Chapter Three — The agricultural invasion
The agricultural invasion
The settler found comfort, and if his farm brought little cash to his pocket he was amply supplied by it with all the necessaries of life, and was cheered by seeing the daisy, primrose, and other British flowers, and all the fruits of his native land flourish in luxuriance round his humble cottage.
—Sir Julius Vogel
When the first settlers arrived in New Zealand they found that the land fell into three principal categories. Firstly, throughout New Zealand there were numerous open plains of large extent. Where in England the settlers would have seen grassy meadows, dotted with wildflowers, in New Zealand these open spaces were covered with dun-coloured tussock. Near water-courses this land was marshland, and the tussock was replaced with the airy, graceful fronds and impenetrable base clumps of toetoe. These swampy lands proved a nightmare to survey, but when drained and the 'niggerheads' of clotted flax removed, they proved in most cases to be very fertile.
North of Taupo, and in warmer areas further south, the tussock was replaced with fern. The rhizome of the fern had been used by the Maori for food, which was a fair indication of the lack of food resources in this new country, as the fern root was most unattractive to prepare and tedious to consume. Before cooking the roots had to be repeatedly soaked and beaten with wooden clubs, and then the cook had the job of picking all the fibres out. Even the most conscientious of women could not remove them all so eating was a stop-and-go process, with many pauses to remove the inedible bits. The early farmers divided the fern lands into two subclasses, according to whether it supported high or low fern. The former usually turned out to be the richer.
The country which supported woodland or bush was by far the most fertile, and was greatly prized. Before clearing this forest was characterised by its immense variety of plant life. The bush was considered by the pioneers to be interesting but page 41 very gloomy. The trees were largely evergreen, and most flowers were very insignificant. Spring greens and autumn brilliance were just not present in the New Zealand bush to awaken fond memories in the breasts of homesick viewers. However these woodland areas were by far the most prized. After firing and ploughing, the soil turned out to be the richest, blackest and most productive.
Whatever category the land fell into, the ground was back-breaking to clear. Fire, of course, was the most obvious labour-saving device, and when ships arrived at night the pioneers' first impression of New Zealand was often of flames leaping up into the sky. One settler, Edgar Jones, reminisced about how he arrived at 'Bank's Peninsular' to find fires all over it, flaring out against the night sky. He was told it was the settlers burning the flax, but he found out later that it was the usual practice in the spring to burn all the native vegetation before clearing and ploughing.
All this was a great shock to many of the migrants. One aggrieved settler complained to the New Zealand Company that instead of breadfruit trees in the marshes, there were inedible palms. Stories of the incredible productivity of the New Zealand soil had been rife back in the home country. Colonel Wakefield had written, in a letter to the New Zealand Company:
'My confidence in the success of this settlement rests in no slight degree on the vigour with which many gentlemen are now employed in raising stock, and in farming operations. Even inferior land has produced some excellent wheat and barley, whilst some of that grown on the banks of the Hutt is the finest I ever saw. The importation of cattle from New South Wales supplies with the means of increasing the best breeds.'
When Colonel Wakefield wrote this in 1841 he forgot to mention the labour involved. William Deans, a Canterbury settler, wrote in 1840 in a tone of surprise, 'The climate is beautiful and the soil most luxuriant, but it will require a great deal of clearing.' A month later, he wrote again, 'The country is more mountainous than I expected, and this may be a great drawback to its being an immense agricultural country. It is very much wooded, and will take a great deal of money to clear.'
Despite the vaunted productivity of the soil, and apart from the time-consuming labour involved in breaking in the land, the pioneers found that, until they could make the land productive and harvest crops, they were living in real danger of deprivation, and even starvation. The country offered very little indeed in the nature of naturally growing foodstuffs. There were no grazing animals to shoot, no native vegetables to give a substantial source of food. As Wodzicki wrote later:
'The pioneers of the first organised settlement of New Zealand found themselves in an unenviable position. Unlike the American, the New Zealand vertebrate fauna consisted mainly of birds and some fish, and did not provide a plentiful food supply for the settlers. Little of the land, except such areas as the Canterbury Plains, was in a state ready for growing crops or raising stock.'
Wakefield wrote later, 'Some people died of hunger, for although there was an ample supply of food at the Governor's house, the settlers did not know where the Governor was, and the Governor did not know where the settlers were.' The settlers were dependent on a supply of imported flour and the potatoes that the local Maoris might sell them. The average diet consisted of bread, salt pork and potatoes. Vegetable gardens and orchards were a necessity.
Up until that time the development of agriculture in New Zealand had rested firmly in the hands of the missionaries. In 1793 Captain King, Governor of New South Wales, had visited the Bay of Islands, and, concerned at the limited food available to the Maoris, gave the local tribes some pigs as well as wheat and maize seed. Hearing of this, Samuel Marsden sent over some wheat, in 1810 and 1811. On Christmas Eve, 1814, at Rangihoua, Marsden himself arrived on the Active, together with a mission party. The local natives had by this time seen pigs and cocks and hens, and knew about various European food plants and seeds, but as mentioned earlier most had never seen cattle or horses.
