Art. XVII.—On the Forests of New Zealand.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 14th May, 1895.]
The islands of New Zealand have, from the time of the earliest voyagers, been noted for their magnificent and impressive forests. Seen, as the country was, mainly along the coast, and up the estuaries and sounds, the hills and valleys appeared clothed with an almost unbroken dark-green mantle. The climate, though varied, was everywhere favourable to a luxuriant Flora, and stored up in the shady depths of the forest were vast reserves of moisture, which encouraged the growth of all plant-life, and acted as a reservoir for all the streams and rivers.
The gloom of an American pine-forest was not there, as most of the bush areas in New Zealand, at the lower levels, are of a more or less mixed nature, and not confined to any one species of tree. The forest glades were shaded and cool, but the undergrowth of shrubs was vigorous, and ferns of many kinds grew in countless numbers and in all positions, forming mats on the ground, climbing up the trunks of tree-ferns or trees, or perching themselves in the fork of some giant pine or broadleaf, shared their breezy post with, perhaps, an Astelia or some other plant, whose seed had by some chance lodged there, in a suitable place for its development. Life was rampant everywhere. The giant pine, which had struggled and grown skyward during the ages, and had at last died and fallen crashing to the ground, formed in its decay a nursery for the growth of its successors, and numbers of small and lowly forms of plant-life. We can scarcely picture to ourselves any commencement of this domination of the dry land by the vegetable creation, and, doubtless, the areas under bush varied considerably from time to time in accordance with the existing geological conditions; but probably for a long time before the advent of man to New Zealand the land area, as we now see it, was much the same in extent, and largely covered with bush. The advent of savage man would make very little difference in the scene. His tools were feeble, and his wants were few; the only factor of destruction that would make any material difference would be the starting of fires by artificial means, either intentionally or by accident. In this part of the country destructive fires could only occur in exceptional seasons; but some such cause must be put forward to account for the disappearance of the timber from a very large area of Southland and Otago. There is, I believe, a tradition of the whole country between Southland and Canterbury having been swept by “the fire of Tamatea.”
This tradition of a great fire is, however, also found in the North Island, and is considered by experts to relate to an experience in some other country, and to refer to some great fire caused by a volcano. The introduction of agricultural operations has produced certain changes by diverting drainage-channels, draining swamps, and altering generally the original local conditions.
It would be an interesting study, and surely not difficult to accomplish with the co-operation and help of members of the Institute and their friends, to mark on a map the areas in Canterbury and Otago which even now show lingering traces of forest-growth in the shape of buried stumps and huge logs, the heart-wood—often charred—of great trees. In many parts of the North Island great quantities of sound timber is to be found buried, and was much sought after
by the Maoris for carvings and work requiring well-seasoned wood.
During the Maori occupation of New Zealand the natives found in the bush a large quantity of their food-supply, and possessed an accurate knowledge of the trees and shrubs growing in it.
Having thus very briefly noticed what may be called “the past” of the New Zealand bush, let us take a glance at the present position, and what may be the future of it. At the present time the supply of first-class timber easily accessible is by no means large, and, in view of the recent developments in the timber trade, in paving-blocks, and the official attempts to encourage the export trade, it is of special importance that some attention should be given to the subject of utilising the forests to the best advantage. The forestry question is one which has sprung into existence as a science within the last half-century, and has been made the subject of careful study by some of the Continental nations. In India the Government have carried out in a most successful manner the practical management of their extensive forests and plantations, and recently the subject has been forced upon the attention of the United States, and is receiving due attention.
The Governments of New Zealand have already done a little in the way of obtaining reports on the character and areas of their forests, and have very wisely reserved certain areas of bush as climatic reserves, and a department was organized for the conservation of forests, which after a short existence was abolished. The objects aimed at were excellent, and it will yet be found necessary to carry them out, but possibly on different lines.
