THE OTAGO WITNESS Dunedin, Saturday, September 12, 1857.
The latest intelligence from Nelson places beyond a doubt the fact of the gold fields there being a remunerative source of employment, 1200 ounces having reached the town in the course of ten days. The subject of gold digging is thus, as it were, forced upon the attention of the other Provinces of New Zealand; and it becomes a matter for serious consideration whether or not it is advisable to endeavour to develop the mineral resources of this Province by the offer of a reward for the discovery of an available gold field. No doubt there is much to be said on both sides, and were not the matter so forced upon our attention by the competition which will be created by the Nelson gold fields, and the demand for labour which will be superinduced by their development, we should have been inclined to think that it would have been better to have allowed the question of the discovery of gold in this Province to have lain at rest for some few years. But it is not difficult to see that if a highly remunerative gold field, within an accessible distance from the Province, is in full operation, and presents its allurements, it will be next to impossible to prevent a large portion of a newly arrived population from finding its way there, and that under such circumstances it will be comparatively useless for the inhabitants of this Province to be expending large sums on immigration, when the labour so imported will afford us no benefit, but supply the wants of our neighbours ; and undoubtedly the surest corrective to any such state of things would be the discovery of an available gold field within our own Province. From the nature of the country, from the similarity between the mountain ranges of the Province of Nelson and this Province, and from the few specimens that were brought to town during the last autumn, we are very sanguine as to the result of any organized system of prospecting ; indeed we shall be somewhat surprised if, even without a reward being offered, something is not done to prosecute with energy the discovery which was made last year. If, then, anything is to be done, we are strongly inclined to believe that it would be more advantageous to the community that it should be pursued systematically than be left to mere chance ; for it is of the greatest importance, with our defective means of communication with other places, that the Government should be fully and early informed as to what may be taking place, so that prompt and effective means may be taken in time to provide for an emergency. Whether, for the purpose of carrying out these views, it would be most advisable for the Government to despatch a competent person to examine the spots indicated as promising, or to throw the matter open to the public by offering a reward, is not easy to determine. The first course would tend to produce less excitement, and would less disturb existing arrangements, but. we do not think it would be so effective in its results as the second one would 1 be ; and the only person that we are aware of as being at all competent to set the matter at rest can scarcely be spared from his already important duties. Further, it might involve the Government in an useless expense. The discovery of gold would, however, be by no means an unmixed blessing. Tt would try the resources of a large portion of the community severely for a time ; but we do not imagine that it would have the momentarily injurious effect which gold discoveries had in California or Australia. Diggings have become common, we had al-
most said vulgar. The novelty and excitement consequent upon the earlier discoveries have worn off. We do not anticipate that, with even very good digging, we should have anything of a rush, and we should avoid to a great extent that accumulation of questionable characters which rendered Australia and California anything but pleasant places of residence for a time. We hear nothing of the sort of Nelson. The process of digging has become much more of a scientific operation than it was formerly. It has been found that skill and capital are indispensable adjuncts to the proper development of a gold field. The pursuit has become more of the nature of a settled occupation, and the class of persons so engaged, so far as we can learn, are of a decidedly more steady, industrious, and moral class than those who first sought prizes in the golden lottery. The immediate effect of the discovery of a profitable gold field upon the agricultural and pastoral occupations of the Province, it is not easy to predict ; but we incline to the belief that unless it were something extraordinarily dazzling, it would not unsettle many of those who are steadily engaged in either pursuit. We judge so from the very little notice which was taken of the affair last year. Genuine Highland shepherds would, not, as a rule, become diggers : some might try it, but from the high rates of wages in this Province, w r e think few would leave good situations. It undoubtedly would disarrange the labour market for a time, but we question very much whether the Nelson diggings may not have a more telling effect than diggings in our own Province would have, inasmuch as if the workers were removed so far out of. Otago, there would not be that reflux of -hands which invariably takes place from many being unsuccessful. The smaller class of agriculturists who cultivate their own freeholds would, we apprehend, scarcely move, inasmuch as, gold diggings or no gold diggings, there appears to us to be every probability of the prices of agricultural produce ranging high ; and any increase of prices consequent upon an increased demand within the Province would in all probability yield them a better return than they could on an average hope to make at gold digging. There is .one class of the community who are nokproducers of either meat or corn, and would in all probability not become diggers. Upon this class the change would press very hard, but they happen to be but a small class in Otago. But whether the change be desirable or not, it is decidedly necessary that the public attention be attracted to the subject, and the pro's and con.'s, be thoroughly discussed ; because if the Nelson diggings become much more attractive, the matter will become urgent. Our vote of .