1843 - Dieffenbach, Ernest. Travels in New Zealand [Vol.I] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Part I. - Cook's Straits - Chapter I

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  1843 - Dieffenbach, Ernest. Travels in New Zealand [Vol.I] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Part I. - Cook's Straits - Chapter I
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It is natural that in the selection of a new colony, in a distant region, a preference should be given to a country the climate and other circumstances of which are in some degree analogous to those of the native land of the colonists, in order that the physical and intellectual energies of their posterity may not retrograde, but be developed and matured in a congenial soil, and thus may conduce in the greatest degree to the general prosperity and happiness. It is natural, also, that the attention and views of those to whom the land of their birth affords little prospect of advancement should be directed towards that country which promises from the resources within itself a steady progress to ultimate prosperity without being a burthen to the mother country for a longer period than that which may be termed its infancy, whilst at the same time it insures to the latter that reciprocal benefit which she has a right to expect.

It is with man as with plants and animals; each

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kind has its natural boundaries, within which it can live, and thrive, and attain its fullest vigour and beauty If we intend to propagate them in climates differing from their own, we may do so by creating an artificial state of things, resembling that of the place to which they are indigenous. But this is little practicable in the transplantation of man. Many colonies have, indeed, been founded in unfavourable positions far the purpose of obtaining the peculiar produce of the country, as the sugar, coffee, cacao, and indigo of the West Indies, the gum of Senegal, the palm-oil of the Cape Coast. But in such cases the colony was not what would seem to be the true meaning of the word, an offset from the parent state, planted and reared to maturity in a foreign soil; but merely a factory, where the ease of acquiring riches by supplying a certain commodity to the home market has rendered men reckless of the dangers of climate, and regardless of the loss of life attending the speculation. In such colonies the European population soon became decrepit, and degenerated from the strength and vigour of the stock from which they descended. In some instances they were supported by a regular system of oppression and extortion towards the original inhabitants, who had reason to curse the hour in which civilised Europeans first came amongst them; but, more frequently, they could only exist by what might be called the colonial hothouse system, in other words, by the slavery and

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misery of thousands of their fellow-creatures. Other colonies arrived at prosperity by the labour of convicts, which Government bestowed as a liberal gift upon the settlers. In these colonies a middle class or peasantry was wanting, which forms the true tie of our social relations and is the best pledge of their durability. An artificial appearance of wealth was created, and an illusory value of landed property which could not last as soon as the importation of convicts ceased, because the prosperity was not borne out by the capability of the country. A few Europeans, being the masters of countless numbers of a different race, either originally introduced as slaves or who have been conquered, do not form an European colony.

How different from all this is the case of New Zealand, where the climate is not only similar to that of England, but even milder than that of her most southern counties, whilst at the same time it is healthy and invigorating! The children of Europeans, born in this country, show no deterioration from the beauty of the original stock, as they do in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. A great part of the country possesses a soil which yields all those articles of food which are necessary for the support of Europeans, especially grain, potatoes, fruit, and every variety of garden vegetables; it possesses materials for ship-building and domestic architecture in its timber, marble, and freestone; the coal which has been found will probably prove

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sufficient in quantity for steam-engines and manufactories; its coasts are studded with harbours and inlets of the sea; it is intersected by rivers and rivulets; its position between two large continents is extremely favourable; in short, it unites in itself everything requisite for the support of a large population in addition to the native inhabitants. No other country possesses such facilities for the establishment of a middle class, and especially of a prosperous small peasantry, insuring greatness to the colony in times to come.

It is, I conceive, no small praise to a country that in it labour and industry can procure independence, and even affluence; that in it no droughts destroy the fruits of the colonist's toil, no epidemic or pestilence endangers his family; that with a little exertion he may render himself independent of foreign supply for his food; and that when he looks around him he can almost fancy himself in England instead of at the Antipodes, were it not that in his adopted country an eternal verdure covers the groves and forests, and gives the land an aspect of unequalled freshness and fertility. More, however, than all these advantages were expected by the colonists who in the last two years have flocked by thousands to New Zealand. They found to their surprise and disappointment almost entirely a mountainous country, the mountains being in many cases steep and intersected by ravines instead of valleys; whilst the cultivable land, instead of being conti-

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nuous, was much dispersed and subdivided: they found also that in many places a large proportion of the land was entirely useless; that where they looked for extensive pasture-grounds, the food for cattle and sheep was very scanty; that instead of natural grasses, high fern, shrubs, or a thick forest covered the ground; and that in the latter case the thick and interwoven roots formed a very formidable barrier to successful agriculture in the easy and quickly remunerating manner they expected.