According to official returns,* there yet remains of the heritage which the colonists have acquired, in the Auckland District, 5,220,000 acres. These forests are described as being full of valuable woods, including all that remains of the kauri, the pride of the New Zealand forests; and I am glad to notice that the report says all the bush is useful for building, fencing, or household purposes; and that upon the Crown lands there is still kauri standing valued at one million and a quarter. The report also remarks that the only really good Crown lands fit for settlement in the north are still covered with forest, and must be cleared and sown before any return can follow. I do not know these lands, but on general principles I hope that they may be preserved as forests, and land for bona fide settlement found elsewhere.
In Taranaki, the gross area of the district is 2,430,000
[Footnote] * New Zealand Year-book, 1894.
acres, and 1,850,000 acres are still bush, 170,000 acres of bush having been already cleared. A forest reserve of 72,000 acres, a circle with a six-mile radius from the top of Mount Egmont, has been made, and has, I find, a Forest Board of Conservators. Of land still available for settlement, 921,000 acres of forest-land remains to be dealt with. Fifty thousand acres may be suitable for agriculture, and 871,000 will be good pastoral land. From this the writer evidently looks forward to a time when the whole of this vast area of bush has been destroyed, and replaced by grass and crops.
In Hawke's Bay there are extensive climatic reserves in the mountain-ranges, and to the north are the primeval forests in which the Ureweras live, at the back of Waikare-moana. The forests known as the Seventy-mile Bush have already yielded an enormous quantity of sawn timber, and a very considerable area of excellent totara forest has been completely destroyed. From the look of the small patches which have here and there escaped destruction by axe or fire, it is more than probable that with proper management the mature timber might have been utilised and the immature trees brought into maturity; and it is a matter for serious inquiry whether the labour, time, and money spent in destroying the bush and putting the land into grass gives a better return than could be got from the valuable timber that might be produced from the land under practical scientific management, together with the utilisation of the by-products and the partial use for grazing purposes. The northern portion of the Seventy-mile Bush supplies not only the greatest quantity but the best quality of the valuable totara timber, and a properly managed area devoted to the growth of this tree would eventually be of great value and benefit to the State.
In the Wellington District, out of 6,000,000 acres, more than half are still under bush, and a large quantity of splendid timber is to be found within this area. Much of it will, however, be always inaccessible owing to the rugged nature of the country.
In the Marlborough District there was formerly about 400,000 acres of forest, but a very large quantity has been cut, and a considerable area cleared.
The forest-land of Nelson comprises about 3,250,000 acres.
The Province of Westland is almost entirely forest-clad from the snows of its mountain-ranges to the sea, and is estimated to contain 2,395,000 acres; and but little, comparatively speaking, has been done in the way of either utilising or destroying any of this important national asset. The heavy rainfall (120in.) on the coast decreases the risk from forest fires, which are assuming serious proportions in dry seasons in Wellington and Hawke's Bay.
Crossing the great range of the Southern Alps we come to a different climate and country, and in the eight or nine million acres in Canterbury the estimated area of forest-land is under half a million acres—an area chiefly made up by patches of bush at the heads of the rivers and on the mountain-slopes.
The treeless plains of Canterbury continue across the Waitaki, and the whole of Northern and Central Otago are practically treeless, and consequently dry—cold in winter and hot in summer. Of the 9,000,000 acres included in the Otago Province only a small portion is forest-land. The Catlin's and Tautuku forests contain a considerable amount of marketable timber, though in the former district the timber most easily accessible has been cut. To the westward there are several considerable patches about the lakes, and the southern and western regions of Southland have still a good deal of bush, but, including Stewart Island, there is only half a million acres out of about 7,000,000 comprised in the district.
The forests in the more immediate vicinity of the centres of civilisation have of necessity been cut out and worked to supply the requirements of trade; and in the goldfields district the scanty trees have been destroyed for mining purposes. To their legitimate use no objection can be taken, however one may regret the manner in which it has been done; but when the beautiful scenery of some of our lakes has been temporarily ruined, in part by fires, raised either intentionally or unintentionally, it is a different matter, and one which cannot be too widely discussed and deprecated. The instances which we have already had of the ravages fire may make in a few hours in a forest which has been the growth of centuries render it imperative that every care should be taken, under proper directions, for the conservation of the natural beauties in each and every place when they are not in the way of the advancement of the settlement of the country.
