The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 9 (April 1, 1931)
Pictures of New Zealand Life — Wise Words
This extract from a recent speech by the Governor-General of the Dominion should be pasted up in every city office, and recited at every meeting of Chambers of Commerce, as a prayerful preliminary to the business of the day:-
“It is up to the townsman to remember that his ultimate economic salvation lies not on his own urban doorstep, however well scrubbed it may be, not even in his comfortable office with his typewriters, dockets and files around him, but in the fair green countryside where New Zealand's butter, cheese, wool, meat, fruit, honey, and flax and timber are being produced, ay, and up in the back-blocks where conditions are hard and life is strenuous, but where the vital spark of the nation is still aglow and the spirit of the sturdy resourceful pioneer, who laid the foundations of her economic structure barely one hundred years ago, is still determined and resourceful.”
It is a fact that is too little realised by the comfortable city dweller, who is apt to be hypnotised, in a manner, by the sight of the luxuries of his town, by the big buildings going up all around him, by the heavy traffic of business, and the still heavier traffic of the town pleasure-seekers. Lord Bledisloe, essentially a country-lover, is exactly the man for the times. Only too well he realises the necessity for directing more attention to the country, and to its industries, upon which all the towns depend. The Railway Department's periodical commerce trains, too, have their splendid uses towards this end, for they compel, in an attractive way, the city man to focus his attention for a while on what the country means to him.
Recent mention of the small steamer Taniwha striking a snag and sinking in the Waihou River, near Puriri, in a fog, recalled to one's memory a little incident of goodness knows how long ago. It was on the maiden trip of that Gulf and river packet from Auckland to the Thames and Paeroa. The Taniwha was quite a smart ship, and the owners hired a band for the cruise, and invited various prominent citizens. We were steaming serenely up the Waihou on a beautiful Sunday morning. The peach-trees were all out in blossom as we went round Thorpe's Bend, and opened up a long vista of smooth, shining river, fringed with weeping willows that dipped their trailers in the water. The brass band, on the foredeck, was playing “List to the Convent Bells,” page 26 and like all bands, was doing its level best.
Suddenly there was a tremendous bump, a shiver of the steamer's hull, then another bump. The passengers fell into each other's arms, and slithered about the deck. “Convent Bells” stopped with a horrible discordant jerk; band and instruments went over in a tangled heap. It was not serious; we had only run on a submerged mud-bank. It was within tidal influence, and it was not yet high water. So the skipper set all hands to work running in a body from one side of the deck to the other, to roll her off. There were men of weight and substance there, and soon we were afloat again, and steaming away as smoothly as before. The band did not recover so quickly from the shock. It wasn't used to such startling interruptions of its harmonies, and the ship's steward found it necessary to administer first aid in many long pewters before jangled nerves recovered. “Convent Bells” were not resumed, but by the time Paeroa wharf was reached the band was playing “A Life on the Ocean Wave” as bold as brass.
U.S.A. and the Maori.
Our American visitors in the luxurious liner “Malolo” were pleased with us, it was pleasing to hear, and they particularly admired Wellington Harbour, which was very nice of them. But one passenger was very disappointed at seeing no Maoris while he was motoring around the Capital City; at least he saw one native, but he was dressed just like anyone else. This is a frequent complaint, or rather comment, by overseas visitors. They have seen so much of the poster and illustrated-annual type of Maori, all in his primitive glory, that it comes as a kind of shock to find that the ancient race has discarded all the warlike fixings, in ordinary life, and wears high collars and often plus fours—and drives his motor car and talks quite polished English. The tourist makes the mistake, quite naturally, of accepting the poi-girl haka-warrior Maori of entertainment occasions at Rotorua as typical of the race throughout the country.
Nook of History.
Kerikeri, the scene of that bullock-team ploughing for wheat-growing, is a place of remarkable historic interest for us, quite a story treasure-place, slumbering there beside its tidal river-basin. It has the oldest wooden building and the oldest stone building in New Zealand. The timber structure is the mission house now occupied bv the Kemp family; it was built in 1819. The fort-like stone store, built in 1833 as the base for mission supplies, on the little seaport where the track went in to the Waimate station, looks fit to stand for centuries yet; and the mission house built of the best timbers in the land should last for many a generation, like the well-built country homes in the Old Land.
Some of our New Zealand birds—the bellbird is one—are mimics and seem to take a delight in forging notes to deceive the bush-traveller. But the long-tailed cuckoo, called by the Maoris the koekoea, or the kohoperoa, is the arch-deceiver. You may hear one quite close by you, in a tree, but immediately he detects your presence he adopts protective tactics. The next shrill cuckoo call will come apparently from a distance, and you may imagine the bird to have taken flight to the tree from which the cry seemingly came. But Mr. Koekoea has not stirred; he is sitting as still as can be on the same branch, maybe watching you through its leaves to see how well he has fooled you. He is a quite unscrupulous beggar this same cuckoo, like his cousin the shining cuckoo, or pipi-wharauroa. He eggs on his partner to lay in the little grey warbler's nest, throwing that long-suffering bird's eggs out to make room for hers, and so foisting his offspring on the patient riroriro and evading his own clear duty as food-provider.
Rotorua the Show Place.
It should be made more widely known that Rotorua is not only the focus of the page 27 wonderful Geyserland, but is also the principal Maori show-place of the Dominion. It is the one place where the people are able and willing at short notice to provide a reproduction of the picturesque old life, with its costumes and its songs and dances. For the rest, the Maori shares the ordinary working life of his pakeha fellow-New Zealanders. He engages in the dairying business, in stock-raising, in crop growing; and practically the only difference between the two races in the economy of life is that the Maori can follow the simple plan of old time when money runs short.
He can live on the products of bush, sea and creek. And even the Rotorua folk, who charm the eyes and ears of tourists with their entertainments, are hardworking toilers on the land most of their time.
“No Good to Our Bush.”
High Train Speed.
According to a writer in the London Times the Great Western Railways “Cheltenham Flyer,” which is probably the world's fastest train, being booked to run the 77.3 miles from Swindon to Paddington in 70 minutes, start to stop, recently covered the distance in 65½ minutes. This fine achievement brought the average speed, start to stop from 66 to 71 miles an hour. Fifty consecutive miles were run at an average speed of 78 miles an hour, while a speed of 82 miles an hour was maintained for several miles near Didcot.page 28