The activities of the missionaries in the Bay of Islands were coordinated by the Church Missionary Society, Australasia Mission, which had its headquarters in Sydney. The Report of the Committee delivered to the Annual Meeting in May 1819 included comments on Mr Marsden's efforts to acclimatise exotic trees and other plants in New Zealand. The Report noted that Marsden was sending fruit trees from the Seminary at Parramatta. 'Fruit trees of various kinds have also been sent over by Mr Marsden. The settlers have peaches in perfection. He thinks vines will succeed, and will send over from time to time plants of different sorts in order to the future benefit of the settlers and natives.' Within a few years of visiting New Zealand and setting up his missions at Kerikeri and Waimata, Marsden had improved the life of the people. Food was more plentiful, and want had noticeably decreased.
Rev. Samuel Marsden.
When he established these missions Marsden at the same time introduced the peach tree. The fruit became immediately popular with the Maoris, who had never encountered before a food that combined the sweetness of the kumara with the crispness of a fresh vegetable. As well as growing the tree themselves, the Maoris became mobile dispersers, carrying the fruit around the country, eating it and throwing away the stones. The same phenomenon can be seen today along school bus routes. Wild peaches grow along the verges where children have thrown peach stones out the windows.
An instance of deliberate introduction of the peach by a Maori occurred in the Taranaki, where the first peach tree was planted by a Maori sailor who collected some peach stones in Sydney, in 1829. He planted the stones in a clearing inland of what was to become New Plymouth, and by 1841 these were large, heavily bearing trees.
The trees provided the stones that grew into the peach groves that became established all along the coast of the Taranaki. In Hamilton a similar phenomenon occurred, and today one of the main streets, Peachgrove Road, is named thus because it is the site of a plantation of peach trees sown there by the Waikato Maoris.
Tobacco seeds were brought in at an early date by whalers and sealers, and then by missionaries. The Maoris became enthusiastic smokers, often smoking the tobacco leaf fresh rather than wait for the curing process. They were very eager to obtain seed and to grow the plant themselves; some unscrupulous traders sold them the identically-appearing seeds of dock. By 1834 dock was being reported as a great nuisance in Maori gardens in the Hokianga. The same trick was played on natives in Poverty Bay, accounting for the prevalence of dock weeds in that area today.
Apart from the growing of peaches, potatoes and tobacco, the missionaries were unable to persuade the Maoris to adopt European agriculture, and the production of other exotic crops was limited to the missionaries' own efforts. That they were startlingly successful was documented by Darwin. In 1835 he visited the mission station at Waimate and wrote in Naturalist's Voyage Round the World, 'Fine crops of barley and wheat were standing in full ear; and in another part, fields of potatoes and clover.' He commented on the gardens, which he said were crammed with 'every fruit and vegetable which England produces, and many belonging to a warmer clime.' He listed asparagus, kidney beans, cucumbers, rhubarb, apples, pears, figs, peaches, apricots, grapes, olives, gooseberries, currants, hops, oaks, and many kinds of flowers. In all, he likened the scene to a homely English farmyard.
It is interesting also to mention the missionary influence on the insect population of New Zealand. On 13 March 1839 the Rev. J. H. Bumby and his sister arrived in the James, at Hokianga. Miss Bumby brought with her the first two hives of honey bees, in two straw kips. They came from New South Wales. The hives were placed in the mission churchyard, as that place was considered most likely to be free from the attentions of curious Maoris who were fascinated by the strange busy insect. This introduction was important for more than the production of honey, as the native bees are too short-tongued to cross-pollinate many introduced plants. The bees thrived. They, and later imports, swarmed into the bush as well as providing hives for many gardens.
The occurrence of exotic historic trees of great size in North Auckland reflects the fact that the missionaries certainly did not limit themselves to a small range of tree page 44 species. These old trees include enormous oaks, most probably grown from acorns. Norfolk Island pines were brought from Norfolk Island as early as 1840, when Bishop Selwyn planted them in the grounds of the mission at Mission Bay. Seeds from these were distributed all around Auckland City in the following years, giving it the characteristic skyline of today.
In the First Annual Report (1843) of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of Auckland, it was stated that the following plants were then in cultivation:
Cape gooseberries were reported to be growing wild in all parts of the north.
When the settlers began arriving in force, however, many necessities of life were still scarce or lacking. The only cheap food for sale came from the Maoris, with potatoes at 1d a pound and wild pork at 6d a pound. Vegetable gardens had to be established as quickly as possible, and with as wide a range of plants as possible, to ensure that some would acclimatise and flourish. Intending emigrants soon became familiar with this fact, so that few travellers arrived in New Zealand without a supply of seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, corms and potted plants, which, unlike animals, could be kept in the cabin and needed no care, or minimal care, on the long cramped journey.
