Kaipara, or, Experiences of a settler in north New Zealand
Chapter XXVII. — Conclusion
At the commencement of this narrative, I expressed my opinion that persons fond of outdoor amusements, and with moderate incomes, would get on very well in New Zealand. Four or five hundred a year is thought little of at home, but a gentleman out here with such an income, would be deemed a man of very considerable importance, and if he felt an inclination for politics, would have little difficulty in securing a seat in the House of Representatives.
These are the kind of men the colony wants— men who would take up politics for the good of their adopted country, and not for the sake of an honorarium which the country cannot afford to pay.
New Zealand has now passed the pioneer stage, and, like a newly built and furnished hotel, is prepared to receive any amount of page 213visitors, but they must bring their cheque books with them. She has all the necessaries of ordinary civilised life, plenty of labour, cities lit with gas and the electric light, churches, houses furnished with bath-rooms and hot and cold water pipes, clubs, hotels, railways, telephones, roads, carriages, tramways, steamships, yachts, billiard rooms, and her big dock in Auckland, which Mr. Froude laughs at in "Oceana."
Now I cannot resist saying a word or two about this part of his book.
Mr. Froude seems annoyed with the citizens of Auckland for the improvements they are carrying out, particularly with the dock, and predicts that New Zealand will never grow into a new nation thus.
I don't for a moment presume to dispute Mr. Froude's judgment with regard to the baneful effect likely to be produced by a big dock on a young colony; it is a subject I have never studied, and I have no intention of pitting my opinion against his. Still, humanum est errare, and Mr. Froude, though an historian, is human, and in this particular instance, most colonials in the province of Auckland think mistaken as well, as he certainly is with regard to the page 214harbour and the dimensions of the dock. Referring to them, he says: "Public works form the excuse for the borrowing, and there are works enough and to spare in progress. They are laying out a harbour, cutting down half a hillside in the process, suited for the ambitious Auckland that is to be, but ten times larger than there is present need of. They are excavating the biggest graving dock in the world (the Great Eastern would float in it with ease), preparing for the fleets, which are to make Auckland their headquarters."
I am utterly at a loss to know what Mr. Froude means by saying they are laying out a harbour, as Auckland harbour has been laid out by nature, and man has had no hand in it. A part of the foreshore has certainly been reclaimed within the last three or four years, and on the reclaimed land now stands the Auckland railway terminus, the Auckland Freezing Company's premises, some large flour mills, an hotel, and some other buildings. To fill in this reclamation, they utilised a precipitous hill, overshadowing the main road from Parnell to Auckland, which was slipping, and in a highly dangerous condition; but how can that be called page 215"laying out a harbour"? The hill had to be removed, as part actually slipped one morning, carried away a building, and fell across the road, nearly burying an omnibus and its contents.
Does Mr. Froude blame the Harbour Board for converting this dangerous hillside into valuable building land?
With regard to dimensions, the new Auckland dock, "The Calliope" (which Mr. Froude calls the biggest in the world), is 500 feet long. There are two docks, I believe, at Birkenhead, each 750 feet long; two at Plymouth, each 644 feet long; one now in course of construction in Sydney, N.S.W., 630 feet long; one at Carleton, N.B., 630 feet long; and one at Liverpool, 501 feet long. The Great Eastern steamship is one of the two vessels afloat that will not fit in the Calliope dock.
So much for Mr. Froude's facts about the dimensions of the dock. Now a word about the wisdom of having made it.
Auckland harbour is, without question, one of the best natural harbours in the universe. Its depth is so great that ships can enter at any state of the tide. A channel a mile wide, and page 216so perfectly clear of obstacles that the services of the pilot are often dispensed with, leads to its entrance, which is snugly sheltered by outlying islands. Its coaling facilities are magnificent, the supply of coal inexhaustible, and its position with regard to the groups of islands forming the eastern portion of the continent of Australasia,. must render it, I should think, a desirable point for a naval station. All it required to make it perfect was a dock of sufficient dimensions to take in any of Her Majesty's ships of war, and hence the big dock. If Auckland is ever utilised as a naval station, immense benefit must accrue to the town. A man of war or two, with six or seven hundred hands apiece, means a good many hundred pounds' worth of business a week to the tradesmen of Auckland. But Mr. Froude says this sort of thing will never make New Zealand a nation. He thinks the people should go and live in the country, raise crops, breed sheep and cattle, and not bother about towns and big docks. Surely he forgets that the farmer must have a market, and that his prosperity depends on the demand for his produce, and therefore in a great measure on the prosperity of the towns.page 217
A few more words, and I will have said my say. I trust the reader will pardon all my shortcomings, and will bear in mind that I have only endeavoured to describe my own experiences in the colony, my own impression concerning matters that have come under my notice, and some opinions I have gathered from old colonials. I know nothing of agricultural pursuits, but believe that the kind of farming most suitable to this part of the colony is sheep-farming, my principal reasons for so thinking being that many of the Kaiparians appear to do well at it, and that a Matakohe resident, our local J.P., carries off nearly every year two or three prizes for sheep at the Annual Show held in Auckland, and last year the first prize for Shropshires. Grapes do splendidly in this district, and I think wine-making will one day become a leading industry. The olive also grows remarkably well, and I fancy I see another industry sticking out in that direction. Our mineral resources have never been tapped, though there are many indications of hidden wealth.
The colony is undoubtedly passing through a period of depression (in which it is by no means singular), and is suffering as well from page 218too much government, both local and general. It however still possesses plenty of vitality, and only wants time, and men earnest for its good, at the head of affairs, to nurse it into a vigorous and flourishing condition.
At the present, indeed, it offers little inducement to professional men, to endeavour to pursue their callings, but what better time, when land is so cheap, could be selected by gentlemen with small fixed incomes to come out, and purchase properties. I should strongly advise family men to bring if possible their own servants with them, and to get an agreement signed immediately on reaching Auckland, binding them, on consideration of the passage money, to remain a certain time in their service at certain wages. I cannot help thinking that there are many at home with moderate incomes who would do far better out here, and who could become important personages in New Zealand if they chose to take up public matters. They must, however, as I mentioned before, be people who like a free and easy life, untrammelled by stiff rules of society. The climate of the North Island is said to be all that can be desired for those whom a tropical life has unsuited to endure the harsh winds, the fogs, and the cold page 219of England; and although I have not travelled the colony sufficiently to feel competent to pass an opinion as to which are the most desirable localities, still I do not think I can be wrong in mentioning as a summer or autumn retreat the Northern Kaipara.page break