The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 3 (July 1, 1932)
Pictures of New Zealand Life
Our most beautiful of mountains, Taranaki—its ancient name is to be preferred to Egmont, which fits it not at all—has excited the admiration, and more than admiration, of all Japanese visitors to New Zealand. Japanese sailors in steamers crossing the Tasman Sea have gone down on their knees in worshipful obeisance at the sight of Taranaki's snowy peak rising from the waters, because it reminded them so of their own sacred Fujiyama. When the two Japanese warships left Wellington lately for Fiji, Admiral Imamura took his course up the West Coast in order to get a close view of the mountain of which he had heard so much from earlier naval visitors. He so timed his departure, apparently, as to be off the Taranaki coast at daylight in the morning. I should like to have been on board the Jap. ships that morning when the glorious peak stood revealed with the first of the sunlight setting its snows aglow.
New Zealanders, it strikes me, could well take example from this keen poetic appreciation of the beautiful, a sense of the spiritual which is very strong in the Japanese people and too often lacking in our own. The Japanese reverence lovely things; they do not hack and burn and destroy their native forests and plant ugly and depressing pinus insignis and macrocarpa in their place.
Save the Hill Forests.
In spite of the efforts of societies and a few far-seeing citizens, this kind of destruction still goes on in places where the bush is not only the best crop that the soil can produce, but where its preservation gives an essential beauty to the landscape. Our mountains in particular are suffering. Taranaki, fortunately, has its inalienable circular belt of forest, but many lower ranges and peaks are being stripped of their clothing of trees and ferns and all the varied life of the indigenous woodlands. Pirongia mountain, in the Waikato, comes to mind at the moment as an example. Originally it was covered with forest almost to its base, a noble picture from the Waipa Plain. Settlement of a kind has been permitted until its slopes are gradually being denuded. It is the water catchment area for a wide district, and the destruction of the forest imperils this purpose, for what reserves have been made are insufficient. Pirongia is an object-lesson; there are others.
Topside Maori Farmer.
There is a greatly gratified Maori wheat-grower in the King Country, an industrious and enterprising farmer named Hurore Moerua. He put down a hundred acres in wheat, emulating the grain-growing toil and profit of his chieftain grandfather, and lately he disposed of the harvest. He received a shipment of flour from the millers, and a report from the wheat research authorities stating that his wheat had yielded 77 per cent. flour, the highest for the Dominion, and also that the flour secured the highest baking score for the Dominion.
So a Maori agriculturist has the satisfaction of knowing that he has beaten all his pakeha fellow-farmers at their own job. Moerua's top score is all the more noteworthy because he could not afford to purchase any fertiliser; he sowed the seed on an unmanured piece of land, a few miles from Te Kuiti. He worked the ground well before sowing, and he reaped the reward of his industry. Kia ora, Moerua!
Feeding the Sweet Singers.
Bellbirds from the Little Barrier Island sanctuary were recently liberated in the Waitakere Ranges, Auckland's Blue Mountains on the West, and it is expected they will thrive there if they are satisfied with the food supply in the form of berry and nectar-containing flowers. A good deal can be done by our bird-lovers to encourage both the bellbird and the tui by planting suitable food trees and shrubs in parks and gardens. Not only are native trees acceptable to these silver-tongued chimers which town-dwellers so seldom see or hear. The birds have discovered the merits of some kinds of Australian eucalypts, and they are quite fond of flowering gums. Such places as Akaroa—as was mentioned in a Railways Magazine article recently—Rotorua, Cambridge, and other well-planted towns are attractive to the birds, and it is very delightful to hear the rich full notes of the tui and the tinkle of the korimako close to the homes of man. An Auckland nature-observer said the other day that he had seen the bellbird obtaining nectar from a flowering gum in one of the Rotorua streets.
The kotukutuku, or native fuchsia, with its plenitude of fruit, and the kowhai are two particularly enticing shrubs for the honeysuckers, and the pohutukawa is, of course, a great draw for the birds if it is planted in considerable groves.
The Early Days.
Looking through some reminiscences of a pioneer colonist, the late Mr. John Collier, who formerly lived at Wainui-omata, near the source of Wellington's water supply, one noted mention of the dramatic era of raids and alarms when Wellington town nightly feared an attack by Rangihaeata's warriors. That was in 1846, the year of the war in the Hutt Valley. Collier was then living at John-sonville, where the railway now goes over the hills in rear of the Capital City. Collier was one of the settlers engaged on military duty, and in sawing planks to build a small stockade, as a shelter for the women and children in the event of attack. While the timber was being got ready and the refuge place put up, his wife and two children camped in the shelter of the bush at night. “I used to go in the daytime,” he said, “and look out the best place I could find, and when about half dark my wife would take a child in each arm while I carried the bed and a couple of blankets, and the three would coil up together under a tree. I had to caution her not to let the little ones cry during the night for fear of any Maoris being about.”
Look out from your train window as you go through pretty Johnsonville now and give a thought to the past, when the bush was at once a place of peril and a shelter, and when any moment the night silence might be split by a volley from a lurking band of Maori musketeers.
The facilities for exploring Tongariro mountain, with its numerous craters, its blue lake, and its innumerable hot springs, have been increased lately by page 39 the extension of roading on the western slopes of the range in order to give easier access to Ketetahi. This great gulch of geysers, fumaroles and boiling pools, on the flank of the old battered volcano at an altitude of nearly 4,800 feet, is the most active thermal place in the Tongariro National Park, and it is, moreover, a potential spa, for the dark-coloured stream that drains the nest of puias is a water of healing. Pakehas and Maoris crippled with rheumatism have been cured by a course of Ketetahi bathing. But conditions are rough at present; what is needed there is a comfortable little accommodation-house.
In the meantime Ketetahi is a particularly interesting corner for the amateur explorer, with just enough danger about it to compel caution. We used to ride up from the Maori village at Otukou, passing through that alpine settlement of native sheep-farmers, Papakai, with its sheltering. belt of bush, and tether our horses in a tussock gully just below Ketetahi. Really Tongariro mountain itself is the most attractive part of the great Park for those who like to “potter round” and avoid the exertions of the “Excelsior” Brotherhood.
Our Place Names.
Another comes to mind—Ostend, the egregious title given to a Bay of Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, now a popular week-ending place, displacing a perfectly good and historical Maori name. There should be some means of restraining the layers-out of new townships from inflicting such names on a New Zealand landscape.page 40