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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 2 (June 1, 1931)

Where Nature is Truly Bounteous

Where Nature is Truly Bounteous.

Every Tongan male at the age of sixteen is entitled to an area of land bearing cocoanuts and capable of easy cultivation. He also gets a town section, and both are his while he pays the modest annual tax. By its unique land system, and thanks to a highly fertile climate, the Tongan is thus rendered independent for life. His country holding will produce not only all the most important foods, but the materials of his home, built wholly from the products available in the cocoanut tree. The trunk supplies the beams and rafters, the palms a good roof, and the whole is tied together with rope spun from the fibres of the husk surrounding the nut. By means of a simple weaving operation the palms are turned into mats for the sides, capable of being let down at night, and rolled up in the daytime, so that the dwelling is comfortably cool even in a temperature of 90 in the shade.

The Tongan would not understand what we mean by the problem of living within one's income. He can get nearly all he needs for food and clothing from the land which is his inheritance as a Tongan. Money he certainly desires, though it is not essential to a well-fed existence. The cocoanut plantation is his bank. When cash is needed, the nuts are turned into copra, and are either bartered for European articles at the store, or turned into cash. With copra at bedrock price, the economic pressure so general throughout the world is felt a little by the Tongan, because he must turn out at least twice as much copra as formerly to get the usual supply of tinned page 45 beef, the favourite luxury. The Government provides free medical attention for its subjects, and sanitation is maintained at a high level of efficiency, thanks to the vigilance of European doctors and their native assistants. One of their big problems is to maintain a supply of medicine bottles. They are obliged to work on the principle of “no more medicine till the first bottle comes back,” because the Tongan has a passion for decorating his graves with upturned bottles. A grave completely surrounded with these objects and a blue poison bottle at each corner, is indeed imposing to the native eye.

A happy care-free people, they leave their troubles to their rulers and the European officials. Though the arrival of the Tofua every month is a great island event, this does not stir them to assist in discharging cargo. The Union Company is obliged to ship about fifty Fijians from Suva at the beginning of the round trip through the South Pacific Islands for the purpose of working cargo at all ports of call, because there is no certainty otherwise that labour will be available.