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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 5 (August 1, 1935)

Machinery by Canoe

Machinery by Canoe.

I remember that when I first saw Otorohanga and Te Kuiti, when they were simply Maori kaingds, before an iron rail had been laid in the King Country, there were canoes on all the rivers, and the Waipa was a great paddling and poling waterway into the interior. The Maoris could embark in a canoe at Te Kuiti or Te Kumi and travel all the way by creek and river to Waikato Heads more than a hundred miles away. When the Poro-o-Tarao tunnel construction work was under way in the ‘Eighties, long before the railway line reached it from the North, some of the machinery required by the contractor was taken by large canoes up the Waipa and thence by the Manga-o-kewa to Te Kuiti. That was in the winter and spring when the rivers were high; the canoes were poled most of the way. The only alternative was carting by roads that were roads only in name; where wagons were stuck in the mud or held up by slippery hill traverses for weeks at a time. Now, of course, the traveller and the backblocks toiler alike are independent of water navigation; but the farmer is beginning to realise that the clear channels for streams have their uses if only to carry away flood water.

Round about Te Awamutu the streams were blocked by willows until the local bodies took the flooded situation in hand.

In the Mokau there is a curious development of the willow nuisance; the encumbering trees spread up river instead of down. This is explained by the fact that the river is tidal for the first twenty miles. Small steamers and auxiliary scows were once able to go right up to the small coal mine (now closed) and load there. But the up-river spread of the shoots that become trees with huge roots impedes and prevents traffic. Some day it will be realised that the Mokau is too fine and valuable a waterway to remain blocked up in this way.