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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Chapter VII

Chapter VII.

On the extreme south-west point of the North Island of New Zealand, fifteen miles from the Coast! stands Mount Egmont, or Taranaki, which dominates and gives its name to the Province of Taranaki. This noble volcanic peak, 8260 feet high, is the most prominent feature of the Province,

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photograph of Mt. Taranaki/Mt. Egmont

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and is visible from all parts of the district, forming a back-ground to nearly every prospect. Its symmeltical outline, rising direct from the sea coast in gentle slopes, gradually becoming steeper as the snowy summit is reached, is only equalled in beauty by Fusiama, of Japan. It is a true volcanic cone, the crater on top now being filled with everlasting snow, and in winter time its flanks are snow-covered down to some 4000 feet from the top. It then presents one of the most dazzling and enchanting scenes imaginable. From these snow fields descend countless streams of the purest water which, radiating in all directions, water the stapes and surrounding plains, and thus give to the dairying country around its base one of its most essential features, viz.: pure water, clear and bright. So well is this country watered that it is difficult to find a spot that has not a running stream within a quarter of a mile of it—indeed this remark may be applied to the whole of the Province. A wise and far-seeing legislation has preserved for all time a large area of forest clad country around Mount Egmont, which acts as a gathering ground for the water supply, and thus preserves the numerous streams for ever, allowing their waters to run away gradually and without floods. This is the Mount Egmont National Park, which is about 79,000 acres in extent, and in which is to be found a great variety of beautiful scenery—sylvan, alpine, waterfalls, rocks and streams.

There is an interesting tradition about Mount Egmont to the effect that it once stood where the Lake Roto-aira now exists, near Tongariro, in the centre of the North Island, Pihanga mountain was the wife of Tongariro mountain. The latter became jealous of the attentions paid by Egmont to his wife. By a mighty kick Tongariro drove Egmont away, and in his flight the latter opened the course of the Upper Whanganui River. Egmont travelled on towards the sunset (as they always do in this species of myth) until he was stopped by the Pouakai Ranges, where he has since remained as the glory and main feature of the district The wound inflicted by Tongariro may be seen by anyone with sufficient faith, on the flanks of Egmont, at the place called Fantham's Peak.

It has been said above that Mount Egmont dominates the Province; it may be further said that the Dairying Industry is the gift of the same mountain, for at its base lies the bulk of the dairy farms, the warm, dark volcanic soil—so

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Dawson Falls, Mount Egmont, Taranaki. N.Z., close to Mountain House Easily accessible.

Dawson Falls, Mount Egmont, Taranaki. N.Z., close to Mountain House Easily accessible.

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well watered by the numerous streams—growing the rich grasses for which the district is celebrated; not that the immediate vicinity of Mount Egmont exhausts the dairying country of Taranaki; far from it, for the same rich soil extends outside the mountain slopes, overlying the papa flats and undulating hills.

From Mount Egmont in a South-Easterly direction, parallel with the coast and extending to the boundary of the Provincial District and beyond, is a level and undulating plain, now all cultivated, which, on the inland side at a few miles from the coast, becomes broken up into more hilly country, once densely clothed with forest, but now very generally in grass. Again, North-Easterly from the mountain along the coast, lies a similar country, level or undulating, which gradually narrows in until, at the White Cliffs, the papa hills run down almost perpendicularly from a height of 900 feet to sea level. Beyond this point again, we have the same flat shelf, but reduced to a mile or so in width, backed to the east by the papa hills. All of these lands—these two wings of Mount Egmont one may call them—are cultivated, and mostly in grass, carrying large numbers of stock.

In rough terms, the Mountain and its two wings occupy about one-third of the total area of the district. The other two-thirds are of a more broken nature, with wide valleys here and there, and the soil—no longer volcanic—is formed by the decomposition of the papa rock, which makes a rich soil, containing as it does some 25 per cent. of lime in its composition. Some parts of this inland country are broken, but nowhere do the hills rise to a greater height than about 2500 feet—indeed, the general height is much below that. As nearly the whole of it takes grass well—when once the dense forest with which it was formerly and is still to a large extent clothed, is cleared—it forms a good sheep country, the average capacity being about two sheep to the acre all through. Naturally in so large an extent of country the soil varies, and where the sandstones belonging to the same papa formation are prevalent the soil is not so good; but with the exception of some hundred thousand acres, the whole is capable of carrying grass. The total area of the Taranaki District is about 2,430,000 acres, and in this considerable area there is very little useless land.