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Volume 48, 1915
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Presidential Address

The following is the presidential address delivered at the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the New Zealand Institute, at Wellington, on the 28th January, 1916, by Mr D Petrie, M A. Ph D :—.

Gentlemen of the Board of Governors of the New Zealand Institute,—We meet again with the cloud of war hanging over the Empire Our own land has had its share of suffering and sorrow, but the daring and heroism of its sons have already created a glorious tradition that can never be forgotten or sullied by the dwellers in these Islands Our isolation and the protection of the British War Fleet allow us to go about our usual affairs with little distraction other than the anxiety which the passing weeks bring along.

The 47th volume of the Transactions of the Institute was accordingly issued in July last The volume is considerably larger than those of recent years, extending to over 700 pages exclusive of plates Among its varied contents is the usual large number of important contributions to local natural history, geology, and cognate subjects The original papers in the various branches of zoological research are specially numerous and valuable, and several of them. it may be noted with satisfaction, are by young and promising workers.

For a good many years past the annual volume of Transactions has been issued in flimsy paper covers At the suggestion of om Secretary I authorized the binding of the last-issued volume in stiff paper boards with a back of thin binding-cloth. This will prove a great convenience to those who do not care to bind the book and have frequent occasion to consult it, and the increased cost is practically met by the saving in packing the books for transmission by post, as an ordinary paper cover is now sufficient to ensure safe carriage.

It is obvious that the increased size of the volume means increased outlay in printing and postage The Printer's bill alone exceeds by more than £70 the statutory grant of £500, which is all we can reckon on to cover the cost of publications and the Board's management For two years a supplementary grant of £250 was voted by Parliament, but this and to our scanty funds was not renewed last session. The Board is consequently faced with a considerable deficiency on the year's operations and I fear will be compelled to resort to a levy on the funds of the incorporated societies Should Parliament decline to pass a supplementary vote hereafter, a result which all interested in scientific inquiry must deplore

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this levy will no doubt become a permanent feature in the Board's finance. As to the amount of the levy, it is imperative that it be kept as low as possible, for the incorporated societies have numerous unavoidable obligations which their income from subscriptions does little more than meet.

Until our financial position is greatly improved, retrenchment in our outlay is unavoidable. I am of opinion that the bulk of the Transactions (and, by consequence, the amount of the Printer's bill) could be very considerably reduced without any serious impairment of the value of their contents. Is it really needful to print year by year the whole of the matter included in the Appendix? Or is there any great urgency about the publication of lists of new plant-habitats, accounts of the fauna or flora of single counties or other limited districts, and many of the papers on Maori culture, customs, and folk-lore submitted for publication? Such articles might well be passed over until the Board is once more in a position to print them without “outrunning the constable.” It seems to me, further, that papers on abstruse mathematical subjects might be altogether excluded from our Transactions, in the interests of their writers if for no better reason, for such papers are simply buried in our publications, and would far more fitly see the light of day in some of the special journals devoted to this branch of inquiry. The Publication Committee, by sternly refusing to accept for publication diffuse and verbose papers unless condensed to their satisfaction, could do much to ease our periodical financial difficulties.

Owing to our limited funds, only one bulletin has been issued during the year. The manuscript material for two additional bulletins has been held over. One of these is a long and valuable paper by Major T. Broun on new New Zealand Coleoptera. Major Broun is naturally greatly disappointed at the delay in publication, and I trust that the Board will authorize its publication as a bulletin early in the present year. Other means of publication are indeed available, but it is most desirable that the paper should be published here, as it is merely a continuation of other papers we have published already. Prolonged delay in dealing with this paper may result in loss of priority for the new genera and species described, in which case its learned and enthusiastic author would be deprived of the well-merited and sole reward of his months and months of continuous labour and research.

It is now more than two years since the Science and Art Act was placed on the statute-book, but the special Board set up under its provisions has not yet come to the birth. The arrangements for a possible transfer of the library of the Institute, authorized at the Board's last meeting, are consequently in abeyance. It is understood that a meeting will be held immediately.