£20,000 for immigration gives us a lively interest in the question. Our readers will observe from our advertising columns that Mr. John Cargill has announced his intention of resigning his seat in the General Assembly, and has taken the somewhat singular course of seizing the opportunity of his resignation to give us a sketch of the proceedings of the last session, with what object we do not understand. Such an explanation of his conduct might have been useful twelvemonths since, on his return from Auckland, but now much of 'the interest attaching to the matter has passed away. Our eyes are directed rather to the future than the. past ; but since Mr. Cargill has thought it necessary to bring these matters again under our attention, we must say we are entirely at a loss to appreciate his arguments. Why Mr. Sewell's financial policy is to be called " Central," and Mr. Fox's " Provincial," the explanation before us does not afford any clue. Neither can we see upon what ground it can be assumed that Mr. Fox's policy " bound down the General Government to a small fixed revenue instead of allowing it, as at present, to dip its hands without limit into the Customs Revenue," any more than did the plan of Mr. Sewell. The difference between one-third of the net and threeeighths of the gross revenue is not great. The former proposed to take one-third of the net Customs Revenue, and 2s. • 6d. per acre of the land funds for the General Government expenses : the latter takes three-eighths ef the gross Customs Revenue only, for the like purpose, and throws upon the Southern Provinces the burden of the New Zealand Company's Debt, and upon the Northern Provinces, the necessity of purchasing lands from the natives. .Of the two plans we decidedly prefer the latter, and sincerely hope that the arrangement will not be altered, because it recognizes our view that land funds are not properly taxes — they are monies received
from the purchasers of land held in trust for certain fixed objects — the promotion of immigration and the construction of pub- . lie -works. Any Government, therefore", which finds it necessary to draw upon the land funds for the payment of the ordinary expenses of Government, unconnected with the land department, must of necessity be exceeding its legitimate expenditure. On the other hand, the Customs Revenue is clearly a tax, contributed to by various provinces in proportion to their respective populations. If a new Settlement be" founded, and the colonists number one hundred, but find it necessary to invest in land to the extent of 10,000 acres, upon what principle can it be contended that they should pay £1,250 towards the ordinary expenses of Government besides their contribution to the Customs Revenue, when a hundred people in any other part of the country who did not purchase land would pay but about £200 as Customs Revenue ? As to the the argument that one method of contributing to the support of the General Government gives a much greater fixity to the Provincial Revenue than the other, we do not think it of much weight, because of course if the receipts of revenue should fall greatly below the average, the financial policy of the Provinces would be totally deranged. The inconvenience to the Provincial Governments arises from the uncertainty which has hitherto attended the proceedings of the General Assembly. Whilst the Constitution remains in its present form, we can never get rid of the difficulty of having to adjust accounts between the General and Provincial Governments, unless we can suppose the almost impossible case of the General Government's proportion of revenue exactly meeting the expenditure ; because, whilst we have to make up a deficiency or divide a surplus, there mast be accounts to be settled. . One method of avoiding the difficulty would be — instead of making an annual appropriation of the expenses of the General Government, to make those expenses permanent — a sort of civil list ; and by causing each Province to contribute its quota in proportion to its population, or some more fixed rule. But the really practical means of affording the Provinces a revenue is by keeping the General Government appropriation at the lowest possible point; and the great objection to Mr. Fox's scheme was the alarming facility which it afforded the General Government to increase its allowance. We quote Mr. Cargill's words, — " Should more or less be required at a future time for the share of the General Government, the quotas from the Land and Customs Revenue to be calculated in that proportion." If, therefore, Mr. Fox had found it necessary to increase his one-third of the Customs Revenue to two-thirds, and his 2s. 6d. per acre to 55., (a not at all improbable result), what would have become of the fixity of Provincial Revenue ? We have followed Mr. Cargill through the main points of his explanation, and repeated arguments we have previously made use of because we are anxious that no attempt should be made on the part of Otago members to alter existing arrangements, which we are persuaded there will be no probability of bettering. Of the one or two little inconsistencies in Mr. Cargill's remarks, we shall take no notice, seeing that he is about to resign ; but we cannot help remarking that he appears to have been 'very unfortunate in the little pieceof " log rolling"* which he explains to usthat he attempted to get up with theAuckland members, in which he failed y and unluckily contrived to roll the log on hisconstituents' toes. Our contemporary, in yesterday's issue,, has made some of its usual random statements, relating to figures and finance, such* as constantly appear in that journal. To any person who will read Mr. Cargill's address to the electors, it will be perfectly clear that the difference between the Stafford policy and that of Mr. Fox on the matter of creating a national debt was, that Mr. Sewell proposed to borrow L.500,000 in Europe on a guarantee by the British Government. Mr. Fox proposed, to borrow L.200,000 in England on the same faith, and L.200,000 in the colonies or elsewhere in the best way he could. Under both plans L.200,000 was to be applied to the use of the northern Provinces ; yet our contemporary would attempt to persuade us that it was the Stafford ministry alone who would have created a national debt. Mr. Fox appears to have thought L.400,000' * Log rolling is an American phrase used to express that system of voting in which A agrees, to vote for that which B wants, on condition thatB supports A in what he wishes to. have done.
