The Climatic and Financial Aspect of Forest Conservancy as applicable to New Zealand.
[A Lecture delivered in connection with the New Zealand Institute at the Golonial Museumni, 19th March, 1877.]
The subject of this paper is entitled “The Climatic and Financial Aspect of Forest Conservancy as applicable to New Zealand.” In the paper which I recentlyread at Dunedin on the subject of Forestry, * and more particularly State Forestry in general, I referred very briefly to the two points on which I have the honour to address you to-night. They represent, however, the most important aspect in which the whole forest question may be viewed or approached, and may be said to embrace, directly or indirectly, the whole subject. Were it not for climatic considerations, which we believe may be injuriously affected by the lack of a systematic and persistent system of Forest Conservancy, to the detriment of the health and welfare of the whole community, Forestry might well be left to private enterprise and the spasmodic efforts of private individuals or local bodies, liable as they must always be to the influences and considerations of the moment, and the popular feeling not of the nation or general public, but of a comparatively small section of it, representing local feeling and interests. Were it not for financial considerations, which must ever be more or less paramount in the conduct of our affairs, schemes for the conservation, creation, and improvement of forests would meet with much less opposition and be much more generally adopted than they are. My object in addressing you to-night is, therefore, two-fold; and I shall endeavour to show—first, that the climatic influence of forests is a very important matter, which cannot be approached too early or with too much care and deliberatiou in the life of a nation or colony; and second, that financial considerations may not only be made compatible with, but form a great inducement to, real Forest Conservancy, especially if it be commenced and sytematically adhered to on a broad but ever careful system before the forests have been seriously injured or encumbered with a mass of individual or communal rights and privileges; and further, that such financial considerations are not antagonistic to the development of the timber trade and industry, or to the general welfare and prosperity of the people.
The subject of the influence of forests on rainfall, climate, and water supply of a country, has of late years attracted much attention, and been
[Footnote] * Ante. p. 187.
freely discussed not only in scientific but general circles. So far as the actual rainfall of a particular locality is concerned, the evidence and arguments adduced have been very conflicting; and I am bound to record my opinion, as stated in Dunedin, that, so far, nothing has been proved to establish the theory, that extensive denudation will, of itself, cause a marked decrease in the rainfall. Forest-clad mountains will doubtless tend to induce rain-clouds to precipitate the moisture with which they are charged, but so will mountains without forests. No one would, I imagine, argue against the generally recognized fact, that the rainfall in mountainous forest regions is, as a rule, greater than it is in an open plain exposed to similar atmospheric conditions; but the question is, will the mere removal of the forests from the mountains, of itself, affect the rainfall on them and in their immediate vicinity, and may not the presence of the trees be the effect of a considerable rainfall, and not its cause? I confess that I feel no sort of certainty one way or the other; and in this respect I do not think I am singular, having with me, to my knowledge, Dr. Brundis, the Inspector-General of Forests in India, no mean authority, and doubtless many others whose minds are not made up on the subject. Recent observations in France, however, made with great care and complete sets of instruments, at different stations, do appear undoubtedly to establish the facts:—(1), that throughout the year 6 per cent. more rain falls in the forests than in the open; (2), that, of the total rainfall, 10 per cent. is caught by the leaves in a forest, and does not reach the earth; and (3), that the evaporation in the open country is five times as great as in a forest. So far as this colony is concerned, the evidence, if anything, tends to prove that the rainfall has increased at stations in the neighbourhood of which the forests have been extensively cleared. I have quite recently been going through the meteorological returns for the past ten years, and find that, whereas the mean annual rainfall of Wellington, as recorded for the first five years, is 48.709 inches, and the number of days on which rain fell 153; that for the last five years of the decade is 57.862 inches, and the number of days 177 ! At Taranaki, again, in the immediate neighbourhood of which I imagine the clearing has been extensive, the mean from 1866 to 1870 was 53.331 inches, and, from 1870 to 1875, 62.612 inches. Christchurch and Hokitika, with the lowest and highest rainfall in the colony, remain much the same during each of the periods of five years; the mean for the former being 113 days, with 27.033 inches during the first, and 125 days with 25.821 inches during the second five years; whilst at the latter place the means are 197 days with 112.622 inches, and 178 days with 115.418 inches respectively. We must, however, be careful how we accept these returns as conclusive evidence either way. The period over which they
range is too short to afford reliable data; besides which, Dr. Hector will, I imagine, agree that the returns are likely to be more reliable and accurate during the last than the preceding five years. I would here point out that, so far as my observation goes, there is scarcely any point on which the popular or general opinion is more frequently erroneous and liable to mislead, than that of the rainfall of successive years or periods of years. I am pretty sure that most of the inhabitants of Wellington would give it as their opinion, in perfect good faith, that the rainfall had decreased of late years; whilst I was over and over again assured at Hokitika, that, although rain might fall more frequently, the annual average there was not in excess of that in other parts of the colony, the real facts being as stated above. From all I have said, you will gather that I think it better not to attempt to dogmatise on this point; and, with your permission, we will relegate it to a future occasion, when we may know more about it.
The question of the influence of forests on climate and permanent water supply, is, to my mind, in a widely different position; and nothing, I think, has been more clearly proved, both by scientific argument or theory, and actual observations or practice, than that the wholesale and indiscriminate clearing of forests exercises an injurious effect on both, whilst the formation of plantations in dry and arid regions ameliorates the climate and renders the water supply more copious and permanent.
If we consider first the question of climate, we shall find a host of evidence tending to prove that the general destruction of forests has rendered it more trying, less equable, and devoid of sufficient moisture; in short, has caused it to deteriorate both with respect to its effects upon the health of man and other animals, and upon the fertility and productiveness of the soil, whilst the regeneration of forests, or the formation of plantations, improves it.
