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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 7 (November 1, 1933)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 46

Pictures of New Zealand Life

The Return of the Horse.

It was bound to come. New Zealand cannot do without horses, however great the craze for motor vehicles. The Waikato especially has been the home of good horses, and the old-time horse markets were a profitable institution. Now the horse fair has come back, and seemingly greater than ever. At Cambridge recently nearly a thousand horses from all parts of the North Island were offered, and very good prices were paid, ranging up to and over £40 for draught animals.

Farmers are discovering that after all the horse cannot be replaced for all purposes by the tractor, and the country-bred man generally, though appreciating the speed and convenience of the motor car, likes to be able to mount a good horse.

Apart from utility considerations, there is the companionship of a horse which can never be replaced by a machine. And much of the back country of New Zealand is of such a character that horse travel will always be necessary.

The horse-breeding industry many years ago was encouraged considerably by the demand from India for cavalry horses and polo ponies. This demand may not be what it was, but Australia has lately been sending cavalry remounts to India, and there is no reason why our New Zealand horse-breeders should not make an effort to secure some of the oldtime business again.

The Native and the Interloper.

There are very clear indications that unless steps are taken for their better protection both the native grey duck and the pukeko will disappear from the land before the combined attacks of the shotgun man and the imported swan. In such places as Lake Wairarapa, in the north, and Lake Ellesmere in the South Island, where swan are very numerous, both the duck and the swamphen are gradually being displaced by the introduced brid, which consumes large quantities of the foods on which the indigenous wildfowl have been accustomed to subsist. From Chatham Island, too, news comes that on some places where duck were once plentiful, the Australian black swan has crowded them almost or quite out of existence. On the Waikato lakes and many other lagoons the duck is decreasing so markedly that it is evident it must have complete protection if it is to live and thrive. A close season all the year round for duck for several years is desirable; and it is desirable also that protection should be removed from white and black swan throughout the land in order to reduce their numbers and save the food for our native birds. Swan are voracious feeders, and are pugnacious, too, and the shy duck comes off second best in the fight for existence.

Mr. Bluecoat of the Marsh.

It is amazing to find Acclimatisation Societies and other bodies which should know better, such as farmers' associations, every now and again demanding the slaughter of the beautiful and harmless pukeko. The latest charge against the pukeko is that it eats duck eggs. Considering that the wild duck and the pukeko have existed peacefully alongside each other for thousands of years in New Zealand, in myriads until the white man came, this excuse for gunning seems ridiculously far-fetched. The anti-pukeko party must think up some other pretext for removing the red-legged swampstalker. As for the farmers, if they only realised it, the pukeko is one of their benefactors. To see it devouring worms and grubs in newly-ploughed land near the swamps is to understand that it has its economic uses in the land.

page 47

The Bush and the Birds.

During the opossum-hunting season, which closed recently, some fifty thousand skins were taken in the Wellington district alone. Some people are disposed to applaud this sort of thing from a commercial point of view; but that is not the most important consideration. The welfare of our forests and our native birds is of infinitely more concern to New Zealand than the opossum-trapping business. It cannot be too strongly emphasised, the enormous amount of harm this fostering of foreign animals is doing to the indigenous forest life. Every acclimatised creature that feeds on bush leaves and berries deprives the birds of so much food.

Much has been written of the ravages caused by deer in the forest. The opossum is a far greater peril and nuisance, because its ways are more furtive, its bush-spoiling less obvious to the casual eye. Experienced bushmen know all about it; one veteran sawmilling man tells me that he considers the opossum is the greatest enemy the birds have. Not only does it feed on the very things on which the bush birds are accustomed to subsist, but it molests the birds in their nests, especially at breeding time, and eats nestlings and eggs. The ancient balance of nature in the forest is seriously disturbed; and the struggle of native life for existence is all but hopeless.

In my belief the issue has come to this point now, that New Zealanders must decide which they prefer as habitants of the forest, the tui and the bellbird, the pigeon and the kaka and their kin, or the predatory opossum. There is no hope for the birds unless protection is completely removed from the opossums and free trapping permitted everywhere.

The Warrior Tattoo.

The Maori is changing indeed. The young generation of dairy farmers is busy placing itself on an industrial level with the pakeha; it is concerned with new interests, new recreations. Wherefore such gatherings as the recent Aotea canoe memorial celebrations at Patea are useful in reminding the modern Maori of his race's heroic past. One feature of the old life that has almost quite disappeared is the once universal moko or tattoo. Many women still bear the kauwae or chin-tattoo; the old-time expression “blue-lips” still applies. The artistic pattern of the kauwae matches well the brown skin; it is a fitting adornment of which Maori womankind should be proud. But the tattooed warrior face we used to see everywhere in the northern districts has all but vanished. I think there are only two men still living whose faces bear the lines of the tohunga-ta-moko's chisel. One is in the Hokianga country; another in the Urewera mountains. They are very old men, ninety at least; and maybe they are gathered to their fathers by this time.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when an untattooed elderly man was a rare sight. An undecorated brown face looked bare and unfinished. They were wonderful facial art-galleries, many of those grand old fellows of one's long-ago acquaintance. Some faces were almost black with moko, so completely had the artist covered the skin, or rather punctured it, with his scrolled designs. I regret the passing of the ancient art; one of the most distinctive things about our native country people, as they were.

Yes, our Maoris are not what they were! Suggest to a young cow-spanker and tennis-player of Ruatoki that it is time he submitted himself to the tender attentions of the tattooing artist, and list to his pained reply, in the picturesque language of the talkie films.

The Inevitable Softwood Famine.

“New Zealand,” said Mr. R. St. Barbe Baker, a forestry expert of international experience, “should concentrate on afforestation with all the resources it can muster, in order to take advantage of the shortage in forest products, particularly paper, which lies ahead.” In view of the inevitable forthcoming famine in softwoods, and of their shortage in America, U.S.A. would be looking to New Zealand as a source of supply in a few years from now. It is anticipated that realisation of the forests established by N.Z. Perpetual Forests Ltd., will commence in approximately six years, and very satisfactory profits should be obtained*.

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