This situation led, naturally enough, to a preoccupation with using the newly-broken-in land for cropping and planting fruit and vegetable gardens. However some of the better-off settlers soon imported cattle, for meat and milk. Petre wrote a little book in 1842 called An account of the Settlements of the New Zealand Company, and in it he urged colonists to bring in stock. 'As soon as the woods are cut down,' he said, 'grasses spring up, affording excellent food for cattle, and all the seeds that have been sown there have produced luxuriantly.' Later in the book he returned again and again to this theme. 'I recollect reading an account somewhere that the cattle which had been landed at Port Nicholson were starving ... There is not a word of truth in this statement,' he said indignantly. 'The cattle landed lean from on board ship, became fat in a short time, without the least care on the part of the owners, as they are invariably turned loose to shift for themselves. Even the horses of the settlement are left to get their own living. In short, it was a standing joke at Port Nicholson, that the only raw-boned animal in the place was carefully fed upon hay and oats, and regularly groomed, whilst the other horses, which were left to watch over their own interests, like true self-relying Colonists, were, as I said before, invariably fat.'
Many stock farmers found it cheaper to travel to New South Wales and buy their stock themselves, or else bring it with them when they migrated. Charles Bidwill was one of these latter farmers. He arrived in New Zealand in 1843 in the schooner Posthumous, together with 1 600 sheep and some horses. Considering the overcrowded conditions it was little wonder that many of the animals died on the way over from Australia. The flock was put ashore on Fifeshire Island, in the Nelson harbour, where there was insufficient fresh water, so that more sheep died from trying to quench their thirst with salt water. Bidwill sold some of the survivors and shipped the rest, numbering about 350, to Wellington. He then drove them along the coast to the Wairarapa. Three years later, with Weld and Vavasour, he obtained 3 000 more sheep from Sydney and shipped them into Marlborough.
Another early pastoralist was George Duppa, who travelled from New South Wales in June 1842, bringing into New Zealand 189 sheep and some fine Durham page 46 cattle, and squatting with them on unoccupied land near Nelson, in the Wai-iti valley on the east side of the Waimea river. His holding prospered, so that he was dealing most profitably with the Nelson settlers, and he was eventually granted 200 acres in the Waimea by the New Zealand Company. He was by no means a respected character in the community, as he had no scruples at all about blatantly pasturing his stock on his neighbour's property, and far too many scruples about paying his annual dues to the Commissioner of Crown Lands. He had no real sense of belonging to the country, as he was merely profiteering in order to pay off the debts on his ancestral home in England. However he pioneered the enterprise of driving stock along the high-country trail between Nelson and the Canterbury Plains, conquering that route with one companion on horseback and taking ten days to travel from Nelson to Christchurch. In those days the province of Nelson was very sparsely settled. It was very lonely territory south of Nelson settlement. One of the last signs of civilisation was a little pub with an enormous notice declaring 'Let Glasgow Flourish!'. Rather like some of the Australian outback pubs of today, it marked the beginning of wild country. The courage of George Duppa was never in doubt.
At that time there already were some sheep in Canterbury, shipped there by the Deans brothers, who settled in Riccarton near Christchurch. John Deans wrote of his plans in 1843, saying, 'I am going to Australia in a week or two for the cattle etc., We mean to (bring back) about 50 heifers, 2 bulls, 300 sheep, with bullocks and mares, a lot of pigs, plenty of poultry, five dogs and as many cats.' He organised the importation to the ultimate detail, chartering a 250-ton vessel, the Princess Royal, and having her fitted out, he said,'... for carrying eighty head of cattle, four mares, 100 sheep and a few good pigs for breeding.'
John Dean's plans seemed to change from day to day, and in the end he must have had a fairly disappointing voyage, for he wrote, from Port Cooper in 1844, 'I daresay William would write you that I had a very long and rough passage with the cattle, and lost a good many about the time of landing, but considering the length of the passage we cannot complain much of our luck ... We have now of those shipped, three mares, eighteen bullocks, fortyone heifers, one bull and thirtythree sheep. The mares all proved to be in foal and they are now running about with three as fine foals as I could wish to see; the one we lost on the passage was also in foal, which made the loss so much the greater.'
Further south, in Otago, the ex-whaler Johnny Jones had a flock of 1 000 sheep in 1844. Sheep numbers increased rapidly from then on, so that by 1867 there were eight and a half million sheep in the country, of which six million were in Otago and Canterbury alone.
The patient bullock
In the early years of settlement pack and draft horses were used extensively to move men and goods around the country: however bullocks proved to be superior in the matter of drawing heavy loads. They needed no shoeing, ate less expensive food, and could be turned out at night even in the depths of winter, being hardier than horses in coping with bitter cold.
