The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
In spite of the comparative dryness of the climate, Hawke's Bay is distinctively a sheep grazing country. A large portion of the district consists in undulating limestone land, admirably adapted for sheep; and an area of over two and a-half million acres has been laid down in clover and English grasses.
The most important industries are, therefore, naturally pastoral in character, and there are freezing works at Tomoana, Port Ahuriri, Paki Paki, and Gisborne; though, in spite of the importance attached to sheep-farming, agriculture is not neglected. But the superior advantages for grazing naturally divert the attention of the settlers from the tilling of the soil. Most page 277 of the cropping is done in the Heretaunga Plain, and in the vicinity of Gisborne. Potatoes are very prolific, ranging from twelve to fifteen tons per acre; and root crops generally flourish. For the harvest of 1905, the average yield of wheat was thirty-two bushels per acre; but less than 1,000 acres were sown. In oats, the yield was thirty-five bushels to the acre, from 4,752 acres; and this average again is below the average yield of the colony. In barley, 2,000 acres averaged thirty-one bushels per acre, which is well up to the best North Island standard, though falling considerably below the average for Nelson, Canterbury and Otago. In maize, however, the Hawke's Bay average per acre is fifty-eight bushels, which compares more than favourably with Auckland's forty-seven bushels, Taranaki's forty bushels, and Wellington's thirty-five bushels per acre; and, considering the splendid returns, it is somewhat surprising that this valuable crop has been so far neglected.
Considerable portions of the back country are still uncleared; and though the famous Seventy Mile Bush, on the southern border of the old provincial district, is now little more than a memory, there are extensive areas elsewhere on which the timber has not yet been “cut out.” Timber—chiefly whitepine—is extensively exported, and more sawmills are being erected in the bush districts.
As the timber is cleared off the land, the settlers naturally turn their attention to dairying, more especially in the districts where the holdings are small, and it is correspondingly difficult to make a living out of sheep. The chief dairy factories that have, so far, been established are at Norsewood, Ormondville, Woodville, Hastings, and Gisborne; but others are already proposed. The immense success that has been achieved by the dairy industry in Taranaki, and many other districts in the colony, encourages the belief that Hawke's Bay will find creameries and butter and cheese factories extremely valuable adjuncts to her lucrative pastoral industries.
Fruit growing and canning should be mentioned in this connection, for there are large orchards at Hastings and Havelock North, and vineyards at Taradale and Greenmeadows; and, indeed, if every other resource failed, there is no reason why Hawke's Bay should not become the fruit garden of New Zealand. The formation of the Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers' Company and the Heretaunga Fruitgrowers' Union has done a great deal for this industry. A fruit canning and preserving factory has been established at Frimley (Hastings), and the excellence of the output has already secured for it a page 278 large market. A Government vineyard has been established at Aratihi; and this, in conjunction with the Greenmeadows, Te Mata, and other vineyards, should soon raise Hawke's Bay to the position of the chief vine-growing district in the colony.
The land question is of considerable importance to Hawke's Bay, though settlement has been carried out there on a larger scale than in many other districts. There are about 1200 Crown tenants in the province, holding about 800,000 acres; and about 250,000 acres have not yet been dealt with. Most of this area is, however, suitable for pastoral purposes only. The patches fit for agriculture are scattered about the country, and could hardly be selected, except in connection with large surrounding areas of poor land. Indeed, most of the land not yet taken up is broken bush country, fitted rather for sheep than cattle, and able to carry an average of one sheep to the acre when cleared.
The Hawke's Bay Maoris hold some of the richest land in New Zealand. Large areas have (1906) been leased to Europeans, but the Maoris still have in their own hands about 800,000 acres; and this country comprises agricultural as well as pastoral land. Most of the native land lies towards the East Cape, in the county of Waiapu; and is still, therefore, somewhat inaccessible, even if it were found possible to alienate it. In fact, the whole of the Hawke's Bay and Poverty Bay districts suffer more or less from isolation; and when once they are brought into more direct communication with other centres of progress in the colony, an energising impulse, likely to lead to large results, should be given to the development of the district.