By the 1880's and early 1890's a number of social problems were demanding increased public attention throughout New Zealand. Problems such as larrikinism, disease, labour disputes, drunkenness and the whole question of Chinese immigration and immigrants, were but a few among many being raised both through newspapers and Parliament. A gap between aspiration and reality seemed to be making itself apparent. Also the feeling that New Zealand would be immune from such concerns, that had plagued England, was rapidly being exposed as false. Moreover the passage of time was making it apparent that they were not merely transitory problems, associated with the initial settlement of the country, but were in fact growing with the society. Increasing urbanisation also heightened this public awareness by making these problems more apparent. Yet despite this realization and appraisal there seemed to be little accurate investigation of the problems at the national level. This was in spite of the fact that some degree of knowledge of the areas of concern was possessed at the local level, for example, the prevalence of drunkenness and Chinese immigration and immigrants on the west coast of the South Island. As a result, broad generalizations concerning the problems at the national level were made and readily accepted by many New Zealanders. A recent thesis, by P.F. McKimmey, which examines in part the general problem and patterns of drunkenness in nineteenth century New Zealand, bears out the above general concern raised by contemporaries. He states: New Zealand in the nineteenth century was a society plagued by drunkenness and problems associated either in fact or in the firm opinion of a number of New Zealanders with drink. From the 1830's to the 1890's in every settlement, one of the salient features of life was the widespread drunkenness.
P.F. McKimmey, "The Temperance Movement in New Zealand 1835 - 94," Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Auckland, 1968. pp. 29 & 10.