Most of these emigrants did not intend to make the new colony their second home, but expected, with the help of the labour which was provided for them in return for their purchases of land, or by the cheap, and, as they hoped, almost gratuitous labour of the natives, to produce, in the shortest possible time, those articles of produce which the country was said to offer available for export, or to see their flocks increasing without exertion on their own part; and, having thus made a rapid fortune, to return to their native country. Many came for the purpose of speculating in land, especially in town allotments, which has become such a favourite system of deception and ruin in the Australian colonies, and will retard their progress for many years to come, notwithstanding the halo of wealth produced by it, the distant reflection and splendour of which are continuing to attract thousands of emigrants from the shores of the United Kingdom.

As articles of export in New Zealand, from which such quick proceeds were expected, timber, flax, and

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oil were particularly mentioned; but, since the colony has been established, these articles have scarcely furnished any exports, and they cannot be expected to be sources of any considerable profit for some time to come. As regards timber, it will be admitted that only large and long spars, for the use of the navy, will cover the expense of bringing them to the water-side, and shipping them to a distance of 14,000 miles. After having visited nearly all the timber districts in the northern island, I became convinced that such large and sound spars are scarce, and that, in New Zealand, the kind of tree fit for exporting never forms a continuous forest as in other countries; and as for shipping other kinds of wood, this is quite out of the question, as the price of sawn timber in New Zealand itself was, at the time of my departure, 32s. per 100 feet; and the importation of plank from Europe has met with success. It is a fact very notorious in New Zealand, that the shipment of spars, from the enormous expense of bringing them to the water-side, has never been profitable to any one. There is certainly a large quantity of timber of all descriptions in the island, which will become of the greatest value in the country itself, when its resources are a little more developed. Upon the labour of the natives the colonist can at present depend but little; and although he will find them in other respects sufficiently useful, he has to pay them at the same high rate as his European workmen, without being sure that they will always work at his command.

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The export of flax, prepared by the natives, has dwindled almost to nothing in the last few years, as, from their increased intercourse with Europeans, they have been enabled, by a slight degree of agricultural labour, to obtain all the commodities which they require; and they are therefore averse to the dressing of the flax, which has, moreover, always been the work of the women, and was only resorted to by the men in times of war, for the purpose of procuring muskets, powder, and shot. It is quite true that this valuable plant covers immense districts in New Zealand, and could be procured in any quantity, if a cheap method of preparing it were known; but till then it cannot be regarded as likely to promote the commercial interests of the colony.

The results of the whale-fishery on the coasts of New Zealand are of very small amount in the British market, owing to the indiscriminate slaughter of the fish during the last fifteen years, without due regard to the preservation of the dams and their young. The shore-whalers, in hunting the animal in the season when it visits the shallow waters of the coast to bring forth the young, and suckle it in security, have felled the tree to obtain the fruit, and have thus taken the most certain means of destroying an otherwise profitable and important trade.

As for the belief that the ships of the several nations engaged in this trade must resort to New Zealand for refitting, as being in the centre of the

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southern whale-fishery, it is quite erroneous; the fact being that, as soon as New Zealand became a British colony, the whalers deserted it, and went to Otaheite, or some other of the Polynesian Islands, where they could be supplied with wood and provisions at a much cheaper rate.

I would wish to impress these facts upon the reader, for the purpose of showing that there is at present, in New Zealand, no article of export which can be depended upon, to procure that balance of trade which is necessary for the success of all commercial communities. Exports must be created in the island by means of the agriculturist; and it is the highest praise of the country that they can be created, and that they do not differ from the same articles produced at home. England, in former times, had scarcely more exports than New Zealand has now; but the internal resources and geographical position which secured to Great Britain its unequalled prosperity, are, although much inferior, yet similar, in New Zealand, and may give her, in the course of time, as high a position.

It will readily be concluded from these observations that, in the first settlements of New Zealand, by far too much importance has been attached to commerce and to those natural products just mentioned, and that many incorrect and exaggerated statements on the present capabilities of the colony have been brought forward. In a country like New Zealand, favoured in so many respects by nature,

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but which cannot be regarded as an entrepot or point of transit, the first question as to its future prosperity and success should be: --Can the settlement produce all that it may require for internal consumption, and will provisions be cheap as compared with the price of labour? This should, undoubtedly, be the case in New Zealand, and, consequently, the supply of provisions to ships and to the Australian colonies will be the principal source of export from the colony.