The first bullock team arrived with the Dromedary, and, in rehearsal of the work that hundreds of bullock teams were to carry out in the next sixty years, was used to haul great kauri logs out of the depths of the bush.
The timber industry was not the only venture that came to rely on the patient strength of the bullock: it was found that bullocks could plough the stump-studded newly burned off land, could clear the logged slopes to make pasture for sheep, and could haul immense wagons of wool and other produce at an unremitting three kilometres per hour.
A good 'bullocky' could even persuade his team to haul wool wagons into the sea, so that the bales could be offloaded into boats. However the bullock teams were seldom given the respect they deserved, and the bullocky never had as high a status in colonial society as the man who drove a dashing team of horses. Horses moved faster and were therefore more spectacular than the plodding bullock teams. It is ironic, then, that the roads that made transport by coach possible were built with the muscle-power of bullock teams.
Bullockies spent so much time with their teams, and developed so much rapport with the cattle, that their bullocks were often known by affectionate and wittily conceived names. Thus one team in the Wairarapa reflected their drover's repertoire of beverages: Whisky, Brandy, Soda, Beer, Gin, Wine, Sherry, Rum, Stout, Lemonade, Ginger and Coffee. Teams like this one became locally famous, but with the roads that they built, and the coming of mechanisation, their usefulness came to an end. Powerful, patient and dogged they may have been, but they had to humbly move over when the truck made its entrance on the transport scene.
In 1839 the first shipment of wool was sent to Hobart. This was extremely well received, being considered far superior, in both length and texture, to any produced in New South Wales. Petre wrote, in 1840, 'A great number of sheep have also been imported from New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, and they have thriven well. I learn that some New Zealand wool has already been sold in London, at prices about equal to those of Australian wool, and I have no doubt that considerable exports of wool will take place.' At first the wool grown in New Zealand was from Merino sheep, as this variety was the predominant breed in Australia, and therefore the one most often imported into New Zealand. The Merino produces a very poor carcass, but wool was the only product looked for, as there was very little market for meat outside of settler demand.
In the 1860s, however, other English breeds such as the Lincoln and Leicester arrived, and it was inevitable that some experimental cross-breeding should take place. The crossbreds turned out to be hardier, have more lambs, and be better mothers—and produce a very good carcass. Old sheep were still an embarrassment.
The market for meat had not improved, and wool was the big money-earner. Up to 1880 sheep numbers increased to nearly thirteen million; wool exports attained a rate of over 27 million kilograms a year, fetching a national income of three and a half million pounds sterling. Farmers simply did not know what to do with old stock, although the best meat could at times be canned for export. In desperation many pastoralists drove flocks of old ewes over the nearest handy cliff.
This problem was solved with the safe arrival of the refrigerated ship the Dunedin in London in 1882, carrying a cargo of 4 460 mutton carcasses and 449 lamb carcasses, all in excellent condition. It is interesting to note that the Albion Company lost heavily on that maiden trip by the Dunedin. The New Zealand and Australian Land Company chartered the refrigerated space of the ship for meat at a freight of 21/4d per pound, and the cargo was insured at a premium of five guineas per hundred. The Mataura, which sailed in June 1882, was the second refrigerated ship from that port. The Mataura was owned by the New Zealand Shipping Company, and at the Annual General Meeting in August the Chairman of the company admitted that the page 50 freight of 21/2d per pound had not been a financial success. The Mataura was not able to insure her cargo, so the venture was at the shipowner's risk. She returned the next year and lifted the first refrigerated cargo ever to be lifted from Auckland. On the homeward passage the crew made the most of the unusual opportunity to throw snowballs at each other at the equator.
In any event, economics or no, the meat boom was on its way for the pastoralists of New Zealand. By the year 1900 over three million carcasses were being sent each year to the ready markets on the other side of the world.
Captain Cook landed two Merino sheep in Marlborough in 1773, but they failed to survive. The Rev. Samuel Marsden brought Merino sheep from Australia to the Bay of Islands in 1814, but there is no record of permanent establishment of the flock. The real importation of sheep began in 1834 when 105 Merinos from Australia were landed on Mana Island near Wellington by John Bell Wright. In the following year he sent a few bags of their wool to Sydney for sale, establishing the foundation of the New Zealand wool industry. His enterprise was followed by those of Bidwill, Weld, Clifford and Vavasour, who landed their sheep in very much the same way as the sheep in this photograph, taken at Waipiro Bay, were taken from ship to shore.
Cattle and sheep in the wild
Although the first recorded successful introduction of sheep and cattle was that made by Marsden and the missionaries, it is probable that the whalers and sealers may have kept some of these animals at their shore stations. When the settlers arrived in the 1840s cattle and sheep were allowed to graze wherever they could find pasturing. It was inevitable that some of these animals would escape and become wild. This happened to the extent that in the 1870s settlers in Canterbury complained of the herds of wild cattle that kept on jumping fences and devastating their crops.
