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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

Pictures Of New Zealand Life

page 41

Pictures Of New Zealand Life

The Hills and the Forest.

The necessity for restricting the felling of the indigenous forest of New Zealand can never be stressed too much or too often. The bush is going, in a thousand parts of the Dominion, and it is not being regenerated. The planting of exotic trees can never be a satisfactory remedy for the deforestation that meets the eye everywhere in travelling the country, a deforestation that does not stop at lands which may be considered suitable for farming but which denudes even the ranges of their necessary clothing of trees.

The scenic aspect is not the greatest consideration. The climatic value of the native forests, and their value as sources and regulators of water supply is not yet sufficiently recognised, much as has been said and written about it.

The hills, the bush, the water—the three are interdependent. Steep ranges, stripped of bush, waste into bare ridges, their stony gullies mere race tracks for land-eroding torrents. Provincial towns and townships throughout New Zealand will suffer greatly for water in the future unless their people make a noise about it and demand that the high country from which the water comes that is their life, is preserved as Nature made it. Not another tree should be destroyed on such mountains. No commercial influence should be permitted to make a destructive breach in the policy of conservation.

More Woodland Needed.

New Zealand is perilously underwooded. France, Germany and other greatly populated foreign lands have far more timber in proportion to their area than New Zealand has. This country half-a-century ago was so liberally timbered that the bush-destroyers were given a perfectly free hand; the result we see to-day. A certain amount of reparation is being effected in the new exotic forest plantations, but that does not go nearly far enough. Nothing can ever be so valuable to a country as its own native timbers. For water conservation purposes, let alone timber-yield purposes, the varied jungle and mossy-floored indigenous bush can never be replaced adequately by introduced pines and firs. And yet there is timber-felling going on at this moment on high broken country reserved for city water supply needs. It is amazing that this destruction should be permitted.

In some places there is interplanting in remnants of the bush that should have been regarded as a sanctuary with the inferior quick-growing foreigners. This is the sort of thing that Lord Bledisloe, in a notably vigorous address, condemned as producing a “mongrel forest.” Our ex-Governor-General was a far-seeing man with a practical knowledge of forestry and an intense admiration for the New Zealand bush.

A Halt Urgent.

Timber milling is overdone in many parts of New Zealand. In the King Country in particular even the ranges are being stripped of timber. Add to this the destruction of young trees that would make a new forest if the settler did not consider them “scrub” fit only for burning-off. New Zealand will be a sorry picture a few years hence if the present rate of chop and saw is not reduced as far as the native forest is concerned. More attention to planting and regeneration would absorb in useful national work the energy that is now being displayed in destruction.

The fact should be hammered home to the public consciousness that the Dominion now has only a percentage of 11.7 in its proportion of State forest to open lands. (That was the last estimate; it has probably been further reduced.)

The Bowie Knife.

One of my old-soldier acquaintances in the Waikato had been a corporal in Jackson's and Von Tempsky's Forest Rangers. He had a farm near Te Awamutu. Customarily, out on the farm and in the bush, he wore a sheath-knife on his belt. The knife was a veteran like himself. It had been nine or ten inches long of blade, but the point had been broken off, and he had reground and pointed it; even then it was like a young bayonet. He told me its story.

“That's one of old Von's bowie-knives,” he said. “He had a lot made for us at a blacksmith's in Auckland when the Forest Rangers were divided into two companies and he had command of one. You know, old Von was a terror with the bowie-knife. He had learned to use it in Mexico and Central America. Certainly it came in handy in the bush, and as we had no bayonets it was comforting to know you had a good sticker on your hip for a scrimmage. I've had that knife more than thirty years. See how it's worn down.

“I've used it for all sorts of jobs, hacking bush tracks, pig-sticking, skinning sheep, cutting up my tobacco and my loaf of bread. It'll last my day, my boy!”

Old John the Ranger told of one of his warpath mates, a Jamaica negro who had been sailor and gold-digger, like himself before he became a Ranger. At meal-times he used to apostrophise his bowie-knife thus: “You old son of a gun, you've dug into a Maori's vitals, you have, at Waiari, you know you have! Come on now, you're going to cut up me vittles!”

page 42