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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 3 (August 1, 1931)

Pictures of New Zealand Life — Rotorua's Winter

page 27

Pictures of New Zealand Life
Rotorua's Winter

From long experience of Thermal Regions Climate, I consider Rotorua as pleasant a place in midwinter as in midsummer in many respects, in fact sometimes pleasanter. The nights are frosty, and there is sometimes ice on the pools (not the hot ones!) in the mornings, but I have known long spells of beautiful, clear, serene, sunshine days in June and July. The atmosphere is more translucent in winter, the lakes seem a deeper blue than in summer; for days a halcyon calm steeps all the landscape.

True the shorter and cooler days do not encourage lake cruises, but land travel is more invigorating than in the often blistering days when most people visit Geyserland. For another thing, the geysers are usually more active in winter, the volume of steam in such places as Whakarewarewa seems greater. When it rains at Rotorua it rains; and when the marangai, the north-east wind, sets in strongly, it usually brings rain on its wings. And on a freezing night—unless you are one of those incredibly hardy souls—you will be glad of a hot-water bottle. But the bright days compensate for all that.

The Maori Farmer.

The native dairy-farmer and sheepfarmer is certainly “getting a move on” these days. The excellent news one hears about land development enterprise in various parts of the North Island is pleasing to all who wish to see the Maori pursuing the agricultural and pastoral life on level terms with his pakeha neighbours. Sir Apirana Ngata and his Native Department staff have put thirty farm schemes going in the principal Maori districts during the last two years, schemes which ensure a life of settled industry and consequent comfort and prosperity for many hundreds of native people.

The look-out on life is being quite transformed for these New Zealanders of the young generation. Waste land is being cleared, fenced, grassed, and arrangements are made for stocking all the farms and providing machinery. Many miles of new fences have been made, good cottages are being built, there are sheep and cattle where only the wild pig roamed a year or two ago. Another few years will see a big increase in the productivity of Maori land, especially in page 28 the Auckland province. And that is all to the common good.

A Shark Diet.

Writing of our native friends somehow automatically brought up a thought or two about the menu of the Maori at home, which has been enlarged considerably by the embarkation of many tribes on regular farming industry after the modern manner. Nevertheless, for all the pleasing table items introduced by the pakeha, the son of the soil prefers often the kai of his ancestors, and one of these stable items is fish, and one of the most acceptable fish to the Maori palate is shark.

A shark-catching excursion is just as popular among the coastwise tribes as a swordfishing campaign is among the Zane Greys of the world.

Up Auckland way in the good summer time, sailing about the Hauraki Gulf, we used to see a Maori party returing from the fishing grounds in a cutter or a scow, a little shipload of them, and if shark had been caught in any quantity we would see the rigging hung with them, delicately perfuming the sea-breeze. But the beach was the place where you'd get the full strength of Mr. Shark, the beach where a few hundred of them were hung on stages to sun-dry for the populace. One of my Waikato Heads native acquaintances once confided to me that dried shark was a noble and satisfying diet, it made a man strong and brave, and it was withal a food that he could taste for three days afterwards.

Dolphin for the Parson.

But shark can be made a quite passable dish for the pakeha—if you call it something else, as I am told they do in fish restaurants occasionally. Here is a tale that comes to mind told me once by a man who served as an apprentice in one of the old C. W. Turner fleet of sailing vessels trading out of Lyttelton. It was in the barque Cingalese, commanded by Captain Raddon; the barque was returning to New Zealand from a voyage to India.

One day, off the North Auckland coast in a calm spell the sailors caught a shark. Food was running rather short, and the mate suggested to the captain that possibly a portion of the shark might go down well enough by way of a change from the too salt-horse. There was one passenger on board, a missionary on furlough, and the mate thought his reverence could do with a bit of fish.

The captain allowed the mate to have his way, and next morning a savoury fish breakfast was set out in the cabin. “You serve it, mister,” said the captain, before the passenger came in. “I won't have it on my conscience, you understand.”

“Will you try a little dolphin, sir?” asked the mate when the reverend man sat down.

“Certainly,” said the passenger, “it will be quite a novelty to me. I have never tasted dolphin yet.”

“Excellent,” he said, when he had eaten his portion. “I never imagined dolphin would be so palatable, and so tender, too. May I trouble you for a little more?”

The second helping was just as acceptable, and the parson would probably have passed his plate for a third. Only, when the mate asked him, “Now, won't you try another little bit of shar—. I mean dolphin, sir?” His reverence cried, startled,

“Did you say shark, Mister Blank? Is it shark?”

And then the shark was out of the bag Amid roars of laughter, the poor man was told the truth by the hard-bitten and hard-biting sailors. All he said was, feebly,

“It was really very nice, you know, but I don't think I will have any more.” A few moments later he was up on deck.

The Maori tastes his shark for three days afterwards, as I have said. The Cingalese's passenger probably tasted his in imagination for a month. But let us leave the table and consider other things.

Our Whalers Hard Hit.

The greedy slaughter of whales on a truly colossal scale in the Antarctic by the Norwegian and other gun-armed killing page 29 ships is having a direct injurious effect on our own New Zealand whaling industry. The principal man engaged in it on the North Auckland coast, Captain Bertie Cook, of Whangamumu, says that whales have very appreciably declined in numbers since the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea hunting fleets began operations. There are far fewer humpbacks making north on their periodical migrations to the breeding grounds in the tropics, when they are accustomed to come close in to the east coast of New Zealand. As for right whales, the more valuable kind, they have practically disappeared, whalemen say. So a little industry of our own, and indeed our oldest industry is in danger of dwindling to vanishing point. Certainly that close season for whales for a term of years is overdue.

The news comes now that the Norse hunters have decided to lay up their huge fleets for next summer, about time! But it is not out of consideration for the whales—not much! The huge over-production of oil has glutted the market, that's why.

A Flourishing Industry In Central Otago. Loading fresh fruit into specially constructed wagons at Alexandra station, South Island, New Zealand.

A Flourishing Industry In Central Otago.
Loading fresh fruit into specially constructed wagons at Alexandra station, South Island, New Zealand.

This tremendous flood of whale-oil is, moreover, swamping the South Sea copra business, which is all-important to New Zealand's tropic possessions and the mandated region of Samoa. Copra is being ousted by cheap oil in certain manufactures abroad. Clearly something must be done to protect our staple Island industry.

Our Navy's Winter.

Noted that the ships of our little New Zealand naval division are off on their regular winter cruise—not to the Far South. Like sensible fellows, and lucky withal, they are away to the summer isles of Eden and all that, where eternal sunshine reigns and where hurricanes are only born in the Christmas to March season. Who wouldn't be a naval man—say a Rear-Admiral for choice, or even a chaplain—for three months this midyear? Little wonder that service on our station is said to be extremely popular. Like the far-flying shining cuckoo our cruisers and sloops know no winter. More power to them, too. The crews will come home all the better for their tropic-seas jaunt showing the flag.