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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

Havelock and the Pelorus Sound

page 258

Havelock and the Pelorus Sound.

About the year 1864 gold was discovered at a place called Deep Creek in the Pelorus valley, which attracted a number of diggers from Otago and Southland; and I was requested by Mr. Whitaker, who was then at the head of the Government, to organise a resident magistrate's and warden's court at Havelock, and take charge of it until further arrangements could be made. I proceeded first to Picton, where I found a perfect camp of diggers, with their calico tents pitched in the scrub. There was only one hotel, in which the accommodation was very insufficient, the bedrooms being crowded with as many persons as they could hold, like herrings in a barrel. It was a luxury to get milk for breakfast or tea, and a great favour to get one's clothes washed.

The gold diggers are as a rule a superior and intelligent class of men, but wherever gold is found, a few desperadoes are sure to be met with. A strong detachment of police had been brought up from Otago, and at the time I arrived they had arrested page 259a well-known ruffian who had followed the rush, and who was, I think, "wanted" in Otago. He had resisted in a most ferocious manner, and had in consequence got a crack on the head which was supposed to be serious, and which he himself averred to be fatal. I was therefore, at his request, called in to take his dying declaration. I forget exactly what it was, but I remember that he confessed to various villanies, expressed great contrition, and hoped that he would be forgiven hereafter. A few days afterwards I heard that he had quietly walked over the prison walls and had disappeared. I think he was afterwards convicted in Wellington for some other offence and received a lone sentence.

I put myself in communication with the Superintendent of Marlborough, but was still in want of a clerk of court, and puzzled where to find one. One day while strolling through the town I came across my friend Mr. Walter Pilhet. He told me that times had been bad at Invercargill, and that he had started for fresh pastures, had worked his passage up as mate in a small craft from the south, and, arriving in Port Underwood, had swagged his calico tent over the hill, and was now living in it, pitched in the manuka scrub. He asked me if I could provide him with a billet. I said I wanted a clerk to the court at Havelock, and asked him if he could undertake that duty. He said it was just the very thing that he could do; and knowing that he could turn his hand to anything and do his work well, I page 260engaged him. The "Scotia" steamer coming in soon after, we proceeded in her to Havelock.

It is a wonderful sail up the Pelorus Sound. The character of the scenery is the same as that at Queen Charlotte's Sound, but the whole on a larger scale, and the Sound throws off arms up which vessels are said sometimes to lose themselves. The steamer could not go within some miles of Havelock, so we had to pull the rest of the distance in the boat belonging to the collector of customs. We found the usual digging town of the first of the "rush"—a collection of tents and canvas buildings with a few small weather-bound houses. It was no easy matter to get accommodation for the night, but a kind banker gave us shelter, and I slept for that night on the bank counter. Afterwards I got a small house, with one large room which answered for a court house, and we did the best we could in the rest of the building.

Havelock is situated at the head of the Sound, on a flat of some extent, near where the Pelorus river comes in from the westward and the Kaituna from the direction of the Wairau. It is a pretty spot, but was at this time, owing to the traffic of the diggers, extremely muddy, and funds were not forthcoming to form and metal the streets. With the exception of the Pelorus and Kaituna valleys, which are small in extent, the whole surrounding country is mountainous, and both hill and valley are covered with forest. Havelock labours under the same disadvantage as Picton. The hills are so page 261steep and so near that no horizon is visible in any direction. To see out is like looking up a skylight. The society we could associate with was very limited. We managed to make up whist parties with the collector of customs and the banker, and so to pass the evening. The walks were muddy,
Deep Creek, Havelock.

Deep Creek, Havelock.

both on the flat and in the Kaituna valley. I often ascended the hill to the south, from which fine views could be obtained.

Deep Creek, the scene of the diggings, is situated some distance from Havelock. The stream rises in the mountains which separate the Pelorus from the page 262Wairau, and falls into the right bank of the former. Deep Creek runs through schistose rocks entirely. It is a pretty mountain stream when left alone, but at the time of my visit was full of mud from the diggings. The road to it beat anything I ever saw for mud. Our horses sank to the knee at every step, and the mud was so soft and slippery that there was constant risk of horse and rider being-buried. One Monsieur Felix, a lively Frenchman, provided both court-house and board and lodging, and the number of plats, with, of course, French names to every dish, which he managed to turn out, was something wonderful. He had been in California, and told wonderful tales of gambling and of revolvers in that country. Poor fellow! he was murdered some years after at the well-known Maun-gatapu atrocity.

I was for some months at Havelock, but was not sorry to leave it; although a man fond of retirement might make a pleasant home in its vicinity. The climate seems good. There is a Nelsonic absence of wind. During the winter the days were generally bright and clear, and in the morning a fog, which cleared off about 9 a.m. I returned by boat to a place called Mahakipawa, thence walking over the narrow neck which separates Pelorus from Queen Charlotte's Sound, took boat to Picton, and in the steamer to Wellington found Sir Francis Murphy from Melbourne, one of the commissioners who was appointed to select a place for the seat of Government.

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The inland navigation of the Pelorus and Queen Charlotte's Sounds is extremely interesting, but it is unfortunate that the country is so poor, consisting of steep mountain ridges. These are covered with forest, and timber is the best and most paying crop that could be grown upon them. The chances are, however, that no steps will be taken to get a succession of timber crop, but that the standing trees once felled, fire will go through the forest and a scanty pasture be produced for a few sheep or cattle, until the shrub called tauwhinu take possession and smother the pasture. The chief beauty of these Sounds will then be a thing of the past.

It is much to be regretted that the plans of Sir Julius Vogel for the management and conservation of the New Zealand forests were not carried out. An expensive plan may not be required, but a system is wanted. Forests ought to be cut block by block, in rotation, and if the native trees prove unadapted for replacing the growth, then the best kinds of exotic trees which are found to suit the climate should be planted. Above all, arrangements should be made for clearing away the loppings of branches. These, when left in the forest are set fire to by some passer-by, the fire spreads, and immense damage is done. A well-conducted government establishment, with a school of forestry attached, would disseminate throughout the colony useful information as to the proper trees to plant, the mode of planting, and the process of systematic cutting, &c.