Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Ships of Tarshish

Part the Third. A Little of the Future of the North of Auckland

Part the Third. A Little of the Future of the North of Auckland.

To commence again. In my mind's eye I can see an enormous dock, capable of receiving one of the Ships of Tarshish, stretching somewhere into Shoal Bay.

I can also see the whole north of Auckland, not as it is now, a mixture of natural beauties such as diversified contour, Italian skies, page 26charming mixtures of land, water, and sky everywhere, clean shelly-beached, tree-fringed bays, sheltered nooks, and numerous harbours, small and large, along with broken pathless wastes, and bleak, desolate gum ranges (such as "the desolate Whau") covered with "tea-tree"— not as it is now, I repeat, but transformed into a veritable paradise, even the desolate gum ranges being covered with orchards—(what was Ponsonby once but a desolate gum range?)—more thickly populated, and more sought after as a sanatorium than any other part of New Zealand; and if of New Zealand, then of the Southern Hemisphere. The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece! will one day have to give place to the isles of Hauraki, and the isles of Tokerau!

I see things from a good standpoint for comparison. There are not many here now who saw the hills of Auckland half-a-dozen years before even a single house stood on any part of it. Anyone with judgment who has watched the change in its appearance created within even the last ten years by tree planting and building, can see that Auckland with its suburbs is not one half as beautiful as it will be in a few years. I remember, in the early days I never looked upon Auckland as particularly charming in its scenery, (these were the days when there had been very little tree planting); and twenty-eight years ago, after a visit to Sydney, on my return I felt quite mortified at Auckland looking so ugly in comparison. But now I think that when Auckland shall have had as much money spent upon it as Sydney it will far excel the latter in beauty. Sydney, with its surroundings, presents a succession of beautiful and almost perfect pictures, but each in a contracted form, each picture being nearly all foreground, with no remote distances, and often hardly a decent middle distance. Auckland presents, and by and bye will still more present, not only such individual pretty pictures with charming foregrounds, but also, in addition, general views, with diversified middle distances formed of volcanic hills, which do not, however, shut out exquisite snatches of far distant scenery, composed of mountains, islands, and sheets and patches of water, with often a glorious sky.

Now there is no reason why the whole of the north of Auckland should not eventually, at least, be as much improved in appearance as Auckland has been and will be yet still more.

I picture in the future the whole north of Auckland carrying a thick population, with all its hill sides above a certain steepness benched with concrete or stone-retained terraces, covered with vines, olives, oranges, and various sub-tropical fruits, and with graded roads winding along the sides of all the chief valleys.

page 27

I can see handsome villas starting up as if by magic in each of the eastern coast bays, with trim and well-appointed yachts riding opposite to them. I see the best yachting ground in the whole world at last utilized and having its pre-eminence acknowledged. Every good situation has been taken up by the more knowing ones, and there is the usual spectacle of slow-coach after-comers buying oat such at a high price, and wondering how they could have been blind to the existence of these charming spots with their capabilities so long (and, as a consequence, alas I also, the usual spectacle of the thing for a time being overdone).

For no longer isolated from one another, all these bays will be connected with each other by an easy graded main road winding along them and round or over the intervening headlands, the whole of the way from Auckland to Doubtless Bay, and forming a charming alternative means of intercommunication for the residents, and delightful route for the tourist.

Then on the western side there will be the Kaipara with its wonderful system of inland waters, which tap the whole interior of the north in every direction. A day will come when all the mud flats of its various arms will be retained, and utilized, the channels thereby deepened and the waters made clearer, and the whole coast line fringed with beautiful trees shading level drives, and all this in the most equable climate in the world.

I have mentioned terraced hills. Now I am convinced of one thing, and that is that three-fourths of the best land in the north will remain unutilized or useless, unless all the hills suitable for the purpose are terraced. It is melancholy to see the way in which the surface of the best part of the country is destroyed, never to be restored again, except at great expense, through ignorance or shortsightedness on the port of the settlers. The steep hill sides are cleared of timber which is burnt on the ground, and then grass is sown in the ashes. The grass flourishes for a year or two, by which time all the ashes and vegetable mould, the latter the accumulation of ages, are swept down into the gullies and streams never more to be recovered. The grass dies out and is succeeded by dandelion, and in a year or two more, the roots of the trees which previously held the soil together having decayed, the hill sides slide down in immense landslips. Far better, and more paying in the end, in most cases, if the natural forest had been left standing or only thinned out with judgment for firewood and fencing materials, and so left fit for terracing when the proper time came. Even if the hill sides hold and do not go away in landslips, then, if they are cultivated as fast as the soil is pulverized and enriched, it gets washed away into the streams by every page 28heavy rain. On the other hand, if a portion of ground, however small, were once terraced and securely retained, it could be kept in order for ever after at a trifling cost, as no work would be neutralized upon it or lost through the action of the weather. One acre of terraced hill side would produce more revenue than 200 acres not terraced.