By the '80s wild cattle and sheep were such a nuisance that cattle hunting became an organised sport. With the spread of organised settlement, however, these herds became very greatly reduced, so that now the only significant numbers of feral sheep and cattle are on the sub-Antarctic islands, where they were originally landed late last century to provide food for castaways.
The Dunedin was one of Duncan's beautiful ships built by Duncans of Port Glasgow for the Albion Line in 1874. She was a vessel of 1250 tons, designed to carry about 400 passengers and capable of very fast passages: none of her runs exceeded 100 days.
The Dunedin had the distinction of being the first ship to carry frozen meat from New Zealand to London. This was in february 1882, when the ship was owned by the Shaw Savill and Albion Company. The ship was fitted with a freezing plant, and the meat was frozen on board, as there were no freezing works in the country. When 1 500 carcasses were on board the equipment broke down, so that Dunedin customers had the honour of purchasing the first New Zealand frozen lamb. However repairs were soon effected, more carcasses arrived on board, and on the 15th the Dunedin sailed out of Port Chalmers on her historic journey.
Her last visit to New Zealand was in 1889 and after discharging her outward cargo she sailed on March 19, 1890, for London with frozen meat and wool. She was then barque-rigged, and was seen once before reaching Cape Horn, but she never reached her destination. This gallant ship was supposed to have foundered during a storm, or else she was sunk by an iceberg.
In the early 1970s Limousin cattle, along with other so called 'exotics' were imported into the country. With this the monopoly of the beef market was over for Angus and Hereford breeders; some even worried that the new breeds like Limousin, Simmental and Charolais would take over. However only a very small number of traditional beef breeders changed over to new European breeds. Older breeders were too well established to risk changing their stock over—the men who supported the new breeds and broke the beef tradition in New Zealand were young men who were not yet established as breeders and yet had enough finance to give it a go.
One of these men was David Bodle of the Waikato, shown here proudly displaying a product of his Limousin breeding programme. Mr Bodle had been on his farm for ten years when, in 1973, the opportunity arose for him to buy a Limousin heifer from the first New Zealand Government importation of the breed from its home country, France. He bought the heifer and rearranged his breeding programme. Since then his venture has rewarded him with gratifying recognition at various A & P shows.
The anatomy of the Limousin is its prime feature. With one look at the massive beast it can easily be seen why it has been called 'the carcass breed'. The parts of the beast which yield the higher priced meats, such as the fillet, are very well developed. According to Mr Bodle, a Limousin carcass will yield up to 73 per cent meat.
The Limousin is one of the oldest strains of traditional breeding cattle in the world. According to Limousin literature, the breed can be traced back to France of 4 000 BC. Now Limousins can be found in over 30 countries around the world, flourishing in almost all climatic conditions. And, while a late arrival, the Limousin flourishes now throughout New Zealand, from Northland to the foothills of the Southern Alps.
Back in the 1840s many of the settlers did not have the finance to participate in this potential bonanza. Perhaps eyeing the pastoral men with envy, they nevertheless got on with the job of growing fruit and vegetables, with a cow or two on the side.
Some of them, appreciating the situation and more enterprising than most, set themselves up in the occupation of importing and cultivating seed and plants for sale. The first mention of fruit trees in Wellington is found in a copy of the New Zealand Gazette of February 13, 1841.
Orders for fruit trees of all kinds suitable for this climate from Van Diemen's land, will be received by the undersigned, they having made arrangements with a competent person to select same, and ship them for this port during next winter. NONE will be imported except to order. Immediate application is necessary.
Merchants and Shipping Agents,
One of those who placed orders was Mr Alfred Ludlam. He, with his friend and neighbour Francis Molesworth, set up an exchange system of sending plants back to England and receiving others by return ship. The gardens they established on Francis Molesworth's Lower Hutt farm eventually became the Bellevue Gardens, nearly 20 hectares of native and exotic shrubs, including magnificent trees and massed beds of English flowers.
At the same time, a wealthy Quaker, Thomas Mason, was establishing orchards and gardens at Taita. He went to Tasmania in 1847, and brought back in 1849 a variety of apple trees he had admired. Later he had other fruit trees sent over to him from Tasmania, and by 1851 was growing apples, apricots, almonds, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, chestnuts, walnuts and currants. He imported grapevines from Sydney. He continued to import plant species from all over the world until at the time of his death his garden contained 1 500 varieties of plants, including 250 named rhododendrons and 60 named camellias. All this made up a massed display covering five hectares.
