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The Farmer in New Zealand

A Note on Sources

page 143

A Note on Sources

1. The Maori Farmer

The Writings of Elsdon Best provide the most authoritative accounts of pre-European Maori agriculture, especially his monograph, Maori Agriculture (Wellington, 1925). The more dogged student will find material of value in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute (Wellington, 1869-) and the Journal of the Polynesian Society (Wellington, 1892-).

John Savage's Account of New Zealand (London, 1807), the first description of New Zealand after Cook, provides an interesting account of the importance the potato had assumed in Maori economy by 1807. Savage describes, of course, only the Bay of Islands where the natives were most closely in touch with European civilisation, a qualification that must be made in regard to most early missionary narratives of New Zealand life. The contribution of the missionaries to Maori agriculture is splendidly drawn in Dr J. R. Elder's Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden (Dunedin, 1932) and Marsden's Lieutenants (Dunedin, 1934). Here in picturesque procession pass Ruatara, page 144Hongi, Pomare, and the missionaries who helped or disapproved of them. The Rev. William Yate's Account of New Zealand (London, 1835) contains references to missionary and Maori agriculture, but he was regarded as unreliable by his contemporaries. Dr S. M. D. Martin, author of the vigorous and often critical reminiscences, New Zealand (London, 1845) should not be confused with Sir William Martin, Chief Justice and the husband of Lady Martin, from whose Our Maoris (London, 1884) a striking passage has been quoted. William Swainson, more matter of fact, chimes in with an admirable piling up of detail about the scope of Maori agriculture in his New Zealand and its Colonization (London, 1859). The story of the East Coast and Taupo natives' stock-farming is eloquently told by the Rev. Thomas Samuel Grace in A Pioneer Missionary among the Maoris (Palmerston North, 1928). Sir John Gorst's great book, The Maori King (London, 1864) with its penetrating and sympathetic study of the Waikato tribes, contains much information about agriculture.

Dr A. S. Thomson's thorough and competent history, The Story of New Zealand (London, 1859) throws light on every phase of Maori and European life. Alfred Saunders, in the two volumes of his History of New Zealand (Christchurch, 1896 and 1899) occasionally considers farming matters, both Maori and European, but his partisanship and haphazard selection of material diminish the value of his work.

The files of The Maori Messenger (Auckland, 1849-61), page 145one of a series of bilingual or Maori newspapers published with the express intention of helping the natives to civilise themselves, contain much news of their agricultural affairs. There are, of course, many valuable references to both Maori and European farming in early newspapers, such as The New Zealander (Auckland), the Nelson Examiner, and the Port Nicholson and Cook Strait Guardian.

2. Early Settlement and Farming

Charles Darwin's well-known description of Waimate is from Vol. iii of Narrative of the Voyages of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle (London, 1839). Charles Darwin paid a short visit to New Zealand in December 1835; he had sailed as naturalist in the Beagle.

There is ample literary material for building up a conception of the vicissitudes of early European farming. A great number of early settlers published books giving accounts of their experiences, while the Company's servants were positively strident in their voluminous descriptive writings, aimed at that unprotected target, the prospective settler. The classic among these experiences, for its manner as well as for its matter, is that amusing and insouciant chronicle, Adventure in New Zealand (London, 1845) by Edward Jerningham Wakefield. He was further the unacknowledged author of a Handbook for emigrants (London, 1848), which with G. B. Earp's New Zealand: its Emigration and Goldfields (London, 1853), and its earlier editions, existed to smooth the path of the would-be settler. These publications are just as page 146interesting for what they allow us to read between the lines as for their main story. This too is the merit of Francis Fuller's observations on Canterbury in his Five Years' Residence in New Zealand (London, 1859). William Brown's New Zealand and its Aborigines (London, 1845) mentions early farming in Auckland. Edward Shortland's The Southern Districts of New Zealand (London, 1851) shows the success of the Scots who broke away from the Company settlements to colonise Canterbury before the Pilgrims, a theme developed even more fascinatingly in the robust letters of William and John Deans printed in Pioneers of Canterbury (Dunedin, 1937), which make one regret that more of the descendants of their contemporaries have not published their family papers, or at least given copies of them to libraries. Excellent exceptions to this dismal rule of indifference to the value of original historical material in private hands are James Hay's reminiscences, Earliest Canterbury (Christchurch, 1915), George Rhodes of the Leve's and his Brothers by [Mrs] A. E. Woodhouse (Christchurch, 1937), and Bidwill of Pihautea (Christchurch, 1927) by W. E. Bidwill and A. E.Wood-house. Among the richest of the material evoked by an English appeal on behalf of Centennial history, an appeal answered more generously by the English descendants of pioneers than by people in New Zealand, are the Dillon letters, referring to the decade 1843-53. There is already in the Alexander Turnbull Library the interesting Pharazyn diary, and another Centennial acquisition, the Coote diary, also contains some slender gleams of farming page 147interest. The Ward diary throws vivid light on pioneer farming in Nelson in the forties. The early days of Otago are chronicled in Dr T. M. Hocken's Contributions to the Early History of New Zealand (London, 1898). A small pamphlet published in Dunedin by the Otago Early Settlers' Association in 1903, Early Days in Otago, contains the cautionary tale of a newspaper that flouted influential public opinion on an agricultural topic.

