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The Maori: Yesterday and To-day

The Progress of Ngati-Porou

page 19

The Progress of Ngati-Porou.

The Maoris of the East Cape district held on to a large portion of the land when other tribes were selling as fast as they could sign the deeds and dissipate the proceeds. In the Waiapu county, of nearly three-quarters of a million acres and a population of about 2,700 Maoris, there is something over a quarter of a million acres in native hands. A pity, perhaps, there is not more, seeing that the Maori population is on the increase; but what there is has put the people on the road to great comfort and prosperity.

A Taranaki Family.Te Whare-aitu and his wife and children (Ngati-Tupaea hapu of Ngati-Ruanui tribe).

A Taranaki Family.
Te Whare-aitu and his wife and children (Ngati-Tupaea hapu of Ngati-Ruanui tribe).

Here, led by Sir Apirana Ngata and other educated Ngati-Porou of the younger generation, and wisely counselled and generously assisted by page 20 the Williams family of pioneers, the natives embarked a little over twenty years ago on a system of co-operative sheep-farming which has developed into a very large enterprise. New Zealand, indeed, does not realize what a splendid thing this Maori-pakeha combination has been to the East Coast and to the native race.

In the joint application of brains, capital and labour to the sheep-farming business, the communal or group system has worked out exceedingly well. The co-operative principle exactly suits the tradition and genius of the Maori. It helps to preserve the village life instead of isolating families on large farms. Every comfort of civilized life is to be found in these Ngati-Porou homes, and indeed many of the luxuries of the town are here. Ngati-Porou certainly seem to have solved the problem of how to keep the young people on the farm.

Large, well-furnished homes, all the latest farm implements, large modern-type woolsheds with shearing machinery, are to be seen throughout this Maori coast country over a stretch of about a hundred miles. The country is for the most part better suited for the raising of mutton and wool than for a cow-farmer's industry, but wisely the Ngati-Porou are not going to be dependent altogether on the sheep. There are large areas of the lower lands excellently suited for dairying, and so the best herds are being obtained, dairy factories have gone up, and butterfat cheques are coming in. There are pretty villages, each with its decorative meeting-house and its church and school; its flag-staff where the Union Jack and the New Zealand flag and the tribal colours are flown. No homes in the Dominion are more snugly or more picturesquely placed than those happy looking kaingas of Ngati-Porou, lying in their fruit-groves and page 21 kumara gardens among the hills, or on some half-moon bay-front, facing the Rawhiti, the place of the sunrise—the territorial name by which all this East Coast is known.

Climate and situation, and soil-kindliness combine to make this Sunshine Coast a perfect home for the development of a great race. Ngati-Porou and their European neighbours surely have their lot fixed in a fortunate place. Their semi-isolation in what may be called their pioneer years of farming has after all worked to their advantage.

Pinia, of Ngati-Haua.

Pinia, of Ngati-Haua.

During the 1927 season the principal native dairy factory—that at Ruatorea, East Cape district—doubled its output of butter, from 60 to 120 tons, and in the following season this total was again more than doubled. As for sheep, a fact noted by the Native Department in its annual report for 1927 was that while the gross total of sheep owned by station-holders in the Gisborne and Hawke's Bay page 22 districts—where the principal Maori sheep-farmers were situated—decreased by 118,669, the native flocks in the same districts showed an apparent increase of 2,700 sheep. The number of sheep owned by Maoris was estimated at about half-a-million, out of a total of, roughly, 24,900,000 held by flock-owners throughout the Dominion. Since then the flocks have increased very considerably.

Maize is very largely grown by Maori farmers in the North and on the East Coast. Tobacco is another crop favoured by native growers, who now have the benefit of expert advice from the Department of Agriculture and a market in the Dominion's tobacco factories.

The robe-weavers of Mataatua, Urewera Country. The flax mats on which they are working are the most valuable kind, with decorative borders of taniko pattern

The robe-weavers of Mataatua, Urewera Country. The flax mats on which they are working are the most valuable kind, with decorative borders of taniko pattern