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Pioneering the Pumice

Chapter I: The Land

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Chapter I: The Land

“See the Land what it is”—Numbers xiii, 18.

It was truly a vast and wide open space that I called Broadlands: it occupied almost the exact centre of the North Island. On the west it was naturally fenced for about seventeen miles by the Waikato River, on the north-east by the Torepatutahi, a wide and deep creek about fifteen miles long and fordable at only one spot. The back or eastern boundary — unfortunately against Crown Land—was twenty-two miles long and straight, except for one angle, probably constituting the longest boundary of any freehold property in New Zealand. The south-west boundary was about ten miles long, included a part of Tauhara Mountain and ended up by the warm river issuing out of Rotokawa, named Parariki. The total length was sixty-four miles, so that, should the owner attempt a stroll round his boundary before breakfast, it would be tomorrow's breakfast at the earliest that he would enjoy.

Besides these boundary rivers the estate contained within its own area the following never-failing streams, many of them large enough to be called rivers: Rautawere, Onepu, Waikora, Waiehu, Waiakerewha, Paetataramoa and Pueto. These, with small tributaries and springs, caused Broadlands to be one of the best watered areas in all this land of running water-brooks.

Of the fifty-three thousand acres, at least half was quite flat, and it would be safe to say that ninety per cent. could be ploughed with a double-furrow plough, and the remainder with page 2 a sidling plough. The area under bush (totara and matai) was estimated at three hundred and fifty acres: the area of swamp and alluvial flats (occupied by flax, nigger heads, manuka and rushes, with occasional raupo) at two thousand five hundred acres, and the rest was covered with tussock, manuka, tutu and manoao. There were comparatively small areas occupied by karamu, five finger, pittosporum, and the like. The floors of the valleys and parts of the swamps and flats grew rough self-sown grasses.

I was led into the purchase of Broadlands in the following way:

The late Mr. Smellie Grahame owned one hundred thousand acres being Paeroa East Nos. 1B: 2B: 3A: 4A; and Kaingaroa No. 2 West No. 1; and Kaingaroa No. 2 West No. 2. Some forty-eight thousand acres had been sold to Mr. H. R. Butcher, and fifty-two thousand acres remained in his trustees' names. They had “nursed” the land for a lengthy period and, having obtained a low offer, they referred it to me for advice. I engaged the late Mr. Joseph Crowther, of Taupo, to guide me over the country, and rode forth and back over it with him. I advised the trustees to reject the offer, and this was done.

However, when the news reached London, a storm arose. Beneficiaries remarked in no uncertain terms that the land had been a curse to them. Taxation was heavy, and the incursion of rabbits with its consequent great cost of control, was taking place. Very damaging reports on the character of the country had been received from other sources. Captain Steele, a well-known valuer, had reported that if he wanted to do a particular enemy a desperately bad turn, he would do his utmost to induce him to buy this land. One buyer had reported: “It wouldn't feed a grasshopper to the acre!”; another: “The only sign of life that I could find was dead bones!” The Lands and Survey Department and the Department of Agriculture had published page 3 reports almost equally condemnatory of the whole pumice area. The offer ought to have been accepted.

To this I made answer that, if the London folk knew more about the land than I did, the payment to me of a considerable number of guineas for my report would appear foolish; that anyhow I would back my opinion by adding twenty per cent. to the offer and taking the land myself. This was fully explained in a letter to London and an acceptance received by cable. Thus I became the owner of one of the largest freehold estates in New Zealand.

Not long after, a dispute having arisen about the inclusion of a piece of the land in my title, I had the block re-surveyed and in the process picked up one thousand three hundred acres. So my certificate read fifty-three thousand three hundred acres — very handsome: quite a slice of the earth's surface!

This small piece of land, subject matter of the dispute, was of no essential value or importance but for the fact that it lay right in front of my homestead. We called it “The Island” though it was connected with my land. Its Maori name was Tahunatara. The natives claimed the land to be theirs, alleging that when they sold to my predecessor in title, the land was on their side of the river but the river had changed its course. The fact of the change seemed fairly evident but the date was most uncertain.