In the course of the year the Institute's library has been rearranged, so that the publications of any given society or institution can now be easily traced The books and papers have been stamped on the outside of the cover, and can thus be readily distinguished from the other works located in the Dominion Museum library-room It is a pity that the Institute's stamp has not been placed here and there in the body of the books, as they are mostly in thin paper covers, this can, however, be done hereafter without difficulty. The Honorary Librarian and the other gentlemen who assisted him in carrying out these improvements deserve the cordial thanks of the Board My predecessor in the President's chair argued in favour of a division of our library among the four University centres of the Dominion To this proposal I am very decidedly opposed, but there is no need for recording the reasons for my view, as the project seems unlikely to meet with general support.

I may use the present opportunity to point out a conspicuous and most regrettable defect in the museums of this Dominion I refer to their failure to provide any worthy collection of the native and introduced plants that grow within its borders The only fairly complete herbaria in the country are the property of some two or three private persons; no museum contains anything at all comparable with these It is high time that steps were taken to remedy this anomaly. The Dominion Museum at least should be provided as soon as may be possible with a full and varied collection of the native and naturalized plants of our Islands Such a collection should not be confined to flowering-plants and ferns, but should cover the whole of the flora It would be a signal service to biological science if the Director of the Dominion Museum could take this branch of museum service in hand, and make the institution over which he presides more and more a centre of light and leading for all who are prosecuting plant studies Photographs of specimen plants and trees, and of selected spots of wild nature showing the plant societies that adorn our mountain valleys and slopes and other stations of interest, should also be got together and placed on exhibition The late Mr. H. J Matthews in the course of his wanderings about New Zealand accumulated a large and splendid collection of photographs of the kind here referred to, and it is a matter

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for sincere regret that his fine series of photographs was not secured for the Dominion Museum.

Some small sums of public money have been expended on special botanical surveys, and reports of these have been published, but so far as I am aware the botanical material collected has not been used to enrich any public museum. In any further research of this kind that may be undertaken, it might easily be arranged that as full collections as possible of the plants observed should be made with a view to their permanent preservation in the Dominion Museum. If photographs could also be secured, so much the better. I would suggest further that the help of survey parties employed in the Government service should be enlisted in this good cause. Many of the gentlemen who direct such parties are interested in native plants, and could with little trouble collect and dry numbers of specimens not easy to procure in flower and fruit by other agencies The Inspector and local officers of our forest and scenic reserves, and the Superintendents of the State nurseries, could also give valuable help in getting together a worthy natural collection of native and naturalized plants.

