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New Zealand Revisited

Chapter XIX — Auckland

page 316

Chapter XIX

We arrived in Auckland at four o'clock in the afternoon, and were met by Mr. Myers, the Mayor, who took us in his carriage to the Grand Hotel, on the top of the hill near the gates of Government House. I spent as much time in Auckland as could be spared from public duties and receptions in wandering about the streets of Parnell, the suburb of Auckland, in which I had lived, and trying to rediscover some of the old spots of which I had imagined myself for more than forty years to have carried a clear and precise recollection in my memory. The effort was not attended by any remarkable success; it is strange what tricks memory plays, and how much that is supposed to be recollection is only imagination. The main road of Parnell, which was bordered in former days on either side by quiet houses and gardens, had become a noisy thoroughfare, with big and thriving shops on both sides, and electric trams passing up and down every few minutes. The modest building which had been "St. Mary's Cathedral" was gone, and was replaced by a new church. The old house of Bishop Selwyn looked low and obscure amongst the much finer houses built around it, in one of which the present Bishop resides. The house in which Mr. Dillon Bell, the Native Minister, had lived, still stands on the main road, dwarfed, page 317like the Bishop's house, by the bigger houses in its neighbourhood, and the grove of trees which distinguished it had disappeared. I searched in vain to fix the exact locality of the house where my eldest son was born. I made out whereabouts it must have been, but house and garden had been swept away and new streets filled the space. The Auckland Grammar School and the house of the Rev. John Kinder, its headmaster in old days, was unaltered; but Mr. Kinder died some years ago, and his widow, with whom I spent a happy afternoon talking over old times, lived at Remuera, in the home in which he ended his days. The old lodging-house where we were accustomed to stay when visiting Auckland from the Waikato, kept by a notable and worthy lady, Mrs. Steele, was still standing on the main road, on the edge of the hill which descends into Mechanic's Bay; it looked extremely mean and paltry amongst the newer and more sumptuous buildings. The visit to Parnell was on the whole a distinct disillusion. All that had existed in my memory seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth.

On the day following our arrival, the Mayor, Mr. Myers, and the citizens of Auckland, were good enough to give me a public reception in the Municipal Buildings. There was a large gathering of the leading citizens, many of whom came to shake hands after the meeting and claim acquaintance of former days. Amongst others who presented themselves was the English schoolmaster page 318who had been teacher at Te Awamutu, and a fashionably-dressed lady, apparently in a position of affluence, introduced herself as "Annie," and reminded me that she had once been my wife's cook at Te Awamutu. I recollected her perfectly and reminded her of the number of times she had fallen off her horse in the journey up-country from Auckland. At this she laughed, we shook hands, and parted the best of friends. The Mayor, on behalf of the citizens, presented me with a beautifully ornamented copy of the Pihoihoi Moke-moke, in which were bound up all the five numbers that had ever been published; the last, which was among those seized by Rewi, was somewhat torn and dilapidated and bore the marks of rough usage. I had told the Mayor, whom I had met at the Exhibition at Christchurch, of my desire to see and if possible recover copies of the paper; he then promised to make inquiries on his return to Auckland at the Public Museum. He found there that they had in the Museum duplicate copies of the paper. A complete set was bound in morocco, with an illuminated frontispiece containing the arms of the city, pictures of a Maori and a settler, a view of Rangitoto, and the entrance of Auckland Harbour, and the following inscription:—

Presented by The Citizens of Auckland
to The Right Hon. Sir John Gorst,
on the Occasion of His Visit, As Special Commissioner
From the Imperial Government, to the
New Zealand International Exhibition, 1906.

page 319

I expressed my most grateful thanks for the beautiful present they had given me, which would be one of my most valued possessions, and for the kindness with which I had been received throughout the country, culminating in this reception at Auckland. I said I was sorry to leave New Zealand, and wished I could remain longer. I expressed my astonishment at the marvellous progress that had been made in forty years, and especially at the success which the New Zealand Government had achieved in the management of native affairs. It was a unique distinction of New Zealand, for which there was no parallel in the history of the world, to have solved the problem of having a semicivilized race like the Maories living on equal terms with the Europeans. It was gratifying to find the Maories had now, on the whole, implicit faith in the justice of the Pakeha, and the old feeling of dislike on the side of the Europeans had entirely disappeared, and was replaced by the most generous sympathy towards the Maori race.

Mr. Fowlds took me to visit many of the schools. There were two admirable schools for Maories in Parnell, the St. Stephen's School for older boys and the Victoria School for older girls. The former, to which I had paid a hurried visit on first landing, seemed an exact realization of the plan which had been projected at Te Awamutu. It was a technical school, in which arts and crafts were taught, and a good elementary education page 320superposed upon them. The girls' school was devoted to teaching the Maori girls the accomplishments and arts of civilized life. The two Misses Hughes, who so charmed us at Te Awamutu, had been pupils at this school. Mr. Fowlds also took us to a manual instruction and cookery centre, for the elementary schools, which seemed as well appointed and conducted as in the Mother Country, but it excelled the Mother Country, as every school in New Zealand did, in the robust and healthy aspect of the scholars. One of the most interesting schools to which Mr. Fowlds introduced us was a girls' industrial school in the outskirts of Auckland. Its management had been the favourite occupation of my old friend, the Rev. A. Purchas, once Medical Commissioner at Te Awamutu, in the last years of his life. He had died only a few months before my arrival in New Zealand. On arrival the school was empty, and it was said that the girls were at a fête in a field adjoining the premises. The fête proved a sort of burlesque theatrical entertainment, with costumes, songs and dances, given by the boys of a neighbouring industrial school to the girls. A great number of Auckland citizens and their wives were assisting at the performance, which was conducted with the utmost decorum, and with a most humorous spirit.

On the Saturday we were taken for a day's excursion by Mr. Fowlds to the National Park at Nihotapu, in order that my daughter might see page break
Photo by Govt. Tourist DepartmentA Kauri Log

Photo by Govt. Tourist Department
A Kauri Log

page 321a kauri. There were plenty of small growing kauris, which might become big trees in several hundred years, and a rough path led to a fairly sized tree, but it was nothing like the enormous giant to which Sir George Grey had dragged General Cameron and his staff at the Bay of Islands in former days.

On Sunday Sir John Logan Campbell, the oldest settler in Auckland, who knew the site of the city before a single house was built upon it or a Government surveyor had trod upon the shore, took us to the top of Mount Eden and One-Tree Hill, from which the whole neighbourhood of Auckland and Onehunga can be surveyed. One-Tree Hill and Cornwall Park at its base have been presented to the city by Sir John Campbell.

The whole of the country which surrounds the city of Auckland is completely changed from its appearance in former days. The old conical hills, formed by extinct volcanoes, still remain as landmarks, changed only by the drives and paths which have been made to their summits. But all the country is parcelled out into gardens and houses and orchards which exhibit signs of wealth and prosperity, far in excess of the appearances of former days. The authorities of the city are quite alive to the danger of allowing the population to become too concentrated. There are no slums yet in the city, and the municipal regulations are such as to prevent their growing up. The page 322industrial population is spread over a large area of ground, served by electric trams, and though the population is no doubt destined to increase enormously, Auckland will remain what it is now—a beautiful Garden City.