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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1 (May 1, 1930)

Whakarewarewa. — Erection of Model Village Proposed

Erection of Model Village Proposed.

Whakarewarewa lies in a valley at some distance from the lake, and one and a half miles from the town. Every other attraction is, of course, entirely overshadowed by the thermal activity, which is much more intense and spectacular than that at Ohinemutu. The village itself is a collection of huts and small houses all thrown irregularly and close together on a narrow area. To the right, as you enter, is a native reserve, a comparatively small section. Here there are a number of boiling pools, some of them too deep to fathom. There is also one large pool where the village youngsters may have their cleansing bath as often as they please without mother having to turn on the caliphont or father lighting up the copper. Much of the village cooking and washing is also done here; there are even several houses scattered around almost on the brinks of the pools. To live on this thin crust of ground, which shakes and trembles and might at any time blow up altogether. seems absolutely foolhardy, yet the Maoris have been born and bred to it, and hence feel no concern. There is, however, the real danger of tuberculosis, for which the continual warm, moist, unhealthy atmosphere provides an ideal breeding ground. This was one of the reasons which prompted the Government to set up a Commission in 1926 to investigate among other matters the desirability of demolishing the present village and reconstructing it along model lines some distance up the adjoining hill. A new road was put in hand some time ago, but nothing else has been done owing largely to lack of finance and the difficulty of concluding negotiations. page 55 Here, as elsewhere in Maori settlements, the ownership of land is a very complicated problem. One piece, no larger than a small room, is said to have thirty-nine different owners! In the interests of the Maoris themselves, however, change of site and reconstruction are urgent needs, and it is hoped that difficulties may be smoothed out before very long.

Geysers at Play.

The Whakarewarewa geyserland is too well known to justify much description here. Only two of the geysers now give a spectacular display, and that at intervals. These are the “Prince of Wales's Feathers” and “Pohutu.” I was one of a fortunate few to see them play on a misty afternoon in the middle of January. Both were shooting up side by side to a distance of some thirty or forty feet. making an awe-inspiring sight not to be forgotten. Later on I saw them asleep. Quiet, gentle pools they were then, with clear, innocent-looking depths and only a wisp or two of steam to suggest their hidden terrors. Without these star attractions, there are many other sights of absorbing interest. There are, as Sir William Fox once vividly described them, “repulsive looking mud volcanoes boiling in a sluggish and laborious manner like very thick soup. They look like the natural home of a family of huge ugly bullfrogs who, were it not for the heat, would doubtless have been placed there by Nature to sprawl and croak and enjoy their slimy life.” There are, too, boiling and cold streams running side by side, and on top of the hill a complete model pa, about which, and everything else of interest. the guide will give you a store of information for the modest fee of one shilling. Upwards of one hundred guides do duty at Whakarewarewa. yet so great is the demand for their services that few of them are long idle. Some have lost the charm and grace of youth, some are only young girls; but they all have the reputation of being delightful companions and of taking pains to show and explain to the Pakeha all that is worth seeing.

A Famous Guide.

Perhaps, without doing injustice to the others. it is possible to mention one who is an outstanding figure among them all—that is, the Guide Rangi. In the middle thirties, she has a slim. youthful appearance and a wonderfully engaging manner. All the distinguished people who visit Whakarewarewa invariably select her as guide. She has conducted a prince, famous statesmen, bishops, business magnates of world reputations, sporting celebrities, distinguished soldiers and sailors, and lords and ladies without number. When she has finished showing them the sights, she then takes them to her meeting-house nearby, entertains them with selections from a very complete repertoire of Maori records, and delights them with clever anecdotes, which she tells in a way that holds them spellbound. Though not a Chieftain's daughter, Rangi carries herself with regal air. and there are probably few women in any country who entertain in one year so many world-famous people, and the charm of whose personality has spread so far.

“The wistful boat skims eagerly”.—W. P. Reeves. (Govt. Publicity photo.) Maoris in their historic canoes on Lake Rotorua.

“The wistful boat skims eagerly”.—W. P. Reeves.
(Govt. Publicity photo.)
Maoris in their historic canoes on Lake Rotorua.

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