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WAIPA RIVER NAVIGATION.

Fob navigable purposes, the Waipa is a river of considerable importance. Vessels of moderate draught suitable for all the requirements of the trade, are enabled to penetrate a distance of 54 miles inland, from the junction of the Waikato at Ngaruawahia. In that way it is estimated not fewer than 700 settlers located upon, or at least, conterminous to, its banks are served, besides about twothirds of the adjoining district of Patarangua, representing at least 400 settlers, together also with the township of Alexandra, a place containing close upon 500 residents. We hare thus in round numbers, a population of 1,600 families, more or less dependent upon this branch of the river traffic. From inquiries made on the ground we have ascertained thateach of the above numbers classed as settlers, are holders on an average of 300 acres, giving thereby, a total of 330,000 acres under their operations. In addition, there are one or two works of the manufacturing class carried on, so that altogether the trade of the locality indicated, is, perforce, of some considerable magnitude. We mention these facts to show the present importance of the traffic, and in doing so it is right to add that the district lies conterminous to a vast extent of Maori country, which must sooner or later be brought into use for European settlement. It is perfectly true the industries of the place are backward, but as a shortcoming that is fast obviating itself. A number of public works requisite for promoting the enterprise is now in hand. The bridging of the river at Whatawhata, the completion of which was recorded in last issue, will do much towards advancing the progress of a large section of the community. Then again, higher up at Te Rore, a similar work is well advanced and will, it is expected, be open for traffic within the next three months. In that way the whole distuct is rapidly assuming charactenstic importance. For the cultivation of wheat it has a soil unsurpassed by no district in Waikato, and although undeveloped, its coal and mineral deposits are known to extend over large aieas. Of these and other particulars relative to the resources of the neighbourhood we will have more to say on a future occasion. Meanwhile the navigation has got into that critical state, when the question of its probable suspension becomes one for serious consideration. It is true the river its exceptionally low, six inches below what it usually falls at this, the lowest season of the year. The volumn of water, however, is still sufficient for the navigation, with two solitary exceptions — the one arising from a belt of conglomerate running across the channel, a few miles above Whatawhata, and the other a bank of tough sandstone, similarly situated at the reach immediately above Te Rore. The conglomerate belt being narrow, the steamer still succeeds in dragging over it. The process is a difficult one, and can only be executed by what is known to nautical phraseology as kedging. Even then the strain upon the ship's timbers and damage otheiwise occasioned, is serious. The sandstone bank is, as already indicated, a much more formidable barrior, and in the present state of the river is altogether unsurmountable. In the first place it would be quite impossible to drag the steamer over it, and even were that possible, the chances are it would have to remain in the upper reach until such tunes as the water became sufficiently high to float the vesbel back again. Under there ciicumstances freight for Alexandria and neighborhood is landed at Tg Rore, theroby necefe«itating transit from thence by diay to its destination. The great, and indeed the constantly recuiring difficulty to the traffic, is the snags. Few paths, either real or symbolical, are much more crooked than the course pursued by this stream. It is a constant succession of iwi.sts and turns, many of theso i mining out from each other at the most acute angles. At places the banks are deep, but that is not by any means a characteristic of the stream throughout. Still, they are sufficiently high to give the channel a well-defined outline. In early days, possibly antedliuvian times, the banks seem to have been clothed with a forest which has all but disappeared ; growths of that kind being now confined for the most part to the ranges and the numerous gullies by which they are intersected. The process of denudation has evidently been going on for a long time, and in that way a f,reat quantity of heavy timber has accumulated in and around the river's bed. The sharp curves in particular have come to be badly chocked up, consequently the channel, otherwise tortuous, is rendered exceedingly difficult for navigation, under even the most favorable circumstance, and in the present low state of the water, it is downright dangerous. r J his danger is greatly intensified by the nature of the river itself. Unlike the Waikato the Waipa is a slow sluggish stream, with barely sufficient current to produce the ripple indicative of latent danger. The result is that when the snags are covered over there is nothing whatever, appearing on the surface, to indicate their piesencc. Hence, there where-abouts remains unknown until the vessel runs tilt on to them. A voyager, who navigated the river on one of tho more recent trips, discribes the mishaps ari&ing in this way as being of the most tantalizing character. "In opening out the reach" he says "the prospect ahead appears perfectly good ; not a single ripple appearing on the surface as far as the eye can reach. Deluded by this apparent safety, an extra rate of speed is put on in the hope of making up for the time wasted in surmounting the difficulties already encountered. The chances are that no sooner has the improved speed commenced to tell upon the rate of progieas, then bump goes the stem on the edge of a snag followed by similar bumps astern until the unfortunate craft is sent reeling and staggering about from stem to stern like unto a drunken man. In that way the steering gear is set at defiance, and the whole concern brought to book, by tho vessel running its nose up high and dry on to the adjoining banK. Then ensues the inevitable polling kedging and back steaming by all which much valuable time is lost and more or les» damage occasioned. In the case to which I more pointed allude, the net result was that the passage to and from instead of being accomplished in thirtysix hours, occupied exactly double that time." The effect of such a state of matters on the trade of the place is not difficult to understand. It is bound to produce a certain amount of stagnation, and it, as there seems to be a probability, the stearher ceases plying altogether during this, a busy season of the year, the evil will be greatly intensified. In a word it means' a serious shock to the progress of the place, as the railway communication by Te Awamutu cannot possibly fulfil all the requirements of the case. To obviate this difficulty and render the navigation available throughout the year, a sum ot money not exceeding £500 is sought. Various small grants have from time to time been made for the purpose. These, supplemented by the Navigation Company have all been expended to good advantage. They have proved insufficient to meet ,the emergencies of the case as shoym by the state "in which the river has got during the late drought. Thg Company are still willing fro supplement afurther grantinamanner simliar to what they have already done,, That

is, they will give the use of their steamers, barges, tools &c, free of charge, which simply means that they are prepared to supplement a grant to the above amount by an equivalent of pound for pound. That is really what the proposal amounts to, and all things considered we opine the offer will be admitted to be a most liberal one. No doubt the Waikato Steam Navigation Company are personally interested in the work of river improvement. These interests, however, are so closely allied to those of the district served by them, that the one is entirely sunk in the broad question of public policy raised by the other. On that ground alone we contend the offer made by the company ia worthy of the most favorable consideration. Then again, the fact is that the navigation of this river fulfils all the conditions of a feeder line for the railway. It collects and distributes freights over a vast area of country to which the railway system does not extend, and of a subsidised expenditure of the few pounds required can be made to promote the intereets of a line of communication 54 miles in length, the economy must be apparent, compared with the making and maintenance of a line of railway signally well adapted to the requirements of the trade. The claim is one we trust the member ior the district will be prepared to take in hand and prosecute with that fixed purpose clearly warranted by the nature of the demand.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WT18810426.2.15

Bibliographic details

WAIPA RIVER NAVIGATION., Waikato Times, Volume XVI, Issue 1375, 26 April 1881

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WAIPA RIVER NAVIGATION. Waikato Times, Volume XVI, Issue 1375, 26 April 1881

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