In this connection it is satisfactory to notice the plantation reserves made in various parts of Otago, and the apparent impetus given within the last few years to tree-planting by the institution of Arbor Day. That the interest of settlers can be aroused in tree-planting and improving bare and waste places is apparent. Observation also shows that, with the best intentions, ignorance of the kinds of trees most suitable for such planting is widespread; and to a certain extent this is not to be wondered at, as it is quite impossible to recommend a selection of any considerable number of trees that would certainly grow and prosper under unknown conditions of soil, aspect, or climate.
The neat gardens at our railway-stations, and the local
efforts of the Amenities Society, are having a decidedly good effect already on the environs of Dunedin, and thus indirectly on all those who may see, as we in Dunedin have seen, the waste places, if not “blossom as the rose,” at least become places where the eye may refresh itself with the sight of well-grown and well-cared-for trees and flowering shrubs. Turning again to the forests of the country, and regarding them as the property of the nation, what do we find to be the state of affairs? The area of forest-covered land at the present time is, roughly speaking, twenty and a half millions of acres. The State forest reserves, including those made for climatic purposes, amount to 1,141,778 acres. The area of the North and South Islands, with Stewart Island, being about 66,341,000 acres, there is, therefore, nearly a third of New Zealand still bush, and reasonable provision seems to have been made by the State for the protection of river-sources, &c. Several Governments have also encouraged plantation of areas in treeless districts by either bonuses or grants of land. The Vogel Government in particular employed a well-qualified expert—Captain Campbell Walker, of the Indian Forestry Department—to report on the forests; and, although the examination was unavoidably a hurried one, and there was great difficulty in getting reliable statistics, the report presented was a valuable one. It points out that, though there was no immediate prospect of a dearth of timber or of injurious effects from clearing, it was imperative that State reserves should be made, not only for domestic reasons, but with a view of providing revenue for the initial expenses and maintenance of a scientific department of forestry, and for the replanting denuded hill-sides and plains destitute of timber. He also points out that no forests, however large, are inexhaustible unless worked under systematic principles which insure precautions being taken against waste in the procuring of the timber and proper methods followed for reproduction and protection against fire and damage from animals. Again, in the case of the so-called inexhaustible forest of the wet West Coast, a great proportion is situated in very inaccessible places, and is of little or no commercial value as timber; besides which, in the case of narrow valleys with steep, shingly sides, covered with but a thin coating of vegetable deposit, we cannot be too careful how the forest is removed, the result of any general or extensive clearing being that the little soil there is is soon washed away, leaving bare hill-sides of no value for any purpose, and resulting, by the rapid pouring-off of the rain-water, in most disastrous floods, followed by long and often equally disastrous droughts.
This is so well known and recognised on the Continent of Europe that what is known as “selection felling,” by which
individual trees only are removed as they mature, is the system universally in force, and experience teaches us that any departure from it under such circumstances is very dangerous, and should be invariably avoided if possible. This must strike any one who has studied the subject; and no conclusion is more firmly impressed on my mind than that, whilst New Zealand has a splendid and most valuable property in her forests as they exist now (1877), she must be very careful in her management of them, and no longer proceed blindfold in their disposal and removal, otherwise she will not only lose them, without any adequate return or income to the public or colonial purse, but very much beside in the way of equable climate, and ample but not excessive supply of water, which years of labour and heavy expenditure will hardly replace.* In endeavouring to arrive at any understanding of the manner in which the forests, public and private, are dealt with in New Zealand, reference must be made to this report; and it is evident from the valuable summary given at page 45 by Mr. Thomas Kirk, F.L.S., that at that time there was nothing like a uniform system of controlling the use or the abuse of the national forests.
