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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Model of Canterbury Province (Including Irrigation Branch, Public Works Department)

Model of Canterbury Province (Including Irrigation Branch, Public Works Department)

One of the finest of the Group's exhibits is the large-scale model of Canterbury which is being used to portray various features of land utilisation in New Zealand and the way in which the State has assisted land development. By means of a sound-film projected on to the back wall, and synchronised spotlights directed on to specific localities on the model, the story of Canterbury's development from the pioneer days is told.

The first settlers found Canterbury covered, for the main part, by tussock grasslands. The dry climate did not favour the typical New Zealand rain-forest, which was found only in isolated districts such as Banks Peninsula and on some of the foothills. Timber-milling was not an important pioneer industry as it was in the North Island. However, the native pastures provided excellent sheep pasturage, and flocks increased rapidly. The plains were easily cultivated, and so farming progressed rapidly. The discovery of gold in the South, with its accompanying influx of population, stimulated wheat-growing, an industry in which Canterbury still holds predominance.

Refrigeration changed the character of Canterbury's farming and "Canterbury Lamb" became famous on the British meat markets. The large estates were subdivided for closer settlement, and farming came to centre around fat-lamb and wheat production. Wheat and other cash crops such as peas and potatoes are now grown in the crop rotation along with fodder crops such as oats, turnips and rape, which are used to supplement pasture, the main source of sheep-keep for fat-lamb production. Not only does fat-lamb production provide direct cash income, but also it assists in maintaining soil fertility, which tends to fall with continuous cash-cropping.

One of the limiting factors of farm production in Canterbury is the relatively low rainfall which in certain years assumes drought proportions. The high snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps and the numerous rivers flowing eastward provide a store of water which is now being utilised for irrigation. Already small-scale schemes have shown what irrigation can achieve, for in some instances production has been increased three and four-fold.

The water supplies have been utilised by the State in another way. The tremendous power of the snow-fed rivers, with sources at high altitudes, has been harnessed at two hydro-electricity generating stations, one at Lake Coleridge, the other on the Waitaki River. Canterbury, in common with the rest of New Zealand, is very well provided with electric power for farm, factory and domestic uses.

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Except at Hanmer there has been no extensive exotic afforestation, but over the Province there has been considerable tree planting for beautification purposes, river protection, farm shelter, and farm-timber supplies. The countryside is now very reminiscent of England—the homeland of so many of the pioneer settlers—and the provision of beautiful Hagley Park in the heart of Christchurch is a tribute to the foresight of this first generation of New Zealand. Canterbury has other scenic beauties too. There are several fine forest reserves, and there are the incomparable Southern Alps which provide the finest mountain play-ground in the Southern Hemisphere. In productivity and scenic beauty Canterbury typifies all that our pioneers strove to achieve.