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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 1 (April 1, 1936.)

Pictures of — New Zealand Life

page 31

Pictures of
New Zealand Life

Leave it Alone.

In camping expeditions this holiday time the tramper and tent-dweller may profit by this bushcraft hint, among a hundred others. Don't use the kotukutuku, the native tree fuchsia (it is sometimes called the konini, but that is the name of the fruit only). The small, knotty, twisty tree is well enough known; it has a habit of growing plentifully along the banks of creeks, and an inviting camping ground will often be found closely neighboured by clumps of it. There is a temptation to use the bark, which often hangs in loose strips as if just waiting for the camper to make kindling of it. But the bark and branches both are about the worst wood for fuel; they refuse to burn well.

Once when boating around Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island, I learned a scrap of Maori folk-lore concerning this tree. We sailed into Kaipipi Bay; the sandy beach of the little cove was fringed with kotukutuku trees. Mohi, an old Maori of the island, was with us in the whaleboat. We set about gathering small dry branches to boil the mid-day billy. “Don't take any of that kotukutuku,” said Mohi; “it is unlucky wood.” He said that even if we succeeded in making it burn well, there was a baleful form of makutu in it, a wizardly property which affected unpleasantly anyone drinking tea or eating food prepared over the fire. Any person consuming kai from the kotukutuku fire would become afflicted with a kind of paralysis, a sudden weakening of the limbs. A curious old belief—which we did not put to the test. We hunted for some less noxious fuel.

My own theory, which I did not impart to Mohi, was that the weak-knee symptoms described by the greybeard of the Inlet were caused by the weary work of bending over a fire of fuchsia wood in the effort to induce the sulky stuff to get a blaze on.

The Shipbuilders.

There were many great craftsmen in the making of ships of all classes among the pioneer Waipu men from Nova Scotia. They built most of the vessels in which they came to New Zealand, every stage of it, from felling and sawing the trees to finishing them, and they navigated and sailed them. The Rev. Norman McLeod, the famous spiritual head and teacher of the settlers, was a good navigator himself; he took sights and checked the captain's reckoning on the voyage. In New Zealand they have left a tradition of clipper shipbuilding; the Mathesons, Meiklejohns, Darrochs, and others built some fast and handsome vessels, chiefly schooners, at Waipu, Whangarei Heads and Omaha.

A typical product of these wellskilled and most faithful of shipwrights was a very fast fore-and-aft schooner of 100 tons we used to see in the Waitemata, the Three Cheers. None to beat her, among all those speedy craft.

The Man with the Adze.

Skilled artisans there, those Mathesons especially. Here is a story from N. R. Mackenzie's book of the pioneers; it referred to the building of the schooner Saucy Lass at Omaha. The contract was undertaken by Duncan Matheson, and it was stipulated that the deck, of kauri planks, must be planed. Part of it was planed, and the remainder was dressed with an adze. The prospective owner objected to the adzing of the planks. He was challenged to point out the part that was planed and the part that was done with the adze, but he could not distinguish between them, and so had to accept the situation.

That beautiful smooth adzing was the work of a perfect master of his craft. And there were Maoris, in the great timber-working days, who were almost as good as the Omaha man. Even in later times, I have seen a Maori at work with his adze making practically as good a job of planksmoothing as any European could have done with a plane. He worked barefoot, and how he missed amputating a toe or two with his razor-keen adze was a marvel.

Taupo Township's Name.

The original name of Taupo township, where the Waikato River leaves the lake, is Nukuhau, which has a legend of its own, as explained to me by Paora Rokino and another Kaumatua of Taupo. It means “Moving in the Wind,” and was first the name given to a certain totara tree trunk standing in the lake, near the shore, a remnant of an ancient forest. The broken top of the tree moved to and fro in a strong wind, hence the name, which came to be applied generally to the shore and the Waikato mouth.

Tapuwae-haruru, “The Resounding Footsteps,” a name heard in other parts of pumiceland, where the earth in places gives forth a hollow sound under a heavy tread, is the name of the old pa on the head opposite Taupo township. This was the fortified position of the chief Poihipi Tukairangi and his section of the Taupo tribe during the last Maori war; he was friendly to the Government. The name is applied also to the present Maori village just opposite the township, on the green shore slanting down to the river.

“The Rangatira.”

An excellent painting from the late Mr. James McDonald's Tokaanu studio has been viewed by many thousands of people. It is a warrior figure, of admirably natural pose—the original was a veteran Hauhau chief, Tutange Waionui, of Patea, whom I induced to sit, or rather stand for him some thirty years ago. The title is “The Rangatira,” and it appropriately adorns the social hall in the Wellington-Lyttelton express steamer Rangatira—a commission picture for the Union Co. from a capable artist who did not advertise but whose faithful work has greatly advertised his country and his fellow-countrymen.