With regard to the future of our forests, there is one danger which becomes year by year more imminent, for as the settlement of the country progresses fires are started on every hand, either to burn the felled bush or scrub or for grass-burning. It is from uncontrolled fires that I apprehend most danger to the forests and greatest destruction to the scenery and natural features. In consequence of the fearful forest fires which ravaged five of the American States on the Canadian border last year, the National Government will probably be moved to override with a comprehensive Act the legislation of the various States, and make some general provision for taking precautions against such disasters; and any Bill for this purpose that bears the stamp of expert scientific knowledge will no doubt receive the support of the senators. This matter, and the prevention of “lumber-stealing,” is attracting much attention in America just now, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Irrigation Congress having indorsed a plan proposed by one of the Harvard professors for the management of the forest reserves already made and to be made. It contemplates the transfer of all these reserves to the War Department, and their supervision or management by army officers, to be educated in the principles of scientific forestry at West Point Military Academy or elsewhere, the force of labourers to be employed to consist of a forest guard, locally enlisted. A number of
[Footnote] * Report of Captain Campbell Walker, C.-3, Parl. Rept., 1877.
letters from experts have already appeared on the subject in the American magazines, and all seem to recognise that a disciplined force judiciously handled could control many of the disastrous fires which occasionally ravage the country, although they do not agree on the details of administration. Matters have been dealt with in British India much more practically, and regulations against forest fires have been enacted for the last twenty years—at least, in all the provinces under our control, and also to a certain extent within the native States. As a result of these regulations, and the careful management of the Indian Forest Department, 23,144 square miles of State forest in India were protected from fire in 1891, at a cost of nine rupees per square mile, and this in addition to large areas of evergreen forest where no danger from fire exists. The chief of the American Bureau of Forestry has recently stated that the annual loss to the Government by thieves is from ten to fifteen million dollars, whilst that by fire is probably twice as much more. To protect the 20,000 square miles of Government forest land a paltry force of twenty to twenty-four watchmen is employed, and even these are not armed with sufficient authority. They are barely able to reclaim some hundred thousand dollars' worth of timber annually from depredation, which only suffices to pay the expenses of the maintenance of the service. Proper protection would require an outlay of two or three million dollars, and would preserve twenty to fifty million dollars' worth of property in each year.
It is not suggested that the above are parallel cases to ours in New Zealand, and fortunately the majority of our forests are green and not so highly inflammable as the vast pine-tracts of America; still, those who have paid any attention to the subject will recognise that, if in the neighbourhood of valuable or specially beautiful bush the local population were properly organized and instructed, much might be done to minimise the great damage which has from time to time been suffered, not only financially, but from the æsthetic point of view. It is much to be regretted that the New Zealand settler has been encouraged to do his best to destroy utterly every green thing upon his section, and that he looks forward with anxious fears and hopes to the burning of not only his timber and brushwood, but in many cases most of his mould or soil. No doubt the cleared bush-land will give him a chance of forming beautiful grassy paddocks, with a heavy sward of English grasses. It is true that New Zealand bush will not, as a rule, bear tampering with, and that trees or clumps, if left, will soon perish; but it would be well if those who hold bush-land which is to be felled would carefully examine it and see if there are not some naturally isolated portions which could
be spared—at any rate for the present. I even hope that before long, when bush-lands are put up for sale, in all large blocks such natural reserves will be described, and, if not reserved or protected, that the purchaser will have his attention drawn to the possibility of conserving that portion and the desirability of its being done.
It may, perhaps, be of some interest to the members if I give you some account of how some of the European nations manage their timber resources, and how far civic rights override private interests.
In Germany the schools of forestry are in the highest state of development, and expert knowledge is easily procurable, and is widely diffused through the Empire; and probably it is owing to this that the actual laws regarding the use of private forest property are less stringent than among other nations who have paid less attention to the subject. The various Governments own and manage in a conservative spirit about one-third of the forest area, and they also control the management of another sixth, which belongs to cities, villages, and public institutions, in so far as these committees are obliged to employ expert foresters, and must submit their working-plans to Government for approval, thus preventing improvident and wasteful administration. The principle on which the control is based is one which we recognise when we limit by law the indebtedness any community or town may incur. The other half of the privately-owned forests is managed mostly without interference by trained foresters, who receive their education in one of the eight higher and several lower schools of forestry which the various Governments have established.
