The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 1 (May 1, 1933)
On the Look-out
The shotgun man is abroad in the land this month. “Ruru” wishes him good hunting, but on behalf of the feathered tribe begs moderation. The birds are not so plentiful as they were; the wild duck are dwindling in numbers with the draining of swamps and lagoons and the consequent decrease of feeding grounds. The time has gone for the huge bags which sportsmen used to brag about. A newspaper photograph of a proud gunner with a vast array of dead poultry around him is now regarded as one of those things that distinctly should not be done.
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It was mentioned in a Court somewhere lately that in law a dog is allowed one bite before the owner can be held responsible for damages. In equity, it is to be presumed, the object of the dog's toothy attentions is allowed one free kick before he can be held responsible for damage to the animal.
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Ours is a land of great engineering works. Really we deserve fame for the immense amount of technical skill, and money expended on railing, bridging and tunnelling this up-and-down country. It is rather a pity the Main Trunk tiains cross the great viaducts in a flash, or two flashes, and that the timetables necessitate crossing them in the night hours as a rule. Perhaps it is only from the bottom of the huge gulches—we used to descend and ascend that way in the old horse days while the viaducts were a-building—that one can appreciate the dimensions and mingled strength and grace of design of those lofty structures of concrete-bedded steel.
Second only to the railway engineering works come the hydro-electrical engineering schemes. At this moment there is a truly tremendous task on hand, the construction of the line of 120 miles from Arapuni to Stratford, in Taranaki, across one of the most rugged hill and bush regions in the Dominion. One learns that over 200 steel towers are required in the 45 miles of the central part of this line, by way of Taumarunui and onward, roughly parallel with the railway line. Many miles of track-clearing through heavy forest come as a preliminary to the big steel structural work that will carry the power to help milk Taranaki's (say) 100,000 cows and light its dairy mansions and happy homes and lighten its daily labours in a score of ways.
Now and again a bush-rover reports having seen a white native pigeon, a white kaka parrot or a white tui. There is, or was, a white kiwi on the Little Barrier Island sanctuary. These albino birds were accounted sacred by the Maoris. A report from the West Coast recently stated that a pure white pigeon was seen perched in a tree at the outlet of Lake Mapourika, close to the road which leads to the Franz Josef Glacier. It was a rare and beautiful sight. Mention of that tapu white bird reminds me of an incident told of the fight at the Pukekohe East Church Stockade; the seventieth anniversary of that gallant defence by a few settlers and militia-men against a large force of Maoris was celebrated lately. In the heat of the battle one of the garrison saw a native pigeon, a perfectly white bird, fly from the bush which grew close up to the stockade and perch on the belfry of the little church which the defences enclosed. No doubt the Maoris' firing had frightened it out of the bush. The defender who first noticed it called the attention of some of his comrades to the bird, sitting aloft there like a spirit of good omen. “Look at that pigeon,” he said. “He's the best soldier of us all. See how steady he is under fire!”
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The sight of a small boy enjoying a large banana suggests to me a passing enquiry whether there are any of my readers who know the virtues of that delicacy, dried bananas. There seems to me the possibility of a great trade development here for the surplus produce of the South Sea Islands under New Zealand's flag. The sun-dried bananas, preserved in sugar and done up in stone or glass jars, which some of us used to get in Auckland from Niue Island by the schooners were far more acceptable than either dried dates or figs. Properly treated, they had a rich golden colour, and were so firm and hard that they could be sliced up small; and eaten with bread and butter they formed a most satisfying and palatable meal. An effort has been made in Rarotonga to introduce the dried banana to New Zealand, but the secret of success lies in the airproof packing; the jar used in Niue in the past has proved the best method.page 51
New Zealand imports a great deal of foreign dried fruit. Here we have at our doors an infinitely better and daintier food, if expertly handled. There should be no need to import dates all the way from Mesopotamia when we have in Niue and Samoa and Rarotonga a richer and better fruit, waiting only the enterprise and technical care to convert it into a most valuable and readily marketable product. Some day, perhaps, a bright commercial man will discover the goodness thereof, and then it will become famous.
