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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 3 (July 1, 1930)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 49

Pictures of New Zealand Life

The Norsemen's Settlements

Many a train traveller passing through the southern Hawke's Bay country has expressed curiosity as to the origin of the town-name Dannevirke. When one comes to inquire into the origin of the name, and also that of Norsewood, a little way off the line, an epic of early-days' pioneering is revealed. All this beautiful country of good pastures and countless dairy herds was, until within the last half-century or so, one vast forest, only useful as a Maori bird-spearing and snaring ground, and a hunting place for wild pigs. It remained in its wild state until some colonising parties of Scandinavians arrived here in the early 'seventies, and set to at the heroic task of making homes in a dense bush wilderness.

On September 15, 1872, two sailing ships, bringing Scandinavian immigrants, dropped anchor at Napier within a few hours of each other. One, the “Hoerden,” was from Norway and Denmark; the other, the “Ballarat,” brought mostly Danish families. Their arrival was the response to efforts made by the New Zealand Government to induce Scandinavian agriculturists to settle in the colony. The new-comers took up land in the forested districts now known as Dannevirke, Norsewood, Makotuku, and Ormondville. Dannevirke itself was founded by twenty-two pioneers; of these, fourteen were Danes, six Norwegians, and two Swedes. The appropriate name—“Danes' Work”—given to this little bush settlement, now a thriving town, commemorated an incident in ancient Danish history, the erection of a line of forts by King Gottrick, in the ninth century, as a protection against foreign invasion; it was to that chain of fortresses that the name Dannevirke was originally given. In all, about 3,000 Danes, Swedes and Norwegians, the Danes predominating were settled in the various districts allotted to the Scandinavian immigrants, and no better stock for the breaking-in work of colonisation ever set axe and saw to the New Zealand bush.

Where Seddon Stands.

It is always interesting, often fascinating, to turn back the pages of our settlement stories and picture the beginnings of white-man's work in the land. Here is quite a charming vignette of the old-time Flaxbourne lagoons, near the present busy little country town of Seddon, thirty-four miles in from Picton, on the railway run southward through Marlborough. It is from the pen of that admirable figure in New Zealand's settlement and political history, Sir Frederick Weld, who after leaving here became a British Colonial Governor in Malaysia. In 1849, Sir Frederick Weld (then Mr. Weld), was settled, with Mr. Clifford, as a sheep-farmer at Flaxbourne, in Marlborough (Seddon is on the old Flaxbourne estate). He wrote, in a letter to his sister in England, the following description of the lagoons on his run, and the wild-fowl with which they abounded:—

“The Flaxbourne lakes . . remind me in a way of the swannery at Abbotsbury, though on page 50 a much larger scale. You have no idea what a glorious sight it is in the early morning, when the mist is just clearing off the waters. Unseen, one creeps along the banks, and poking one's head up over a tuft of flax one beholds thousands (no exaggeration!) of ducks floating on the shadowy surface of the lake. There is a big paradise duck, something like the muscovy duck, with its amber breast and white head reflected in the waters; the common grey wild duck, the teal, and the bright-plumaged widgeon chasing one another in play, or in pursuit of insects; whilst on the banks the long-legged plover strats about, and perhaps a white crane shows itself on the rising ground—the latter being so shy that one never can get the chance of a shot! Possibly one may hear the distant boom of the bittern. Then the uproar which arises the moment a head is raised from the place of concealment; off flies the white crane, the ducks quack, the whole lake is in commotion—the enemy has appeared.”

“… . The exquisite vision Sinks back to its prison.”—Joyce Jocelyn. (Photo, C. R. Barrett.) The Crow's Nest Geyser (near Lake Taupo, North Island) with the swiftly flowing Waikato River in the background.

“… . The exquisite vision
Sinks back to its prison.”—Joyce Jocelyn.

(Photo, C. R. Barrett.)
The Crow's Nest Geyser (near Lake Taupo, North Island) with the swiftly flowing Waikato River in the background.