In Bavaria, Baden, Würtemberg, and other principalities, clearing without the consent of the authorities and devastation of private forests are forbidden, and there are also some regulations regarding the maintenance of protective forests; but, altogether, the laws are not stringent.
In Prussia, which represents two-thirds of Germany, private forests are absolutely free from governmental interference. When, however, a neighbour fears that by the clearing of an adjoining forest his land may be injured he can call for a viewing jury, and possibly obtain an injunction against the clearing, if such anticipated damage is proved. The Government can also make application for such a process in cases where damage to the public can be proved from a wilful treatment of a private forest. The tendency of the Government has in practice been rather towards persuasive methods. Thus, in addition to buying up or acquiring by exchange and reforesting waste lands—some 300,000 acres have been so reforested during the past twenty-five years—the Government gives assistance to private owners
in reforesting their waste land. Popular opinion is now calling for a closer supervision and an extension of the control of the State over the use of private forest property.
The status of forest legislation is very different in Austria, where, with a larger proportion of mountainous territory, the results of the unrestricted exercise of the free-will of the private owners are more severely felt. The Mediterranean coast, which was ever well wooded and watered, rich and fruitful, and famous for its mild climate, has been changed into an arid and sterile plain, interspersed with stony and parched hillsides, the replanting of which was well-nigh made impossible by the opening of the country to the hot, dry winds. This and other experiences led in 1852 to the adoption of a forest law, by which strict supervision is provided for over the forests owned by communities and also over those owned by private individuals. Not only are the State forests (less than 30 per cent. of the forest area) rationally managed, and local administration supervised, but private owners (holding 32 per cent.) are prevented from devastating their forest property to the detriment of their neighbours. No clearing for agricultural purposes can be made without the consent of the district authorities, from which, however, there is an appeal to a civil judge as arbitrator. When dangers from land-slides, avalanches, or torrents are feared, and private owners cannot bear the expense of precautionary measures, the State may expropriate. Any cleared or cut forest must be replanted or resown within five years. On sandy soils and mountain-sides clearing is forbidden, and only cutting of the ripe timber is allowed. When damage is feared from the removal of a forest-belt which acted as a breakwind, the owner may not remove it until the neighbour has had time to secure his own protection. That neglect in taking care of forest fires subjects the offender not only to fine but to paying damages to the injured goes without saying. In addition, freedom from taxation for twenty-five years is granted for all new plantations, and premiums are paid under certain circumstances. The authorities aid in the fighting of fires as well as in destroying insect-pests. Finally, to insure a rational management of forests, the owners of large areas must employ competent foresters, whose qualifications must satisfy the authorities, opportunity for the education of such being given in seven higher-, three middle-, and four lower-class forestry schools.
In Hungary also, where liberty of private-property rights and strong objection to Government interference had been jealously upheld, a complete reaction set in some years ago, which led to the law of 1880, giving the State control of private property, as in Austria.
Italy furnishes perhaps the best object-lesson of the relation between forest-cover and water-flow. In 1888 it was generally recognised that steps must be taken to arrest the destruction of the forests on the hills, and by the laws then passed the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the forestal committee of the district, is to designate the territory which, for public reasons, must be reforested under Government control. Private owners may associate themselves for the purpose of reforestation of areas, and may then borrow money at a low rate of interest from the State Soil Credit Institution. The Forest Department contributes three-fifths of the cost on the condition that the reforestation is done according to the plans of, and within the time specified by, the Government. Where the owners do not consent or fail to do the work, the department has the right to expropriate and reforest alone—the owners having, however, the right to redeem within five years by paying expenses up to dáte. The department has also the right to restrict pasturage in alpine forests, paying, however, for damage sustained by the owner. Under the above regulations half a million acres have been replanted.