To afford facilities to the first settlers of creating agricultural produce--to extend the utmost liberality to those who have purchased land and intend to become working colonists--to permit them to have an extensive choice, that they may select the good land in preference to the bad--to give them legal titles accordingly, and not to allow them to consume their capital after their arrival in the colony by a delay of the surveys--are the only means of securing prosperity to New Zealand. Under such circumstances the system of land sales in England at a fixed price, and the application of the purchase money to send out agricultural labourers and mechanics, in a just ratio to the demand of labour, the price of provisions, the quantity of capital employed, and the actual produce of the land, accompanied by a sound discretion as to the number of emigrants sent out, cannot, it appears to me, be easily replaced by a better one. The sooner the land is populated the sooner it produces all articles of home consumption, the quicker

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it can provide a revenue for Government purposes and for the expenses of internal intercourse and administration. Every farthing drawn from emigrants in the shape of payment for land is so much lost to the colony; and if any other way could be devised to provide a fund for the purposes of emigration besides that of selling new lands, no one can doubt that it would be better to give to the emigrants the land for nothing, on the condition of their cultivating it.

But what has happened in New Zealand? Town and country lands were put up by auction, and land speculations were called into existence, which did not fail to damp the prospects, and exercise a most unfavourable influence on the infant colony. In these auctions Government did not consult the interests of those who had come to New Zealand as legitimate colonists, but only of those who were of no ultimate benefit to the colony--the land-jobbers. There was a thriving little town at Kororarika in the Bay of Islands; but, instead of supporting a place which already existed, a new town was proposed, that of Russel, situated in the same harbour, but in a place totally unfit for a settlement. 15,000l. were expended in the purchase of that spot; and much time of the surveyor-general and his assistants was lost in laying out a town; but, fortunately, the project was afterwards relinquished. A short time afterwards, April 16, 1841, the town of Auckland, which is situated in the estuary of Hauraki, on the eastern coast

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of the northern island, was put up for sale. The mania for becoming suddenly rich by speculations in town allotments spread like an epidemic through all classes: some of the highest Government officers were infected by it; and, both before and after the day of auction, nothing but land sales and land prices were talked of. At the first sale only 116 allotments were brought to the hammer, covering a surface of 35 acres, 1 rod, 7 perches. Five rods and seven perches had been previously chosen by Government officers, who had that privilege; the rest was bought by persons who had time to resort to Auckland from the Australian colonies, after three months' notice in the Sydney Government Gazette, or from other places in New Zealand. The whole realised the sum of 21,499l. 9s., and thus the Government received a sum which could be brought forward as a sign of the prosperity of the colony, and of the great value of land there: the truth, however, was, that a few land-jobbers raised the price thus high, having bought the ground in all the best situations. Not because they were convinced that the land had that value, but because they could sell it a few days afterwards, parcelled out into diminutive pieces, to the new emigrants, who daily arrived, and who required, cost what it might, a piece of land to erect their houses upon. By this the land-jobbers realized from 200 to 300 per cent. As no land for cultivation was to be obtained, every one thought it best to speculate in land, or to open public-houses, with

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which the place soon became crowded. A town was made, and nothing was done to support it; a price was given for town land which precluded every chance of its gradually rising in value; on the contrary, as was foreseen by all who knew the resources of the country, it must decrease as soon as people opened their eyes, and thus cause the ruin of the unfortunate purchaser. How could it be otherwise, when a small building allotment actually sold, a short time afterwards, at the rate of 20,000l. per acre? The auction in the first place, and the land-jobbers in the second, drained the place of its scanty supply of specie; every article of consumption was imported and paid for in ready money, as nothing else could be given in exchange, and on account of the bad state of commercial affairs in Sydney, scarcely any credit could be obtained.

Who, on learning these plain facts, would feel inclined to emigrate to New Zealand when he can get land at a much cheaper rate in Canada, or even in Van Diemen's Land, or at the Cape of Good Hope, where he has the advantage of pasturage?

