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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 2 (May 1, 1936)

Pictures Of New Zealand Life

page 13

Pictures Of New Zealand Life

The Life of the Lagoons.

The disappearance of a species of bird-life from a country is a calamity, and if it is hastened by man's acts it becomes a crime. That is what has befallen the huia. Now the same fate will overtake the pukeko if the acclimatisation societies and a section of the farmers and so-called sportsmen have their way. Protection has been removed from the handsome and harmless swamp-turkey at the request of the societies, or some of them, and unless the Forest and Bird Protection Society succeeds in its efforts to save the bird, there will be a massacre of a helpless bird this coming season.

This agitation in some quarters for the destruction of the pukeko is based on ignorance of the bird's habits and its place in the economy of nature in New Zealand. The farmer who sees a pukeko pulling a few straws out of his stack of oats may conclude that the bird is a “menace” (favourite word of the acclimatisation people) to the agricultural interests, and he may demand its extermination. What he does not know about the pukeko is the real cause of his objection. He forgets also that the draining of the swamps and lagoons to provide cow-pasture necessarily drives the pukeko to the farm for some of its food.

The Value of the Pukeko.

The tui and the bellbird in some places frequent the plantations and orchards in towns, as at Akaroa, but no orchard-owner grudges them a few pears or other fruit. He has his reward in the presence of the birds and their confidence in him, and their songs. The farmer who really knows something of the pukeko recognises that the bird is worth encouraging about the place for its usefulness in feeding on the grass-grubs and other insect life that would otherwise damage his pastures and his crops. When I was a youngster on the farm I took a shot at a pukeko now and again for the fun of the thing, if the old fellow was investigating the new crops near his swamp, nevertheless I always had a friendly feeling for him, and the shot was meant to scare him off rather than to kill him. I often watched the pukeko communities in the swamps, and delighted to see them jauntily stalking the roadsides, reposing a perfect trust in man. I have seen them following the plough, feeding on the worms and grubs turned up in the furrows. They give the farmer useful service, if he only knew it, far outbalancing any toll they may levy on his crops.

Most New Zealanders I am sure regard the pukeko-shooting as bird-murder; it is not only unnecessary but is a grave offence against the salutary balance of nature in the land. The pukeko, like the weka, helps to keep the grass and flax-destroying insects in check. Insect plagues increase when bird-life decreases before the ravages of man and acclimatised animals. Even if the farmer is to be excused when, in his ignorance or his misplaced annoyance, he pots an occasional pukeko on his land, that liberty certainly should not be extended to the town “sport” who goes out gunning for anything and everything, preferably something big that is not quick on the wing.

A Doctor's Discoveries.

More than one doctor in the country learned from the Maoris something of the treasury of healing which the bush contains. There is the breath of life and relief from pain in the grand old Maori forest.

Dr. O'Carroll, a military surgeon and later a most popular practitioner in Taranaki, more than fifty years ago collected much native lore on the subject and put it to practical use. These remedies, which he had proved of practical value, were made public by him, and Mr. W. H. Skinner, of New Plymouth, gives them in an appreciation of Dr. O'Carroll, in his book “Pioneer Medical Men in Taranaki”:

A useful styptic plant, for checking hemorrhage, is the aka vine or white rata creeper (Metrosideros scandens). The juice of the aka is applied; and the juice of the young shoots of the latter is blown from the shoots on to wounds. It stops arterial bleeding. The juice of the aka is very rich in tannin. Kohukohu moss is also used. The inner part of the bark of the rewarewa tree heals wounds quickly.

Dr. O'Carroll said that he had seen cures of gunshot wounds by plugging the holes up with wet clay. Leaves of karaka, the shiny green upper surface, are applied to the wounds. Kawakawa and ramarama leaves—roasted, not boiled—and the bark of kahikatea, relieve severe bruises.

For skin diseases, the hot springs of the thermal regions are great healing agents. Elsewhere the Maoris use decoctions of hinau bark, towai bark, kahikatea chips, and kohekohe, infused in boiling water, are good tonic medicines. Towai or the flax-root principle if extracted, the Doctor noted, might provide a substitute for quinine.

page 14

New Zealanders In Literature.

(Continued from page 11).

of them. Then there is that remarkable revelation of the human heart, “The Children of the Poor” (by J. A. Lee, Parliamentary Under-Secretary), with its defined New Zealand setting and feeling. The popularity of the pleasant and easy stories of Nelle Scanlon and Rosemary Rees needs no mention here, but I would like to mention the brilliant work of Miss Ngaio Marsh whose polished, ingenious and engrossing crime stories place her definitely in the class of Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie.

In our press, recognised by all visitors to our shores as outstanding in its adherence to the best traditions of workmanship in writing, we have the forge for the making of authors. Our million and a half people are increasing in cultural stature. Do not be alarmed at the smallness of our population or treat it as a serious handicap. The teeming millions of Babylon must have often laughed at the literary ambitions of the handful of Greek sheep-herders and sea-going traders. Yet Greece made possible the whole modern world of culture and all civilisation is still in its debt. There is not a single reason why New Zealand should not do the same. All that is required is the stimulation of effort. We should increase the encouragement of writers and thinkers. The practical way to do this is to buy books. A poet still has to meet his food bills and pay his rent. So, in its final utilitarian aspect, that is the objective of “New Zealand Authors’ Week.”

However great is our past achievement, it can be bettered, and the name of our lovely land will stand for all that is best in human accomplishment.

Railway Correspondent Wanted.

Writing to the Editor of the New Zealand Railways Magazine, Mr. A. W. Weiland, a ticket agent employed by the Cleveland Union Terminals Co., Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A., expresses a desire to communicate with New Zealand Railwaymen, particularly those interested in collecting postage stamps. We have pleasure in reproducing his letter in the hope that it may catch the eyes of interested readers.

“Will you contact several persons whom you think might be interested in corresponding with me with a view to exchanging ideas and experiences, also to exchange postage stamps.

“I am employed as a ticket agent (you would term me a ‘stationmaster’) at the Cleveland. Union Terminal, one of the largest passenger stations in the United States. I have travelled considerably through the States, and therefore would like to correspond with someone in a similar capacity. Perhaps by so doing we can both be benefitted by exchanging veiws on methods of handling passenger business. If this person also collects stamps the correspondence can be made that much more beneficial.”