It was in 1888 also that Russia put an end to liberty to cut, burn, destroy, and devastate. The law as it now stands is administered, as far as protective forests go, by a forestry council, consisting of law officers, officers of the general administration, and the local forestry administrators. For private forests, not classed as protective, the right to clear is to be dependent on the consent of the council; while, too severe cutting, or the cutting of too large a proportion of timber without a view to reproduction, is forbidden. If any devastation takes place replanting becomes obligatory, and the Government forester may execute the planting at the expense of the delinquent owner. Assistance is given towards rational forest-management, and the Government sustains four higher, seven middle, and thirteen lower forestry schools.
In Switzerland sporadic enactments of individual cantons to check forest devastation are found as early as the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries, but it is only within the present century that the matter has been seriously taken in hand by the different cantons. In 1876 a Federal law was passed which gives the Federation control over the forests of the mountain region, embracing eight entire cantons and parts of seven others, or over a million acres of forest. The Federation itself does not own any forest-land, and the cantons hardly a hundred thóusand acres—somewhat over 4 per cent. of the forest area, two-thirds of which is held in communal ownership and the rest by private owners. The law is quite remarkable as illus-
trating the rational principles upon which the little republic works, maintaining close relationship between the general and cantonal governments. The Federal authorities have supervision over all cantonal, communal, and private forests so far as they are “Protective forests”; but the execution of the law rests with the cantonal authorities, under the inspection of Federal officers. “Protective forests” are those which, by reason of elevation and situation on steep mountain-sides, or on marshy soils on the banks of brooks or rivers, or where a deficiency of woodland exists, serve as a protection against injurious climatic influences, damages from winds, avalanches, land-slides, falls of rock, inundations, &c. The cutting in these forests is regulated so as to insure a conservative use and to prevent destruction. Where needful reforestation is mandatory, the Federal and cantonal governments share in the expense, or may expropriate, with payment of full indemnification to the owners. No diminution of the forest area within the established area of supervised forest is permissible, and replanting is prescribed where necessary; nor can township or corporation forests be sold without the consent of the cantonal authorities. The national government contributes from 30 to 70 per cent. of the cost for the establishment of new forests, and from 20 to 50 per cent. for planting in protective forests. Where special difficulties in reforestation are encountered, or where the planting is deemed of general utility, the cantonal government assumes the obligation of caring for and providing improvements in the plantings. The employment of educated foresters is obligatory, and, to render this possible, courses of lectures to the active foresters are maintained in the cantons. There is also an excellent forestry school at Zurich.
In France, before the Revolution, the Forest Code of 1669 enjoined private owners to manage their forests upon the principles on which the Government forests were managed, which was by no means a very rational management, according to modern ideas, yet was meant to be conservative and systematic. During the Revolution a law forbidding clearing for twenty-five years was enacted; and later laws, the most important of which are those of 1860, 1862, and 1882, establish the control of the State over all “protective forests,” and make mandatory the reforestation of denuded mountains. Not only does the State manage its own forest property (one-ninth of the forest area) in approved manner, and supervise the management of forests belonging to communities and public institutions (double the area of the State forests) in a manner similar to the regulation of forests in Germany, but it extends its control over the large area of private forests by forbidding any clearing except with the consent of the forest administration.
The reforestation of denuded mountain-slopes is encouraged by the granting of financial aid or of plant material, in proportion to the general good resulting from the work. If it is found necessary to take land and plant it (in cases where the owners are unwilling or unable to do the work), the Government do the work and hold the land until the cost is repaid.
The Government, if desired, or where success depends on it, superintends the planting, and also regulates the use of these protective forests afterwards. The success of the Government in replanting the sandy wastes in the south of France is well known; and in a recent report of the British Consul at Bordeaux he refers to the forests, which cover about a third of the department, especially the Landes District, where the soil is wholly unfitted for ordinary cultivation. Here, he says, forests of pines (P. maritima) have in recent times been planted, and the wood and the resin obtained from them have now become an important, and in some instances the sole, source of revenue of the people of those districts. In the parts distant from towns and other inhabited places resin is chiefly produced, while in places nearer to Bordeaux or other shipping ports, where means of transportation exist, the production of pit-props, railway-sleepers, telegraph-poles, and wood for fuel form the chief business. A new oil, called pine-oil, is now being made from the refuse of resin after the latter has been employed in making turpentine. It is a good illumi-nant, cheaper than kerosene, and non-explosive. A large quantity of the young pines are used in making certain kinds of paper.
