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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 3 (June 1, 1934.)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 41

Pictures of New Zealand Life

Inspiration for Artists.

The Hon. J. A. Young, Minister of Internal Affairs, made an excellent point in his address at the recent opening of the Wellington art exhibition. He suggested that our artists could very well incorporate some expression of the facts and ideals of the Dominion's history and the traditions of the Maori in their work on canvas.

The life of the pioneer, his settling the country, and the conflict of races later on were filled with deeds which should give full scope for the imaginative painter. Then there was the lore of the poetic Maori, stories filled with high ideals and noble emotions. There was an almost unlimited variety of themes in the history of the country.

This is exactly the point of view which “Tangiwai” has more than once expressed on this page. And it is a field quite neglected by our New Zealand artists. They appear to take the line of least resistance and to content themselves with mere pretty bits and now and then a portrait. It is necessary to make some careful study before historical traditional or mythological subjects are attempted, and the average artist considers that too much trouble, or prefers to remain a landscape painter. The consequence is that there is a painful sameness about the efforts one sees on the walls in any art exhibition in New Zealand.

Charles F. Goldie has attained fame and profit by painting portraits of oldtime Maoris. His success in that field should be a lesson to his juniors; an incentive to strike out on individual lines and develop some special study of distinctive New Zealand features. The story of our land is crowded with the heroic figures and episodes that make great pictures.

Volcanic Steam Power.

There has been some discussion as to the possibility of making use of the enormous amount of steam power in our volcanic and hydro-thermal regions. The control of the thermal steam in various other parts of the world, such as Italy, and the utilising there of the power that rises from the heated regions below is pointed to as an example New Zealand might follow. Undoubtedly we have really illimitable steam energy in the wonder-country, which extends from Rotorua to Taupo and the Tongariro National Park. Karapiti fumarole, that amazing blowhole which discharges superheated steam ceaselessly, would in itself provide sufficient pressure to light and provide power to all the townships and settlements in the Taupo country. Such places as Tikitere and Ketetahi, to say nothing of Rotomahana and Whakarewarewa, could give the heart of the island all the power it needed, and render unnecessary the great hydro-electric works.

But there is the question of practicability. The steam power is there, it can be harnessed by skilful engineering, but is it worth while? Settlement is so scattered; there are no great industrial works in the thermal district to make a call on steam necessary. Some day, perhaps, it will be done—faihoa!

What can be done to control the hot-water pipes of the underworld has been shown on a small scale at Rotorua. The small geysers which play in the Government Gardens there were taken in hand some forty years ago by Mr. Malfroy, who was Government engineer in the Spa town, and he, by an ingenious system of pipe-laying, so tamed the little puias that they now play constantly, a novel and charming spectacle for visitors to that green garden-park.

However, we need be in no haste to reduce our wonderful geysers and fumaroles to a condition of exasperated servitude for man's needs. One would hate to travel a region where everything was harnessed and made to drive wheels or light towns. And geysers and fumaroles have an impatient way with them which might at times fracture the engineer's machinery in a disconcerting manner.

Waikato's Fairy Mountain.

The New Zealand Government has recently set apart as permanent reserves for the preservation of native fauna and flora the groups of islands constituting the Auckland Islands and the Kermadec group. That is an excellent measure; but there are some places within our mainland limits that stand in far greater need of protection, especially for the sake of the forests. Pre-eminently one of those in urgent need of the sheltering mana of the Crown is that beautiful mountain, Pirongia, famed in poetic fairy folklore, which forms the dividing range between the Waipa Plains and Kawhia harbour. Pirongia rises to three thousand feet, and it was at one time covered almost to the base of its manyvalleyed slopes with a dense and lovely bush.

In one's young days, Pirongia was the most commanding feature of the old home landscape; it was a grand place for pigeon shooting in the era when there were a great plenty of native birds and no restrictions on sport and pot-hunting. Now the bush has been stripped from a great part of the ancient mountain, and the clearing process has not yet been stayed. It is saddening to see this gradual ruin of the finest thing in all the Waikato country. It is not merely a matter of scenery. Pirongia is a range of great value for climatic and water-supply and conservation purposes.

Now a belated but welcome effort is being made to save it from further destruction and to make it a National Park or sanctuary. That is the only method likely to preserve the forest on the upper parts. If the whole of the mountain that has not already passed into private hands were reserved, there would be a field then open for the replanting of some of the lower parts. One would like to see all lovers of the forest and the forest life, as well as all local bodies in the Waikato, unite in a call to save historic and beautiful old Pirongia.