Having commenced an action in the Supreme Court for the rectification of my certificate of title, I was approached by the Maori chief, saying: “We do not want to quarrel with you e hoa. Let us have a hui.” To this I agreed and the next Sunday at, 10 a.m. was fixed for the occasion. On the Friday I killed an old sheep and stewed it in the copper boiler for about a day, also making a simply enormous plum pudding. With vegetables, bread, and oceans of tea added, this constituted a really good kai, e hoa.

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At 6 p.m. on the Sunday the debate was still proceeding when I rose to observe that they would get no more food; nor could they sleep in my house.

The head chief who had arranged the meeting did not attend it, being “Too busy” — doing nothing.

One of the minor rangatiras then moved: “That the matter be compromised by my paying to the Maori claimants a certain sum then named, or the amount of the Government valuation, whichever should be the greater.” This having been carried unanimously, I reduced the matter to writing and all signed in the presence of a witness.

However, my solicitor rejected my beautiful document, saying “It should have been written in Maori, or else witnessed by a licensed interpreter of the first grade.” Going round later with such an interpreter, endeavouring to get the signatures confirmed, increased my education in dealing with Maori land, or rather provided me with education, for I had no previous experience of such transactions. The signatories refused confirmation, having evidently been advised to that end by the wily old chief.

I then had to set about procuring proxies and calling a meeting of “assembled owners” under the auspices of the Native Land Court. All went off splendidly. My motion was carried and the old chief defeated in his own hapu. However, he sought the assistance of a solicitor in Rotorua, who discovered a defect in the proceedings of the Native Land Court. Though this had nothing whatever to do with me it “upset the apple cart,” and a further meeting of assembled owners was called and held at Waiotapu on 21st September, 1912. For this I collected further proxies to counteract the activities of my aristocratic Maori opponent. I produced these at the meeting. They were all right but the Judge rejected all my early proxies on the ground that this was not an adjourned meeting but a new meeting. This left the enemy one vote ahead of me.

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A Creek in the Rough Country

A Creek in the Rough Country

X marks Spot where I found Moa Bones Notice incursion of Manuka in Tussock Land

X marks Spot where I found Moa Bones
Notice incursion of Manuka in Tussock Land

Manuka Scrub (in heavy frost)

Manuka Scrub (in heavy frost)

Tussock Land: Manuka Taking Possession

Tussock Land: Manuka Taking Possession

The Original State of the Country
Tahunatara — the Subject of a Maori Dispute

Tahunatara — the Subject of a Maori Dispute

A Creek

A Creek

A Raupo Swamp and Lagoon

A Raupo Swamp and Lagoon

Native Toe-Toe (Well named “arundo conspicua”)

Native Toe-Toe
(Well named “arundo conspicua”)

Before Improvement Began
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Proceedings were adjourned to facilitate a settlement which was effected by an increased payment to the chief. Then was it demonstrated that solicitors sometimes have brain-waves. Said my solicitor to me: “To cover all these expenses let us put in our amended certificate the bed of the backwater as well as Tahunatara.” When the application, with this in it, came before him the Registrar summoned me asking many questions, among others: “Is there any flumen?” Having assured this dignitary that I had every reason for saying there was no current, he consented to the issue of the certificate: a really great win which ultimately compensated me for the expense of two assemblies of owners, and the multitudinous costs of Native Land Courts, lawyers, surveyors, valuers and the like.

I have related these experiences to give some idea of the intricacies, the expenses, and the delays of dealing in Native Lands and, in the hope that readers are interested and not too greatly wearied, I will relate the basis of the title to all this country, the above dispute having necessitated the digging-up of it. Well then:

It appears from proceedings before the Native Land Court, commencing in October, 1867, and terminating in April, 1882, that the original owners and occupiers of the country were a tribe called Ngatiruakopiri. These were annihilated by a chief of the Arawa called Tahu. He in turn was attacked and defeated by a ruffian named Rahu Rahu, who drove large numbers into a cave known by the simple and charming name of Ngatoroiwhakarei. Having gathered much firewood Rahu Rahu roasted these unfortunates to death—a proceeding which might readily be supposed to have facilitated the subsequent festival in celebration of the victory. The remainder of Tahu's folk retired into the fastnesses of the Urewera, whence they were ultimately permitted to return, and Rahu Rahu's son married the granddaughter of Tahu. Thus was the title made perfect.