The development of farming in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is admirably related in that classic, Lord Ernle's English Farming Past and Present (revised edition, London, 1936).

3. Gold, Wool, and Wheat

Throughout this chapter R. M. Burden's High Country (Christchurch, 1938) has been a useful source of material. It draws largely on the private papers of the Tripp family, and is so good on practical matters that one regrets that so much of its short space is devoted to a conspectus of the general history of New Zealand. Frederick Weld's Hints to Intending Sheep-Farmers in New Zealand was first published in 1851 (London); it was altered somewhat in the third edition, that of 1860. See also The Life of Sir Frederick Weld (London, 1914) by Alice, Lady Lovat. A First Year in Canterbury Settlement (London, 1863) is absorbingly interesting for its matter, though it is obviously of very slight literary importance if set beside Samuel Butler's later works. One questions whether Butler himself would have despised it quite so heartily, page 148if it had not been so closely associated with his father, who had edited it with a heavy hand. The diary kept by the managers of the St Leonard's station, North Canterbury, for the owner, George Duppa, has much interesting detail on the routine of early sheepfarming operations. The classic story of an individual New Zealand station is to be found in H. Guthrie-Smith's Tutira. The best edition is the second, (London, 1926), but the author was at work on a revised edition in 1940 when he died. L. G. D. Acland's The Early Canterbury Runs (Christchurch, 1930) is an invaluable source of information on its subject.

The volumes of The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Wellington, 1897-1907) form a garrulous chronicle of both farming and urban success. In spite of the uncritical and even childish tone of this work it contains a good deal of interesting information about the careers of prominent pastoralists and wheat-growers. Thomas Holloway, who journeyed through New Zealand in the early seventies as the guest of the government, has left interesting diaries which have been copied by the National Historical Committee. These contain frequent references to farming conditions. J. C. Andersen's Jubilee History of South Canterbury (Christchurch, 1916) contains a good deal of farming information, especially on wheat-growing, as does Dr F. W. Hilgendorf's Wheat in New Zealand (Christchurch, 1939). William Bateman's The Colonist (Christchurch, 1881) and Donald Reid (Dunedin, 1939) also throw light on the wheat production of the South Island, though the latter (a biography of a noted Otago page 149pioneer, written and circulated privately by his descendants) refers to an earlier period than the hey-day of wheat-growing in the seventies and eighties.

The general economic conditions of the farming of this period (and of the whole hundred years of New Zealand's existence) are succinctly summarised in J. B. Condliffe's New Zealand in the Making (London, 1930). The problems of land aggregation are treated in W. P. Reeves's State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand (London, 1902) and in State Socialism in New Zealand (London, 1910) by J. E. Le Rossignol and W. Downie Stewart. Both Reeves and Downie Stewart were cabinet ministers, the former before and the latter after writing these books.

Social life on the early sheep station is described with spirit and perhaps excessive taste by Lady Barker in her Station Life in New Zealand (London, 1870) and Station Amusements in New Zealand (London, 1873). George Chamier in his novel, Philosopher Dick (London, 1891), looks back to the same halcyon days. The hardships and humour of station life were also exploited to excellent effect by L.J. Kennaway in Crusts (London, 1874), which has much of both the seriousness and the crudity of the Victorian practical joke.