The Spout of the Crow's Nest.

It is the queerest of geysers, the puia called the Crow's Nest—for the shape of the mound and the sticks criss-crossed on it—on the east bank of the Waikato River, near Taupo. The Crow's Nest is a marvel even in this place of wonders. It shoots up without the slightest premonitary symptoms, throwing its glittering white jet thirty or forty feet, and sometimes higher, into the air; and the deep cold Waikato rolls by within a few feet. When the river is high, in the season of floods, the eruptions are more frequent and the shots are higher. The exact nature of the connection between the rise of the river and the activity of the puia form a subject for discussion at the tourists' tea-table. Where so many obvious theories can be advanced by the new-comer it would be a pity to lay down any dogmatic scientific explanation, with the exception, perhaps, of one I once heard from a Maori as we watched the Crow's Nest spout.

Home declared that when the Waikato was in flood too much cold water soaked through the rock and ran down the geyser's throat and made him “werry wild,” and so he spouted all the more furiously in order to rid himself of the overdose—which probably is a much clearer explanation of the principles of geyser action than that which most learned pakeha visitors can offer.

Charm of Akaroa.

The little towns of New Zealand, in the older-settled parts, have some pretty corners, some page 51 pleasant ways, some picturesque buildings. Cambridge is one, Te Awamutu is another. Akaroa, the oldest of them all, has most beautiful walks. The winding roads that strike up into the hills from the waterside main street have reminded English visitors of the leafy lanes of Devon. The place is one great flower garden. The pathways are bordered by hedgegroves of fragrant hawthorn and thick alders; the air is sweet with the perfume of May, honeysuckle, roses and the white acacia. Around the houses are groves of great pear and other fruit trees—relics of the old French settlers—orchard kings, laden every season. There is teeming bird life. Even in the townsmen's gardens the bellbird and tui, the two most delightful songsters of the New Zealand bush, live and breed undisturbed. These pretty Minnesingers of the vanishing forests, usually honey-eaters and lovers of small native fruits, have here developed a taste for the pears and plums and cherries of the white man. Up behind the town there are the richest of grass lands. There are tracks that take you up to the craggy skyline, two thousand feet above the waterfront, and so winding are they that the climb is only an easy stroll.

Our First Wool Clip.

Wool has its ups and downs, and our sheep-station owners would be mighty glad of the price our very first clip from New Zealand fetched in Sydney. That was more than a century ago. Few people, perhaps, would have imagined our greatest staple industry was so old. It is, in fact, a hundred and twelve years since the first little flock was landed at the Bay of Islands by that vigorous shepherd of souls and sheep, the Rev. Samuel Marsden. These sheep, from Parramatta in New South Wales, were put ashore at Te Puna, the early mission station in the Bay. The Rev. John King, one of Marsden's missionaries, who arrived in 1814, was the first shearer. That was in 1824, when the first few sheep landed in 1818 had increased considerably. The clip was eleven bags. The wool was shipped to Sydney, where it was sold for half-a-crown a pound.

“Where the mountains lift, through perpetual snows, Their lofty and luminous summits.”—Longfellow. (Photo, G. S. Desgrand, Brisbane.) The Dart River, Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand.

“Where the mountains lift, through perpetual snows,
Their lofty and luminous summits.”—Longfellow.

(Photo, G. S. Desgrand, Brisbane.)
The Dart River, Lake Wakatipu, South Island, New Zealand.

It may be that a little wool was sent to Sydney from the Bay of Islands before that date, but the 1824 shipment is the first of which there is definite record. There were, it is true, two or three sheep landed in New Zealand before the missionaries' day. These were the animals put on Motuanauru Island, in Queen Charlotte Sound, by Captain Cook; they soon died, from eating some poisonous plant. No doubt that was the first time imported animals were poisoned by the leaves of the tupakihi—the shrub more generally known as tutu, which is properly only the name of the black fruit. So the history of “tooted” stock goes back a hundred and sixty years.