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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 9 (April 1, 1933)

On the Look-out

page 52

On the Look-out

Once upon a time New Zealanders wept like anything at being so far away from the rest of the world. In view of current events outside, it is cheering to remember that we have such a quantity of good salt ocean around us in every direction. We're

* * *

It may be difficult for us to extract gold from each other these times, but there is always treasure in the good earth. More and more New Zealanders are turning to gold prospecting, and it is comforting to read of frequent runs of happy fortune. The Dominion's gold production is steadily mounting up. And the oldestablished Waihi is keeping up its end wonderfully. February's return, 5,635 ounces of fine gold and 29,801 ounces of fine silver, will help to maintain confidence in the application of scientific treatment to the one-time refractory ores. There's more where that little lot came from.

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“King Solomon had a wash-up for the week, yielding 71 ozs” (Southern gold-mining report).—Old Sol appears to have needed that ablution. Good dirt!

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Conceivably there are worse fates than being wrecked on a tropic island where the palmtrees wave and the breakers croon to the lazy locked lagoon, and the brown girls are kind, and all that. The young Waterlilies, from New Zealand, whose ketch has been driven ashore at Nukufetau, away up in the Ellice Islands, may not be overwhelmed with grief at the casualty. Nukufetau is one of the pleasantest of South Sea atolls; Louis Becke, for one, surrendered to its hospitable charm long ago. Lucky lads. Now, if they had been wrecked on some wild Melanesian island to the west, it might have been the cannibal pot for theirs.

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Often it is the most familiar features of New Zealand life that most interest intelligent visitors from abroad. An American lady who was one of the tourists in the luxury liner Carinthia, thought it quite thrilling to meet a large mob of sheep when her party was motoring near Wanganui. It was new and wonderful to her. She and her companions didn't mind being delayed a trifle by one of New Zealand's staple debt-payers. But just listen to one of our own car-drivers under similar circumstances. As often as not he considers it quite an indignity to be compelled to slow down for a few minutes while the woollies ba-a their way past. As for cows—!

The Ruru, the morepork or New Zealand Owl.

The Ruru, the morepork or New Zealand Owl.

Some of our New Zealanders are liable to grievous entanglement in the mazes of Maori place-names on their holiday tours round and about. But a new version of a name that ought to be well known struck me as a specimen of unconscious genius when I heard it lately, A Wellington man told me of his motor trip over the ranges from Napier to Taupo, and of the wet and dreary time he and his mates had when they got down to “what they call the Kangaroo Plains, I believe, where all the pumice is.” This pleasing alias for the Kaingaroa is specially recommended for convenient use by our visitors from across the Tasman Sea.

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Someone the other day told the old story of the village chairman who, in introducing an eminent musician, who was to lecture on Brahms, said he, and probably many of the audience, didn't know what “Brahms” were, but no doubt would know presently. In my memory is an incident which, I think, deserves to go on record as a companion story to the Brahms legend. This one is guaranteed non-fictional. It was at a church concert in Mt. Eden suburb, Auckland, in the years of one's youth. A sturdy flourmiller was the chairman, a John Bull of a man, portly and important. “The next item on the programme,” he announced, “is, I see, a musical number by Mozart. Will Mr. Mozart kindly step on to the platform?”

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“I came here a year ago, and I was so enchanted by the beauty of this island, by the charm of its climate, by the hospitality of its people, and by its resemblance to my native country—Scotland—that on the first opportunity I have traversed the 12,000 miles that separate us from Britain to revisit this beautiful country.” That is the kind of thing we like to hear. We can have no criticism whatever to offer. We do like to have compliments paid us, and they are all the more acceptable when we feel that they are true. Modestly I offer my thanks to the Earl of Wemyss, who gave utterance to those remarks in a speech at Taupo. His Excellency the Governor-General couldn't have put them more felicitously

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No sooner had Mr. Zane Grey departed from our shores for California the other day than a page 53 message from the North reported the sighting of a great number of swordfish, forty or fifty of them, on the Auckland coast. I hope someone was thoughtful enough to wireless that tantalising bit of news to Mr. Grey. It seems to indicate remarkable sagacity on the part of the swordfish that they should have delayed their appearance in mass until their archantagonist had waved farewell to New Zealand.

