The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)
Pictures of New Zealand Life
When Mr. George Bernard Shaw, on his return voyage to England, has time to assemble and analyse his impressions of New Zealand, it may well be that he will think of this country as a land of contrasts. Even in the one region in which he spent most of his time, there are most amazing transitions from the one extreme of scenic wonder to the other. What places could be more different than, say, Tikitere and the forest road from Rotoiti to Lake Okataina? There are scores of such contrasts in Geyserland and Lakeland. Mr. Shaw found Tikitere “damnable.” I am tolerably certain that he found the lakes and the bush entrancing. The one kind of landscape is a foil to the other. Everyone, in my view, should go through the valley of sulphurous horrors at Tikitere, if for no other reason than to enjoy the better the cool and fragrant loveliness of the near-by bush.
A contrast of another kind was noted lately by two visiting Englishwomen. They had seen the fiords and glaciers of Norway, and were able to appreciate all the more the New Zealand alpine scenes, which seemed the more friendly of the two. “Friendly” is an excellent descriptive phrase in this relation. The Norwegian mountains and ice were hard, inaccessible. Here, on both sides of the Alps, the ice-scapes are more intimate; you may stroll up the glacier and lay your hand upon them playfully, so to say. Particularly so on the wonderful West Coast, where forest and ice all but brush each other. Rata flowers, and a more than tropic glory of ferns— you can't see that in Norway's iceland.
Our Flax for the Navy.
A recent cablegram from London gave the good news that the Admiralty contemplates adopting New Zealand flax as part of the supplies for cordage for the Royal Navy. The fibre is sufficiently strong, the trials showed, to give the breaking strains demanded in official specifications. This market, together with the new venture in developing the flax industry in the place of so much Indian jute importations, should go a long way towards making the native harakeke one of our staple items of cultivation.
But really it is a belated rediscovery, this Navy trial of our flax. More than a century ago, when muka—the dressed article— was New Zealand's principal export, British Navy tests revealed the unexcelled quality of the fibre for ships’ rigging and for all rope and cordage purposes. Not only that, but canvas was made from our flax. One of the Navy ships was supplied at Sydney with a large sail manufactured from flax, and it filled all the requirements of canvas, strong and weather-worthy. Indeed, there are several fabrics that can be made from flax—paper, for one thing, and imitation silk for another.
Okarito, Old and New.
It is peculiarly interesting to hear that some of the olden importance of Okarito, that lost-and-decayed golddigging town far down the West Coast of the South Island, is about to be restored by the development of the harbour there, by private enterprise. This is under the authority given by a special Act passed by Parliament a year ago. It will be an excellent thing for all that rich South Westland region should the long silted-up bar entrance to the lagoon at Okarito be made a navigable channel again. Nearly seventy years ago, when there were ten thousand diggers working the golden sands thereabouts, Okarito was regularly visited by coasting schooners and now and again a small steamer. It had a harbourmaster; that official, indeed, was an Okarito institution even up to 1903, when first I disembarked on the moss-covered relic of the digging town—one solitary publichouse left out of thirty-five—from the box-seat of Jock Adamson's stage coach.
Okarito, in the mid-Sixties had a bank, where gold was bought in immense quantities; it even had a weekly newspaper. Now some of its ancient prosperity is likely to be revived, though not in so hectic a fashion as in the roaring days of 1865. There are vast quantities of timber down that coast, there are dairy produce and flax; and there is gold still won steadily by the sand-dredges. All that is wanted is to reopen that cut between lagoon and ocean, and keep it open.
Lord Bledisloe's addresses on public occasions invariably contain some useful thought, some advice by which New Zealanders can profit. His Excellency's talk on farm topics at a recent agricultural show near Auckland held more than one hint of value to the man and woman on the land. When he came to the question of making use of second-rate and superfluous fruit, in particular apples, he suggested feeding the pigs with the unmarketable surplus.
To this sound advice it could be added that fruit-fed pork would be about the healthiest kind of pig one could place on mankind's menu. Some of our orchardist-farmers already dispose of their unmarketable surplus in that way. One recalls here the old days in the Waikato, and elsewhere, when many a farmer fattened his porkers on peaches. There were groves of peach-trees, Maori-planted, everywhere in some of the districts where confiscated native lands were occupied by pakeha settlers, and there was, of course, no possible market for those peaches with which the trees were loaded. There was far more fruit than the farmer families could consume, and so cattle as well as pigs fed on the windfalls, and many a cartload of the big honey peaches was brought from the groves and tipped into the pigs’ dining room. The bacon made from those pigs, cured in the farm smoke-house in the old leisurely and thorough way, was delicious.page 16