I may remark that all native titles originate in murder and page 6 what the late Elsdon Best in his stylish style has called “Anthropophagous festivals.” Of course the titles of our remote ancestors to their estates in England were not very different — bar the cannibal feasts. It will be remembered that when certain barons deemed to be too apt at “self expression” were called upon by the great King Edward I, “Malleus Scotorum,” to prove by what rights they held their lands the Earl de Warrenne threw his sword on the table! As we now understand “title” — something recognized and guaranteed by a government clothed with necessary authority — there never was any Maori title to land. The only title was the power to drive off aggressors (who might appear at any instant) or himself to seize and to hold his neighbours' lands.

My title was of the best in the world — a very old land transfer freehold. Registration originated as far back as Volume XV. Search of the Native Land Court records reveals the fact that investigation of the Maori title occupied fifteen years so that no accusation can be laid against the Court for undue haste in its deliberations and decision.

From time to time that which a purchaser from the Crown gets for his money has been whittled away: water frontage, water power, minerals (including even stone) have been reserved. Indeed the Crown assumes much the same ground as a Maori who had sold land to a neighbour of mine. Shortly afterwards discovery of gold in it was reported, and our Maori friend shrewdly claimed that what he had sold was the surface — say six inches deep. The remainder of the depth to the centre of the earth was still his!

So much for the title. Now for the land:

The soil of the vast bulk of the estate was of a very light — almost discrete — nature from three to six inches in depth, quick to absorb moisture and very retentive of it. Work could proceed in all weathers — the land never baking hard, never page 7 getting sloppy or sticky, never freezing to a depth sufficient to interfere with cultivation. The loss of time from adverse soil conditions was practically nil. The subsoil varied from rubbly pumice to sand and a soil called by the Maoris uku. This was used by the Maori as soap “Before the time the Pakeha.” Settlers usually call it clay but it is not in the least argillaceous and when dried out is reduced to a very finely comminuted pumice — as fine as white flour. When wet it is very sticky and very difficult to drain unless one can get under it to a seam of pumice. It is quite useful for whitewash, cleaning knives, pots, and the like. However, whatever its other qualities, it makes an excellent subsoil and when thrown up to the air seems to produce a growth nearly equal to that on the topsoil. It exists at various depths under practically the whole of Broadlands. Where it lies within a foot of the surface one need have no fear of the quality of the land.

Pumice is the basis of all soils in this area. Through thousands of years this pumice has been decaying and disintegrating till now it has reached a state fertile, and bordering on fertile, ready for the hand of man to bring it into productivity. This condition is shown by the constant endeavour of the land to produce native bush. If fires could be kept out, the whole of the country would soon be clothed in our beautiful native forest: but as soon as the young trees appear some infernal fool starts a blaze and they are destroyed.

Not only is pumice the substance of all soils in the vast central plateau but it is the base of nearly all the most productive soils in the North Island. The single plain formed by the Waikato, Piako and Waihou rivers with their tributaries contains a better and a greater area of productive land than exists in the whole of the South Island. Then there are the Rangitaiki Plains, not so extensive but very fertile, and other areas at the estuaries of the rivers emptying into the Bay of Plenty: also large portions of page 8 the Hawkes Bay and Wanganui districts. All this is fully set out in an article by Mr. D. M. Ross, Fields Supervisor, Department of Agriculture, in the Journal of Agriculture for February, 1917. The evil reputation assigned to pumice soil is merely the result of ignorance and prejudice.

I may here remark that, in my own small way, being unable to obtain in my garden at the foot of Mount Eden (on the north-east side) results in the least comparable to those obtained in my garden at Broadlands, I have brought down seven tons of pumice soil for the enrichment of my Auckland garden.

It can safely be said that the old preference for bush and swamp lands has passed away: open, easily ploughable land is coming — indeed has come —into its own. The spreading of Nauru Island over Auckland Province, combined with the wonderfully benign climate and the splendid work of the agricultural population has brought the open ploughable lands of Auckland Province to such a state of productivity that it has become par excellence the dairy farm of the world.

