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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 1 (May 1, 1933)

Pictures of New Zealand Life — Take It Easy

page 43

Pictures of New Zealand Life
Take It Easy

An American tourist has been complaining that the authorities in charge of travel do not give visitors sufficient time to see New Zealand properly; they rush them through the country. This is quite a mistaken idea. If our visitors are hurried from place to place it is usually done to please them; they want to see everything worth seeing as swiftly as possible. Especially Americans. They are used to hustle and look-see-quickly. Nothing, of course, would give us all greater pleasure than to have our U.S.A. friends make prolonged visits. What can they expect to see in a week or two? We could entertain them here for three months, or six, and continually show them something new. A couple of days at Rotorua is an absurdly brief stay, really.

The average American citizen who looks in, demands to see everything in this cute little country and catch the next steamer. We shall have to set him firmly down in one scenic garden of the gods to loaf and invite his soul for a month and see how he likes it before moving him to Waitomo or Tongariro or Wakatipu. Then there'd be a row. It is not easy to please all our tourist guests. But at least they can never go away and complain there is nothing worth seeing.

Our Wild Life.

The case is strong for the establishment of a Wild Life Control Board, as has often been urged, which shall co-ordinate the activities of the various bodies interested in the preservation of native birds and of the indigenous forests, and matters affecting shooting and fishing in the Dominion.

Perhaps the control of trout-fishing could with advantage be taken over by the Fisheries Department, which has its staff of experts; but all else could come under the proposed Board. The Native Bird Protection Society, which has done so much excellent work in the interests of the forest life, is fairly entitled to strong representation on such a body.

Indeed, the need for a united effort on behalf of New Zealand forests for New Zealand birds is urgent. Deer are not the page 44 worst enemy of the native bush. The insidious opossum is working havoc with the comparatively defenceless birds. It cannot be too often pointed out that every foreign creature let loose in the bush means so much less food, so much more danger, for the beautiful creatures that have lived in the forests for untold ages in security. Extermination of the interlopers is the only cure.

The Perfect Farmer.

A wonderful testimony to the capacity of our Maori fellow-New Zealanders as workers on the land is contained in the report of the pakeha expert who judged the entries for the Ahuwhenua Trophy, presented by His Excellency the Governor for competition among those occupying farms under the new Native Land Development Scheme. The winner, James Swinton, of Raukokore, East Coast, was so good a farmer that the judge, Mr. Dempster, of the Agricultural Department, considered he should have more land. The second prize-winner was a dairy farmer of Ruatoki, where the Urewera Maoris have become industrious and successful suppliers of a dairy factory.

But the highest praise, following on the prize awards, was given to the native settlers on the Horohoro block, which is on the Rotorua-Atiamuri road. The standard of cleanliness in these Maoris' milking sheds was the highest the judge had ever seen on dairy farms. That such warm commendation should have been won by the newly-settled Maoris is splendid proof of the ability of the people to adapt themselves to the conditions and needs of modern farming life and production for the pakeha market.

Egmont from the Sea.

Taranaki's noble mountain is, in the present writer's belief, the most beautiful natural object in New Zealand. It is surely worthy of a place on our postage stamps, our coins (when New Zealand has its own coinage), and in other ways, as a kind of national token of this country. Seen through a framing of forest and fern trees, it is a picture entrancing. More glorious still does it appear when seen from the ocean. I have just been reading Captain Conor O'Brien's book “Across Three Oceans,” in which he describes his world cruise some years ago in his little vessel, the 20-ton ketch Saoirse, flying the flag of the Irish Free State. This is his impression of Taranaki from the sea, his first sight of New Zealand at daylight as he approached the West Coast from Melbourne:—

“… The clouds were lying low on the water, and high above them the sun was emerging from behind the colossal cone of Mount Egmont, which I had approached within forty miles. I think this was the most impressive mountain scenery I ever saw. The parabolic sweep of a mountain cone is a very beautiful line, but it is commonly rather flat; the andesite of Egmont, however, forms an unusually steep curve, and moreover the less interesting 3000 feet at the bottom (the whole peak is 8000 feet) were cut off by the low mists and the curvature of the globe. Various causes make a mountain look big; the stark symmetry of the volcano is one, the complexity of such a system as Snowdon is another, but the most potent is the contrast when one sees them standing on another element, such as the true horizon, or a mist lying on a level plain, so that there is a gap of as many miles as one's imagination cares to make it between the foreground and the background.”

Captain O'Brien wielded a rather mordant and ironical pen when describing colonial towns and people. He was cruel enough to say that New Zealand was so unreliable a place that rows of houses were sometimes seen sliding down the mud streets. But his testimonial to Egmont's beauty makes up for all that.

The Missionary's Sporting Offer.

A good deal has been heard, in the course of Treaty of Waitangi reminiscenses recently, of the Williams family of pioneer missionaries. Here is one of page 45 several stories—it has not previously been told in print—narrated to me by a relative of Archdeacon Samuel Williams, son of the famous Henry Williams, first Archdeacon of Waimate. The Rev. Sam went to Gisborne—then usually called Turanganui—in 1865, in an effort to combat the spread of the Hauhau cult, and leaving the steamer Sturt at the anchorage, visited Waerenga a-Hika, the mission station. At the large village there he found a Hauhau prophet, with some disciples, who had worked up the feelings of the local Maoris to a dangerous pitch. As Mr. Williams entered the village there was sudden, absolute silence.

The missionary went up to the chief prophet and challenged him to exhibit his power, saying: “I hear that you are able to bring vessels ashore by your magic incantations. Well, there is the steamer which brought me, anchored yonder at Turanganui. Come and drag it ashore and you can then have all on board to offer as a sacrifice to your gods.”

An old Maori catechist came up and said: “Do you really mean what you say, Wiremu?”

(From the W. W. Stewart collection.) A picnic train awaiting the departure signal at Auckland station.

(From the W. W. Stewart collection.)
A picnic train awaiting the departure signal at Auckland station.

“Yes, I do,” said Mr. Williams. “If the prophet is able to drag that vessel ashore we will give up ourselves as a sacrifice to his gods.”

There was tense expectant silence for a while. Then Mr. Williams rose again and said: “You recollect the Bible story which says that when Elijah all by himself met the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and they were challenged to bring fire from Heaven, they failed to get any response; and that when he called, the fire came down and consumed not only the sacrifice but the very stones and water; and then he called out to the people to take the prophets of Baal and not let any escape, and all were slain. Now then, if this prophet fails to drag that vessel ashore, be careful that neither he nor any of his party escape. Let all be taken and slain!”

This bold demand completely changed the aspect of affairs. The people who were being deceived by the Hauhau emissaries felt ashamed of themselves, especially the younger men, and these now ran for their guns. But the fanatics did not wait to put their magic to the test. They left the scene in much haste and were soon out of sight.