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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa


page 9


The trite saying of the old Scottish bard, "the best-laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley," has been well exemplified in the case of old Wairoa, and the doings of her people. Her leaders were drawn from all classes—titled men from the Old Country, dissolute sons of great Churchmen, military inefficients, some sturdy, honest, God-fearing men and women from the United Kingdom, the rear brought up by ex-convicts, runaway sailors, and a number of the whaling fraternity, who, when they left the Bay of Islands for Wairoa, brought their characters with them. Her leaders were not always men of vision—the bottom of a crystal, or a pint measure being the limit of their vision in too many cases-else Te Kooti, with his ill-armed band of ragamuffins would not have been allowed to roam the country for years scattering death and destruction on every hand, and, very often, while this was going on the Wairoa patrols were settled down in some snug valley playing a game of euchre on an up-turned gin case, the contents of which had long since been duly liquidated. This actually did occur at a grave moment in the operations in the Waiapu district with Wairoa's army, "Fraser's Fighting Fifty," but fortunately the Maoris attacked the opposite side of the pa! But dealing lightly with delinquencies, which were as common to the officers as to the men, when the page 10latter settled down after the war, they proved heroes in adversity. The Government settled them on blocks of forty acres, on land taken from the Maoris, who were potential enemies on every hand. Roadless, and faced with low prices, the holdings were eventually absorbed by the land-grabbers of those days, and one of the former told me, he came out of his holding possessed of a pair of pants!

The town of Wairoa bears the name given by the original Maori owners to the whole of that fertile district extending from a little north of Napier, about Tangoio, to Pakuratahi, north of Mahia—this district, which is chock-full of historical associations, is bounded on the south-by the ocean, and to the north and west by a line drawn from north of Mahia to the northern edge of Lake Waikaremoana, and down a little to the east of the Taupo plateau to the sea. It, therefore, occupies nearly the whole of the northern bight of Hawkes Bay. The county, which some years ago was shorn of a portion of the southern end, is somewhat rhomboidal in shape and contains about 1,887 square miles. It is, in parts, very hilly, the highest peaks being about 3,000 feet, mostly in the Urewera Country, an area which in the coming years will make an ideal hiking territory, the views from the hilltops being extensive and the scenery is simply magnificent. Though the flat areas are limited in extent, both hills and flats are very fertile, and aided by a generous, well-distributed rainfall of over fifty inches per annum, Mother Nature yields an abundant harvest, whilst the use of fertilizers page 11bids fair to greatly increase the productions of the soil. The town is practically midway between Napier and Gisborne and stands on the lines of communication: with Waikaremoana and Rotorua; with Gisborne via Te Reinga Falls, the Hangaroa and Tiniroto, and also connected via Nuhaka, the Morere Hot Springs and some coastal villages. The district is lacking in good communication with the rest of the Dominion, the river-bar being at times unworkable and the East Coast Trunk Railway, nearly completed, but for a time suspended by the Railway Board without any consideration being given to the part such a railway must play, especially in view of the large undeveloped territory, both Crown and Native-owned lands, lying between Lake Tutira and Waihua, and in addition, the need of transport for wool, stock and other products. No doubt the railway will be completed in a year and a great future will be opened up to Wairoa and her people. The railway need not be one of the orthodox expensive type approved by the Public Works Department, with elaborate stations every few miles, with gold-laced officials of the drone type; not even a rake of regular carriages, for a rail' bus would suit the requirements at present, and later, there might come the Diesel engine or an electrified railway, for it does seem silly to try to run a railway on coal right round one of the finest and most reliable hydroelectric works in the Dominion.

The town is well supplied with all the social, sporting, scholastic, religious, and transport services common to a progressive people, whilst page 12the district offers unrivalled scenic attractions at Lake Waikaremoana and in the Urewera Country, and health-giving hot springs at Morere. The avenues for sport include racing, flying, rowing, football, tennis, cricket, hockey, basketball, etc. Up to the coming of the worldwide slump commercial travellers used to state that Wairoa was one of the best towns in the Dominion for honouring its obligations, and though struck down by two great earthquakes, she must rise again, buoyed up by the spirit of her ancestors of the wild and woolly 'sixties. Confidence, and yet more Confidence! This must be the watchword till the slump is laid to rest, and oh, for a vision in Parliament to reveal to blinded eyes that the great policy for the East Coast is to finish the railway, and put the lorries on to the feeder roads, while the cars carry on the private trade! Floreat Wairoa.