In it are located the greatest dairying concern: The New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company; the greatest dairy centres: Matangi, Te Awamutu, Waitoa and others; the greatest butter factory: Waharoa; and the highest yielding grass farms in the world. And so it has also come about that the trade of the single port of Auckland exceeds that of all the ports in the South Island put together by no less than forty per cent.

Of the fifty-three thousand three hundred acres with which we are particularly concerned, the lower flats comprised about thirty thousand acres. These again were composed of a small fringe of rich swamp along the river, subject to steady and prolonged flooding; then the vast bulk raised from twenty to forty feet above the river level with a dark loam topsoil constituted of decomposed pumice and decayed vegetation. Under that, say, page 9 fifty feet of pumice of all sorts, shapes and sizes — from the size of a pinpoint to a cubic yard — from soft as cheese to almost as hard as flint — from a glistening white displaying a grain-like mottled wood to grey, brown, black, pink, red or mauve.

On one occasion I came across an area that had been swept clear of pumice by a flood in the Pueto River, which exposed the old original surface of the country showing the old treestumps which must have existed before the great eruptions. There is much argument among geologists as to whether this fifty foot coating of pumice was imposed by direct ejection, by wind action, or by water carriage. The first is favoured by the fact that in many places there are great calcined tree-trunks in the pumice beds; but in others, as well as in the place just described, the timber is not even scorched. Probably all the means suggested were employed at different times to form the extensive flats now occupying the great valley of the Waikato.

The elevation of the lower flats in Broadlands is one thousand feet above sea-level. From these flats the country rises towards the west in some places by easy slopes, usually steeply, sometimes precipitously, and attains an additional height of three or four hundred feet. The vast bulk of the upper country is quite “easy,” though there are several gorges with steep rocky sides. In a very limited area the country is broken. One peak I named the Matterhorn. On these upper levels there is almost a complete absence of surface water. The vegetation, recently nearly all tussock, is now mostly tall manuka. The underlying formation is rhyolite rock, covered with varying depths of pumice and soil of a quality not inferior to that of the bulk of the flats.

The earliest favourable reference which I have been able to find is contained in a paper by Messrs. J. A. Pond and J. S. Maclaurin, read before the New Zealand Institute in page 10 November, 1899. Comparing the soils of the Taupo region with the standards of fertility laid down by Dr. Dyer, the eminent English authority, they comment as a result of their observations and analyses as follows:

“It is evident that the Taupo soils are, on the whole, in a fertile condition. In potash they are all above Dr. Dyer's limit … In phosphoric acid half the samples are two to four times the limit and are higher than the Mount Eden soils … We have shown that the soil from these plains has the needed mineral constituents to produce grass in abundance.”

Deficiency of nitrogen is reported and suggestion is made for the use of leguminous plants to remedy this defect: also, for the use of native New Zealand grasses. Comment is made on the excellent capillarity of the soil when consolidated by the tramping of cattle. No remark is made on the content of humus, but I think it must have been deficient for advice is given for the growing and ploughing-in of lupins.

It appears that at this time some small experimental plots had been established near Rangitaiki, and chewings fescue, prairie grass, and white clover approved. These experiments were not, however, continued.

This report of Messrs. Pond and Maclaurin was the only source of encouragement open to me in the early days, save only the strong support of my good friend Mr. F. Carr Rollett, agricultural editor of the Auckland Weekly News. And there was my neighbour, Mr. Butcher, who cheered me up with the remark: “Your land will prove a good sinking fund!”

