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NAURU PHOSPHATES.

LARGE SUPPLIES IN SIGHT

HISTORY OF NEGOTIATIONS

BRITISH COMPANY'S POSITION

At the outbreak of war Nauru Island belonged to Germany, but along with other Pacific Islands belonging to the enemy it was taken in occupation soon after the declaration of war, and the troops detailed for the duty happened to be Australian troops. It was quite a bloodless conquest. But for the deposits of phosphates, Nauru is of no value, and even under German rule the phosphates belonged to a Britisn company, the Pacific Phosphates Company, Ltd.. and this company also held all rights over similar deposits on Ocean. Island. At the outbreak of war, two-thirds of the company's white staff of 56 were British, but a month after the outbreak of war these Britishers were expelled from Nauru by the German authorities, and transferred to Ocean Island, which was, and still is, British. Two months later, in November, j 1914, an armed guard from the Australian Expeditionary Force was sent from Rabaul. the detachment being carried in one of the company's steamers. The company held rights over Nauru from the German Government on a 99 years' lease, and it has still the same tenure from thes' British Government in respect of phosphates on Ocean Island.

It is quite impossible to get reliable information as to the amount of phosphates on Nauru Island. The Germans estimated that the total was three hundred million tons, of a total value of seven and a-half milliard marks. British experts have given such widely differing estimates as 42,500,000 tons, and 414,----000,000 tons.- The Nauru phosphates are of high quality, said to have been worth £3 per ton on the wharf at Nauru before the war. Ocean Island phosphates were worth rather less than half this' prtce. The Pacific Phosphates Company has a nominal capital of £1,200,000, of which £787,500 have been issued. The company has paid dividends at the rate of 30 per cent., and 25 per cent., but during the war years the profits seem to have shrunk considerably, and the rate of dividend in the first years of the war—the last for which information is available —-was 7% per cent. The output from Nauru before the war was from 90,000 to 100,000 tons annually, and from Ocean Island the output shrank from 250,000 to 100,000 tons, the reduction being due principally to scarcity of shipping. THE MANDATE. This company had control of all the phosphate deposits south of the Equator, a situation which never could r.ave been satisfactory to New Zealand and Australia. Several [ times the Government of New Zeajland was asked to consider the qnestion of. acquiring rights over some phosphates in some Pacific Island, but tha opportunity never offered until the war settlement made it possible to vary the existing arrangements. Mr Massey first mentioned the matter in a despatch dated January, 1915, sent through the Gover-nor-General to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Several times since then the New Zealand Government has sent correspondence, and Mr Massey has on more than one oc;casion discussed the matter with representatives of His Majesty's Government in London. Always, the reply was that the business could not be dealt with until the final settlement was being made at the end of tne war.

When the end of the war did come, the allocation of such possessions as the Pacific Islands had to be made under the mandatories scheme, which was part of the League of Nations idea. The mandatories for all these islands had to be given to Britain or some Dominion. Australia claimed Nauru by right of conquest and possession, but control of the phosphates by Australia might not have been very much better for New Zealand than control by the British company. At any rate, Mr Massey opposed Mr Hughes in this, and in the eni the mandate was taken by the British Empire, and a proposal made by Mr Massey was adopted. The mandate went to Britain, and in turn the British Government made an agreement with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for the administration of the Island of Nauru, and for the distribution of the phosphates from the island. Under jthe agreement it is provided that the administration of the island shall be vested in an administrator. The first administrator is to be appointed by the Australian Government for a term of five years, and thereafter the appointment is to be made in such manner as the three Governments decide. There is also to be a Board of Commissioners, one to be appointed by each of the Governments parties to the agreement. The administrator and the commissioners are to t-xercise all the ordinary functions of government on such a tropical island, except the levying of taxes. All the revenues are to come from the sale oi the phosphates.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WC19190826.2.73

Bibliographic details

Wanganui Chronicle, Wanganui Chronicle, Volume LXXIV, Issue 17648, 26 August 1919

Word Count
804

NAURU PHOSPHATES. Wanganui Chronicle, Volume LXXIV, Issue 17648, 26 August 1919

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