Sufficient to meet the demands on the colony, whilst Miy Sewell would have bortfbwed L.500j000, which; if he succeeds, will be more,, advantageous to the colony than borrowing the smaller sum at the high rate of interest which must be paid for onehalf of it if it be raised in the colonies, and without the imperial guarantee. Agjain, it is not true that this Province X sent L.5000 of its Customs revenue to Auckland last year. It is equally untrue that L.4000 of the land revenue were so disposed of. Otago did not send any of its land revenue away last year, that is to say, during the first year of the new arrangement. Let us examine another statement made by our contemporary ; it says — " Then there is a positive certainty of our Customs Eevenue being very much greater next year. If we take it at say £16,000, under the Stafford policy we shall have to send off £10,000, while under the Fox policy we should send only £4000." This is positively untrue. The facts of the case can be ascertained by any one who will take a pencil and paper and make the necessary calculations. If, as our contemporary assumes, the Customs revenue should be L.16,000 and under Mr. Fox's plan L.4000 only went to Auckland, as Mr. Fox takes one-third of the net, the whole net revenue must be L.1 2,000, which gives L.4000 for the expenses of ■ collection — an absurd assumption ; but as the " Colonist" has made it the base of its calculation, we will assume it to.be the case. But even under this calculation, three-eighths of the gross Customs revenue which is sent to Auckland amounts to only L.6000, and not L. 10,000, as stated by our contemporary, the editor of which is terribly wild in Ms statement of facts. The public of Otago must, however, be sufficiently clear-sighted to know that, as the expense of the General Government must come out of the revenue collected in the Provinces, it does not matter one farthing in what proportion the Customs revenue be in the first instance taken, if the deficiency has to be made up by the Provinces, or any surplus has to be divided amongst them. For instance, if the expenses of the General Government amounted to L. 50,000, and under Mr. Fox's plan L. 40,000 only had been contributed by the Provinces, then the L.1 0,000 would have to be made up next year. If, on the other t hand, Mr. Sewell's plan took L.60,.0Q0' from the Provinces in the first instance,' then L.1 0,000 would have to be sent back to them. It really amounts to a distinction without a difference. No. The whole matter at issue is this, that some Provinces have large Customs revenues, and small Land revenues ; others have large Land revenues and small Customs revenues. In those places where there is a large Customs revenue there is a large population, and in those Provinces (which of course have most members in the General Assembly) the object of the Representatives is to saddle the expenses of Government upon the acreage extent of the thinly populated districts, rather than fix the tax on the Provinces in proportion to the population. Our contemporary's inconsistency in its present line of argument is quite surprising ; it advocated the passing of the Land Sales and Leases Bill on the assumption that a great • extent of land would be sold. Should - Mr. Clark, as anticipated, buy 300,000 acres of land, then 'on that one item alone we should contribute to the General Government, under Mr. Fox's plan, 300,000 half-crowns, or L.37,500 ! Our contemporary, in its remarks of last week takes occasion to contrast the expenditure of the Government at Nelson with that of Otago, and makes out that the latter much exceeds the former. This was a great mistake, perhaps not an intentional one ; but we must complain of our contemporary's habit of jumping at conclusions without taking sufficient care to examine facts. The editor must have been misled by a return of expenditure published in the Nelson Gazette, which evidently does not contain the whole of the expenditure ; for what reasons we are unacquainted : but it might be because the appropriation,, for the year 1857 was discussed in JuH'e last, whereas the return alluded to is made up to and published in May. , Had the editor of our contemporary taken the trouble to examine his files of the " Nelson Examiner," he would have seen that the salary of the Superintendent was, by the last vote, raised to £500 per annum, and that the other expenses of his department amounted to £50, and that the Provincial Secretary has £400 per annum, being also the Commissioner of Crown Lands. The Provincial Solicitor has £250, and the Provincial Treasurer £150 ; but as these various offices are differently combined in oopli nf the Provinces, it is not easy to
compare the expenditure one with another ; but we may state, that from the papers before us it appears that all the departments of government at Nelson cost about £8,853. We have not obtained the Appropriation Act, so that we cannot speak with confidence' upon the sum total, from which we have excluded the payment to the members of the, Provincial Council, as it is not a fixed sum, but is dependent upon the time of their sitting. But in a province where the public have thought it necessary to pay the members of the Provincial Council, and to give the Speaker £100 a year, it is not likely that they would have" an unpaid Executive. The members of Council are paid as follows :—: — " Members for Massacre Bay, Wairau, and Motueka, at 20s. for each day's attendance ; members residing more than 10 miles from Nelson 15s. per day ; members residing more than 4 miles from Nelson, 10s. per day ; Clerk to the Council, £125 ; Assistant ditto, £4 -per week ; Messenger, 12s. per day." •
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THE OTAGO WITNESS Dunedin, Saturday, September 12, 1857., Otago Witness, Issue 302, 12 September 1857
THE OTAGO WITNESS Dunedin, Saturday, September 12, 1857. Otago Witness, Issue 302, 12 September 1857
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