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Pioneering the Pumice


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I speak that I do know and testify that I have seen”—John iii, 2.

For many years I have been urged to place on permanent record the history of “Broadlands” and of the beginning of things in the Pumice Area; and, in the firm belief that such a record will in the time to come hold an absorbing interest, I have consented to do so. Mr. Guthrie-Smith in his book Tutira very truly points out that the pioneering phase of the colonization of New Zealand is rapidly passing away and will be forgotten. The backblocks are vanishing. Railways and motor roads pierce the country in all directions. Sheep and cattle runs, farms and planted forests have completely changed the appearance and circumstances of even the remotest interior. It may well be that future generations will desire to know by what means and by what manner of men these results had been achieved.

In contemplating the first century of its occupation by civilized man, New Zealanders may well take pride in their achievement. When one visits ancient countries such as Italy and Palestine, and sees the sunny slopes of the mountains neatly terraced and enriched with soil carried thither he is moved to exclaim: page break “What a marvel of human industry!”; but reflection shows that this had been effected by the work of twenty or more generations. Each had added a few stones and a few kitfuls of earth.

Here in New Zealand we seize a piece of primeval country whereon no work had been done since the very dawn of time, and in two or three years have it in pasture which rivals the work of centuries in other lands. Then, after a second ploughing and treatment, a result is shown which is the pride of this and the envy of all other countries. In grass-farming New Zealand really leads the world; but will she ever attain the gracious beauty and charm of dear old England? The Homeland has been cultivated, combed and brushed, and polished up for a thousand years. What will New Zealand be like in a thousand years? Perhaps more beautiful, more luxuriant, more diversified — unless indeed civilization shall have been torn to pieces from within. The barbarian is no longer a danger.

In the fairy stories of our childhood all the dragons and the giants have dwelt in distant lands, and the men of our race have gone forth to the uttermost corners of the earth to conquer and to tame them. And at long last they have reached Ultima Thule — the very antipodes. I am proud to have been given the opportunity of joining that band of adventurers, traders, missionaries, and settlers who have sought out and slain the monsters and prepared the waste places for future prosperity.

Throughout this book of mine I have endeavoured to enliven the toilsome tedium of recounting the struggles of those battling to extend the frontiers of civilization by what I have intended to be a vein of humour, and trust that I have to some extent succeeded.

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Anyhow, whatever the faults of my work may be, it will have one outstanding merit—truth. In the strictest meaning of the word it is authentic.

I want here to acknowledge my indebtedness to my fellow frontiersmen, my predecessors and my neighbours; and to that great journal in which all Aucklanders take pride—the New Zealand Herald; to the late Frederick Carr Rollet, Agricultural Editor of the Auckland Weekly News—a man of very great vision; to other journals such as the Wellington Evening Post and the Waikato Times; and to a great number of helpful friends.

E. Earle Vaile.

December 1939
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