Let us first endeavour to understand clearly what is meant by the word “climate' A recent writer says:—“The single word 'climate' expresses one of the most important relations of man to the natural world around him, a relation which concerns human existence in its every part. But this word 'climate,' taken in its largest sense, comprehends within itself all those elements of matter and force the mutual influences and actions of which produce the phenomena so familiar to us under the single expression.” Dr. Daubeney, in his lecture on the influence of climate on vegetation, defines the “climate of a country to be its relations to temperature, light, moisture, winds, atmospheric pressure and electricity.” We all know the popular and everyday meaning of the words “good” and “bad climate,” and what an important matter it is considered. Equally important, therefore, is all that influences it, amongst which ranks the presence or absence of a
certain proportion of forest area. Marsh, in his well-known work on “Man and Nature,” published in London in 1864, says:—“One important conclusion at least upon the meteorological influence of forests is certain and undisputed, the proposition, viz., that within their own limits and near their own borders they maintain a more uniform degree of humidity in the atmosphere than is observed in cleared grounds. “And, again, writing of the indiscriminate clearing in America;—“With the disappearance of the forest all is changed. At one season the earth parts with its warmth by radiation to an open sky, and receives at another heat from the unobstructed rays of the sun; hence the climate becomes excessive, and the soil is alternately parched by the fervour of summer and seared by the rigours of winter. Bleak winds sweep unresisted over its surface, drift away the snow that sheltered it from the frost, and dry up its scanty moisture.” Innumerable quotations could be given and irrefutable evidence adduced from the works of Hooper, Schleiden, Becquerel, Hum-boldt, and Boussingault, all tending in the same direction. The Rev. W. B. Clarke, F.R.S., etc., recently read a paper before the Royal Society of New South Wales, on the subject of the “Effects of Forest Vegetation on Climate,” with the general tone and direction of which I cordially concur, though unable to agree with him in all his deductions and conclusions. He quotes largely from Schleiden and Marsh, and gives an extract from an essay by the late Sir Henry Holland, in the “Edinburgh Review,” viz.:—“It is the forest which actively ministers to the climatic condition of the earth, which, extirpated by the axe or restored by planting, changes both the face of nature and the distribution and destinies of huuman life.” The case of some parts of Africa and Asia Minor, the Mauritius, St. Helena, Ascension, Madeira, etc., have all been given by various writers, and quite lately Dr. Croumbie Brown, formerly Government Botanist at the Cape, has done excellent service by publishing a series of works on the subject entitled “The Hydrology of South Africa,” “Reboissement in France,” “Forests and Moisture, or Effects of Forests on Humidity of Climate,” the last of which I have not seen. Professor Laurent of the Forest School at Nancy, has also written on the subject, and “instances Fontenoy and Provence as places where the felling of forests has affected the climate.” So much for the influence of forests on climate generally. We next come to that of their effect on the water supply and its regulation. Most of the authorities already quoted have written also on this point, but I prefer quoting from other sources of more recent dates. The paper by Monsieur Clane, from which I quoted in my Dunedin lecture, is a clear and exhaustive treatise on the subject. He refers to actual observation made by MM. Becquerel and Boussiugault, and to those of M. Mathieu, of the Forest
School at Nancy, and M. Fantral, of a more recent date. He states that the results M. Mathieu has obtained are singularly uniform, and they have been reproduced so often that even so careful and conscientious an observer as M. Mathieu considers that they may be held to be dependent on a general law of nature. His observations lead to the conclusion that while on the one hand forests tend to lower the general temperature of a country, and so to promote the fall of rain at regular intervals, and in moderate quantities; on the other hand they ward off sudden meteorological changes, which are dangerous inasmuch as they cause sudden and heavy falls of rain, which result in floods and other like disasters. M. Fantral's results corroborate those of M. Fathieu; and M. Cantegiel, Inspector of Forests, near Toulouse, in the extreme South of France, has also carried out a similar series of observations, extending over a number of stations, with precisely similar results. Boussingault's example of the Lake of Valentia, in Venezuela, has been often questioned. This lake has no known outlet, and when Humboldt visited it the water was decreasing in a marked degree, the forests in the neighbourhood being at the same time largely cleared. Twenty-five years later, Boussingault found its dimensions increasing, which he ascribes to the War of Independence having occasioned a cessation of clearing, so that less timber was being cut down and a new growth springing up. He infers that this is the true explanation from the fact that other lakes in the neighbourhood around which the forests had been left in their natural state, had shown no such fluctuations. The lakes of Neufchatel and Geneva have also been mentioned by Humboldt and Jaus-sure as instances of the same result. The case of the island of Ascension seems very conclusive, as it appears matter beyond doubt that the only spring in the island was dried up when the trees were removed, and commenced to run again when the forests were restored. St. Helena is also quoted as an instance in point, as are Mauritius and St. Vincent, the district of South America lying between the Orinoco and the Andes, and many other localities. I have myself observed the drying up of springs and decrease of the average amount of water in some of our mountain forests in India in which extensive clearing has taken place, and think there can be no reasonable doubt that such clearing does affect injuriously the supply of water for springs and permanent supply in the streams and rivers. Hof Rath Wex, in a paper contributed to the Vienna Geographical Society in 1875, actually states that the decrease of water in the Elbe and Oder has been 17 inches; Rhine, 24; Vistula, 26; and Danube at Orsova, 55 inches in 50 years. Not less conclusive in my opinion is the evidence at our disposal regarding what M. Clane calls the mechanical action of forests through the roots in retaining in its place the earth, especially on the sides of mountains and hills.
It is impossible to treat this part of our subject without reference to the preceding one, the argument being that forests by their presence act as storehouses of moisture, both from their leafy canopy which covers the earth and the bed of dead leaves on its surface, the loss of moisture by evaporation being by these means reduced to one-fifth, as stated above; and that, further, the bed of dead leaves acts like a sponge, soaking up and retaining the rain and regulating its distribution, whilst the roots not only “act as vertical drains, promoting the descent of the water into the lower strata of the earth, there to nourish the springs,” but bind the soil on the mountainsides together, and prevent its being carried away into the valley below. In short, it may be said that the forests exercise both a preventative and curative effect—first, preventing the rapid running off of heavy rain, and storing it up for gradual distribution; and, second, impeding the flow of water in its course, if already accumulated and coming down from bare or snow-covered heights above.
The disastrous effects caused by over-clearing of forests, in the shape of torrents and inundations, have been felt in many countries; but I think it will suffice if we instance France, where the subject has attracted more attention and at last been more thoroughly grappled with than anywhere else.