Another importer of horticultural material was a Nelson settler, Henry Seymour, who migrated in 1843. He had been a member of the Cheltenham Horticultural Society, and when he left England his society gave him, as a farewell present, a selection of fruit trees. He planted these on his section in Brook Street Valley, and they provided the stock for many of Nelson's orchards. Another silviculturalist was Mr McVicar, who in 1850 advertised apple trees (30 named varieties), plum, cherry, apricot and pear trees, grapevines, currant canes, gooseberry plants, Scotch firs, Stone pines, Pinus pilaster, Italian poplars, English lilac bushes, syringa plants, and roses in variety.
William Hale, another Nelson settler, arrived in 1848 with some apple and pear pips and some plum and cherry stones. On the basis of this handful of seeds he set up a nursery garden, and in 1850 advertised rhubarb roots, cauliflower, cabbage and Savoy plants, crocuses, lily of the valley crowns, ranunculus corms and lilium bulbs.
Apart from growing the fruits and flowers of home, the early settlers widely cultivated the Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and the Monterey cypress (macrocarpa), both for fuel and as windbreaks. These seeded freely, becoming thoroughly acclimatised, so that today they are common sight along country roads.
By 1853 he had the incredible number often thousand fruit and forest trees to offer, including apricots, apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, filbert nuts, currants, gooseberries, grapevines, ash, elm, oak and poplar seedlings, and holly, laurel and lauristina bushes. The pear trees included new varieties he had personally imported from France.
This amazingly prolific gardener had an equally energetic brother, John, who specialised in growing hawthorn 'quicks' for live fences. He was an enterprising salesman, and sold these in Australia as well as all over New Zealand. He received no money from his Australian agents, asking instead for plants, of ficus, grevillea, hibiscus, magnolia, mulberry, orange, lemon, camellia and erica.
By the 1880s jam was being made from the fruit of Nelson's orchards by Kirkpatrick's firm. Apart from this, as the export of fresh fruit was impracticable, people grew fruit only in sufficient quantities for their own home use. Being a nurseryman was a difficult way to make a living, especially if one enjoyed the luxury of importing new exotic varieties to New Zealand, as the main customers were the settlement fathers, and wealthy landowners, who wanted to plant shelter and boulevard trees, windbreaks, live fences, and shrubs to beautify gardens. Lady Barker, when she arrived in Christchurch in 1866, wrote, 'there are large trees bordering most of the streets, which give a very necessary shade in summer; they are nearly all English sorts, and have only been planted within a few years. Poplars, page 57 willows, and the blue gum grow quickest, are least affected by the high winds, and are therefore the most popular.'
Refrigeration contributed as much to the eventual prosperity of the horticulturalist as it did to the sheep farmer. After the first shipment of apples and pears, in 1899, arrived in London in fresh condition, the boom was on. For a while Australian orchardists made the most out of it, while considerable efforts were made in New Zealand to establish fruit-producing orchards. Tens of thousands of fruit trees arrived from across the Tasman, often in such large bundles that cranes had to be used to lift them from ship to shore.
With refrigeration the dairy industry was also able to expand to a dizzying degree. Previously the herds were limited to the extent of local demand for meat and milk, butter and cheese. Distance prohibited any overseas trade in the dairy products. The advent of refrigeration changed all this, and the development of centrifugal cream separators provided another impetus. The dairy industry grew rapidly from 1885. Large new areas were cleared for farming, herd numbers increased, and, with research, herd quality increased. New Zealand was soon famous for the splendour of its breeds, and the special quality of a butter that came from cows that grazed entirely on grass, out in the open air throughout the year.
The dairy factory
New Zealand had no cattle until the early nineteenth century, and, even when established, the numbers of herds were limited by local demands for milk, cream, butter and cheese. The immense distances to overseas markets prohibited the export of any dairy produce—until 1882, when the first refrigerated cargo left New Zealand on the Dunedin. This cargo included some casks of butter and cheese as well as the famous mutton and lamb carcasses; with the successful arrival of the produce in London the dairy industry of New Zealand was able to expand to a dizzying degree. Herd numbers greatly increased, and as the years went by the breeds of New Zealand became world-renowned for their production and the quality of their milk, butter and cheese.
Today almost all New Zealand dairy produce is manufactured in cooperatively-owned dairy factories. The first of these was established at Springfield, Otago, in 1871, and was supplied by horse and cart. Since then the milking machine has replaced the dairymaid and cowhand, and the centrifugal separator has replaced the skimmer and the churn. However the modern dairy factory, stainless-steel and tanker-supplied though it may be, shares the same background as the little village factories of the past, in that it is owned and administered by the dairy farmers themselves.
When Thomson wrote The Naturalisation of Animals and Plants in New Zealand in 1922, he stated that over six hundred species of plants had become truly wild in New Zealand. In order to be considered acclimatised, the plants had to be able to reproduce themselves freely, and appear to be more or less permanent citizens of the countryside. While many of them were introduced deliberately for food and fodder, for shelter or to beautify gardens, the great majority were brought in accidentally, as seeds lurking in bags of legitimate seeds, or in hay, straw or other packing material. Ship's ballast was a prolific source of weeds—and of soil animals such as earthworms, slugs and snails.
