The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April 1, 1937)
Pictures of New Zealand Life
This Fortunate Land.
New Zealanders should thank their gods daily, after reading the cable news, for the happy fortune of life in such a land as this. We are blessed in beauty of landscape, in soil and climate and water and wood; we are blessed in the mighty protective arm that blue ocean has placed around us, and in the distance and comparative isolation that once was counted a disadvantage. The horrors of modern warfare that surpass in ghastly massacre all the wars of earlier times cannot touch us here. We are spared climatic terrors' that afflict Continental lands such as America and the heart of Australia; we have no “dust bowl,” and no nightmare of drowned cities; no areas depopulated by offended Nature's punishment for the mistreatment of her land.
Our visitors from overseas express delight at the vivid green and the luxuriant grass and the glory of trees that New Zealand shows. Some of them have remarked on the excellence and the cheapness of the food they were served. The freshness of everything, the freedom, the healthiness of the New Zealand life, the inviting character of the country for home-seekers, is the theme of many.
We are only too well aware, of course, that everything in this New Zealand garden is not lovely. Many parts of the land are already suffering seriously from the greed and the ignorance of those who deforested the country and who are still wiping out the forests that should be kept inviolate. If grass grows luxuriantly so do all kinds of noxious weeds. I have seen hundreds of farms when travelling through the richest parts of the country as well as some of the wildest, this summer, and I am inclined to agree, after those days on and around the dairy farms and sheep stations with a man who suggested to me that ragwort is New Zealand's national flower. As for health, our hospitals are overcrowded, and epidemics baffle the doctors. There are people who complain that everything is too dear, and that it is difficult to make farming pay.
“The Most Beautiful Place.”
And yet, weighing up everything, and giving the grumblers full play, the conclusion of the whole matter is vastly in New Zealand's favour. The intelligent visitor from overseas sees the picture in its true perspective; his knowledge of other countries and other peoples enables him to strike an accurate balance. We have had many people who came here originally for sport, and who have become permanent settlers. An American ex-naval officer, who is a writer, lately announced his intention of making his home here; he had found “the most beautiful place in the world.” He might well have added, the most peaceful land, and the most agreeable climate. We may miss a lot, because we are not in the whirl of hectic metropolitan life. But there are the compensations, which perhaps are not valued as they should be by New Zealanders, because they are the commonplaces of our daily life.
The Bright Lights.
The hydro-electric light and power stations, scientific triumphs of recent times in the Dominion, have transformed life for country and smalltown dwellers. The far-out farm has its electric power cooking and lighting. The light services especially have enormously enhanced the pleasure of a country life—or rather, perhaps, ameliorated the loneliness and gloom, if you like to put it that way. What a contrast, the country village of the past and the brisk little town it has become to-day. Once upon a time, we would pass through a township, as we rode home to the farm late at night, and see but one solitary light, the kerosene lantern that the law required every publichouse-keeper to keep burning over his front door from dark to daylight. No street lights, no guiding light but the stars, or haply a jolly round moon. Night entertainments which called the country dweller were usually fixed for a night of full moon.
Now, travelling swiftly and easily along remote roads, you are never far from the bright lights. The one-time one-pub, settlement flashes at you suddenly as you emerge from the hills or the bush—a constellation in the valley below, a golden glitter against the black of the country night. There are all-night signs, the smart hotel has its eyes on you, so, too, has the police station.
There are lights, too, in many a roadside homestead; there is the sound of music in the air, for the radio is a necessary of existence far back. The other evening we happened to pull up at a farmhouse on a lonely hilltop near the Waikato River, where it flows through the rugged Waotu country. We heard clock chimes—eight o'clock. “Why, it's the old Wellington Post Office clock,” said the girl friend. The farm family had tuned in on 2YA.