The case of France may also be considered as peculiarly applicable, and affords a valuable lesson to this country; for it was in the fancied best interests of the owners of sheep and cattle that the forests on the Alps and Pyrenees were gradually destroyed, to make way for more grass and more sheep: indeed, it is only quite recently that the representatives of these interests in the Communes affected have really awoke to the fact, that their interests and lives were at stake, and appear anxious to co-operate with the Forest Officers in re-clothing the hills. Dr. Croumbie Brown, in his book on “Reboissement in France,” already mentioned, gives a detailed account of the causes which led to the clearance of the forests in the Higher and Lower Alps, the Loire, and the Pyrenees, the results in the shape of torrents, landslips, inundations, etc., and the remedial measures now in progress, which are calculated to extend over 140 years, and cost at least half a million sterling, besides the pay of the Forest Officers employed. Our time to-night does not admit of my following him even very cursorily; but I would strongly recommend a perusal of this and other works by the same author by all who take an interest in the subject. * The description which he gives, and which is unfortunately corroborated by far too many authorities to be doubted, of the devastations committed by the torrents, gradually augmenting year by year as each patch of forest and scrub was
[Footnote] * Published by King & Co., London.
removed, is trully appalling. The disappearance of the forests from the mountains gave up the soil to the action of the waters, which swept it away into the valleys, and then the torrents becoming more and more devastating buried extensive tracts under their deposits, tracts which will probably be for ever withdrawn from agriculture. The prediction of an Inspector of Forests, quoted by Surrell in his “Etudé sur les Torrents des Hautes Alps,” has already been literally fulfilled:—“The crusts denuded of their vegetable soil, no longer permitting the infiltration of the waters, these will flow away rapidly on the surface of the ground. Then the springs will dry up, and the drought in summer being no longer moderated by their irrigation, all vegetation will be destroyed.” These results, and far more serious ones in the shape of enormous loss both of human life, and of cattle, sheep, and property, have all come to pass. The loss of property by the inundations in the south of France, in 1875, was estimated by the Government at £3,000,000 sterling, and it is stated that 3,000 persons lost their lives. The indirect results in the shape of temporary or permanent damage to agricultural districts by the deposit of stones and shingle brought from the mountains by the flood waters cannot be estimated, still less the damage to pastoral lands on the mountains themselves. It may be stated generally, that the results of excessive clearing of forests and abuse of pasturage on the French Alps and Pyrenees, have reduced their capacity as a sheep and goat-carrying area to such an extent that they cannot carry the half of what they did 50 years ago; whilst the damage resulting to the agricultural districts below from the drying up of springs and streams, the torrents caused by heavy rains, and the melting of the snows and their effect on the river-banks and channels, followed by long droughts in summer, is simply incalculable, and such as cannot be repaired, even at a large expenditure, within two generations.
The French Government, after much delay and difficulty, the result of local prejudice and cupidity, have undertaken the task of “reboissement” in reclothing the mountains with forests, commencing with the most important points, viz., the sources, head waters, and courses of streams, and the gullies extending up to the higher ridges, where water, whether from the clouds or melting snows, is first precipitated and accumulates. The results appear, so far, to have been satisfactory; but it is admitted that it will probably take a longer time and much more money than originally estimated to mitigate or prevent the recurrence of the disasters, which have been steadily increasing in magnitude during the past century, whilst the improvement of the pasturage on the hills or undoing the damage already caused below is mere matter of conjecture. The measures proposed to be adopted at first, included, in the interests of the shepherds, a large proportion
of “regazanement” or re-turfing, as distinct from “reboissement” or reforesting; but the late floods, especially those in the valley of the Garonne, appear to point conclusively to the comparative uselessness of the former as a remedial measure, and I believe instructions have been issued to substitute “reboissement,” or at least “reboissonement” (the planting of shrubs) wherever practicable. Such is a brief outline of the facts relating to forest denudation, its results, and the extensive measures of “reboissement” which have been forced upon the State in the interests of the community in France. To quote the words of Surell, writing some years ago:—The country is becoming depopulated day by day. Ruined in their cultivation of the ground, the inhabitants emigrate to a great distance from their desolated land, and contrary to the usual practice of mountaineers, many never return. There may be seen on all hands cabins deserted or in ruins, and already in some localities there are more fields than labourers. The precarious state of those fields discourages the population left. They abandon the plough, and invest all their resources in flocks. But these flocks expedite the ruin of the country, which would be destroyed by them alone. Every year their number diminishes in consequence of want of pasture grounds. One commune, St. Etienne, which supported 25,000 sheep fifteen years ago, supports no more than 11,000 now. Thus the inhabitants, who sacrifice all their soil for the flocks, will not even leave this last inheritance to their descendants.”
The work of “reboissement” must not be mistaken or mixed up with that of the planting of Pinus maritima on the low and sandy coasts at the mouth of the river Gironde, with the main object of fixing the shifting sands.
On this subject it may be useful to quote the process adopted:—*.
“On the low and sandy coasts between the mouths of the Adour and the Gironde, every tide leaves behind it quantities of fine sand; the sand is continually drifted inland by the wind, and forms moving hills, which sometimes attain a height of 70 metres (230 feet). These hills, as we should naturally expect, have a gentle inclination on the side of the sea, but descend abruptly towards the interior; sometimes they are long, continuous, and disposed in regular and parallel lines; at other times they run zigzag. This depends on the form of the coast-line. Thus, between the Adour and the Gironde, the first case presents itself; while, near the promontory of La Coubre, where the wind blows from several points, the elevations and depressions are entirely irregular.
“It is to these moving sand-hills that the name of dunes has been given. According to information furnished by M. Dutemps du Gric, Conservator
[Footnote] *“Manual of Sylviculture,” by G. Bagneris, Inspector of Forests, Professor at the Forest School of Nancy.
servator of Forests at Bordeaux, it has been ascertained that the average rate of their progression towards the interior is 4.30 metres (14 feet) a year, and that the quantity of sand thus brought up is in the proportion of 75 cubic mètres for every mètre of coast-line (109) cubic yards for every yard). The hollow between two consecutive dunes (called lette by the natives), is very variable. It is flat at the bottom, and generally marshy when the dunes are devoid of all vegetation.
“One can easily conceive the great importance of fixing and utilizing these dunes, whose onward march has swallowed up everything before it, and has been a perpetual source of danger to human dwellings, which more than once have had to retire before them.