The establishment of colonies has at all times given scope for speculation, and it is not more than fair that the first immigrants into a new country should derive some benefit from their superior enterprise and discernment; but in this case the benefit was not conferred upon the colonists, but upon a class of people appropriately called land-sharks. The true birth-place of these jobbers seems to be the

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Australian colonies. Their trade is a species of gambling, which is the more certain of success from its being countenanced by Government, and from its appealing to two of the most powerful of human passions--the love of independence, and the desire of gain. They generally possess no large pecuniary means--in many cases no means at all: they are the first on the spot where town-sales take place, and from the small number of lots which are put up for sale, and the very short previous notice given by the advertisements, they become the only purchasers. Immediately after the sale the allotments are subdivided, and put up for public auction. With the pertinacity of an old-clothes Jew, the land-sharks follow the newly-arrived emigrant; the advantage of buying an allotment is pointed out to the ignorant with systematic deceit and falsehood, and the victim is at length secured. As the first purchaser has only to pay 10 per cent, to Government at the time of sale, and the remainder in a month, the land-jobber stands the good chance of realizing before that time a large profit upon his supposed capital, which enables him to pay for his allotment; and laughing at the credulity of those whom, he has imposed upon, he leaves the town at the first opportunity, with his nefarious profits, seeking another stage for his impositions. If the chances turn out against him, he forfeits his deposit, which is no great matter. Sometimes also the case happens that a land jobber buys the land adjoining that of a re-

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spectable settler, from whom he extorts his price, immediately after the sale, by threatening to cut the allotment up into a number of dirty lanes and alleys. Certainly all this is as much gambling as anything that can be called by that name, and must blight the prosperity of any new settlement. The necessity of providing land for agricultural and horticultural pursuits, as no private title to property was yet acknowledged, induced the Government to put up for sale suburban allotments--cultivation allotments --and small farms, the sale of which took place in September, 1841. The whole consisted of eighty-five allotments, containing 1275 acres, at the upset price of 20l. for the suburban, and 3l. for the cultivation and country allotments. Although more land had been surveyed, all was not put up for public competition; the best land was reserved, and, in consequence of this policy, only seventy-three allotments were sold, comprising an area of 559 acres, and these realized 4858l., or nearly 8l. per acre Twelve allotments, or 716 acres, remained unsold, as they consisted of very indifferent land, were covered with large blocks of scoriae, and, at all events, were not worth the upset price. The greater part of the country allotments did not fall into the hands of the industrious, but into those of the land-jobbers, who bought them not for the purpose of occupying them, but in order to cut them up, immediately after the sale, into towns and villages, which were put up for public competition.

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In the immediate neighbourhood of Auckland towns and villages, never destined to exist except on paper, started up like the creations of a fairy tale. No.2 of the suburban allotments, consisting of 3 acres and 3 rods, was sold for 303l., and was cut up directly afterwards into thirty-six allotments, which were sold for 7l. 15s. per foot frontage! It is amusing to skim over the weekly paper of Auckland, and read the names of about six or eight towns, villages, and even racecourses, none of them above three miles from the town of Auckland, which were put up for sale in the short space of a fortnight.

The Government, after this, ordered a new town to be surveyed at the little harbour of Mahurangi, about fifteen miles to the northward of Auckland, in a barren and unpromising place; and many more were in contemplation, not to speak of the city of Nelson, which it was intended should be the capital, and to lay the foundation of which two ships were at that very moment traversing the billowy main.

It will be acknowledged on all sides, that to found a dozen capitals and commercial ports, and more than two score of villages, before any population is in the island, any produce raised to support a population, or any article of commerce ready to be exported, is subverting the natural order of things, and would have raised a smile on the lips of William Penn, who is often regarded as the father of modern colonization.

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If the sale of lands in England at a fixed price seems therefore to be preferable to that by auction, it might be objected that the former carries with it one very serious evil; that the land which does not become a prey to the land-jobber generally falls into the hands of absentee proprietors; that the colonists sent out are almost all of the labouring class, and that the number of the latter might easily bear an undue proportion to the actual demand of labour in the colony, and fall for their support on the hands of the Government or of the Company. I am, however, inclined to think that the latter need not be feared in New Zealand, if proper measures are adopted. The more land that is sold in England the better, and the more labourers that are sent out, even if capitalists do not actually proceed to the colony, the more value the sections sold will have to the purchaser. But if the latter shall be the case, a free lease ought to be granted to the labourers, by the landed proprietors, or their agents, for at least fifteen years; say of ten acres each family, at the moment of their arrival in Now Zealand. No one need starve in New Zealand who works (it is different with the Australian colonies, where articles of consumption are not easily produced); and it is such a class of small agricultural leaseholders whose toil will prepare the country that it may ultimately attract capitalists. Whatever merits a great subdivision of landed property may have, I do not hesitate to say that the nature of the country requires such a