Many parts of the pumice area suffer from an absence of surface water, though probably it could be obtained at very moderate depths by boring. But Broadlands Estate is very fortunate, as I have shown, in possessing not only sixteen or seventeen miles frontage on to the Waikato River, but also many large streams of purest water in all parts. These take page 11 their rise in wonderful springs gushing out at the base of the Kaingaroa escarpment. Torepatutahi has its rise in the great Otonga Spring (as fascinating as Hamurama); then come Onepu in a most beautiful valley, Waikora, Rautawere, and many more right up to the Pueto River. In one place a great volume of water gushes out well up the hillside: it must be twenty feet wide and two feet deep, and is very swift. It comes right out of the vast filter-beds clear as crystal, and cold as wine, straight off the pum-ice. What a drink! Would that the unfortunate inhabitants of Auckland, with their filtered and chemically “purified” water, could have access to it! If ever the Queen City has enterprise enough to enter this area for its water supply, let it seek such springs and avoid the great Lake Taupo, which is even now far from pure, and certain to become more and more contaminated as towns arise on its shores.

The creeks on Broadlands possess an immense advantage in that they never flood. The Waikato, about October when the warm rains fall and the snows melt, will rise about four feet by a very gradual process of a few inches a day; while the smaller rivers do not vary a foot in the course of the year. This is most advantageous in many ways.

And what shall I say of the air? Freshest, purest, most invigorating in the world. How super-wonderful in the mornings and the evenings! Just like champagne — and infinitely cheaper!

The clearness of the air is well illustrated by the great distance it will carry the human voice. One morning I heard my Maoris talking loudly. I went over to see what was the matter, when I found that they were conversing with Maoris in a camp about two and a-half miles away. Of course this could be done only when the air is still and free from other sounds.

The climate is a delightful one in which to live: cooler than Auckland and with nippy frosts in the winter mornings. The record frost in the district is nineteen degrees—that is the page 12 thermometer fell to thirteen degrees above foolish old Fahren-heit's zero. Some folk seem to think that the Taupo country is situated right over the South Pole, but nine-tenths of the lands occupied by the white race are much colder. A relative living in Hampshire in a recent letter casually observed: “Last night there were twenty-eight degrees of frost” — right in the south of England. Then in Italy (in southern Europe)—considered a warm country — frosts like this occur: (N.Z. Herald 8/1/38) — “The temperature in Venice has been below freezing point for forty-eight hours. Canals are frozen hard. Two men were frozen to death.” To freeze salt water takes thirty-two degrees of frost at the least. Frost only two degrees above the Waiotapu record has been registered at Riverhead near Auckland and the number of frosts occurring there is about equal to those at Waiotapu. The frost is usually off the ground by eight o'clock, but sometimes it lingers longer — though not so warmly welcome as Lucy!

In January of last year heavy snow fell in Sicily; ice so choked the mouth of the Danube as to cause floods; two hundred and fifty steamers were sheltering in Vienna from drift ice; temperature twenty-two degrees below zero; many main roads in Bavaria blocked with snow; alpine torrents frozen and waterfalls solidified into stalactites up to one hundred and twenty feet in length; temperature at Bucharest fourteen degrees below zero and sixteen people frozen to death within twenty-four hours. How would Taupo enjoy cold like this?

Three or four times (in twenty-eight years) I have known frost to continue throughout the day. The worst feature is the morning fog. At daybreak all may be clear, but a mist starts to rise off the river and gradually spreads, suffusing everything. This may hang around till nine, ten or even (rarely) midday. Twice I have known it to persist all day.

These fogs do not interfere in the least with agricultural work page break
Neighbouring Land Taken Up 1908

Neighbouring Land Taken Up 1908

The Same Spot in 1938

The Same Spot in 1938

A Neighbour's Home, 1908

A Neighbour's Home, 1908

The Same Spot in 1938

The Same Spot in 1938

Surprising Changes
A Garden Gate, Proadlands, 1908 A Taiapa erected: lend cleared but not yet dug

A Garden Gate, Proadlands, 1908
A Taiapa erected: lend cleared but not yet dug

Looking Out of a Garden Gate 1910 A Start Made with Planting the Avenue

Looking Out of a Garden Gate 1910
A Start Made with Planting the Avenue

The Same Spot 1922

The Same Spot 1922

The Same Spot 1924

The Same Spot 1924

Marvellous Changes page break page 13 but they render mustering impossible. Even the dear old house cow will lie perdu among a few trees, or in a patch of tall scrub; and, as the prying cow boy passes within a few yards, she never calls out “Here am I, take me.” One can never be sure where the fog will lie. It may take possession of the hilltops and leave the lower lands free, but more often it lies over the low land while the hills are bathed in sunshine.