“The first attempt to fix these sand-hills was made with hurdles, and certain plants having well-developed roots, such as the Psamma arenaria, a Euphorbia, Festuca, etc. But these succeeded only temporarily. At length the Pinus pinaster was tried, with all the desired result. This pine is admirably adapted to the locality. It is indigenous in the parts of France possessing a mild climate; its tap-root penetrates deep into the soil and throws out stronglateral roots, which in their turn develope along their whole length numerous secondary roots in a vertical direction. In addition to these valuable properties, we may add the abundance and fine quality of its resin.
“The Pinus pinaster had long before been employed in the dunes, as is witnessed by the forest of La Teste, which dates back several centuries. But such attempts were successful only on the dunes in the interior, which were protected by those nearer the sea. It was not till the year 1787, when Brémontier began his labours, that they succeeded in planting up to the sea-shore. The method used at present for fixing the dunes is described in what follows:—“Before any sowing operations can be attempted, it is absolutely necessary to establish a protecting-wall, in order to prevent the seeds and young plants from being buried over by the drifting sand. This wall is nothing more nor less than a dune, which is purposely allowed to form, called the littoral dune. A continuous line of paling is erected parallel to the coast-line, about 100 mètres from high-water mark. The paling is constructed of planks 1.60 mètres long, 3 centimètres thick, and from 12 to 15 centimètres broad, and pointed at the lower end. These planks are put into a trench 40 centimètres deep, and then driven 20 centimètres into the sand, so that, when the trench is filled in, one mètre remains above ground. An interval of two centimètres is left between two consecutive planks.
“The sand is arrested by the paling, and is thus deposited in the form of an inclined plane, sloping very gradually seawards. Some of it passes
through the spaces left between the planks, and serves as a sort of backing, thus increasing their stability. When the sand reaches the top of the paling, and begins to cover it, the latter is raised by means of a lever with hooks. In this manner the littoral dune rises higher. This increase in height must be rendered as gradual as possible, otherwise the dune would be exposed to be washed away by the sea.
“To give the dune more stability, a tight-bound fence is erected behind the paling. Stakes 2.50 mètres in length are driven 50 centimètres into the sand, and the wattling is at first carried only up to a mètre above the ground. The wattling is continued upwards as the dune rises. When the dune reaches the top of the stakes, another fence of the same kind is put up, for the old fence obviously cannot be raised like the paling.
“The whole is at length fixed by planting over with the Psamma arenaria in tufts of five or six plants 50 centimètres (20 inches) apart. This grass possesses this important property, that, as the sand covers it, its stalk grows higher, and developes numerous adventitious roots, which form a veritable network. A hectare requires 300 bundles of this plant, weighing 10 kilogrammes (22 lbs.) each, besides 6 kilogrammes (13 1bs.) of seeds. The first thing done is to sow the seed broadcast, the operation of planting, and the going to and fro of the labourers, being enough to press them into the ground.
“A running mètre of paling costs from 2.50 to 3 francs (about 8d. per running foot). It lasts, on an average, five years, when the planks are made of the non-injected sapwood of the Pinus pinaster. The expense of keeping it in repair and raising it is about 50 centimes a-year (about one penny and a fifth per running foot). The price of a mètre of fencing is 30 centimes (about 0.88d. per foot), and a new fence must be put up nearly every year.
“If, notwithstanding these precautions, the wind is apt to make breaches in the littoral dune, other rows of paling, making a given angle with the first, are erected on the steep side. At the present day may be seen a littoral dune, well kept up along a coast-line of more than 200 kilomètres, reaching from the bar of the Adour to the mouth of the Gironde.
“A protecting wall against the wind being once obtained, the moment has arrived for beginning sowing operations on the inner dunes. This is done by scattering broadcast a mixture of the seeds of the Pinus pinaster, the common broom (Sarothamnus scoparius), the furze (Ulex nanus), and the Psamma arenaria. In the operations carried on by the State, the quantity of seed to be used per hectare is 10 kilogrammes of the pine, 9 kilogrammes of the broom, and 4 kilogrammes of the Psamma arenaria,
Over the whole is spread a covering of broom, furze, and other brushwood One man unties the bundles, while two others spread them out, and a fourth throws on a spadeful of earth, at intervals of 20 inches, to keep the brushwood down. This covering is essential for preventing the seeds, and especially the sand, from being blown away by the wind. Furze is preferable to the broom, as it yields a richer manure by its decomposition.
“The sowing, and the spreading out of the brushwood, must be done simultaneously. At the close of each day's work, some spadefuls of sand are thrown over the last row of brushwood to enable it to resist the force of the wind. Care must be taken that the last row is spread out evenly and well against the ground, so as to prevent the wind from getting underneath. Without this precaution, a single night is sufficient to destroy the work of several days.
“The pines, the broom, and the furze come up together; and it has been remarked that the young pines are all the finer for growing along with a large quantity of broom and furze. When these latter are not sufficiently abundant, the covering of brushwood should be carefully maintained, as the protection it affords is necessary during nearly four years. Sometimes, indeed, it has to be renewed, and its maintenance constitutes one of the principal operations during that period.
“The reboissement of the littoral dune itself may often be undertaken at the end of a few years, by forming a new littoral dune nearer still to the sea. In any case, the maintenance of a littoral dune is a sine quâa non; otherwise every result of previous operations must inevitably be lost by the continual drifting in of new sand.
“Such is a brief description of the operations employed in fixing the dunes. They often entail great labour, and the difficulty is sometimes so great, that the fixing and stocking of one hectare does not cost less than 500 francs (just over £8 per acre). This outlay ceases to appear considerable, if we balance against it the protection which it affords for all the country behind the dunes. Nearly the whole of it is absorbed by the erection and constant repair of the paling, and this principally by the transport of planks and brushwood over a long length of uneven country formed of deep and yielding sand.”
In the “Australasian” of February 10th there is a letter from Mr. Hunter, M.B.F.C.S., on the subject of the influence of forests on the climate and water supply of Victoria, and in the same paper is an editorial headed “Forest and Lake.” Both Mr. Hunter and the editor warmly advocate increased conservancy and improvement of the forests, which it is admitted on all hands have been allowed to deteriorate and be destroyed in a most shameful manner, with the worst effects on the climate and water supply.