But it would appear now that Mr. Grey has transferred his sea-chase worship to the mako shark, which he declares is the finest sporting fish on our coast. Mr. Mako is such a glorious “lepper,” and kicks up such a dust about a hook in his jaw, indeed he out-kicks the swordfish. Another asset we can mortgage?

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Those white butterflies, fluttering in the gardens and orchards, seem emblems of perfect beauty and innocence, but appearances are sadly deceptive. Insects, it is said, would destroy not only all vegetation but all human life if their spread were unchecked, and here man's best friends are the birds. There is a proposal to introduce bats from somewhere or other to prey on the white-winged curse. The wisdom of bringing in exotic creatures to exterminate others is always debatable; New Zealand's experience in that direction has been bought dearly. The most useful of all insect destroyers is perhaps our fantail; it is a marvellous snapper-up of flying pests. But the pretty little bird is all too seldom seen in our gardens; in common with the native grey warbler, the riroriro, it is disappearing before those slinking feasters on nestlings and eggs, the German owl and the cunning opossum.

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“I read in your papers,” said the intelligent foreigner last week, “that a country branch of the Acclimatisation Society has been informed that the children in the district are in the habit of tickling trout when they go in to bathe, and that the Society has resolved to warn the offenders. Will you be so kind as to explain why they tickle the trout, and why it is regarded as such a terrible offence?”

“Ruru” kindly explained that the most reprehensible aspect of this example of juvenile depravity is the fact that the young persons referred to enter the water in a practically nude condition, which so shocks the trout that they become perfectly helpless and therefore are at the mercy of the bathers. It is pleaded in extenuation that the trout may like being tickled, but this excuse is regarded as frivolous. The official objection to the practice is understood to be that the unfortunate fish are so exhausted by the hysterical fits following on the tickling operation that they simply lie on the bottom of the creek unable to rise to the legitimate angler's lure. And, of course, if this sort of thing is allowed to go on it will drive away the valuable overseas fisherman who lays the golden egg.

A pleasing idea which has more than once been suggested in New Zealand—in the north at any rate—is the lining of the public highways with flowering and otherwise ornamental trees and plants. At some of our railway stations the example was set many years ago. Every station, of course, does not lend itself to floral decorative lay-out, but there are country way places that delight the flower-loving train traveller. Some of the tree plantations adjacent to stations, too, are exceedingly pleasant sights to those who appreciate tree beauty. Rotorua's station-side reserve, with its well-grown English trees and its tall eucalyptus clumps and sundry indigenous specimens, is a cool and eye-refreshing foil to the close-by busy traffic. A place of birds also; I have heard the shining cuckoo there in summer, uttering his high whistling call from his perch in the flowering gums, a few yards from shunting engines.

* * *

In the towns and villages, too, a great deal can be done to emulate the wisdom displayed in so many places abroad in the planting of beautiful trees. New Zealand has been chopping its trees down for well nigh a century, to go back no farther than the foundation of British settlement. It is fully time that we paid attention now to the retimbering of our country with our native trees, which are so much more valuable and beautiful than any of the exotics on which planting enterprise is centred at present. In town parks, the sombre pinus insignis has wearied the eye over-long. One would gladly see it replaced by our puriri, lacebark, karaka, pohutukawa, kowhai, and other quick-growing bush beauties.

* * *

The recent great development of the Maori farming scheme initiated by our Native Department is a movement for the better which should win the heartening approval of every New Zealander. It is really the most beneficent thing ever done for our Maori fellow-countrymen during the last three generations. The native tribes, or most of them, were industrious growers of wheat on quite a large scale before the disastrous wars. Now, coincidently with the increase in population, there is a vigorous “back to the land” campaign which is putting new life into the Maori. All over the native districts there are new farms, comfortable houses, herds of dairy cattle, flocks of sheep, and all the appurtenances of modern agricultural and pastoral industry. Sir Apirana Ngata's regime as Native Minister will go down in Dominion history as the period of his people's re-birth materially and spiritually. The soul of the race is bound up in an independent, self-reliant, self-respecting life on the land.

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