Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon


Chapter I. — Tutira—Its Prominent Physical Features

page 1

Chapter I.
Tutira—Its Prominent Physical Features.

Tutira Station is situated in the Hawke's Bay province of the North Island of New Zealand. The homestead itself lies a few miles inland midway between the ports of Napier and Wairoa. Tutira proper extends over 20,000 acres—about one-third of the size of the lands to be described; lands which have at one time or another been occupied by the writer. The larger area is bounded by three considerable rivers. The largest, rising in the interior of the North Island, flows along the base of the Maungaharuru range, eventually reaching the sea twenty miles north of the run. There may be here and there a crossing to this deep, swift, and dangerous river. I know of none. Another river, running from source to sea between cliffs, is impassable except where crossings have been constructed in modern times. The third, rising on the high lands of inland Tutira, is crossable at the old pack-horse ford, where in the 'nineties a “cage” on wires was slung for the convenience of degenerate modern wayfarers, and where in still more recent times, for still more degenerate travellers, a bridge has been thrown across the river. There is another ford nearer the sea where the ancient Maori foot-trail passed inland, otherwise this stream also was practically uncrossable until beyond the Tutira boundary.

To account for the external configuration of the run and for the material of which it is built, vast general changes over the whole east coast of the North Island—over the whole of New Zealand indeed—would have to be considered. For such a review the writer lacks both page 2 knowledge and space. Certain main facts, however, can be accepted on authority. The first is, that the bay of the province extending now between Cape Kidnappers and the Mahia Peninsula has been, within a comparatively recent geological period, high and dry; the second, that this vast “half-moon, this monstrous cantle” of land, has sunk, and that simultaneously with its subsidence there has been a general fall of the coastal area towards the east—towards the ocean.

In regard to local geology there has been no special inducement for detailed study of the Hawke's Bay district. It is the land of the Golden Fleece, rich only in flocks and herds. There exist in the province neither oil, coal, iron, nor gold to stimulate minute research.

Sections of original plateaux.

Sections of original plateaux.

Tutira and the adjoining lands have, I imagine, risen from the ocean as plateaux of different heights. It is probable that during the subsidence of what is now the bay of the province this formation was altered. At its termination sections of the original plateaux lay on their edges inclining to the east: the countryside had changed from an agglomeration of elevated plains to a series of tilted terraces. Consentaneously the hill chains of the run must have been created. In sympathy with the tilting process there must have taken place an increase in the height of each of them; as the one edge sank, the other rose, until the run assumed approximately its present outlines.

Plateaux tilted.

Plateaux tilted.

Situated between two parallel chains of hills, and containing a centre of low-lying lands, the station may in shape be compared to an elongated trough. The western edge of this trough is the Maungaharuru range, reaching the height of 3200 feet, and containing minor eminences of over 2000 feet; the eastern edge, the Newton range, is considerably lower in elevation, its highest top not rising above 1400 or 1500 feet. The physical appearance of Tutira is in the main that of the adjacent regions north and south, but the general geological features noticeable on them are on Tutira marked in a peculiarly definite manner. One pattern only, sometimes sharp and sometimes page 2a
Total Acreage Leasehold and Freehold Farmed by Writer.

Total Acreage Leasehold and Freehold Farmed by Writer.

page 3 blurred, obtains, or has obtained, over the whole of the run. It is very simple: every range, or portion of range, runs north and south, the western face of every range is precipitous, the eastern face of every range falls away gradually, the eastern face of every range is split by fissures, the sides of every fissure are perpendicular.

The native name of one of these ranges, Heru-o-Tureia, the comb of Tureia,1 admirably illustrates the general geological pattern of the run—the unbroken line of top, the western cliff, the fissured eastern slope. It is typical on a great scale of every hill and mountain chain on Tutira; indeed, if the signification of the name be firmly grasped, the reader will hold in his mind an easy key to the physical outlines of the run. The long, even, unbroken ridge itself is the “back” of the titanic comb, the spurs running at right angles from it the “teeth,” the cracks which never penetrate the solid summit or “back,” and which, therefore, never completely bisect the range, the “interstices” between the teeth. The likeness of these geological formations to vast combs is still further heightened by the even, perpendicular edges of the “teeth.”

