1902 Encyclopedia > Canterbury, New Zealand

Canterbury
New Zealand




CANTERBURY, a province of New Zealand, occupying the central portion of the Middle Island on the eastern side of the great dividing range of the Southern Alps. It is bounded on the E. by the sea, and on the N., W., and S. by the provinces of Nelson, Westland, and Otago respec-tively. The area of Canterbury is about 8,693,000 acres.

Physically, the province may be divided into two longi-tudinal sections, from north to south. Of these the more westerly, which is considerably the larger, is mountainous, sloping eastward into downs, while the other consists of a plain, covering an area of 2,500,000 acres. To these two main divisions must be added Banks Peninsula, an isolated hilly district on the eastern edge of the plain, jutting into the sea, and with an area of 250,000 acres. Thus the surface of the province is of the most diversified character, varying from the snow-clad peaks of the Southern Alps, which culminate in Mount Cook (13,200 feet), the highest mountain in New Zealand, to the dead level of the plain on which Christchurch stands, only a few feet above the sea. In lakes Canterbury gives place to Otago and Auckland, though Lakes Ohau and Coleridge are large sheets of water, situated amid scenery of the most beautiful description. The rivers of Canterbury are short and rapid, running with a direct course to the sea, and quite useless for purposes of navigation. Apart from the Hurunui and Waitangi, which divide Canterbury on the north-east and south-east from Nelson and Otago respectively, and hence belong equally to those provinces, the principal rivers of Canterbury are the Ashley, Waimakariri, Eakaia, Ash-burton, and Rangitata. They are all very liable to sudden and disastrous floods. The coast is poorly supplied with good harbours, that of Akaroa, in Banks Peninsula, being the only one safe in all kinds of weather. The harbour of Lyttelton is spacious, but exposed to easterly winds. The capital of Canterbury is Christchurch, and the other principal settlements are Lyttelton and Akaroa already mentioned, Kaiapoi a few miles north of Christchurch, and Timaru, 110 miles south of the latter place.





The downs and great plain of Canterbury are devoid of forests, but the mountain regions and Banks Beninsula yield abundance of excellent timber. The principal trees are the totara (Podocarpus Totard), rimu or red pine (Dacrydimn cupressinum), and kahikatea or white pine (Podocarpus dacrydioides). Coal well adapted for house-hold and industrial purposes, though not of the first quality, is found in the Malvern Hflls, to the west of Christchurch, and beds of clay ironstone exist in various localities, but are not yet worked. Gold is found in the south-western angle of the province, near the Otago border, though not in sufficient quantity to tempt many to search for it. The wealth of Canterbury consists in its flocks and its yield of agricultural produce. In 1874 the province contained 2,965,000 sheep and 79,000 cattle. The number of agricultural holdings was 3969, and the total area of land under crops of all kinds, including cultivated grass, was about 390,000 acres, of which 112,000 acres were under cereals. The imports of Canter-bury in 1874 amounted to £1,568,826, and the exports to £1,108,531,—by far the greater proportion of the latter consisting of wool, wheat, and oats. The export of phormium fibre (New Zealand flax), from which much was at one time expected, has greatly declined, but on the other hand the export of preserved meats is rapidly rising in importance. The population of the province on 31st December 1874 was 71,316. Besides possessing many good roads, Canterbury is fast being opened up by railways. The first of these, from Lyttelton to Christchurch, a dis-tance of eight miles, was tunnelled at great expense through the hills at the back of the former town. The line has since been continued on both sides of Christchurch—as far south as the Biver Bangitata, and as far north as the Biver Ashley, while branch lines have been, or are being, constructed to the settlements of Southbridge, Malvern, and Oxford. The first railway having been of the 5-feet 3-inch gauge, the main line is for the most part of that width, while the branches are of the narrow gauge of 3 feet 6 inches, which is almost universally adopted in other parts of the colony.

The educational system of Canterbury is comprehensive and efficient. In addition to the New Zealand University (an examining institution, supported by the colony as a whole, but having its headquarters at Christchurch), there are in the capital several educational institutions of high standing. Spread over the province there are also, in addition to schools maintained by private enterprise, many Government schools. The number of these on 31st March 1875 was 93. They were conducted by 288 teachers and attended by 12,000 scholars.

Canterbury was founded in December 1850 by an asso-ciation headed by men of influential position in England, and connected with the national church. It was indeed sought for a time to prevent persons not members of the Church of England from settling in Canterbury, but the attempt was a failure. In 1867 the portion of the pro-vince west of the Southern Alps was formed into a separate province, under the name of Westland. Further particulars regarding the history of Canterbury will be found under the heading NEW ZEALAND.







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