Without going so far as Mr. Hunter, and estimating the annual increase in yield of wheat at eight bushels, which at five shillings per bushel would represent two million a year more of wealth without any extra expenditure—minute calculations which unsupported by facts I consider are likely to damage rather than improve an otherwise good case—I cordially agree with the editor, who sums up the argument by stating that “it is however possible for each colony to conserve local advantages which it owes to nature, and in this category we place not only forests, but water of every size and form. * * Let the Government not attempt to shirk its duty by handing over to local bodies the management of forests, but let it grapple with the whole question in a statesmanlike manner, and earn, even though it may not immediately win it, the gratitude and respect of the people whose interests have been entrusted to its care.”
Our time to-night will have been spent to little advantage if you do not feel that this colony is eminently one possessing great “local advantages which it owes to nature,” in the shape of forests and supply of water. These advantages it is our duty, as well as our interest, to preserve; and I think New Zealand is lucky in possessing statesmen like her late Premier, Sir Julius Vogel, who have looked ahead and seen the necessity of grappling with the difficulty in time, that is before the damage has actually been done, and when the necessary measures can be applied, as I hope to show you to night, by a very small temporary outlay, securing not only immunity from the damage and destruction which have taken place elsewhere, but a considerable and steadily increasing forest revenue to the State.
I do not think that any damage has as yet been done to the climate of New Zealand or its water supply by the clearing of forests; indeed, I have little doubt that the climate has in many instances been ameliorated by it. Some of my friends tell me that this City of Wellington is a case in point. But they also tell me that there is much less water in the streams which run down from the surrounding hills than formerly. I know naturally nothing as to the facts myself, and am inclined, as already stated, to take such expressions of opinion with a very large grain of salt. In the present case the opinions are exactly in unison with what I should have surmised from what I see; and I take the drying up of the streams as a warning to be wise in time, and not to kill the goose, i.e., the forest, which lays the golden eggs, i.e., moisture and water supply—a burning question, by the way, I believe, at the present time in Wellington. I may say the same of the West Coast of the South Island, from which I have just returned. No damage has as yet been done, rather the contrary; but ascending the narrow vallies of the Grey and Buller Rivers and their tributaries, walled in by steep forest-clad hills, a feeling almost of dread constantly presented itself
to my mind as to what would be the result if these forests were ever to be cleared away without great discrimination and the retention of extensive reserves. Mr. Kirk was with me, and can tell you that the same thought presented itself to both of us almost simultaneously. These forests are of little commercial value, but I am certain we cannot be too careful of how they are felled and treated. Once gone, farewell to the smiling fields-in the vallies below and abundant pasture on the lower slopes of the hills. There is but little soil or vegetable deposit on the top of the shingle—I do not know the exact geological term for it—of which those mountains are mainly composed. Remove the forest, and the coating of humus, or vegetable mould, will soon follow, perhaps after it has afforded pasturage for a few sheep for a few years, and the after-results will be those which I have attempted briefly to depict in the case of the French Alps and Pyrenees.
The same argument, of course, holds good more or less with regard to all the forest-clad mountain ranges in New Zealand. I say nothing of the actual rainfall, although the facts, as I have seen and compared them in this colony, almost convince me that forests have a direct influence even on the amount of that; for all along the East Coast, with bare plains and comparatively little timber on the hills, we have but a scanty rainfall even in the immediate neighbourhood of the hills themselves, whereas in the densely-wooded West Coast we have a rainfall greatly in excess of the average. The forests may, as has been asserted elsewhere, be the effect and not the cause; but I must say I, for one, see nothing to lead us to that belief, as, if it be so, why should not rain have fallen and forests been created on the eastern slopes of the mountains, on which the clouds, laden with moisture from the Pacific, first impinge? Be this as it may, I have no hesitation in advocating the careful conservancy of the forests on the Western slopes of the mountains, which may be called the backbone of New Zealand; and I have no doubt that the formation of plantations in Otago, Canterbury, and eventually probably in some of the Eastern districts of the North Island, will go a great way to ameliorating the climate, breaking the force of the wind—an advantage of planting which has almost escaped my notice, but which is matter of great importance, especially when the wind is a hot one, as it sometimes is in the Canterbury Plains, and decreasing excessive evaporation and consequent dryness of soil. In short, I am well assured that, by the initiation and systematic treatment of forest conservancy and planting, New Zealand may secure her proud preeminence as the best watered and probably most salubrious climate in the Southern Hemisphere, if not in the world.
Let us now consider the financial aspect of the question. The question of direct financial gain, or extracting a revenue from the forests by the
State, should ever be subordinate to their conservancy for climatic considerations and improvement, to meet the demands of the future. So long as this is borne in mind, and we are not tempted to overdraw and trench on the capital as well as the income of our forests in the shape of timber and minor produce, there is no reason why they should not be dealt with like any other property, nor why the State, as proprietor in trust for the public, should not derive from them the maximum amount of revenue compatible with the general welfare of the people.