Early in the past year the two volumes of “Illustrations of the New Zealand Flora.' edited by Mr T F Cheeseman and Dr W. Botting Hemsley, issued from the press some little time before, became available for reference by those interested in botanical research. This fine work is in all respects worthy of the reputation of its distinguished editors I was a member of the deputation from a conference of School Inspectors that waited on the late Mr. Seddon to urge him to authorize the preparation of a new Flora of New Zealand, the work to be accompanied by a volume of illustrative drawings With his usual public spirit and regard for the interests of country settlers, he promised favourable consideration of the deputation's request, and expressed his desire that the drawings should be such as would enable miners and country dwellers generally to gain, if they so desired, a knowledge of the common plants growing in their neighbourhood The suggestion offered by the deputation was that there should be a drawing of one species of each of our genera of flowering-plants and ferns, and one for each section of the larger genera in which well-marked sections are recognized This design was evidently known to the late Mr. T. Kirk, to whom the production of the new flora was entrusted, though he did not live to complete more than half the task The preface to the “Students' Flora of New Zealand.” as Mr Kirk's work was entitled, shows that it was the intention of the Education Department, which was charged with the production of the book to include in the series of plates many previously published drawings of native plants, no doubt on a reduced scale Arrangements were even made with Messrs Reeve and Co, of London, by payment of a small royalty, to utilize many of the numerous plates of native plants contained in the classical works on the floras of New Zealand and Tasmania by the late Sir J D Hooker. I consider it most regrettable that the Education Department should have consented to the abandonment of the plan roughly sketched out in the above-mentioned preface, no doubt with the late Mr Seddon's approval What was wanted to foster a popular interest in botanical inquiry was a set of plant drawings somewhat on the lines of Bentham's Illustrations of the British Flora. A work of some such kind would, no doubt, have aroused among intelligent country residents a growing interest in the local vegetation, and opened up for them a pleasant recreation, it would have made the path of all beginners in plant studies easy and sure, and would have helped to bung to the front many who are now turned away from such pursuits by the unfamiliar technical language in which accurate botanical descriptions must be set forth. For botanists outside our Dominion who wish to gain a more extended acquaintance with the New Zealand flora than S [ unclear: ] Joseph Hooker's works made available, the new volumes of illustrations are entirely suitable, but residents in the Dominion will find the books costly and unwieldy and deficient in figures of a great many of the most common and most widely diffused native plants. As it seems to me, a great opportunity for stimulating popular interest in plant studies, and for enriching the non-selfish life interests of the coming generation, has been turned to poor account The excellent list of illustrations of New Zealand plants previously published is a valuable feature of the new volumes.

An important scientific publication of the year is the atlas of plates in illustration of the recently published “Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca” by Mr Hemy Suter This work contains a very large number of figures of Recent shells, in general beautifully executed, and is well fitted to stimulate closer and more general study of this department of zoology Together with the author's Manual this atlas will enable any one drawn to the subject to get abreast of the present state of our knowledge of the molluscous fauna, and entice beginners in its study to go forward under highly favourable conditions The book, it may be

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noted, is reasonably cheap, is of convenient size, and contains a very ample representative series of figures. The Government Printer can be warmly congratulated on the production of this fine work.

Two years hence the New Zealand Institute will have reached its fiftieth year of activity. The New Zealand Institute Act was passed in 1867, the “Abstracts of Rules and Statutes” was gazetted on the 9th March, and the inaugural meeting was held on the 4th August, 1868. It may be desirable to hold some formal celebration of the semi-centenary of the Institute's foundation.

An important event in the development of science and its practical applications within our Dominion is the recent generous bequest of a very large sum for these purposes by the late Mr. Cawthron, of Nelson. When the Cawthron Institute has commenced its activities we may look for very considerable benefits to many of our prominent industries, and to a growing number of scientific workers who may there be trained for research without submitting to the shackles that university degrees too often impose on the courses of study and the training of students at our universities.

A month or two ago the Honorary Editor of the Transactions (Dr. Charles Chilton) communicated to me his desire to be relieved of this onerous office, owing to a sudden enlargement of his other work. For his gratuitous and laborious services as Editor for some years past Dr. Chilton deserves the warmest thanks of this Board. It would be in several ways convenient if the new Editor were resident in Wellington. The filling of the position will come before you in the course of this meeting.

Our experienced Secretary (Mr. B. C. Aston) has been appointed a member of the Board as one of the Government representatives. Mr. Aston has intimated to me that he will be prepared to act as Honorary Secretary for some time to come. The Board will be invited later to consider how the office can be best filled. Should Mr Aston's generous offer be accepted it will help to lessen the cost of administration.

Arrangements for distributing the large stock of surplus copies of the Transactions which, through the kindness of the Librarian, are now stored, not without inconvenience, in the Parliamentary Buildings will be submitted for the consideration of the Board It is proposed to offer as complete sets as possible to all public libraries and all secondary and technical schools free of cost, other than that of transmission to their destination.

The Standing Committee has considered the propriety of increasing the number of scientific societies and institutions to which our Transactions are presented annually, and proposals to give effect to their views will no doubt be submitted at the present meeting.