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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Farming Problems

In April 1961 only 9·48 per cent of the working population of the Greymouth Employment District (its limits correspond closely to the region's) was engaged in farming, compared with the national average of 1·4·38 per cent. By contrast, 21·16 per cent was engaged in mining, quarrying, and other primary activity, compared with the national average of 166 per cent. These figures show the secondary position which agriculture holds in the region's economy. The amount of land readily suited to farming is limited and is dispersed in a number of blocks throughout the length of the region. Both the physical and the social conditions have not favoured farming, so that it is of an extensive nature and management practices are below those prevailing in other regions. The marginal lands, which are estimated to include 11·5 per cent of the total area, have attracted perhaps an unwarranted amount of attention considering the under-utilisation of the areas already farmed. Included within these marginal lands are substantial areas of difficult soils known locally as pakihi lands. There have been some rare successes in improving these soils. Approximately 33,000 acres of them are located close to Westport and, while it is admitted that their development would materially improve the town's economic life, they are considered to be quite unsuitable for immediate investment, though worthy of large-scale experimentation. During the period 1951–52 to 1959–60 the number of cows in milk has increased by 1·21 per cent, the increase being registered largely in Westland county, whilst Grey and Inangahua counties have shown a decline. The percentage increase in sheep shorn is quite high, 72·66, and in lambs shorn, spectacular, 260·78 per cent but the numbers involved are, unfortunately, negligible. It is of interest that these increases have been sustained on slightly lower acreages of area grassed. The total area grassed has declined by 3·7 per cent, but both Westland county and, especially, Inangahua county have shown increases. These figures indicate a welcome trend towards intensification, but at the same time suggest divergent trends of development within the region. As the land utilisation survey of 1959 concluded: “The fact that only 8·6 per cent of the total area is farmable land would seem to indicate that the area as a whole would always be uneconomic as a farming region” and it “always will be only a small contributor to the pastoral wealth of the Dominion”.

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