A great cry is often raised about summer frosts in the pumice country and it is true that I have known frost in every month in the calendar — but not in the same year. However, I have never known a frost during the five months November to March do any harm to pasture, though tender garden plants may suffer. October and April are also usually free from frost of a greater intensity than five degrees. Other districts highly valued have harder frosts. For instance at Christchurch between 10th and 22nd January, 1939, there were six frosts varying down to six and a-half degrees. I have known frost in the Hunua Ranges, Auckland, on Christmas Day. And we must remember the convenience of having these frosts to blame for the consequences of bad farming!

Those unacquainted with the beauties of the frost do not know what enchantment they have missed. The common geometrical cobweb set out in frost is a joy to the sight; a lump raised out of half-frozen water is decorated with flowers, fern leaves and diamonds: the very window panes are transformed to things of beauty, resplendent with crystalline tracery. Snow has fallen on only three occasions during my residence — light falls of about an inch, and all away in an hour or two. For New Zealand the climate is very calm. If there were a breath of wind these fogs and frosts would be dispersed. Many a time I have had to wait a week, and sometimes a fortnight, to get a breeze sufficient to carry a fire through scrub I desired to burn. Fierce gales are very rare.

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In summer temperatures in the sun will rise as high as in Auckland, but the heat is not oppressive or enervating. The air is drier, slightly rarefied and much cleaner. Folk who have been browned in Auckland will get “burned” again, the sun's rays striking harder through the clearer air.

The result of my taking the rainfall daily over a period of twenty-five years shows the annual fall to have been on an average the veriest shade under forty inches. To be exact 39.875. The rain is remarkably well distributed, the fall for each month in the year being almost constant.

Sunsets are most gloriously radiant. The western sky becomes ablaze with scarlets, golds, greens, and the like, and this is often reflected in the eastern sky, so that truly the whole “Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.” Shortly before setting, the sun will on certain occasions, throw a wonderful glow over the slope of the Kaingaroa, turning the whole countryside into burnished copper. A trifle later the western and southern hills fade out of sight in a noble mantle of royal purple.

At rather wide intervals the wondrous aurora lights up the sky with its brilliant colours and flashes. How often this really occurs one cannot tell, for no arrangement has yet been made for ringing a bell or for the issuing of any kind of invitation to these unique displays. Our Government, with its all-embracing powers, should remedy this! As things are, one might be sitting snugly by his fireside, or even snoring his sweetest, the while the most soul-stirring spectacles are “wasting their sweetness on the desert air.”

On the whole the climate is the healthiest in New Zealand — which means in the world — and is destined to produce a strong and vigorous race of men. The way lads from Auckland city eat is an astonishment to the cook. An elephant and a sack of potatoes disappear in no time! And don't the boys grow! page 15 One lad fifteen years of age was five feet ten inches when he came, and within a year reached six feet two inches! And I don't know what each of these four inches had cost me! The air of this inland elevated country constitutes the correct change for folk from the sea-coast townships. Medical men have declared the northern slopes of Tauhara Mountain to be the finest site in the world for a sanatorium — especially for consumptives. A doctor formerly resident at Taupo wrote me: “Situated one thousand two hundred to one thousand five hundred feet above sea level; the climate is perfect — dry and bracing; a distinct change from the coast; nights always cool; there are thermal springs of medicinal value; and, were a sanatorium established under proper medical supervision, it would become the healthresort of the Dominion.”

When Mr. McLeod, then Minister of Lands, visited Broadlands, he was compelled to admit the excellence of what he saw, but kept on referring to the superiority of his blue papa country. This induced the remark from me: “You and your blue papa are far too aristocratic for this country — ours is a working man's country.” And this is abundantly true. It is a country to be worked in small areas being ideal for family farming where all contribute their labour towards a comfortable income, pleasant surroundings, and an abundance of “All things requisite and necessary as well for the body as the soul.” Country such as this (and the Waikato) will produce more wealth and support a much more numerous and more vigorous population than the boasted blue papa.

