WAIUKU WANTS A RAILWAY.
A PROSPEROUS STRETCH OF COUNTRY.
DEMONSTRATION BY THE RAILWAY LEAGUE.
If the man who once raised a hornet’s nest by asking the now historic question “Where is Waiuku?” had been anywhere in the neighbourhood on Tuesday he could not have remained long in doubt. All roads led to Waiuku, and Waiuku itself was gay with bunting and full of people. To reach Waiuku, you, hare either to go by boat from the Manukau, or take train to Pukekohe and drive in the coach thirteen and a- half miles in a south-westerly direction. Waiuku thinks the time has now come when it should have railway communication with the railway line, and the more people who know it the better Waiuku will be pleased. Yesterday the Railway League had a party of Legislative Councillors and members of Parliament up from Auckland, and gave them a splendid banquet, at which the intentions of the district with regard to this railway were explained. The outing was a great success, and the movement undoubtedly received a fillip which should be most encouraging to those who are at the head of affairs. The Parliamentarians went up to Pukekohe by the express, and were met by Messrs Barter (president of the Mauku branch and chairman of the reception committee), J. Makgill (president of the Waiuku branch), J. Chalmers (president of the Pakington branch), F. E. Simpson (secretary of the Mauku branch and of the reception committee), W. Howard, H. E. R. Wily, and J. Patterson. The party was driven out in conveyances supplied by Mr Landon, of Bombay, and and Parker, of Pukekohe, and en route the hosts pointed out the country it was proposed to tap by the branch line. At Patumahoe the settlers had marked the occasion by a bright display of bunting, and here, as at several other points on the journey, the school children were lined up outside the school to give the visitors a cheer as they drove past. Mr W. F. Massey, the member for the district, gave a short address from the steps of the hotel to the residents.
Passing by the pretty little Mauku church, which figured prominently in a stirring incident of the Maori war, and Bald Hill, where an engagement was fought, the party was driven on to the farm oi Mr Grimmer, from the hill at the back of whose homestead a wonderful panorama unrolls itself on every hand. Away to the north the peaks of One Tree Hill, Mount Eden, and the many other hills mark the position of Auckland city, with familiar old Rangitoto’s triple crown in the background. At one’s feet winds an arm of the broad Manukau right up to Waiuku’s doorstep. Away to the east runs the undulating country studded with farms. The western horizon is a long, wavy line of the near-by sand hills of the West Coast. Turning to the south, there, almost at the foot of the hill we are standing on, the broad Waikato River flows round the Raglan ranges to join the sea at Port Waikato, which is indicated by a gap in the sand dunes towards the south. Between us lies the Aka Aka swamp and the Otau swamp, which are now worth more pounds an acre than they were shillings a few years ago, before drainage works were undertaken. On every hand rolls the farm-studded country, which is a revelation to the Aucklander who sees it for the first time. In spite of the drought, it still has a prosperous look, and seen in the spring time, clothed in living green, it is indeed a sight to feast the eyes upon. The visitors quite appreciated the eagerness of the Waiuku people for railway communication after gazing on the view from Grimmer’s Hill.
As the party drove over the bridge at the entrance to the township, the Waiuku Band, under Mr Chandler, struck up, and all Waiuku assembled to welcome the visitors. A liberal show of flags strung across the main street completed the evidence that Waiuku regarded the visit as something to be remembered. There was a very large gathering of the residents of the township and the settlers from the out-districts mustered in great strength. It was two o’clock when the party sat down to a sumptuous banquet in the Public Hall, catered for by Mr Molloy, of the Kentish Hotel. The reception committee—Messrs Shakespeare, A. M. Barriball, E. Barriball, Rossiter, Pilgrim, Barter, Howard, Cotter, McElwain, Chalmers, Dromgool, Albrecht, and Simpson — had made the most complete arrangements, which went off without a hitch.
Mr Barter presided, and seated at his table were Messrs Massey, Bollard, Lawry, Poole, Lang, Lethbridge, Kidd, of the House of Representatives; Major Harris and Mr Beehan, of the Upper House; Mr Garland, of the Farmers’ Union; and Mr Dick, of the Agricultural Association. There were about a hundred guests in all. The hall was nicely decorated, and the excellent manner in which Mr Molloy carried out everything explained the popularity of his well-kept house. After the King’s health had been honoured, Mr Albrecht toasted the New Zealand Legislature.
Major Harris, in the course of his reply, reminded the Waiuku people that the Main Trunk line would soon be completed, and there would then be released something like £300,000 a year, so they should lose no time in bringing forward the claims of their line. They should not worry about the route just now. Let that
settle itself, or the Government would lock up its pockets and tell the people that when they had settled the question of route it would come in and do something. If there were factions, the Government would work one against the other, and so the thing would be hung up indefinitely.
