1874 - Bathgate, A. Colonial Experiences or Sketches of People and Places in the Province of Otago, New Zealand. - Chapter 20. Politics, Statistics and Conclusion, p 277-287

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  1874 - Bathgate, A. Colonial Experiences or Sketches of People and Places in the Province of Otago, New Zealand. - Chapter 20. Politics, Statistics and Conclusion, p 277-287
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Politics, Statistics, and Conclusion.

PERCHANCE some reader may ask, "What are the provinces which have been spoken of?" I shall not attempt to answer the question fully, which would be impossible in the scope of these pages, but endeavour to give such an inquirer some glimmering ideas of what they are, and their relationship to the Colonial Government, and, if not then satisfied, he must refer to other sources of information, or come and see.

The constitution of New Zealand is somewhat after the model of the United States of America. The provinces have each a miniature parliament or Provincial Council, conduc-

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ted with, all the recognised, parliamentary forms. This body, which is elected for a period of four years, is endowed with legislative powers within certain limits, and each has hitherto conducted all its internal affairs, and transacted all the business relating to emigration, the formation of roads and other public works, education, police, and such like. The executive part of this inferior Government consists of a superintendent, elected by the people for a like term, assisted and advised by an Executive Council, composed of the leaders of the party able to command a majority in the Provincial Council.

The Government of the whole colony comprises the Governor, the representative of the Imperial Government possessing as little real power as the sovereign he represents, and an Upper and Lower House of Assembly. The former, or Legislative Council, is composed of men who are "called" to be members of that august body by the Governor, whereas the Lower House or House of Representatives is,

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as the name denotes, an elective assembly. The executive power of the Colonial Government lies in a ministry composed chiefly of members of the Lower House. All legislation of colonial importance is enacted by the colonial parliament. And such matters are dealt with by the General Government as relate to the Judicial, Defence, and Native Departments, the collection of customs revenue, and other taxes; part of which is paid to the governments of the provinces in which it is levied, for appropriation by the Provincial Councils. Now the conduct of public works and immigration has been added to the functions of the General Government.

Political principles and parties are not so clearly defined here as in England. For many years the parties were designated Provincialists and Centralists--the former being desirous of increasing, or at least maintaining, the powers of the provinces; while the other party was anxious that the provinces should be treated so that they should gradually merge in the Colonial Government. And that this result is a

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mere question of time there can be little doubt, although these parties are for the present almost forgotten in the policy introduced by the Honorable Julius Vogel, the present premier, the leading idea of which is the borrowing of funds for the purpose of constructing railways and reproductive works, and introducing immigrants. All of a conservative cast of mind are to be found in the ranks of the opposition; while the more energetic and sanguine are supporters of the "progressive policy." On both sides are to be found Provincialists and Centralists, the more liberal of the former party supporting the colonial railway scheme, even although they see that the improved intercommunication will do more than anything else to destroy their favorite provincial system.

It is almost amusing to hear some members of the opposition--old foggies who emigrated thirty or forty years ago--speaking against the construction of railways, and exhuming and using to their own satisfaction the trite and threadbare arguments which were in vogue when

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they left home. Others appear to be actuated, in their opposition only by personal motives, and seem a little jealous that they did not initiate such a policy, and use the same means for promoting the welfare of the colony, feeling like the officers of Columbus when shewn how to make the egg stand, that it was one of those things very easy of accomplishment when the method, of doing so was shewn to them.

Of the ultimate success of this policy there can be little, if any, doubt. Railways are being made at an average cost of £5,000 a mile--not only through old settled districts, but also opening up others now destitute of roads, and making them more available for settlement. Without exception, the lines which are now in operation, and which have been made mainly by provincial enterprise, before the initiation of the General Government scheme, are more than paying their working expenses and maintenance; and when that is the case, even if they do not pay a penny more, the advantages de-

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rived fully compensate for the interest on the money expended on their construction.

The benefits derived from cheap carriage and rapid communication are nowhere more obvious than in a new country. Amongst these advantages may be mentioned the development of the coal fields of the colony, which have hitherto lain dormant. But now more than one company has been floated for the working of the extensive deposits which are found, as I have mentioned, in the north-west of the Middle Island, and this is mainly due to the initiation of the railway scheme.

New Zealand is somewhat proud, and justly so, of the value of her exports as compared with her population. In 1871, the latest year for which statistics have been published, with a population of 266,986, the value of the exports, according to official returns, was £5,282,084, or within a small fraction of £20 per head of the entire European population of the colony. For the same year the value of the imports of the colony were £4,078,193, thus shewing a con-

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siderable balance in favour of the colony. The imports shew a slight inclination to decrease, evidencing that the colony is becoming less dependent on foreign supplies, and more on the progress of local manufactures. The exports, on the other hand, shew a decided increase, their value being, in 1871, 13.78 per cent, in excess of those of 1870, excluding the value of imported goods re-exported from the colony.

It cannot be denied that these authentic figures establish beyond cavil the sound and healthy condition of the colony, which has now reached a point whence her onward progress must inevitably be rapid, and the next decade will show a greater stride than the last, gold discoveries and rushes notwithstanding.

Part of the policy of the Colonial Government is the introduction of large numbers of immigrants, to occupy the lands opened up by the railways, and to assist in making them; and, notwithstanding that very liberal inducements, in the way of assisted passages, have been offered, this part of the scheme has not

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proved so successful as it might have done. This is partly owing to the mismanagement incident to the initiation of a new system, the bungling of agents, the higher rates of wages which have been of late prevailing at home, and the counter attractions offered by America and Canada--many being induced to go to these fields for emigration in preference to the Australian colonies, owing to their greater proximity, the length of the voyage to the latter being a deterring obstacle. But the passage hither, though long, is a safe and pleasant one; never yet has a vessel from Britain to Otago been lost, and the voyage to New Zealand is one of the safest in the world.

Travellers on the grand tour round the world will find New Zealand not the least interesting of the lands they will traverse, especially if they will leave the beaten track and pause long enough to visit the interior. The stoppage of the San Francisco route puts difficulties in the way of such tourists; but the re-establishment

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of steam communication between America and this country will soon be accomplished, to the mutual advantage of both.

It has been urged by those who delight in detracting from the merits of everything, that New Zealand, from its geographical position, can never become the home of a nation of any importance; but, on the contrary, many hold that her position, the safety of the surrounding seas, and excellence of the harbours, is such that she will command an extensive trade with the vast Australian continent, the States of South America, the many fertile islands of the Pacific, and even with the far-off Flowery Empire, whose people are shewing many symptoms of awakening from the lethargic torpor which has bound them for ages.

But it is not from position alone that the greatness of any land is derived, but from the energy and endurance of her sons. The salubrity of our climate, and brave perseverance of our pioneers of settlement, give abundant promise of the New Zealanders becoming a robust,

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hardy, and energetic people, which augurs well for the future greatness of the land, often fondly called, "The Britain of the South." Let us hope that her citizens, while possessing these qualities, may also be,

"Men, high-minded men ....
.... who their duties know,
But know their rights, and knowing dare maintain."


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