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Fitzgerald's Town

THE AGRICULTURAL

THE AGRICULTURAL INTEREST 12. The harvest - a rural scene, 1932. In a rural environment it is inevitable that pastoral or agricultural concerns are a matter of high priority and FitzGerald the run holder was always anxious to defend the pastoral and agricultural interest as he saw it, although he was no farmer. As the district became more closely settled there was increasing pressure on the government to develop an infrastructure capable of servicing the rural population and its needs. This was easier said than done, for despite the best efforts of the Provincial Government and the road boards their slender resources meant that roads were often formed years after they were surveyed. An important issue was that of getting produce into Christchurch or to the port of Lyttelton and the opening of the Southbridge railway line helped provide solutions the rural community so badly needed. Agricultural development in the 1860's was boosted by the discovery of gold in Westland and Otago and by the Maori land wars in the North Island. The large runs were being broken up, and pastoral activity began to give way to arable farming which served to meet the demands of the expanding population and to transform the tussock and scrub covered plains into a landscape dominated by English pasture grasses. The changes began slowly, but by 1885 some 250,000 acres 38

of Canterbury land, including much in the Springs and Lincoln districts, was settled and in some form of production. The more far-sighted farmers in the district knew that it was necessary to raise the overall skills and organisation of the farming community in order to progress and the solutions they applied to these problems, with varying success, will be discussed in the following pages. 13. The Lincoln Creamery corner of Tancred’s and Ellesmere Roads During the 1860's the return on grain, and indeed of produce generally, was so low that the viability of the farming community was at risk and this in turn threatened the economic growth of the province since potential purchasers of "waste land" were unwilling to risk capital in uneconomic ventures. The problem attracted the attention of the Provincial Superintendent, William Sefton Moorhouse, who attended a meeting held at Lincoln in July 1867 to consider the establishment of a company for the export of wheat and other produce. The meeting was not well supported so another was held later in the month at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Shands Track, when the topic was thoroughly discussed by a representative gathering of farmers and again attended by the Superintendent 1 . 39

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