On my land we discovered a thermal area with springs of all temperatures, from cold to boiling, fumaroles, boiling mud, and such like. The extent was not great and the “sights” not comparable with Wairakei; yet it was quite interesting to own even a small section of the hereafter and I felt “'Tis a poor thing but 'tis mine own.”

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The Ohaki natives possess a wonderful great boiling pool with a beautiful lacework pattern round the edges — the most handsome pool in the whole thermal area. They have led the overflow into two useful baths in which the temperature can be controlled. It is a peculiar fact that a heavy southerly wind causes the water to fall below the outlet and the overflow ceases. When first I saw this I thought something was about to happen, but the Maoris assured me that there was nothing unusual about it. They also have a “champagne” pool (that is one which will effervesce when sand is thrown into it), numerous small cooking pools, and a beautiful sulphur cave.

Broadlands has often been called the sportsman's paradise. The duck-shooting was considered the best in New Zealand and was most conveniently situated, being close to the house. No wading through interminable swamps. There was also excellent shooting at hares and rabbits. The fishing was wonderful at first, but gradually diminished, due I think, to the raupo being eaten out by my cattle. This raupo sheltered millions of frogs. The frogs supported the trout — and also birds, cats, rats, and the like. The bathing was good; hunting wild horses and cattle was great sport; so that, to those who had time for these diversions, Broadlands was truly “A happy hunting ground.”

In almost all parts of New Zealand the only natural assets are soil and climate: we all live on grass and the prophet Isaiah doubtless had this country in mind when he exclaimed “All flesh is grass.” But in the Waiotapu area there are some other resources. About ten miles from Broadlands there is a stream called Kerosene Creek. It yields small quantities of petroleum which used to be collected in bottles for rubbing on horses' sore shoulders and bullocks' necks, but modern transport develops no sores of that kind, only incurable ones in the necks of motorists, and of those who were not quick enough and are consequently now quite dead. From time to time attempts have been page break
Two Years from a State of Nature

Two Years from a State of Nature

page break page 17 made to form companies to undertake the production of oil, but it would appear that the difficulty of getting a licence on reasonable terms has proved insuperable. Mr. F. B. Scott who lived in a house called “The Bungalow” near the junction of the Galatea Road took a great interest in this business.

Then there is the natural heat of the earth. This is put to practical purposes in both Italy and California, and the much greater supply in the Rotorua-Taupo country ought to be put to work.

To sum up the position: there is not one solitary acre of useless land in the whole pumice area.

The approach to my land was worse than bad, and of this I shall have something more to say in a chapter on transport. There were no roads to or through it.

The isolation was truly terrible. My nearest neighbour was six miles away, another nine miles; and then the only occupied building between my house and Rotorua was the Waiotapu Hotel, fourteen miles distant. To the east and south the nearest settlers were distant twentyfive miles, and to the west the Lord only knows how far one would have had to travel to find a white resident. There was a wandering population of Maoris from fifty to one hundred all told, living sometimes in one village, sometimes in another.

The nearest post or telephone office was at Waiotapu, fourteen miles from my house; the nearest school, church, public hall, doctor, chemist, blacksmith, and railway station at Rotorua thirty-three miles away; the nearest dairy factories (or even creameries) and stock sales at Cambridge and at Matamata, each nearly a hundred miles distant, so that it will be seen that my country lay in the centre of a vast and uninhabited area.

This then, was the condition of the country when I came to occupy my huge holding in June, 1907. When I add that the land was reported to be “stock sick” you may well exclaim that page 18 I was either a hero or a lunatic — to leave Auckland where I had everything, to go to that cursed country where I should have nothing! This remark, I may say, is borrowed from a book on the early settlement of Canterbury. The author lands on the Port Hills. His search for sticks with which to boil his billy proves futile and he exclaims: “Here am I an adjectival fool, left England where I had everything and come to this cursed country where I have nothing!”

Certain it is that all parts of New Zealand — especially in the North Island — have been brought into profit by the toil, the sweat, the tears, and the blood of the pioneers, and the great majority of them have died in disappointment, defeat and poverty. Even Hawkes Bay had to be “salted” with its thousands and tens of thousands of dead sheep. There is the old stock story of the station-holder who entered his house and threw himself on a couch exclaiming: “Thank God the last of the hoggets is dead!” No need for further work or worry!

