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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)

The Greatest Feat in New Zealand

The Greatest Feat in New Zealand

One of Kipling's most entertaining short tales is entitled “The Greatest Story in the World.” After keying the reader up to a high pitch of expectancy, this gem among literary efforts concludes with the statement that “the greatest story in the world would never be written.”

In conducting the recent contest on the question “What has been the greatest feat in New Zealand” this magazine did not anticipate any negative result such as the arch-story writer achieved, but rather hoped to bring out latent knowledge of those notable deeds and accomplishments which have lent high relief to the colourful picture of New Zealand history, actions and feats which are at once an inspiration and an education in right and timely application of the most admirable among human qualities. And we were not disappointed.

From every corner of New Zealand has come forward some champion claiming pre-eminence in greatness for this or that chosen feat, and not one entry could be called trivial. Rather did the writers exhibit a sound knowledge of their subject, with well-weighed reasons for their choice and, in most instances, a dramatic quality of presentation too often lacking when the stirring deeds of the past come to be recorded in the bold pages of history.

An examination of the very large number of entries indicates that the feats which attracted most attention fell under six headings. Of these, Railway feats gained 30 per cent., deeds of the pioneers 25 per cent., Exploration 10 per cent., war 10 per cent., and the Hawke's Bay Restoration 7 per cent. Other entries ranged from the lone flight of Menzies to the endurance of Auckland Island cast-aways, from old age pensions to the loan conversion, and from share-milking to the Plunket Society.

It is not surprising that the building of the railways in New Zealand, with such features as the Otira tunnel through the Southern Alps and the Raurimu Spiral should have claimed the attention and interest of those who could visualise the difficulties encountered and overcome by determination and skill. And it is pleasing to find those of the third and fourth generation paying handsome tribute to the grand work of the pioneer settlers and early explorers, with adequate tribute to the work of Hawke's Bay earthquake restoration.

The winning paper is one dealing with New Zealand's feat in despatching an expeditionary force of 100,000 men to the world war in defence of the Empire. By any scale that can be applied—the numbers engaged, the stake involved, the organisation required, the spirit behind the action, this New Zealand feat eclipses, in our opinion, all others in greatness, and it has this quality, that in its ultimate effect it called for the exhibition in one form or another of all the best traits in human character and included at some phase the features of every other great action.