4. The Farming Industry

Perhaps the best account of the development of refrigerated transport is to be found in A History of the Frozen Meat Trade (London, 2nd edition, 1912) by J. T. Critchell and J. Raymond. A work of similar value, but page 150exclusively concerned with New Zealand, is H. G. Philpott's A History of the New Zealand Dairy Industry (Wellington, 1937). W. D. Powdrell's Dairy Farming in New Zealand (Wellington, 1920) is an interesting practical handbook for farmers, which points out, inter alia, that the city-dweller with a large family is misapplying his labours: in the country the family would become an asset instead of a liability.

Edward Wakefield in his New Zealand After Fifty Years (London, 1889) describes conditions before the beneficial effects of refrigeration had properly gathered momentum. A vivid account of breaking in bush, written by the men who had carried it out in practice, is contained in Essays on Bush-Farming by W. F. Doney and others (Woodville, 1891). E. Earle Vaile's Pioneering the Pumice (Christchurch, 1939), shows how land once deemed practically valueless has been brought into production. It also shows the sturdy character of its author with a good deal of candour.

The economic structure of the farming industry to-day is surveyed exhaustively in the monumental symposium Agricultural Organization in New Zealand (Melbourne, 1936) published by the Institute of Pacific Relations. The portions of W. P. Morrell's New Zealand (London, 1935) which deal with the modern farming industry form an admirable summary, while The Pastoral Industries of New Zealand (London, 1935) by R. Ogilvie Buchanan, contains some interesting material, particularly on the interrelation of climate and types of farming. Small Capital Land Occupations in New Zealand (Wellington, 1922), page 151published by the Department of Agriculture, discusses the prospects, substantially the same to-day, in some of the subsidiary types of primary production.

Since its first publication in 1892 (Wellington) the New Zealand Year Book, published annually by the government, has provided a series of statistics of the greatest value to the economist studying the farming capabilities of the Dominion. The articles on special subjects are excellent, and the comprehensiveness of the picture of all phases of life in New Zealand which can be reduced to number and measure gives this fascinating publication—truly a neglected classic—its unique quality and authority. The New Zealand Journal of Agriculture (Wellington, 1910-), a monthly which has been brought out in a more popular format since 1938, is a government publication of great merit and interest.

André Siegfried, a Frenchman who visited New Zealand about the beginning of the century, made some acute observations on post-refrigeration New Zealand in his Democracy in New Zealand (London, 1914), the English translation of his book published in Paris in 1904. Edmund de S. Brunner expressed his opinion of some aspects of our life and economy in Rural Australia and New Zealand (San Francisco, 1938): he has not hesitated to make up his mind on account of the briefness of his visit.

5. The Farmer and the World

This chapter is weighted with American experience because the United States provides the most conspicuous page 152and melancholy example of farming in decay—farming, that is, tied to the cash nexus and the accountancy version of success so despised by the Englishman, Lord Northbourne, in his Look to the Land (London, 1940). Americans too have repudiated the base suggestion that farming should, like other businesses, pay its way, financially rather than spiritually. Typical of them is Ralph Borsodi, author of Prosperity and Security (New York, 1938), and collaborator with O. E. Baker and M. L. Wilson in the symposium, Agriculture in Modern Life (New York, 1939). Another American, Russell Lord, has discussed the havoc caused by erosion and the technique of soil conservation in Behold Our Land (Boston, 1938), while in The Agrarian Revival (New York, 1939) he considers both the social and economic plight of the American farmer. Christy Borth's Pioneers of Plenty (Indianapolis, 1939) will possibly do a disservice to the chemurgy he is so infatuated with, though no doubt he and his publishers have correctly taken the pulse of the American reader. In spite of the 'believe it or not: truth is stranger than fiction' tone of his book, the developments he describes are too important to be ignored.

W. T. Doig's Standards of Life of New Zealand Dairy-farmers (Wellington, 1940) embodies the fruits of an extremely interesting attempt to assess the standards of living of the New Zealand dairy farmer. H. C. D. Somerset's excellent Littledene (Wellington, 1938) is concerned with the cultural standards and opportunities of people in the country.