The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)
Hawke's Bay and Napier Town — By Rail to The Sunshine Coast
That “goodly land,” the beautiful and wealth-producing province of Hawke's Bay is the subject of this running survey of the great district and its chief town, whose people are making so heroic an effort to restore conditions to normal after the ravages of last year's earthquake. Hawke's Bay, so rich a land of farms and towns to-day, is the youngest of all of the provinces of New Zealand.
There is a Maori geographical term which happily describes the East Coast of New Zealand, and particularly that sector from the East Cape southward to the Wellington province. “Te Tai Rawhiti,” by which all this long shoreline is known, means “The Sunshine Sea,” or “The Sea Where the Sun Rises,” otherwise the coast of sunshine. Nowhere does one appreciate such a description more than in Hawke's Bay, where the sun seems to shine more consistently and ardently than in most other parts of the Island. The vast even spread of plains, tilted very gently seaward, with a far-extending lofty mountain wall as its rampart against the blustering west winds, seems to invite and gather the sunshine. The Hawke's Bay coast sees the sun from the moment he lifts above the “Orient wave.” The difference in climate is often marked as one travels into Hawke's Bay from the western coast. The Manawatu Gorge, by which dramatic entry is made, is an elbowed gateway admitting the traveller to a land suffused in the heat and colour of the strongly shining sun.
Not that there is lack of warmth on the western side of the dividing range, so considerately slashed through by Nature, but there is a distinct feel of a more sheltered, genial countryside when one emerges on the wide-expanding Ruataniwha Plain and speeds smoothly northward through a land of rich grass and fat flocks and many orchards. The blue Ruahine Mountains, snow-tipped in winter, source of many a river, have the province in its keeping; and from their rolling foothills, where forest has given place to grass, there is a broad leisurely countryside revelling in the glorious sun, the perfection of quiet pastoral scenery, with many a comfortable-looking town and township and many a beautiful homestead half-hidden in the tree-groves.
Once wholly a land of sheep, this broad province is a land of a pleasing variety of industries. The dairy-farmer and the or-chardist find here a most favoured country.
It is becoming more closely settled as farmers discover that much of the land once devoted to mutton and wool can be used profitably in comparatively small areas for dairying. But it is still in large degree the domain of the sheep-man, and the existence of these stations and runs of generous size, with their mansion-like homes and their great woolsheds and village-like establishments, give the province a distinctive character, and one that is truly and typically colonial. It follows, too, that these broad acres are a land of good horses, and this is a characteristic of Hawke's Bay that particularly pleases the country-bred man and woman from other parts. The horse, fortunately, can never be displaced altogether by mechanical contrivances in New Zealand, and the Hunt Clubs help to foster the liking for an animal combining weight-carrying and endurance with speed.
Through the Manawatu Gorge.
The serene restful character of the landscapes on the Tai-Rawhiti side of the ranges that make the Island's backbone, the tall lines and avenues of English trees and other thriving exotics, the easy eye-satisfying lines of hill and valley, the numerous streams, sometimes low-banked, sometimes winding through steep little gorges; a long raupo-edged lagoon, famous eel-lake of the Maoris, giving a glint of bright water to the picture, a frequent flock of sheep, a mob of cattle on the move to the freezing works—all these give interest to the changing view from the railway carriage windows. Long ago the great scenic feature of the day's train run from Wellington was the forest-robed beauty of the Manawatu Gorge. That primeval loveliness was ruined by fire, but the bold contours of the range remain, the abrupt terminals of the Tararua and the Ruahine highlands, abutting on the rapid river that wore a rocky way from east to west through a fissure created by some violent earth-movement in remote ages. And to some extent the forest is being restored by natural regeneration; the devastated hills are clothing themselves again with many-tinted young bush and softly-fronded fern trees.
Across the Plains.
Forty miles further on, after passing through the historic Scandinavian-settled country that was once the Seventy-mile Bush, the physiography of the Takapau district attracts attention. The sleekly-grassed hills slant gently up on the one side and dip suddenly into valleys on the east, as if fractured by some ancient earthquake. Further on are the broad shallow rivers of the Wai-pukurau and Waipawa districts, crossed by long bridges. Waipukurau (“Place of Many Flood Waters”) is a particularly well-laid-out town, originally part of the estate of a pioneer station-owner, the Hon. H. R. Russell. The Ruahine Ranges mount into bold gorge-seamed heights on the west. The farm country becomes more closely settled as the large town of Hastings is approached. When we reach this town we can understand why many people consider it a finer place than its big sister Napier.
Here, around Hastings, we are in the land of the fruitgrowers. From the little hills of Havelock North to the pleasantly-named Greenmeadows it is a country of small holdings and of hundreds of good orchards. Hawke's Bay fruitgrowers declare that the crop per tree is heavier than anywhere else in New Zealand. There are about 3500 acres under cultivation as orchards in the district, and as most of the individual areas are small (though there are some very large ones as at Frimley) it is evident that the percentage of the population mainly depend on fruitgrowing for a living is very considerable. The peach, apple and pear orchards are a sight of delight in the spring of the year when the miles of trees are in blossom.