Mr Beehan promised to support the Auckland members in any matter that would help on the line, because he could see it would be a paying concern right from the very start. The land was good, and the people were prosperous. When they saw that they had the support of the Leader of the “Opposition (Mr Massey) and the chief Government whip (Mr Kidd), he thought it augured well for the chances of Waiuku having its wishes satisfied.
Mr Lawry believed in opening up new country, but he also thought it was the duty of the Government to run railways through settled and prosperous country like that they had seen that day, where the settlers had gone through the stress of pioneering and now wanted better communication with the city. He pledged his vote for the line, even should it be made a Government question. Irrespective of party, he would vote with with their member for their railway.
Mr. Barter in proposing the toast “Our Guests,” remarked on the fact that the visitors represented every shade of political opinion, and from the general support they all gave the line he drew hope for the success of the League’s aims the near future. Next time the membes came he would not be drawn over a dusty road by tired horses, but would ride comfortably in railway carriages drawn by the iron horse.
Mr Lethbridge (the member for Oroua) strongly advised the League not to wait until the main trunk line was completed before pressing their claims. What they wanted to do was to go right ahead and get their line authorised. That in itself took time, and in the interval the Government was going on spending large sums of money in the South. Get the line authorised as soon as possible, and don’t wait for any main trunk or any other line to be completed, was his advice. If they did wait they would never get the line.
Mr Lang, in assuring the people of his support and sympathy, said it seemed a very easy line to construct, and from what he had seen on the drive across he had no doubt it would be a profitable one. Mr Poole spoke of the inter-dependency of the city and suburbs, and gave the line his hearty support although a city member. He had always been convinced of the desirability of the spur line as a factor in the development of a country, and they could always count on his support of this line, because it would give the country people a chance to get their produce to market and also because it would help towards the prosperity of Auckland city by bringing the settlers into closer touch.
Mr Bollard mentioned that he had been in favour of the line for the past five-and-twenty years. No person could pass through the country as they had and not be impressed with the enormous advantage it would be to have a connection with the railway. It would undoubtedly pay from the start, and there were no engineering difficulties to be met with. He strongly advised the people of that district to see that they got their share of the £300,000 that would be available when the Main Trunk line was through.
Mr Massey, the member for the district, who met with a particularly hearty reception from his constituents, gave the toast of the Railway League. He reminded the members of the League that they had taken up a very important duty, and it was one which required no ordinary time and energies to carry to the successful conclusion he thought it would be carried. They had certainly made a good start. He had never seen the country look worse owing to the want of rain, yet any practical man who had gone over the district as the party had would be able to see at a glance that the land was excellent — in fact, none better. It was all settled and taken up by hard-working settlers, and the line would well repay making. The proposal was not a new one. A railway to Waiuku had been agitated for nearly thirty years, and it was time the desires of the people were realised. There were no engineering difficulties in the way, and he believed the connection could be made for £50,000. Surely the Government could spare £50,000 for such a line when they could spend half a million for a big tunnel in the South! They must also remember that the district was not half opened up yet. There was the Aka Aka swamp and the Otau swamp — thirty thousand acres — which would not be at its best for the nest ten years. Then there was what was known as the “Sand Hills”—some of the finest fattening country in the place. There was plenty of good land all about there, and the people felt their time had come, and that when the next authorisation bill came down their line should be included. The Auckland members had not had the best reputation for pulling together, but he wished to acknowledge that that was not his experience. When he had wanted the support of his
fellow members it had always been forthcoming freely, not only from his own party, but from those who — should he say misguidedly — followed the Government. He felt sure that would be his experience with the Waiuku railway. His advice to the League was, “Pull together and do not raise the question of route,” Mr Makgill, who replied, reminded his hearers that twenty-eight years. ago a favourable report was made on the railway and working plans were prepared, but still nothing had been done. The people had waited patiently, but nothing had come of it. They were now going to agitate and fight for their line with an absolutely united front. They had been patient too long, and they now intended to become a very impatient people until they got that to which they were entitled. Last year they sent a very large deputation to Wellington and this year they intended to send a very much larger one. They had the population and produce in the district to make the line a profitable one, and they felt they were more than justified in their demands. It was said they already had access to the city very much in advance of that enjoyed by many other districts, but the trouble lay in the number of handlings which the means of transport rendered necessary. At the very best their stuff had to be handled no less than three times. That was a terrible handicap in competing with other districts, and he hoped to see it removed in the near future. Their guests were practical men, and could see what the district could do if they had proper means of access to the markets of the city.
Mr Kidd, who toasted the Local Bodies, aid it was very encouraging to see the interest the line was exciting among people of such widely different political views. They could approach the question entirely apart from party politics, and, in fact, he saw a great hope of the success .of the proposed line.
Messrs Barriball, Chalmers and Howard replied, and the last toast on the list, that of the Press, was proposed by Mr Rossiter.
The visitors were then driven back to Pukekohe by the Packington road, to give them an opportunity of seeing more of the country. They were most hospitably entertained by the League, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Auckland Star, Volume XXXIX, Issue 56, 5 March 1908, Page 7
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