And then the Waikato — now the most productive area in the Dominion. After the confiscation from the Maoris it was discovered that a match would clear hundreds of acres and a rough scatter of suitable seed would produce a luxuriant pasture — especially clovers. Land values boomed. But experience soon proved that this grass “ran out.” This circumstance, concurrent with a disastrous fall in the price of wheat, brought the Waikato right down, and for many years land there was unsaleable. Then someone discovered how wonderfully the land would grow turnips, and another the great improvement effected by topdressing with phosphatic fertilizers. When Messrs. Reynolds started the dairying industry things forged ahead and have never since looked back. But the real pioneers! I can; certify that the Waikato is strewn with broken hearts and broken fortunes. What happened to J. C. Firth, Captain Runciman, Hon. Jas. Williamson, Waikato Land Association, Thames page 19 Valley Land Co., Hon. J. B. Whyte, F. D. Rich, E. B. Walker, and many others? Think of the great fortunes and vast enterprise and labour sunk in Mona Vale, Marsh Meadows, Rukuhia, Rotorangi, Matamata, Lichfield, the vast Piako swamp, and scores of other estates! But on the foundation laid by these valiant adventurers thousands of prosperous farms have now been established and wonderful wealth won.

One of the greatest difficulties with which I have had to contend from the beginning even until this present, is the same ignorant, uninformed prejudice from which the Waikato suffered for half a century. At one time buyers would almost heave a brick at you if you dared to suggest a farm in the Waikato. I sold freehold land fenced and in grass right against the Tamahere (now Matangi) Railway Station for two pounds per acre; Maungateparu at thirty shillings for the station, and nine shillings and sixpence per acre for unimproved land alongside, and so on. And Karaka!—Lots of land has been sold there at one shilling per acre, and I could tell of many large transactions at quite nominal values. It was the same with “the roadless north.” These prejudices have now been overcome — and so will the silly prejudice against pumice land.

In this connection I may relate that a party comprising the leading farmers of the Waikato, well experienced in the handling of similar country, having made a thorough investigation of the country between Rotorua and Taupo, published the following statement:

25th June, 1930.

We have formed the following decided opinions:


That this country comprises by far the largest area of land available in New Zealand for improvement and settlement in small areas.

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That the land can readily be brought into good pasture by modern methods and manuring at a very moderate cost and in a remarkably short time, and is eminently suitable for dairying.


That for successful settlement a railway is absolutely necessary.

1 Joseph Barugh

2 Daniel V. Bryant

3 Dynes Fulton, J.P.

4 Robert J. Glasgow

5 F. E. Hughes, J.P.

6 J. E. Makgill

7 C. J. Parlane

8 Stewart Reid

1 Joseph Barugh, Chairman of Directors of Farmers' Co-operative Auctioneering Company, fifteen years; Chairman of Directors of the Auckland Farmers' Freezing Company, eleven years; one of the oldest and best known farmers in the Waikato.

2 Daniel V. Bryant, one of the most successful farmers of the Waikato; Founder and Honorary Manager of Bryant Homes, for which upwards of three hundred cows are being milked.

3 Dynes Fulton, J.P., Chairman of Directors of the * New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company and a successful farmer, of Tuakau, for a lifetime.

* * The New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company is the largest dairying concern in the world.

4 Robert J. Glasgow, a Director of the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, a successful farmer of Onewhero, for many years.

5 F. E. Hughes, J.P., a Director of the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, a successful farmer of Waharoa. Chairman of Hunga Hunga Drainage Board.

6 J. E. Makgill, Chairman of the Auckland Farmers' Freezing Co.; farming at Waiuku since a lad, and in the Waikato for the last twenty-two years. Has milked as many as six hundred cows.

7 C. J. Parlane, General Manager of the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company.

8 Stewart Reid, late M.P. for Waikato, a Director of the Farmers' Co-operative Auctioneering Company, and a successful farmer of Ngahinepouri, Waikato.

See Glossary.