In order to gain the confidence and co-operation of the communities and proprietors in planting fresh areas, annual meetings were held in different parts of the country, in which the Government agents explained the advantages and methods of reboisement and discussed the local conditions and difficulties. These meetings proved a great success, and much advanced the cause of rational forestry. As a result of these meetings, and of the education resulting from them, it was found that in 1888 an area of about 365,000 acres had been reforested, of which 90,000 were private and 125,000 communal property, the rest belonging to the State.
The cost per acre for reforesting was somewhat less than £2, and the State has expended already about £2,000,000. It is estimated that 800,000 acres more are to be reforested, and an additional expenditure of seven millions and a half is necessary before the damage done to the agricultural lands of eighteen French departments by reckless forest-destruction will be repaired.*
[Footnote] * For the details concerning the European countries I am much indebted to an article by B. E. Fernow, in the Century Magazine, April, 1894.
In recent years the Government of India has paid much attention to the preservation of its valuable forests, and is now reaping the benefit in the large income derived from the sale of timber. The establishment of the Government department of forestry is of recent date, brought about by the destruction of the forests for fuel, for charcoal, and other wasteful courses. In 1844 and 1847 the subject was first taken up by the Governors of Bombay and Madras. In 1864 an Inspector-General of Forests was appointed, and in 1867 the regular training of forestry officers was commenced in the schools in France and Germany, where it is still continued.
At present discriminate timber-cutting is allowed, but the burning of hill-bush is stopped, the forest areas are surveyed and marked out, plantations laid out and maintained, and forestry-conservation otherwise carried on.
Forests are classified as “reserved” and “open.” The former are the immediate property of the State, and are managed by the Forestry Department, their development being a source of revenue. Cattle are excluded from them, undergrowth destroyed, and the cutting of timber strictly regulated. The open forests are less strictly guarded, but certain kinds of timber-trees are protected. Large sums are spent annually in new plantations, and in planting young trees to replace those cut. In 1878 there were 12,000,000 acres of reserved forests; the revenue was £660,000, and the expenditure £400,000, showing a fair nett profit. Ten years later (1888) there were 43,520,000 acres of State-forest land, the nett revenue, after deducting all working-expenses, being £400,000. The forestry officials generally hold that the effect of forest-denudation on rainfall is doubtful, and much disputed. Contrary to what might have been expected, there is no evidence to show whether the actual rainfall has increased or decreased in consequence. They all agree, however, that forest-denudation has acted injuriously by letting flood-waters run off too rapidly, and that these waters are practically lost.
Three-quarters of a century ago, immense tracts of Southern India were overspread with jungle, and the slopes of the Ghauts were universally timber-clad. The most of the level woodland has since been cleared for cultivation, and the timber cut down for fuel. But another and scarcely less evil has resulted. Formerly the water was more or less protected from evaporation by the sheltering trees. Its flow on the surface was mechanically reduced by the jungle-grass and tree-trunks; it had time to sink into the earth, thereby insuring the permanence of the natural springs. Not till this was done did the residue find its way to the rivers, and then at a comparatively tardy pace. Now, however, as a
rule, the rivers are in violent flood for about as many days as they used to be for weeks in moderate flood.
Turning again to New Zealand, we find that the extensive burnings of the tussocks and small scrub has produced similar conditions in many of our rivers, the rainfall flowing almost immediately into the channels, and not being detained by coarse or dense vegetable growth. Fortunately, however, there are few places in this country where extensive replanting is required for protective purposes. But in this part of the South Island, the Otago and Canterbury Plains, much may be done by the planting of timber trees suited to the locality, the wood of which will be of service for manufactures or industries. The experience of the European countries and of the United States seems to show that a central administration is essential, administering a well-drawn scientific Forest Act, in conjunction with such local authorities as may be advisable, the chief aim being to indicate the proper methods of dealing with the timber now most easily accessible so as to prevent undue waste, and, wherever possible, to encourage the work of reproducing the forests; also to arrange for easy access to the best forests, and to provide for their safety from fire or unauthorised destruction. What is required may be shortly stated under the following heads:—
Forest-management, which would deal with all parts of forest science which influence the control and working regulations, including finance.