The financial aspect forms always an important item for consideration in the conduct of our affairs, whether public or private, and at present the financial question is, I may say, paramount with the Government and people of New Zealand. I am not, therefore, surprised at the general satisfaction with which the public press has received my statement at Dunedin that the Forest Department should be entirely self-supporting, though I am surprised that it should never have struck people before that this could be done, as it has been done in other countries. I have no hesitation in reiterating the Dunedin statement, and proceed to explain how it is to be done. We cannot, of couse, maintain a department for the selection of reserves and their improvement, supervision of unreserved forests, forming plantations, etc., without money; but we may, I think, get that money from sources hitherto untapped, in, short by disposing of our surplus property, which we do not want, and which is much better in other hands, to the best advantage. No one in his senses would propose to reserve and keep permanently locked up, either for climatic considerations or prospective money value, one tithe of the forests of this colony as they now exist. Time and careful exploration, and selections on a definite system, can alone show what we should keep, and what may be parted with; but I may say broadly that probably nine-tenths of the existing area under forest in New Zealand may in time be cleared away, or at least not specially reserved, and devoted to the growth of timber. I propose that Government, i.e., the public, should claim and take a fair share of the value of the timber remaining on the waste lands of the colony, and not allow it, as has been almost universal heretofore, to be monopolized solely for the benefit of individuals, or still worse, wasted and destroyed. I do not, let it be well understood, advocate for a moment, injurious restrictions on settlement, or withholding bush land not suitable for reserves from sale and occupation. To do so would be to put a stop in some districts almost entirely to the progress of the country; but I do say that whilst we are selecting the reserves (a matter which will take some time), and subsequently with regard to the margin left as unreserved, a system may, without inconvenience, be introduced and worked, under which Forest Officers shall be consulted by the Waste Lands Boards
with regard to the proportion of the forests to be thrown open for settlement from time to time with a view to opening out gradually, and first as much as possible in places where the timber has a marketable value. And the waste land may therefore reasonably command a higher price on account of the timber standing on it, instead of as now, particularly in Wellington, being sacrificed along with thousands of pounds worth of timber at a mere nominal rate in order to attract a few settlers. I say boldly that this system of pushing settlement in localities not ripe for it, and in a Colony where there is still plenty of room for settlers, and sacrificing very valuable property in so doing, does not commend itself to me at all as being really for the best interests of the Colony, and I hope and believe, that if I am rightly understood, the Government and popular feeling will agree with me. If so, we should, by throwing open for settlement from time to time portions of the waste forest lands of the Crown, secure a price for the timber, or enhanced price for the land, which comes to the same thing, with the further indirect advantage that purchasers would probably set a higher value on the trees, and utilize, not destroy, those of economic value. So much for the actual disposal of forest lands not suited for reserves, and required for extension of settlement. I propose also to lease out to saw-millers blocks of the Government forest, not at present the reserves, to be worked on payment of a royalty or tithe of so much per 100 feet, and to require all parties indenting on the Government forests for building or fencing stuff, firewood, etc., to take out licenses on payment of seignorage or royalty, and fell, split, and remove what they require, in certain places to be prescribed from time to time, and not at will. I would make absolutely no exceptions to this rule. All should pay—squatter, miner, free-selector, etc. Everyone requiring timber from a Government forest should pay for it; but I would make such payment very light, and do everything in our power to save inconvenience and unnecessary interference, by the issue of annual licenses for firewood, upkeep of post and rail fences, etc., and especially in the case of squatters and farmers cutting on their own leasehold or neighbouring Crown forests. As regards the trade more particularly, our object would be to induce saw-millers to first enter on and work blocks of forest adjoining settlements. When they had taken all that they could profitably work up, give them new blocks further in, and allow the splitter and firewood-chopper to take what they can off the first block before its outright sale. This system has been tried in Southland to a certain extent, and as an experiment I consider successfully. The Waste Lands Board in that district have withdrawn from sale all the forests, which are extensive, and find no difficulty in getting saw-millers to work blocks on payment of royalty, or in collecting license fees, though the means at their
disposal, consisting only of one Inspector, are very inadequate.
In Otago, they are leasing forests to saw-mills at so much per annum, averaging £1 per acre per annum for three years, and issuing licenses to hand-sawyers and splitters at 50s. per annum for a claim of 200ft. square. In Westland, again, a fee of £5, for each man employed in working a Government forest, is charged; and I believe in Auckland a fee of £5 was charged for working a certain area of forest; but this has now been put a stop to. The Southland system recommends itself in every way, and appears to give satisfaction to saw-millers and those requiring timber generally. The present Government revenue, even at the very low royalty of 3d. per 100 from saw-mills, £2 settler's license for cutting firewood for domestic use, 1s. per cord firewood for sale, and 20s. per 500 pieces of fencing stuff, amounts to about £1,200 a-year. But the saw-mill industry is at present very stagnant, and there is doubtless great evasion, or non-enforcement of the license regulations, by settlers and splitters, owing to want of establishment or arrangement for their systematic working and supervision. There are regulations intended to prevent waste and restrict felling within certain limits; but these cannot be said to have been enforced, nor should I try to do so hurriedly. It is only by degrees, as we can help saw-millers to a better market for their small stuff, induce them to work out one block before going to another, and ensure economy in hand-sawing or splitting by levying royalty at so much a tree or number of trees, that we can hope to prevent waste and regulate felling. But it can be done only by degrees and taking the people along with us. Surely something in this direction, by which a forest revenue already amounting to upwards of £2,000 a-year in Otago and Southland—an amount which would probably be doubled the moment systematic supervision was introduced, whilst it gives us the means of gradually introducing improved management—is better than the laissez aller and general destruction of timber in other districts without any return direct or indirect to the State, or to disposing of forest lands, worth £30 per acre for the forest alone, at £2. It may be said that people will not buy forest land at enhanced rates, and will not pay to take timber from Government forest when they can get it from freehold. I maintain that they will gladly pay enhanced rates for forest land if we place it judiciously on the market, and not depreciate it by sacrificing the timber on it in order to push settlement, and that Government would have no objection to the supply being drawn from freehold lands, and can well afford to wait till they are exhausted. I know all the stock arguments as to the cost of clearing forest land, the advantages of opening out the country, which no one can deny; and the fact that timber is absolutely valueless and an encumbrance away from a market. I grant them all; but,
if the forest land be not worth clearing, it had better remain uncleared till it is—at least till we have selected the reserves. If timber land is worth having, an extra £1 per acre will not prevent its being taken up. And, if the timber be absolutely valueless now from its situation and want of means of communication and transport, there is no reason that it should be so ten years hence. And I submit that the Colony can well afford to wait, and not force on the clearing of any more forest land, pending the selection of the reserves and development of the Public Works policy. I repeat, then, my expression of opinion, that, whatever may have been advisable-in the past, it will be well to be circumspect in dealing with the area remaining as forest Crown Lands, which may be approximately stated at 12,000,000 of acres, out of a total area of 66,000,000 of acres; and that, whilst the permanent reserves are being selected, the tracts not required for that purpose be sold or leased with care and to the best advantage, and not indiscriminately or without any reference to the value of timber upon them. Outright sale commends itself in a Colony like this, where we do not wish to conserve or reproduce the crop; but I would not sell an acre except at a much higher price than is now generally obtained; failing which, I should lease to saw-millers, devote to felling for hand-sawyers and splitters, or include in pastoral leases under certain restrictions, as found most advantageous. I believe, by the adoption of such measures as I have thus sketched out, we shall secure a very considerable and increasing forest revenue, sufficient to balance all our expenditure and form plantations, whilst the reserved area is nursed, and, by degrees, treated on principles of scientific forestry, with a view to increasing its yield per acre, and improving the growth of timber on it where it is not simply retained for climatic considerations and is too remote or inaccessible to work. The increased forest will yield our revenue for the present, and the reserves and plantations which we constitute and improve from that revenue will well recoup us in the future.
