The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 8 (April 1, 1932.)
Pictures of New Zealand Life
The Old Flax Bush.
There is a great revival in store for our native flax resources, if the proposal that New Zealand should replace imported jute wool-packs and sacks with phormium tenax manufactures is vigorously pushed ahead. The stories of the enormous profits made by the great wool-pack companies in India give point to the suggestions made in several quarters that the Dominion's resources in this direction might be further developed.
Not only would the hundreds of thousands of pounds annually sent out of the country be retained at home by the establishment of a wool-pack industry, but new life would be given to a languishing trade, the milling of the leaf, and the stimulating effects would be reflected in other businesses. It would be interesting to see extended the many possibilities of an industry that was our earliest trade. Flax, the Maori-dressed fibre, was shipped from New Zealand to Sydney a hundred and forty years ago. Even the most modern of machinery cannot dress the flax leaf better than the Maori wahine did with her pipi-shell and her stone pounder.
Besides cordage of the best, our flax has been made into excellent sails for ships, and a paper has been manufactured from it. Perhaps we are only at the beginning of a new and wonderful era for the familiar and plentiful and easily grown harakeke, one of those characteristic plants that are emblematic of the real New Zealand. Let us hope that there are millions in it. All that is needed is a reasonably economical process; the market is great and ever-growing.
Maori Arts and Crafts.
His Excellency Lord Bledisloe, who exhibits so keen an interest in all phases of New Zealand life, has given his benediction to the cause of the preservation of the ancient Maori arts of carving and weaving and house decoration. His kindly concern for the survival of all that is fine and picturesque in the Maori's characteristic culture is one more proof of the fact that the distinctive customs and art of the native race are appreciated more highly by travellers and other temporary sojourners among us than they are by many New Zealanders themselves. The same remark applies with force to our native vegetation, the splendid forests that no exotic trees can ever adequately replace. It is the intelligent visitor page 61 from overseas who is most enthusiastic about the New Zealand bush and the native birds. Maori art, in the form of carving houses and weaving mats, has almost disappeared from some districts, but His Excellency's appeal to the young people to treasure all that is beautiful and skilful and of traditional value pertaining to their race, has already won a response. The Government school of carving at Rotorua has been in operation some years, and is doing good work, but there is no reason why this branch of Maori culture should be centralised there or standardised. The more the various large centres of Maoridom revive and develop their own ancient patterns and technique the better. Wanganui has made a start, and now there is a scheme under way to found a School of Arts and Crafts at Tokaanu, the headquarters of the Ngati-Tuwharetoe tribe. All this is excellent, and should be encouraged by all New Zealanders; it all goes to heighten the unusual charm of travel in the North Island at anyrate; it conserves an ancient culture racy of the soil, and it gives the young Maori with special aptitude an occupation which can be made a profitable little industry.
The Big Tree.
As to timber content, the short but huge trunk is the equivalent probably of half-a-dozen cottages. Some of its branches are the size of a good large tree. It is fortunate that this greatest relic of our wonderful kauri forests, now reduced to a remnant here and there, has never been readily accessible to the sawmiller. Indeed, it is doubtful whether any sawmill could handle such a tree, even if the bushmen succeeded in felling it. Some of the big kauris felled by the axemen and sawyers in the North were beyond the capacity of the mill saws when they were, with difficulty, brought down the creeks, and lay in the mud for years and years. The timber-man prefers a more moderate size in tress.
We must take care of that old-man kauri, and of his forty-foot companions in the grand Waipoua Forest. Fire is the one great danger, and eternal vigilance is needful. Nothing is so inflammable as a kauri forest. Luckily, Waipoua is high country, and has a heavy rainfall, and is well guarded by the foresters, otherwise the careless gumhunter and the smoker would have left the country a blackened waste long ago.