Many of the deliberately introduced plants cannot be considered to be naturalised, even though they appear commonly in fields and gardens. They survive only because of man's cultivation, and would otherwise soon die out. Examples of this can be seen in any garden: that cattleya orchid and the bougainvillea bower that need such anxious care, aristocratic liliums and grassy banks of daffodils, and even the humble garden peas and beans. One little flower that has resisted all efforts to establish in the wild is the violet. Thomson even suggested that violets take better if the area is grazed by guinea pigs, as the little animals keep down the plants that compete with the violet, but leave the violet plants alone. When Thomson observed this, he had guinea pigs running around semi-wild in his garden in Dunedin.
The plants that do escape and become wild, flourishing on wasteland, or even unwanted in our gardens, are known as adventives. These adventives arrived in force after 1769, with the arrival of the European. Weed plants arrived with food plants carried by voyagers, and it took only a short period of organised settlement for these page 60 plants to show up amongst the native vegetation. This was because bare ground was becoming increasingly available, through the burning and grazing which modified the existing vegetation and created opportunities for introduced plants, both deliberate and accidental, to flourish.
George Malcolm Thomson was the author of Naturalisation of Animals and Plants in New Zealand, a work that has been the reference manual for all those interested in the history of acclimatisation in New Zealand since its publication in 1922.
Thomson was educated in Edinburgh, and came to this country at the age of twenty. He farmed for three or four years, and then settled down to teaching at Otago Boys' High School, until he became an analytical chemist in 1911. Throughout his life he devoted himself to the causes of science and education, becoming a Reform Member of the House of Representatives, and writing many papers for the Royal Society, of which he was an active and keen member.
In 1904, after much effort, he founded the Portobello Marine Station, Dunedin, in the hope that research carried out there would further the fishing industry in New Zealand. It was a matter of much grief to him that this establishment was singularly ill-fated, failing in many of its ventures and eventually having its grant from the Government greatly reduced.
The invasive properties of adventives made a strong impression on early botanists. Hooker prophesied that many small groups of native vegetation would disappear because of the aggressive characteristics of northern hemisphere plants, and Darwin was even more pessimistic, saying that many of the native plants would not survive the onslaught of competitors. He said, 'If all the animals and plants of Great Britain were set free in New Zealand ... in the course of time a multitude of British forms would become thoroughly acclimatised there, and would exterminate many of the natives.' He considered the New Zealand native plants to be delicate indeed, as he went on to say that if the positions were reversed and New Zealand plants were sent to Britain, then they would not take hold at all.
Cockayne, the New Zealand botanist, disagreed, saying caustically that it wasn't the aggression of the introduced plants that was causing the retreat of the native varieties—it was people themselves. He pointed out that the settlers with their clever use of tools and their natural ingenuity, caused tremendous direct and indirect alterations to their surroundings. Even the moa-hunters used fire to change the environment, and made way for the tussock lands of the Canterbury Plains. Europeans felled, burned and cleared huge areas of forest, cleared tussock and scrub, ploughed and sowed, introduced domestic and wild grazing animals, drained swamps, fertilised infertile land and levelled hills and built up valleys.
We have used insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides. We have polluted water and scoured the banks of formerly slow-moving streams. We have discharged effluent and dammed rivers and lakes. In all these ways the environment has been changed to an extreme degree, creating areas where adventive plants can root and take hold. Margins of railways and roads have provided sites for accidentally dispersed seeds to germinate. We have tossed away peach stones and apple cores on our travels, and deliberately dumped horticultural rubbish, such as roots, clumps and prunings, by the sides of country roads. Old cemeteries have varied plant communities from the ornamental plantings that have been neglected for nearly a century.
Many plants have escaped from gardens and invaded the countryside. These include ivy, iris, forget-me-nots, viola, morning glory (rampant now in parts of Auckland), nasturtium, passionfruit, clematis (there is only one native species, Clematis indivisa), honeysuckle, jasmine, hydrangea, hawthorn, buddleia, the aggressive ugly privet, cotoneaster and the ubiquitous Wandering Jew, Tradescantia. When English birds such as the thrush and blackbird arrived in New Zealand they spread blackberry far and wide, as they enjoy the fruit and the seeds pass through their digestive systems unharmed, benefitting from the fertiliser that is broadcast with them. Raspberries and blackberries were first recorded as garden escapes in 1838, dispersed by birds such as quail. Wattle trees were introduced for the tannin in their bark, and spread from plantations. Lilies and cannas and ginger plants and Watsonias invade the verges of roads—and, indeed, complete hillsides—because of the gardeners who have dumped them there.