These are the features of the comb system broadly outlined to let the reader visualise its strange cleavage pattern. A modification must now, however, be noted; it is this, that although the fissures start at right angles to the main range, their sides do not remain parallel. These gaps, their shape at base more or less that of an inverted horse-shoe, widen as their distances from the back of the comb increase. Another minor modification of the parallel hill chain system is the presence here and there of narrow linking spurs that jut forth east and west as if wedding the ranges to one another. Running at right angles to the general north and south trend of the ranges, though infrequent, they are well-marked features in the landscape.

The breadth of the run can be traversed and its surface viewed if, in imagination, the reader will take up his position on the western-most rim of the trough to which the whole station has been compared, and proceed thence eastwards towards the ocean. The Heru-o-Tureia range marks the limit of limestone and divides the sandstones, conglomerates, and marls of the coastward belt from the more ancient slates and ryolites of the interior. Moving from it eastwards we shall

1 Tureia was sixth in descent from Tamatea, who reached New Zealand in the Takitimu, one of the fastest of the canoes of the great heke or migration from Hawaiki.

page 4 pass over successive lines of hills till we arrive at the Newton range—the easternmost edge of the trough. It too illustrates the prevailing feature, the continuity of top and upright rock rampart facing west, the “back” of the “comb,” its cloven spurs sloping towards the east, the “teeth.”

Everywhere, therefore, on Tutira we discover one pattern, one principle, one type of formation dominant; we find furthermore throughout the run narrow “tooth” valleys enclosed by perpendicular walls—valleys which may deepen but which never can expand, and out of which over the bulk of the run no water whatsoever visibly flows. The precipices containing them form what may be called, for convenience' sake, the dry cliff system of the run.

Blue Duck on Waikoau river. (This and other sketches from photographs taken by H. G. -S.)

Blue Duck on Waikoau river.
(This and other sketches from photographs taken by H. G. -S.)

Strongly contrasting with it exists another which may be equally well termed the wet cliff system. Unlike the former, its sculpturing offers no difficulty to the imagination. It has been cut out by processes which are still at work. Its streams still chiselling out their beds flow far beneath the surface. Its cliffs, saturated with moisture percolating through the pervious soils above, are from top to bottom feathered with ferns and delicate greenery. There are in fact two conspicuously distinct series of cliff—the rock walls of the one dry, bare, and prominent; the rock walls of the other damp, densely overgrown, and, until closely approached, invisible.

Besides the boundary rivers named, there are within the compass of the station several streams of lesser volume, also flowing between narrow perpendicular walls; the only stream, indeed, not imprisoned by precipices during its whole length is the Papakiri, which ends its career in Tutira lake. Every upland lake is a sea to the rivers that feed it; to the Papakiri the lake is the ocean of its extinction. For the same reason also that the Waikoau curbs the speed of its current and deposits its silt upon approach to the Pacific, the Papakiri page 5 drops its burden of soil as it nears Tutira lake. Save for a mile or so in the course of this little river, and the equally brief run of a few brooks on the uplands of Opouahi, the drainage system of the station has to be searched for. It lies beneath the level. Barring the two or three miles that march with Arapawanui, the boundaries of the run are wet cliff; except on the Newton range, the paddocks are enclosed by wet cliffs. Within each paddock are wet cliffs; within many of them are miles of wet cliff. There are in addition miles of dry cliff in almost every one of these natural enclosures. The reader will not grasp the coming story of Tutira if he fails to understand that there are, wet and dry, several hundred miles of precipice on the run, varying in height from 20 to 150 feet.

Other prominent natural features of the station are its water surfaces. Of these the largest is Tutira lake, next in size is Waikopiro—the two, conjoined in wet weather, covering some 500 acres. Within a couple of chains distance from the last-named, and at a lower level, is situated Orakai, five or six acres in extent. There is a lakelet, Opouahi, of about similar size, on the uplands of the west; a deep clear lakelet, Te Maru, on Putorino, and a couple of tarns on Heru-o-Tureia. Tutira lake, about two miles long, resting at the foot of the Newton range, is drained by a meandering serpentine creek of the same name, which, after crossing the old Maori foot-trail, breaks into a series of over-falls, and finally leaps at Te Rere-a-Tahumata into a magnificent chasm of 157 feet in depth.

