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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)

Pictures of New Zealand Life — Matamata's Million

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Pictures of New Zealand Life
Matamata's Million

The man who owns a hundred acres or so of the good levels of Matamata, on the Waikato-Rotorua railway line, is on a first-rate paying wicket. It beats any goldmine for regular returns. These sage remarks are prompted by the announcement by the Matamata Chamber of Commerce that the output of four dairy companies within half-a-dozen miles radius of the local post office totalled almost £1,000,000 last season.

Certainly not even Taranaki can better the income from a similar area of cow country. Not long ago the writer visited a little Matamata Plains farm, just a hundred acres. The owner proudly said: “There's not a yard of waste land here; every acre's working.” He had a hundred cows, and made a very good living out of the property; had a motor-car for himself and his wife, and the boys of the family had their own car and found plenty of time to use it after attending to the duties of the day.

Our Bush Birds.

A member of an acclimatisation society has been urging that New Zealanders should plant native trees wherever possible, and especially berry-bearing trees, for the sake of the native birds. Certainly it is time someone took up the cause of these vanishing sweet singers of our forests, in the matter of food supply. Look at many of our public parks, planted with that depressing and altogether miserable pinus insignis or with bluegums and wattles—anything but our New Zealand trees. There is a valley not far from where I write, a city park, filled with Australian eucalyptus—“a ragged penury of shade”—not a New Zealand tree raising its graceful head in the alien company. The valley could have been made a Maori-bush glade of cool beauty, a glen of a score of forest tintings and with food-trees that would resound with the notes of the tui and maybe the bell-bird, for our native birds are soon attracted to a place where their accustomed berries are plentiful.

Fortunately there is an increasing interest in this country in the preservation of our birds, and land-owners in many places preserve patches of native timber not only for shelter, but for the sake of the pretty bush creatures. An example of this I noted some time back on the road between Rotorua and Tauranga. At Ngawaro, in the partly-cleared rough country half-way to the coast, an owner has planted many miro trees in a suitable area, in order to provide food for the pigeons and other birds. The tawa tree, too, the kahikatea, the pohutu-kawa, the kotukutuku and even the native flax all attract the birds, especially the tui and the bellbird. Sometimes these birds reappear in numbers in a district from which they had apparently vanished, as soon as the berry trees and the honey blossoms they like are provided for them.

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The miro especially brings its bush birds to pay for their board with their cooings and bell notes.

Where Waikato Flowed.

It is a wonderful geological story the Hinuera Valley has to tell, that ancient waterway along which one motors between Mata-mata station and the rail-head at Cambridge. It is a smooth-floored valley with vertical walls of columnar rock of volcanic origin, extending from about Horahora—where the hydro-electric works are—on the Waikato river above Cambridge, into the Upper Waihou Valley. It is easy to read the history of that strange valley (correctly it should be spelled Hinuwera), as revealed in its peculiar contour and its dark cave-riddled cliffy palisade. In past ages the Waikato river flowed through this gorge into the Upper Waihou and thence to the Hauraki Gulf.

This is but one of the chapters in Waikato's varied history. At a later period the western ranges, where Ngaruawahia now is, deflected it eastward over the Piako flats. The Manga-whara Creek, that sluggish stream you cross in the train at Taupiri station, indicates its ancient course before some convulsion of the earth opened for it a niche in the hills through
Waiareka Railway Junction, South Island, N.Z. The interesting feature of this junction is that the railway line is several feet below the station buildings.

Waiareka Railway Junction, South Island, N.Z.
The interesting feature of this junction is that the railway line is several feet below the station buildings.

which it might force its way northward and westward to the Tasman Sea, and gave us that fine picture, the great bend between Ngaruawahia and Huntly.

“California” in Maoriland.

The Maori was as fond as any Pakeha of borrowing foreign names that took his fancy. Seventy years or so back there were numerous “Californias” here. In the heart of Waikato, on the famous battlefield of Orakau there is the hill called “Kareponia” after the goldfield where even Maoris tried their luck in the ‘fifties. This California was a wheat-field, and flour was sent all the way to Auckland, and some was bought for shipping to San Francisco.

The people of Orakau and Parawera and the vicinity adopted the name of California into their language. It may be heard to-day among some Maori sub-tribes on the old Waikato frontier line, a curious strictly local usage. When a person calls from a distance and awaits a reply, and when it is necessary to call loudly and throw the voice across, say, a gully or a river, or to someone upon a hilltop, one may hear the expression used: “Kia kare ponia to reo,” meaning, “Let your voice be as California,” i.e., let it be penetrating and carry as far as from here to California.