Waterways have also felt the impact of adventive vegetation. Lady Barker wrote in 1866, 'I don't think I have ever told you that it has been found necessary to legislate against watercress. It was introduced a few years since (for food) and has spread so rapidly as to become a perfect nuisance, choking every ditch in the neighbourhood of page 62 Christchurch, blocking up mill streams, causing meadows to be flooded, and doing all kinds of mischief.'
When watercress first arrived in Canterbury it attained enormous size, being recorded as over four metres in length, but this must have been due to some response to the splendid new environment and a lack of competitors for nutrients, as the watercress plant has since reverted to the usual size. Some naturalists of the time recommended that willow trees be planted on the banks of streams where watercress was a pest, as the roots of the trees would drive out the plant. This accounts for the many streams lined with willow trees on their banks which we see today, particularly in the South Island. Nowadays, of course, willow trees, with their habit of searching
Garden escapes invade the surrounding countryside in a variety of ways. Horticultural dumping, from the tidying up suburban sections, leads to accidental acclimatisations, so that we see cannas and ginger plants and exotic cacti lining roads and railway lines.
Blackberry and other berrying plants fringe roads and even the edges of the native bush because of the busy activities of thrushes and blackbirds, who feed on the berries and then spread the seeds with their droppings.
Willows were planted deliberately by the nostalgic settlers and then spread as twigs were flushed downstream by the current.
More infrequent, but all-encompassing in its effect on the naturalisation of exotic plants, was the spread of trees and flowers when homesteads were abandoned. The remnants of the once carefully-nurtured gardens and orchards were left to seed and grow, remaining even when the houses had tumbled into rotting firewood.
out water drains and destroying the pipes, are considered as big a menace as watercress.
Sweetbriar, which Darwin noted growing against the cottage at Paihia in 1835, became a garden escape and later a noxious weed in Northland. The same applies to barberry, another plant cultivated in mission gardens. Darwin also noted the gorse that was grown for fences. Archdeacon Matthias planted more than a hectare to sell as firewood, so gorse, incredible as it may seem, was deliberately introduced. In fact, when Governor Grey devised his scheme whereby Crown lands were divided into small areas available to men of limited means, one of the conditions of rental was that a specified length of live hedge, either gorse or hawthorn, was to be grown.
Buttercups were introduced at an early date, and both the field and creeping varieties became common. But the field poppy, which arrived at about the same time, and which is so very common in the meadows of Europe, did not establish itself and is now only seen in paper form on people's lapels on Anzac Day. The history of the introduction of plants is rich with little mysteries like these.
In a paper on plant acclimatisation in New Zealand by Thomson in 1900, it was said that 'seeds of such plants as violets, primrose, cowslips, bluebells, heaths, etc., and fruits like the bilberry and cranberry, have been sown by numbers of persons during the past 50 or 60 years in all situations, but they have not established themselves. They cannot always succeed even when growing in open competition against the indigenous vegetation and they never make the slightest headway against many of the vigorous introduced forms.'
Professor Kirk, senior, who in his botanical ramblings documented all the invading plants in the Auckland district, believed that there was no real danger for the majority of native plants. 'At length a turning point is reached,' he said, where 'the invaders lose a portion of their vigour and become less encroaching, while the indigenous plants find the struggle less severe and gradually recover a portion of their lost ground.'
Whether permanent or not, the introduction of foreign species of plants has been continuous since the settlement of New Zealand began. It is still continuing. Seeds arrive in construction and farm machinery, in agricultural and horticultural produce, in soil, spoil and shingle, in ballast, in clothing and footwear. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries keeps a watchful eye on all goods and people arriving from overseas, but plants are still carried accidentally from one end of the country to the other, from gardens to road verges, from pastures to the bush. We see buttercup, daisy and marigold along the roadside, willows and arum lilies along ditches and gorse on the hillside. All this contributes to a mixed vegetation that has come to be as characteristic of modern New Zealand as the unchanged native bush is a symbol of the past.
The motives for bringing in plants were many, but in the beginning there was a simple desire to put something in the cooking pot. The importation of food and fodder plants started a landslide of other introductions, both deliberate and accidental. From the privations and hunger of the past came the prosperity and problems of the present.
So, by the efforts of many thousands of people, including the missionaries and the many anonymous settlers who merely sought to provide food for themselves and those around them, by the farsightedness of the first pastoral farmers and the opportunism of the pioneer nurserymen, a whole host of agricultural and horticultural material has been introduced into New Zealand. It includes all the fruits and vegetables that were familiar to the settlers, and some that were new as well; domestic grazing animals; opportunistic weeds; spectacular shrubs such as rhododendrons and camellias; garden trees such as holly, oak, ash and elm; lowly rhubarb roots and lily-of-the-valley crowns; proteas from Africa; gums from Australia; azaleas from Asia.
By the turn of the century New Zealand had found ample for its needs, a surplus that could be sold at a profit all over the world. The time for other sorts of acclimatisation had arrived.