As in the shaping of the run water has played so prominent a part, it will be well in this initial chapter to devote a few lines to the rainfall. The heaviest deluges are blown up from the north-east, east, south-east, south, and south-west. During some three or four days' duration, not infrequently one foot and over, and on one occasion nearly two feet, have been registered. Except in the form of showers, rain seldom reaches Tutira in appreciable quantity from the north and west. Thunderstorms, which cling to the coast and the ranges, the station almost entirely escapes. Snow falls but rarely—only thrice in my time has it lain for more than a few hours; during one of these blizzards, however, it certainly fell in the same whole-hearted manner as have done the greatest of the rain-storms. Everywhere on the low lands two feet deep, it lay still thicker on the Newton range, completely blotting out the sheep for a couple of days.

The rainfall of eastern Tutira is different in character from that of page 6
Record of Rainfall for 1917 at Tutira
Height above Mean Sea-level, 500 feet. Hour of Observation, 9 a.m.
10·02·27·031·70* ·01·01·08·35·04
Number of days.10121310881514128136
Total for Year, 85.02 inches.
page 7
Record of Rainfall for 1919 at Tutira
Height above Mean Sea-level, 500 feet. Hour of Observation, 9 a.m.
Number of days.276510915129577
Total for Year, 38.89 inches.

The reader will note the great variations in rainfall of these two years—years, doubtless, exceeded both in minimum and maximum by others whose records are not available. In the one, 85.02 fell in 129 days; in the other, 38.89 fell in 94 days. As, however, showers of under .10 are immediately dried up in a climate like that of Hawke's Bay, practically there were but 84 wet days in 1917, and 60 wet days in 1919.

page 8 the interior; deluges that break on the coastal hills do not, or at any rate do not always, reach inland. When on one occasion over seventeen inches in two days were measured on the homestead lawn, there was not on the track below the “Image” hill, distant some three miles from the stance of the rain - gauge, enough rain to wash away the dust from the trampled stock route.

Rain on the western rim of the run falls in the form of frequent showers, or when a coastal deluge does reach the ranges of the interior, it falls with an attenuated precipitation. Generally speaking, not only is the rainfall of Tutira about double that of Napier, only ten or twelve miles distant as the crow flies, but there is a sapidity in the atmosphere, perhaps owing to the enormous quantity of deep gorges, increasingly noticeable inland. When southern Hawke's Bay is brown, the hills of Tutira are often green as leeks. Never in forty years have I known grass slopes fronting south or east fit to carry a fire; not more than half a dozen times have I seen hillsides facing north and west burnt brown.

These details of rainfall have been given not merely as meteorological data of an impersonal sort; the climate of Tutira has deeply affected the fortunes of the station. As the reader will later be shown, excessive rainfall has been the bane of the place, retarding its development by years.1

To recapitulate: The original shape of Tutira has been either a single elevated plain, or more probably a series of plateaux. At a later period, owing to extraneous subsidence, this terrain has tilted towards the east, leaving the station approximately in its present form—a series of eastward - facing slopes, with a precipitous back to each of them. Consentaneously the many hill-chains of the run have come into being, not through upheaval from beneath, but by the one edge of the plateau rising as the other dipped. The outstanding physical features of Tutira, its lakes, its waterfall, its hidden rivers, its double cliff system—the dry, remarkable for its far-seen alternating bands of strata, the wet, for its hanging curtains of fern—have been described. Lastly, the reader's attention has been drawn to the rainfall of the run.

1 Not all records are published. One observer whose case I recall was requested by neighbours to cease to forward his returns. “Science may be right enough, perhaps, in its proper place,” they declared, “but he was ruining the district and hampering settlement with his blessed rainfalls.”

page 8a
“Combs” of West, Centre, and East Tutira.

“Combs” of West, Centre, and East Tutira.

* The storm of 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th of June registered just over 20 inches. What weight of water may have fallen in addition we cannot tell, for on the 11th and 12th the rain-gauge was found to be filled and overflowing.