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subdivision in New Zealand, or its substitute--long-leases. I am well aware that it has been proposed to support the gentlemen colonists, who, however, want capital, by the establishment of a loan society by mortgaging the land sections; but I do not believe that such a society is the most legitimate means to bring the colony into a state of production, and the land to its real value. Without entering into politico-economical questions, of too deep an importance to be fairly discussed here, I repeat that it need not to cause any fear if as large a stream of emigration is directed to New Zealand, of the labouring class, as the existing means allow, if some such measure as that above alluded to is adopted.

The value of New Zealand as a British colony cannot be estimated too highly. For a certain class of colonists it is preferable to New South Wales, which will never be anything else than a large pasture-ground. It is situated near numerous groups of interesting and important islands -- the Navigators, the Friendly, and Society Islands, which are rapidly advancing in civilization and peaceful commerce, and some of which already afford sugar, coffee, and other colonial produce, and require in return articles of European manufacture. 11 is a country suited particularly to Europeans, from the nature of its climate and soil, and seems to be destined to become a prosperous agricultural and manufacturing state; but only a laborious peasantry can clear the road for this, and render the colony, in

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time, an entrepot of commerce--a depot for transit trade, and a manufacturing country, none of which it is at present.

Nothing justifies the system of those high prices for land in New Zealand, even if a sale by auction were advantageous in other colonies; for it is more than doubtful whether a land-fund will be raised by these sales of crown lands, since it is well known that the greater part of the land is already disposed of to private individuals and to the New Zealand Company.

It is also doubtful, from the nature of the country--a bold shore with numerous inlets and harbours, and inhabited already at all these points by European adventurers--whether any revenue will arise by a regular system of customs, as smuggling is already carried on to a considerable extent. It is a question of great importance, whether Government could not effectually prevent all sort of land-jobbing by taxing uncultivated and unoccupied land, both in the towns and in the country; whether this tax would not be the true source of a revenue, and the means by which the land may return again to the Government. Such a revenue would not injure the industrious colonist. The position in which New Zealand stands as a colony is quite a new one. A country as large as England and Wales, and nearly as mountainous as the latter, is being peopled with Europeans from many different points at once. The intercourse between the various settlements,

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whether by water or by land, is difficult, or at least uncertain. As in all countries of a similar nature, the centralizing power is weak, but the individual communities are strong and independent. Such countries nourish the spirit of freedom, and are the birthplace of enterprising municipal corporations. Of advantageous revenue none can be reasonably expected: if it is high, it comes from the duties on fermented liquors, and in that case it proves anything but prosperity. Smuggling to a great extent cannot be prevented, unless custom-house officers are established in at least fifty different places; an arrangement which must entail great loss upon the treasury. But it is damping the spirit of the colonist, if what is collected in one place is spent in another. I repeat, therefore, nothing will assist New Zealand so much as good municipal institutions; and the emulation naturally arising between settlements that are formed by people of the same nation will materially contribute to the general welfare of the community. New Zealand will rise slowly, but it must found its rise upon agriculture. Any material check to its prosperity need not be apprehended, if expectations are moderate, and if the land questions are liberally and speedily settled.

Not the least important feature in this colony is, that there exists already a numerous and deserving population of natives, who perfectly understand that they have become English citizens, and are aware of their duties and rights as such. It is pleasing to

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reflect that the first serious attempt will be made in New Zealand to civilise what has been termed a horde of savages, to amalgamate their interest with that of Europeans, and to make them participate in the hereditary immunities and privileges of British subjects. The natives are the national wards of England, and it seems possible to prevent another blot appearing on the pages of history, regarding the intercourse of civilised nations with savage tribes.

I have attempted in the following pages to describe New Zealand as far as I have become acquainted with the country, its natural productions, and the state of its native population; and my purpose will be accomplished if future colonists obtain a true description of what they have to expect, and if they relinquish those ideas of the savage nature of its inhabitants, derived from a series of publications, written by persons whose knowledge of the country is so slight, and whose intercourse with the natives has been so limited, as to render it impossible for them to form a correct judgment.

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