Of course the objection would be, that terracing would cost a lot of money. But there is often spare time to be filled up in a settler's family; bestowing occasional spare hours on the formation of a terrace, would be like placing small sums of money in a savings bank at compound interest, and if only ten perches a year were terraced, the work would soon begin to make a return; and the superior flavour of the fruit grown on terraces would soon come to be distinguished, such flavour being the effect of good drainage, and plenty of sun and air and reflected warmth getting at the trees.

Besides, I suppose, a time will come when kauri timber and kauri gum will all be exhausted, and when there will be another class of people in the land as well as that of those who think that it is a perfect state of things to be getting from seven to ten shillings a day for their labour, without regard to the limited maximum of comfort producing powers which the accompanying conditions will allow those wages to possess; when also it will cease to be thought that high wages with work on an average of only four days in the week, with the privilege of getting nothing for one's money but what is dear and nasty—to receive high pay (though really only nominally, the bulk of it going to the middlemen who flourish like big wens on the body politic, round the suburbs of the capital, while the country is yearly exhausted of its natural treasures, with little being provided to take their place), and at the same time live in shanties, life's monotony being relieved with occasional sprees at the settlements, or by occasional pain-killer nights, when whole cases of that cheering stimulant are polished off, for fun, at a sitting—instead of living under one's own vine and fig tree and on the fat of the land; to get one's potatoes, when one does or can get any, at a famine price from Canterbury, one's butter from Sydney, and one's milk from Switzerland;—to repeat, a time will come when this state of things will cease to be thought better than one in which wages at a lower rate will prevail, but in which a greater amount of comfort and prosperity will be obtained for such wages, along with more healthy and rational pleasures.

A time, I suppose, will come when trade and go-aheadism, and general smartness will no longer be thought (as it so much seems now) to page 29be everything; when we will no longer act as though we believed (after the manner of the Yankee when boasting of his countrymen) that it is possible for two men, shut up in a room together all night, each to have made their fortunes before morning by the profits made in trading their clothes to one another repeatedly. When it will be perceived that the indiscriminate slaughtering of all the finest forests of a country (that country at the same time not being a vast continent) and clearing out with the piles realised from the process, has not been such an immense benefaction as it seemed and was proclaimed to be at the time.

Not that I think this change in opinion will come voluntarily. But stall it will come.

For after a time the proportion of grown up natives of the country to the rest of the population will be greater, and a sentiment of truer patriotism will become more prevalent. That will be one thing.

There will also be other reasons, perhaps not prudent to mention, but which will cause the country to be really settled at last, when prosperity—not brilliant at first but genuine—will begin. For whatever mischief may be wrought by wrong measures, and by our own faults, the natural advantages of the country will always remain. The worst that can happen will be the ruining of one set of men, another set taking their place.

Another feature of the future in the north will be, that with respect to it, the Fencing Acts will be altered. Holders of cattle will have to keep them securely fenced in, and crops and orchards will no longer require to be fenced; and one great advantage will arise from this, namely, the road deviations which will be required so much in the north in the future will not involve compensation for fencing, but only for the land taken. The whole country north will then be given up to fruit growing, as it ought to be, only a few cattle and sheep being kept for local requirements, while such districts as the Waikato would afford the cattle required by the country.

When all this takes place the change in the appearance of the country may be imagined, for our desolate gum ranges will grow fruit better than rich level land.