It may be argued that this is but taxation in another form, and not at all what was expected when I said that the department would be self-supporting. If paying for what does not belong to me be a form of taxation. I admit that it is so; but I cannot see that anyone has any more right to take the forest products from the Crown—that is, public lands held in trust by the Government of the day—than he has from yours or mine, and think it will be admitted on all hands that Government have a right to charge him for them as you or I would. I believe there will be some difficulty with regard to miners, who consider that their £1 miners' right gives them a claim to use the wood they require free of any further payment; and of course if this right or privilege has been conceded to them, it must
be respected, But I would rather advocate the withdrawal of the special tax upon him and let him pay for his wood like anyone else, as I cannot see that it is right or fair that the Westland or Nelson miner should get timber free for his £1, whilst the Otago miner gets none, and the Thames miner has to pay 25s. for each kauri tree, which I believe goes to the Natives. I have found that, if all have to pay, none complain or have a grievance, and there is nothing we should more carefully avoid or guard against than the creation of special rights or privileges—our special bugbear in India.
Before concluding, I should like to place before you very briefly some of the financial results of State Forestry in India and elsewhere.
Forest Conservancy in India by a State or Government department dates from about 20 years ago. The department, from very small beginnings, originating in many Provinces in the mere appointment of a few forest guards to protect certain trees, and the establishment of a few small nurseries and plantations, has gradually taken charge of a very large public estate, consisting of forests all more or less deteriorated to an extent of which you in New Zealand can have no idea, devastated yearly by fire, overrun by countless numbers of cattle and sheep, whose herds considered they had a right to cut down any tree from mere wantonness, or to allow their beasts to feed on the leaves, and encumbered with the rights and privileges of a Native population of over 200,000,000. Not a promising property to tackle and improve, still less to exact an annual surplus from. Still it has been done, and by the last returns for the whole of India, which I have with me, viz., those for 1873–74, the forest revenue was £700,000, and expenditure £414,000 odd, leaving a surplus of upwards of £285,000, or 41 per cent. on the total revenue. Both revenue and expenditure are about double what they were ten years previously, in 1864–65.
I do not say that there have not been faults in our Indian forest administration, that we may not have looked too much to revenue and too little to real conservancy and improvements; that some of the royalties— that on firewood for instance—may not have pressed hardly on the class of poor cultivators, who pay it when they have no village forest from which to obtain it free. But I do say, that whilst there is no doubt that the state of the forests has been and is being improved every day, reserves selected, demarcated, and surveyed, occupying a special branch of the department; plantations on a large scale established; the real rights and even privileges of the people, in the shape of timber for agricultural purposes, grazing, etc., have been scrupulously and liberally conceded to them; and that the manner in which revenue has always balanced and is now steadily yielding an increased surplus on expenditure, is most gratifying and encouraging to the forester in all parts of the world. I may add that in the Madras Presidency—the
portion of India with which I have been more immediately connected—as regards the Forest Department, the policy of the Government has not been to produce a large surplus balance, but rather to increased liberality in the free grants of timber, and liberal concessions to the wants and circumstances of the poorer classes of the inhabitants. As they write so recently as last December to the Governor of India:—“It has been the policy of this Government (that of Fort St. George)—a policy which has been approved by the Secretary of State—that the production of a surplus is neither the present nor ultimate primary object of forest operations; and whilst seeking to increase the productive powers and revenues of the forests, this Government has had mainly in view the utilization of increasing revenues in extending plantations and in conserving indigenous forests, and by this means supplying the people and railways with cheap fuel, and preserving or restoring those climatic conditions which appear to be more or less dependent upon the existence of woodlands. The aim and object has indeed been to be self-supporting, and devote any surplus accruing to improvements, which is exactly what I would propose to do here for some years, though the circumstances here are widely different and much more favourable to expectations of a large surplus revenue even in the immediate future. For here we have a large area of almost virgin forest unencumbered by vested rights and privileges, whereas there we had to take over forests which have been more or less worked for centuries, and which were burdened by the claims, legal or otherwise, of a teeming native establishment, which in many cases more than represented the gross annual yield of the forests.
I have spoken in my Dunedin paper of the results of planting operations in India, and do not propose to recapitulate those results this evening. I may state, however, that, from reports received by the last mail, I learn that the yield of the Eucalyptus Plantations on the Nilgheri Hills is far exceeding the most sanguine expectations. The Conservator and a trained Forest Assistant having made a careful estimate and a series of actual experiments, the former officially reports the yield at 1,450 cubic feet, or 25 tons (58 cubic feet to the ton) of dry weight per acre per annum, whilst the indigenous forests on the Nilgheris, which have not been conserved, yield only half a ton per acre per annum. This speaks volumes for the financial benefit likely to be derived from planting the Eucalypti in some parts of this country, where the climate closely resembles that of the Nilgheris. I may mention that the average out-turn of indigenous New Zealand forests, as stated by saw-millers, does not exceed 15,000 superficial feet—1,250 cubic feet—per acre, and then it is presumed to be exhausted for ever. Mr. Kirk and I estimated the proper out-turn in timber, in a
portion of the Seaward Bush, Invercargill, at close on 31,000 superficial feet—say 2,500 cubic feet; but it must be remembered that, under the present system, much timber which would be utilized elsewhere is discarded as worthless, and all small stuff is considered utterly valueless. I am in correspondence with the Chief Engineer on the subject of making use of it for the railway locomotives wherever practicable; and if we can thus find a market for it even at very little over price of actual haulage and sawing into billets, I consider that a great boon will be conferred on the saw-mill industry and the colony.
