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For a discussion of rates of passage, including their value in 1997 dollars, see text below.
 
The cheapest adult fare was 18 guineas in steerage, while a second class adult fare in the fore-cabin was 25 guineas. Children paid lesser amounts depending on their age.

To travel in relative style in a chief cabin (and it was only relative: today’s traveller would consider the conditions primitive in the extreme), a family of two adults, one teenager, two children between seven and 14, and two children under seven, would have paid the 1997 equivalent of NZ$22,200. (Approximately US$14,100)

Small wonder that more than 90 per cent of British emigrants (to all destinations) were content to swallow their pride and travel below decks. But even in steerage, this family of seven would have paid the equivalent of NZ$8,880 (US$5,550).

The MacGibbon family travelled in the forecabin, and their passage, for two adults and children aged nine, six, four and five months, would have cost the equivalent of today’s NZ$8,390.

Intending emigrants paid half their fare when booking the passage, and the balance the day before embarkation. Some steerage passengers paid their fare in full, while others were subsidised or ‘assisted’. More than two-thirds of the Mooltan steerage passengers were assisted, which meant they had skills which matched published shortages in the colony. They paid between one third and one half of the passage money, while the Company paid the balance.

About a quarter of them are listed in the Company records as being required to repay their assistance after arriving in the colony. Presumably these individuals’ skills were less in demand.

For the Otago settlement, assisted passages were advertised for people belonging to "...the Class of Manual Labourers working for Wages ; Farm Servants, Shepherds, Gardeners, Domestic Servants, or, in moderate numbers, Country Mechanics and Handicraftsmen."

New Zealand and its neighbour Australia were probably the most expensive emigration destinations on the globe for British people. In 1849, five people could travel steerage to New York for the price of a single steerage passage to Otago.

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Copyright Ngaio Press, 2004



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