One of my dreams of the future in connection with the north of Auckland is as follows:—I think that for the navigation of our northern tidal rivers, those on the East Coast, and the communication between them and Auckland, and for that of the various arms of the Kaipara, there will be adopted steamers of the Livadia pattern, so that traffic in most cases could be carried on at any time of tide, and in others, such as page 30that of the Waipu, it could be carried out successfully where at present it is impracticable. A vessel say 100 feet long and 66 feet broad, would not draw more than 3 feet when loaded. As the shallow draught would not admit of its being propelled by screws, and the vessel would be too broad and otherwise not of a shape to admit of its having side wheels, and stern wheels would not answer for the open sea portion of its work, I would propose to have it propelled by ejection of water astern, after passing it through two cylinders running through the vessel its entire length, say 22 feet apart, or whatever position might be best, each pump being worked by a separate engine for the sake of turning and steering round sharp bends. In case sufficient speed could not thus be procured (though the time saved on the average by not having to wait for tides would be more than compensation for special loss) it would no doubt be possible to have screws in addition to the other motors, liftable in shallow water. To prevent side drifting there might be two parallel iron keels, say about 18 feet apart, suspended by piston-arms working against roller bearings so as they might be self-raising in shallow water, their ends being sloped so as to cause them to act when required. I believe a vessel of this sort would afford far better passenger accommodation, and be much steadier than the largest of our present northern coastal steamers, would stand any weather likely to be met with as well as they, and would be able to do the work of the smallest boats in addition. There would be no danger of their broaching to in going over such bars as the Waipu, as from their great breadth and having independent engines, they could always be kept straight. After allowing sufficient margin for the play of the waves all round on the arched deck, there would be room for a lower story, say 75 feet by 33 feet, and an upper one of say 60 feet by 21 feet, with a 6 feet wide balcony all round. And all this roominess and steadiness with only a 3 feet draught of water!

This is a general sketch of what the north of Auckland will be like eventually. I look upon it as possessing potentialities of ultimate progress beyond the dreams of even local partialities, at any rate exceeding those of any other part of New Zealand. Millions of pounds spent artificially in other places will not give that arrangement of diversified contour, sheltered sheets of water, bays, islands of all sizes, ramified estuaries, fogless skies, glorious sunrises and sunsets, equable temperature, and position as to latitude—in short, that combination of advantages, which can be only given by nature, and which are to be found in that poor despised north of Auckland, at present esteemed the least of all the districts of New Zealand, and which always experiences Insult added to Injury, whenever it advances claims even to only a portion of its just page 31rights, and which has been trampled under foot so long by dunderheaded selfishness, both near-home and foreign.

If this third port of the prologue should appear of too local an interest, and not much connected with the subject of the following book, I would state that the connection is perhaps greater than it may seem to be, because the condition of things of which I dream, and have here set forth, would be an inevitable sequence to that of those depicted in the preceding parts. Also the consideration that I may have no other special opportunity to state these things, and my being a native of the portion of the province treated upon, will serve as a further excuse both for the digression and also if I have appeared to display too sanguine an optimism in my anticipations, and too high a colouring in my pictures.

In closing I would state, as an excuse for its defects, that the composition of this prologue has been a most painful mental process to me, and anything but a spontaneous gushing forth of ideas. I have had the intention of writing it on my mind for the last three years, but could not summon resolution enough to even begin it till about two months ago, and then I only succeeded by determining to write at least ten lines every evening, as after having written that much, I generally found it easy to continue. Part of this feeling was owing to my having much other work to do, which left me very little spare time or mental elasticity.

This mental state of things has also affected me similarly in the case of another project of mine which I have been wishing to carry out any time this last twelve years, being that of writing a pamphlet on the connection of the languages of the Polynesians with those of the Indo-European races—effects of contact in olden times, and for which purpose I had previously already made a collection of some hundreds of words and roots. I was going to suggest that the Maories are the descendants of one of the darker of the various tribes driven out of Canaan by Joshua, part of which escaped by way of Egypt and the shores of the Mediterranean under the name of Mauri, More, or Moors, also along the eastern coast of Africa, and part of which took ship and escaped by way of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, appearing in Java and Sumatra under the name of Malai, and in the Pacific and New Zealand as Maori, whither we children of Israel have followed the poor fellows up, dispossessing them once more. I wish to suggest reasons for believing the Polynesian languages to be the page 32most unchanged in the world, as far as having preserved roots very little altered from their ancient form goes, and that English and Maori, from similar causes, (insular protection), have words in common which other languages have lost. But this project will have to wait, if ever carried out, and may partly depend on the fate of this present production, and of the companion it ushers in.

And now for a final word. I hope that I shall not be called egotistical simply because in this composition the first personal pronoun has been used so often. It is quite true its use might have been avoided by writing in a more roundabout manner, but I think it more honest not to have done so, Furthermore, if my critics shall be inclined to be too severe and derisive over this "peculiar production," as I see it called in anticipation, I would venture to disarm their satire by the considerations, firstly, that the book has already cost me a good deal, without my having received one sixpence in return, and is likely to cost me something more before it shall have come into their hands, and that if I get back even half the cost only of printing this additional portion I shall be agreeably disappointed; and, secondly, that though its style and the ideas set forth in it are new, the latter nevertheless may possibly be true.

Finally, if even these considerations won't do I can always fall back upon the comforting idea that I must be in advance of my age with respect to the subjects treated upon.

E. Fairburn.

Auckland, December 2nd, 1884.
page breakpage break