The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 12 (March 1, 1935)
Call of Flock House — Good Openings for Returned Soldiers' Sons
Any open-minded visitor to Flock House learns with profound surprise that more sons of New Zealand's returned soldiers have not seized the opportunity of a practical training course to qualify them for successful life on the land. Here is a well-managed institution—really a homely place in beautiful country by the Rangitikei River, about thirty miles by good roads from Palmerston North—which offers free farm-training for fifty lads, but the response to the generous call of the Board of Trustees has fallen far below expectations.
The Original Purpose.
Flock House is a monument of New Zealand sheepowners' gratitude to brave men of the British mercantile marine who lost their lives or were grievously wounded in their steadfast performance of duty on the perilous high seas during the Great War. Flock House, which arose from the “New Zealand Sheepowners' Acknowledgment of Debt to British Seamen Fund,” was intended to provide facilities for new careers in the country districts of this Dominion for sons and daughters of British seamen. During the past ten years many of these young folk have passed satisfactorily through Flock House, but unhappily the depression of recent years has checked the ingress of British seamen's sons. However, it has left the way open for the entry of New Zealand soldiers' sons.
When His Excellency the Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, was presenting the Championship Cup to the best trainee at Flock House, recently, he said that he was amazed to find that there were not more young men ready to grasp—and grasp eagerly—the opportunities that the place presented. Those who had accepted the offer were very wise and very lucky, for they had every kind of help and encouragement to make themselves competent, resourceful, self-reliant young farmers. His Excellency emphatically declared his belief—based on careful observation—that this country would continue to furnish a good living for an increasing number of efficient farmers.
Here is a farm of more than 7000 acres, ranging from rich river flats to a sandy wilderness by the sea, to which the estate has a frontage of three and a half miles. The lads are brought into working touch with various kinds of agriculture, sheep-farming, dairying, swine husbandry, poultry-keeping, and forestry. The helpful work on the land is supplemented with in-door instruction by experts.
The average age of admission is about sixteen years. The period of training is eight months, after which the lads are assured permanent positions on farms or stations at fair rates of wages. The demand for these trainees is continuously greater than the supply. Well, why do not more lads take this chance of a safe start in life?
Farms of their Own.
Last year the Trustees, on behalf of twenty experienced young men, graduates from Flock House, purchased a good improved property of 2300 acres in the Waikato. This achievement came from the young men's own savings, supplemented by a proportional subsidy granted by the Fund in each case.page 11
“During the first year,” states an official report, “the property is being farmed as a community settlement and the new settlers are also engaged in fencing and developing the separate farms which later will be occupied by the individuals comprised in the company. The future of this settlement is assured as the young men have been able to enter into it on particularly favourable terms in regard to the cost of land and stock, and the calibre of the settlers leaves nothing to be desired.
“The Trustees hope later to be able to assist further group settlements of this nature, as more of our young men attain maturity, competency and the necessary sufficient bank balances.”
No lad need be lonely nor dispirited at Flock House. There is plenty of provision for play—tennis, cricket, football, hockey, swimming, and so on. A film projector has been converted into a “Talkie,” which gives good programmes on Saturday evenings. Altogether life has no lack of interest here. Things go with the right swing all the time, thanks to the co-operation of an enthusiastic staff. And food! Well, it can be fairly described as remarkably good.
Wealth from Waste.
The seaward side of the estate offers a national lesson in winning wealth from waste. Close to the coast is a thriving forest of between 500 and 600 acres of pines and macrocarpa, a sturdy rampart against the onsets of westerlies, which rolled up the sand into many dunes long ago. Those winds are ever eager to shift the sand further inland, but this impulse is checked on a mile-and-a-half front by that stalwart garrison of trees, which have gained 35ft. of height in ten years. This sheltering belt will be gradually extended until the whole of this stretch of land will be guarded by the dark-green woods.
This protection from the salty sandscattering gusts will facilitate the conversion of poor surfaces into productive country. Experiments have proved well that a top-dressing of lime makes the soil suitable for Marlborough lucerne. Thus a dreary wilderness is being changed into pastures—a valuable object lesson which could be profitably applied to similar desolate places along the west coast of Wellington Province.