The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64
Position of the Australasian Colonies
Position of the Australasian Colonies.
The position of the Australasian Colonies with regard to these islands is very important, as the trade of the Pacific is almost certain to be conducted from their ports for many years to come. There are few safe harbours in Polynesia, and the rise and fall of tide is very slight, consequently the Australasian ports must be largely relied on for many purposes.
The carrying trade of the Pacific will have to be principally conducted by means of small vessels of 80 to 150 tons burthen, either steam or sail, or a combination of both. Auxiliary screw wooden schooners or steamers will be found most suitable. Australasia can supply these vessels better and cheaper than any other country. One or two ports of the western coast of America may share in the trade, but the Australasian ports are likely to be the most relied upon.
Colonial shipping will also supply a cheap freight for island produce to European markets. At present, outward English shipping to Australia cannot always depend upon a homeward freight. Vessels have constantly to go from Melbourne, Sydney, and New Zealand to India and China in order to obtain a return cargo. The trade of the Pacific will supply that shipping with a return freight, and both countries will mutually profit Of course, eventually, the islands will require then own lines of vessels, and accommodation will be required in the English docks for the Pacific trade, just as it is required for the West Indian.
The islands will draw from the colonies their supply of coals, building materials, flour, and other standing articles of consumption, also a vast quantity of material. Towns are yet to be built, roads and bridges to be constructed; small dry docks, mills, foundries, machinery, water and gas works, lighthouses, telegraphs connecting group to group and island to island; indeed, all the wants of civilization have yet to be supplied, and the colonies are certain to share largely in the supply. At present the islands possess absolutely nothing—cultivation and production have hardly com menced.
The imports and exports of the British possessions alone in the West Indies amount to £15,000,000 sterling. The Pacific hardly imports more than £700,000 per annum. The West Indies employ a million tons of English shipping—not a vessel leaves an English port for the Pacific.
It is almost certain that the resources of the Pacific will shortly be greatly developed, and the position of Australasian Colonies with regard to that development is a very important consideration. Australasia is as page 87 valuable to the Pacific as the Pacific is to Australasia; indeed, if the islands would consult their best interests, and also look to their geographical position, instead of seeking protection from America, France, and Germany, they would petition the Australian Colonies for assistance. It is for the interest of these colonies to render such assistance, whereas the powers above named have no particular interest in the matter.
Which of the colonies will take the lead in the island trade is uncertain, but in my opinion New Zealand, from its position, is likely to do so. Auckland is 1,200 miles nearer the greater number of the groups than Sydney or any Australian port. For nine months in the year the southeast wind prevails, and New Zealand lies to the windward of Australia. Auckland is likely to become the seat of a large ship-building trade, possessing, as it does, a good harbour, and plenty of iron, coal, and timber. Sydney will supply a great amount of merchandise; Queensland, meat; and South Australia, flour, etc.
New Zealand likewise possesses another great advantage over Australia—its beautiful climate; a fit sanitarium for tropical invalids. Many planters even now resort to this Colony in order to recruit their health. Ladies and children will find it of the utmost advantage to annually leave the islands for a couple of months, in order to escape the summer heat.
The bond of union between the colonies and the islands must become a very strong one. Population is gradually overflowing; colonial merchants are establishing agencies in the Pacific; and there will hardly be a planter who will not possess many friends in one or other of the Australian Colonies.