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An Auckland newspaper correspondent has suggested that the Government should brighten up our express engines. “The carriages have improved of late years, why not the engines? In England the express engines are pictures, painted as they are,” he said. “Why not dress a few of the principal express engines in some good colours pleasing to local eyes as well as to tourists who visit these islands and who in practically all cases require to use our railways?”
The idea is passed on to our artists for bright suggestions. It has its obvious publicity possibilities, with appropriate paint schemes depicting for the tourists' eyes the dramatic scenes of the geyser region and volcano-land. A fuming locomotive done up vividly to represent Ngauruhoe in full blast would undoubtedly be a forceful pointer to the wonders of the Tongariro National Park. An engine, too, would conceivably lend itself admirably to Maori artistry. A full coat of face tattoo would at any rate serve to scare strolling cows off the line. But there are equally obvious dangers. It would scarcely do to give one of our cubist artists a free hand on the decoration scheme. Nor could a camouflage expert be entrusted safely with a paint brush. When he had finished with the loco. it might be difficult to tell whether it was coming or going.
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Lord Bledisloe is no niggard with his praise of the New Zealand scene. The forests, the mountains, the rivers and lakes, have been the theme of speeches very pleasant to hear or read. “In no part of the world,” the Governor-General wrote lately, “can there be found more natural beauty in so small a compass as in the South Island.” His Excellency has just been visiting the Otago Lakes, and his enthusiasm was based on fresh and pleasant impressions. He had seen Wakatipu and Wanaka, and the Southern Alps.
It may well be that Wanaka left the most abiding memory on the Governor-General's mind. This great alpine lake seems to be coming into its own at last. Some day it will be a famous place, when a good road is made to the West Coast, from the head of the lake over the Haast Pass, the lowest pass in the whole wonderful chain of the Southern Alps. Present writer's memories of the Haast horseback route and a splendid sail down Wanaka's length will never fade. The alpine glories at the head, the vast forest that covers the pass, the Blue River rushing in through gorgeous scenes from some hidden source in Mt. Aspiring's glaciers, the long lake of heavenly blue with its high green islands, its great slants of mountain walls, and then by way of contrast the pretty little township at its foot amidst its orchards and gardens and the good farming country of the plain. Fortunate the traveller is who catches sight of the grandest object of all, the icy height of Mt. Aspiring, the most beautiful peak in the South Island.
Wanaka combines many of the features of Lake Wakatipu with those of Manapouri. In form and colour it is a place of supreme loveliness—given the right weather. And weather is always an unknown quantity in this climatically fitful land of ours.
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A woman came home with four swordfish from the Mayor Island waters. The ladies have always been successful anglers. It isn't often the poor fish gets away once Eve gets her hooks into him.
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“You'll scream when Dad falls into the river with a cartload of squealing pigs,” said a movietalkie advt. It might have been added that Dad did a bit of squealing too. But on behalf of the great body of primary producers one would like to enter a protest against this heartless view of disaster in the hog-raising industry.
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That feminine live wire, Lady Angela St. Clair Erskine, left New Zealand for England breathing blessings on the Dominion's head, and not sea-blessings either. She said, on leaving, some nice things about “this delightful country.” She was delighted with everything in it, from the butter to the acres of kahawai fish through which she trolled on the northern coast. And especially the butter. Lady Angela was something of a stormy petrel to Australia, but when she comes to write about us her pen, one opines from her remarks, will be to our virtues ever kind and to our faults a little blind. Our incomparable butter helps.
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A New Zealander now resident in London, sends me this news item, which he thinks holds a moral for all these days. At Hurst Park Racecourse in November last, a horse called Nincompoop met with an accident, and his trainer ordered him to be shot. As the heartbroken trainer walked away, Nincompoop got up from the ground and walked after him. He was reprieved. Now, a few weeks ago, Nincompoop won the Upton Steeplechase at Warwick. The lesson, dear brethren, seems to be: never say die. Get up and get at it; go in and win.page 52