The growing of fruit is often rendered precarious in some parts of New Zealand by suddenly changing climatic conditions, but in well-sunned and mild Hawke's Bay the industry is carried on with generally fortunate results. Wellington City consumes much of the fruit produced in the province; the railway provides the necessary quick transit and careful handling; and Hawke's Bay apples divide with those from Nelson the popularity of New Zealand-grown fruit in the London market.
Napier Town and Scinde Island.
Quite unlike any other New Zealand town, Napier is sharply divided into business and residential areas by the natural configuration of the ground. Boldly defined by steep slants and perpendicular cliffs, the long mass of limestone known as Scinde Island rises high above the far-extending plain that is elevated only a few feet above the ocean. “Island” is almost literally correct.
One terminal of Scinde Island goes down in steep slopes, furrowed with gullies, just above the business area of the town; the other abuts in lofty vertical cliffs on the north and north-east, looming like a huge bastion above the entrance to the inner harbour and the ocean break-water where the steamers lie. The high-land, green everywhere, stands out in high contrast to the crowded levels of the town. Covered with orchards and gardens, and fine old groves of trees, with hundreds of pretty homes all among them, flowers and foliage, it is under normal conditions the pleasantest of residential areas. As in many islands, an exploration reveals it as a much larger place than a first view from the town below would give one to believe; it is so cut up and varied in contour by little dells and all kinds of unexpected twists and turns in the valleys. Wind-swept on the high Bluff end—the Hukarere or “Flying Spray” cliff of the Maoris—it is sheltered and mild of air in the sunny hollows and the tree-palisaded gardens.
Sweet old homes and modern bungalows peep out from the foliage. The older dwellings are often of the long low rambling character half-hidden among the grand trees that were planted sixty or seventy years ago. There are miles of beautiful leafy lane-like walks, inviting a stroll, and every here and there vistas of sparkling ocean or long vari-coloured plain and remote blue serrated ranges. The roads from the town are steep, winding through passes below cliffy places where houses are in some cases perched too precariously against the hillsides, but once the top of the island is gained there are quite long stretches of fairly level ground. Some of the earliest families of Hawke's Bay have their time-mellowed page 30 dwellings in lawns and gardens of generous areas two hundred feet and more above the town.
The Long Look-out.
Gazing far out from one of these high and leafy places, the eye ranges along the curve of coast, with its white line of surf ever advancing and retreating, until the even crescent terminates in the distant pinnacled cliffs of Cape Kidnappers, which the Maoris call Te Matau-a-Maui, meaning “Maui's Fish-hook.” The whole bay in fact is the fish-hook of the heroic legend, with far away Mahia Peninsula in the other direction—another island-like cliff of limestone, as the barb of the hook. The earthquake of last year raised consternation in the famous sanctuary of the gannet tribe at the Matau, but the myriads of seabirds soon returned to their cliffy homes.
Names and Deeds.
Here come in certain matters of nomenclature and tabloid history. It was Alfred Domett, poet and politician, who was responsible for the principal names hereabouts. Napier was named after the great General, and Scinde after his Indian campaign of victory, and the names of poets and other page 31 men of note were given by Domett at the laying-out of the town, an event which occurred comparatively late in the colony's history.
The old Maori name of Scinde Island—a name which few of the Maoris themselves know to-day—was Mataruahou. The site of the town, on its shingly and pumice-stone flat—a most unpromising looking site for a town it must have seemed—was commonly called Ahuriri before Napier was adopted.
It was in 1851 that Donald Maclean—afterwards Sir Donald—acting under instructions from Sir George Grey, began the long series of native land purchases which secured for white settlement all this country of the Heretaunga plains and the land from Ruataniwha northward to the Wairoa. The purchase of Mataruahou, now Scinde Island, was completed in 1856, cost the Government only £50 and a reserve of two sections for the Chief Tareha and his family “when the land has a town.” The site of Napier and an area up to the ranges inland cost only £1000. Other purchases of great areas were made, and cheaply indeed did the Crown acquire a waste country that settlers' industry soon converted into a domain of great beauty and homes of comfort and wealth.
Out on the Stations.
There is very much to interest the traveller anywhere in town and country; in Napier, where the people are making heroic efforts to restore their pretty town after the destruction and ruin of the earthquake; in the wide province of sheep stations and dairy-farms and orchards. Most of all the visitor should tour the back country and see something of life on the large stock-raising estates. Some of these stations, notably Maraekakaho—now sub-divided into numerous farms—were famous for the generous scale on which they were run and for the semi-patriarchal rule of the pioneer chiefs. The process of breaking-up into small or moderately-sized farms gives scope for more population; but there are many reasons to regret the passing of the old stations, with their expert management, their reputation for high-grade stock, and their liberal-handed treatment of the many workers they permanently employed as well as of the casual swagger who tramped the roads.page break
“All below is strength, and all above is grace.”—Dryden.
(Rly. Publicity photo.) A ballast-train crossing the Mangaweka Viaduct, North Island Main Trunk Line, New Zealand. The vialuct, which is 154 ft. high and 940 ft. long, is one of the many notable engineering features of the line.