Forest-utilisation, which would deal with the technical qualities of timber, consumption of wood, the felling and shaping of trees, the disposal and transport of wood, the harvesting of by-products, such as resins and turpentines, &c.
Forest-protection against fires and man, against animals, insects, fungi, having regard also to climatic considerations.
Lastly, sylviculture, or the creation, regeneration, and recovery of woods adapted to the varying local circumstances. For this part of the country this branch of the subject has the greatest importance, and demands an exact knowledge of the principles of the science.
Forestry, besides these branches of study, is largely based upon empirical knowledge, and to insure the best results forest science or theory must go hand-in-hand with practical forestry, neither the one nor the other by itself making a forest expert. The importance and absolute necessity of this is shown by the courses followed at the various forestry schools in Europe, at all of which practical instruction is strongly insisted on.
There is one other cognate subject that I should like to say a few words on, and that is irrigation. If fruit-growing and vine-culture is to be such an important factor with those
who live “over the garden-wall” in Central Otago it will be necessary in many places to provide for irrigation. The annual reports of the United States Irrigation Survey, from the commencement in 1888, are to be seen in our library, and if those members who are interested in the subject will consult these volumes I am able to promise them an interesting and valuable series of memoirs on the progress of the investigation of the hydrographical and topographical problems of irrigation. Amongst other things, attention is called to the more modern methods of gauging river-flows, and the great discrepancies sometimes found to exist in this respect between theory and actual results.
The question also of the water-supplies for our towns is one of great importance, but has scarcely received the attention it is entitled to. I trust that the local authorities will take care that the catchment areas of our town reservoirs are kept well covered with either bush or native scrub; otherwise, as I have pointed out, the rainfall over the whole area is thrown off more quickly than it should be, and the town suffers either from a flood or a water-famine. None of the catchment area should be used for grazing either sheep or cattle. The alpine and subalpine forests are, of course, of great importance in regulating the supply of water available for gold-mining operations, and should be strictly conserved and increased where possible.
In thus glancing at some of the points connected with the forest question in New Zealand, and at the manner in which other countries have been compelled to grapple with the question, I trust that I have not been too diffuse for the short time at our disposal; but my object will have been gained if our members, and members living in Central Otago in particular, will endeavour to gather information bearing on the questions and send it to the society, and so long as I continue in office I shall have much pleasure in doing my best to collect and arrange such facts; and I trust that in the not-very-distant future some member will be found who will take the matter in hand, and upon those data write a paper showing what is required to be done in definite districts, and how best to do it. It is only by recording and studying past successes and failures that progress is to be made; and a record of the experiments made by the various County Councils, Road Boards, and private individuals would have a permanent value; and it would be an interesting work, involving, however, some labour and time, to collect the information regarding the kinds of trees that have been planted, and those most successful. We must all hope that the days when nothing but Pinus insignis and Cupressus macrocarpa were planted are passed away.
In the matter of the forests at large, I have already said that I think there is little fear of destruction by legitimate use, but ravages from fire, especially in alpine districts, are to be dreaded, and must be guarded against. I would urge members to assist, when the time comes, in any way that they can, the organization of a scientific Government control of all the mighty forests of this land of ours. If the services of properly-trained men were obtained, and the administration of the State forests well organized, they might, I am sure, be made within a very short time to return a substantial nett income, more especially as the recent developments in the timber trade in England seem to promise a new opening for New Zealand woods, and, unless the opportunity is lost by either carelessness or dishonest shipping, important results may follow. It should be remembered that England imports twenty million pounds' worth of timber annually.