Leaving India, and turning to the Continent of Europe, I find that the annual revenue of the Forest Department in Prussia is £2,100,000, disbursements rather more than half, leaving a nett profit of £1,000,000, the disbursements including an item of £75,000 for commutation of forest rights and servitudes. The nett profit in Saxony is £249,000; Bavaria, £596,000; Austria, £90,000; Hanover, £162,000; whilst that of some of the smaller States, for which I have not returns in money, must be much greater in proportion, if we take their yield in timber as a guide. I may mention that, in Bavaria, the proportion of forest to total area is 34.4 per cent., or upwards of one acre per head of population. This is the largest area, in proportion to total extent or head of population, of any State in the German Empire.
In the debates on the Forest question, in the House of Representatives here, in 1874, I observe that several members took exception to Sir Julius Vogel's original Forest Bill, which was subsequently withdrawn on the ground that the conservation of the natural forests would not pay, judging from the results obtained in Germany, Austria, etc. I do not think that any such conclusion can be deduced from the published returns. Not only do they in most cases show a fair rental, amounting, in the case of Saxony, to 12s. 6d. per acre, but it must be borne in mind that much of the total area under conservancy on which the rental is calculated, is unproductive, only partially stocked, or subject to the free supply of the villagers and their right to pasture their cattle, and collect straw, litter, etc., therein, for which there is no money return. I have seen many instances in Germany and India in which the whole annual yield of a forest tract went to the inhabitants of neighbouring villages free of charge, thereby decreasing very considerably the annual revenue per acre calculated in the total area. We have no such rights and vested interests to lower the money return from the New Zealand forests; but it is true that we have at present a limited demand, owing to the sparse population; an evil, if it be an evil, which, if I may judge from the number of young New Zealanders one sees in every village, is fast remedying itself from natural causes, not to mention the
results of immigration. The only point on which I consider we must be very careful is not to hamper the timber industry by vexatious regulations, or raise the price of timber to such an extent that it will be cheaper to import from neighboring Colonies, Europe, or America. I see no cause at present to fear such a result. The imports, it is true, are large, their value having been, roughly speaking, £180,000 in 1875; but the chief items; are the Eucalypti, from Tasmania and Australia, imported for special purposes, and not in competition with New Zealand timbers. The value of New Zealand exports in timber and forest produce almost exactly balances the imports; but the main item of export is kauri gum (£130,000), on which valuable product the State has hitherto received little or nothing. I think we should leave out the kauri gum tracts or waste lands of the Crown, or levy a royalty on the quantity taken from them.
I see no reason why New Zealand should import so much timber as she does, when she has such indigenous timbers as kauri, totara, puriri, black pine, and black birch, at command. The main reason is, doubtless, dear labour; but I am sanguine that, as population increases, and the real value of the indigenous timber, when to cut and how to season them, becomes known, the imports will decrease not increase, whilst the demand for our surplus timber from the West Coast from Australia will be greatly augmented.
I think I have now said enough, and only trust that I may have presented the question of Forest Conservancy to you under a new and highly important aspect, so far as regards its influence on the climate, and that you will endorse the measures I have suggested for its gradual introduction—which are identical with those which I have recommended to your Government—with your approval.
His Excellency, after inviting discussion on the paper, which was not responded to, said: “As no gentleman seems inclined to make any remarks upon the very interesting lecture we have heard, I beg to propose a vote of thanks to Captain Campbell-Walker, and before doing so I should like to make a very few remarks upon it. The question of the climatic influence of forests upon a country, I think is one which in this present day few people will be inclined to deny. It is a subject which has attracted very general interest throughout Europe and in other parts of the world. It is self-evident that a mountain-side, divested of its natural forest covering, must be more susceptible to the influence of heavy rains—that the soil which attaches to its sides must be more liable to be washed into the valley beneath, than when the mountain-side is covered with forest, and that the fact of the forest shading the soil from the rays of the sun prevents the more rapid evaporation which occurs when the forest is taken
away; and therefore it requires, I think, little argument to oblige one to admit that the existence of forests on the land must equalize the evaporation, and therefore to a great extent regulate the water supply of a country. Till I came into this room and heard the lecture, I was totally unaware of the line of thought which Captain Campbell-Walker intended to pursue, and therefore I am not in any way prepared to express any very decided opinion upon what has emanated from him, and I daresay many others are in the same position; but at the same time I think you will all agree with me that his lecture, from first to last, has taken a very practical turn. He has shown us that the existence of forests has a very decided and a very beneficial influence on climate, and while he has not presented to your view any magnificent scheme of forest regeneration—perhaps I am hardly correct in using that term, for I am happy to say there is no necessity for regenerating forests in New Zealand; but while he has not presented to your view any scheme for forest maintenance at a large cost to the country, he has told you whatever plan he advises will have the merit of being self-supporting. I entirely agree with him that it should be so, and I am equally confident that it might he made so, and that a scheme such as he suggests might be very easily and successfully carried out. I have been accustomed to live in forest countries, and nothing has struck me more than to see the gross way in which forests are abused and wasted. It has been my fortune on various occasions to visit the forest tracts of British North America, and I may say there is no doubt that while there is an enormous amount of very valuable timber annually extracted from those lands, yet there is a very much larger amount annually wasted. Still—I speak subject to correction, for it is some time since I left Canada—I believe the Government derives a considerable revenue from the forest country. In this colony I have constantly been told, ‘Oh, in this district the soil is exceedingly good, but it is impossible to settle it, because the forest is so dense nobody can afford to clear it.’ That was told me only the other day on the West Coast. Well, if this is the case, I think it becomes self-evident that if, before introducing the settler to such land, you can introduce the saw-miller, and so abstract the heavy timber, and further get rid of some of the smaller timber in the shape of firewood, not only will you be doing the intending settler no harm, but you will in fact be enhancing the value of the land by removing that which checks enterprise. For my own part I must own, from the experience I have had in new countries, I believe that the settler who can establish himself on forest land—I admit all the difficulties, the loss of time, and the expense of labour to be en countered—will reap a much better reward for his enterprise than will he who takes up land which requires no clearing. As I said before, I was totally unprepared for
the line of argument Captain Walker has taken up, and therefore the few remarks I have made are very cursory and superficial. I am sure you will join with me in thanking him heartily for the interesting and practical lecture which he has delivered.”