a week and there wera 200 men employed. The company had £BO,OOO invested in the mine. The company had not considered patenting its spark arrester, and the Railway Department was at liberty to adopt tha apparatus of it considered it suitable. The company could supply the department with 1000 tons of coal a day at once if required to do so. Critical Position in Industry, Mr. H. Crook, a miner at Rotowaro, and president of the Huntly branch of the Miners' Union, drew attention to what ha called the critical position in the coalmining industry, from the miners' point of view. The miners at Rotowaro wera not averaging more than eight days a fortnight, and were hardly able to make a living wage. He could not see why tlio miners could not be employed full time. It was not necessary to import any coal into New Zealand. Westport coal had been described as the best steam coal ia the world, yet it was not being used by the railways. He advocated a policy that would prevent Waikato coal from being taken long distances south and Westport coal from being brought north. All men who could possibly leave the Waikato mining district had done so; only those with families and partly-paid-off houses remained. He undertook to forward particulars as to the number of men who had left the district and the number wbo had started work in the mines in the last few years. Mr. M. Hammill secretary of the Ta Akatea Mine Workers' Union, said that for the last two years the men employed in the Glen Massey mine had averaged six days a fortnight. The average earnings of the miners were £1 a day, or £6 a fortnight, A number of expenses in direct association with the miners' work were detailed as coming out of the amount received. Under the conditions obtaining a married man received £4 19s 6d a fortnight, from which had to be deducted doctor's fee and rent,, leaving £3 13s with which to keep himself, his wife and children. The men were willing to work and the coal was available in the mines. He admitted that it wonld be very costly to establish concrete containers to store large quantities of lignite under water, as had been stated to be necessary in regard' to keeping the coal. Effect of Importations. Mr. K. S. Calclwell, barrister and solicitor, of Huntly, attributed the present slackness in the coal trade to importa-; tions. Years ago the Government sub-* divided the land at Huntly into small holdings of 50 acres or more. It was recognised that the land was poor and ; required considerable development before it reached a profitably productive point., As the result of this policy some 2000 acres on the eastern side of the Waikato River had been settled by farmers. The same development was now taking place on the western side of the river. In the town itself, of 320 miners' houses, 160 were owned by the miners themselves, and th« loans on these were being paid off. A proportion of the old hands now owned their homes entirely. The average valno of the homes was £3BO, and the capital value represented about £60,000. In years past the Waikato mines had supplied largo quantities of coal to the Government, and this business had since been cut off, with consequent slackness in the trade of the town. . Mr. J. O'Brien, a miner at Rotowaro, said that if an order were given by tho Government for the supply of coal a guarantee could be given that adequate and regular supplies of coal could be mads available. That could be done by organised effort. Most of the men had their own homes and could give as good a guarantee as anyone. Mr. Sims: Haven't incidents occurred where men have overthrown their executives? —Yes, and I have known of executives who have overthrown the men. There are other ways of approaching the men than through the executive. Mr. Lock: Would not the best security for industrial peace be assured by giving the men regular work ?—No, I have known the time when the men had regular work and were always out. To-day you could not get, them out with a six-inch gun. (Laughter.) Witness added that he had worked in the mines for ten years, had held official positions, and knew what ho said represented the vie\vs of ,many of the miners. The board adjourned the inquiry until Thursday morning, when it will sit in. Auckland.

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Bibliographic details

COAL ON RAILWAYS., New Zealand Herald, Volume LXII, Issue 18964, 11 March 1925

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COAL ON RAILWAYS. New Zealand Herald, Volume LXII, Issue 18964, 11 March 1925