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The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future



When the recent institution of Acclimatisation Societies is considered, the results already attained must be regarded as very satisfactory; the importance of giving attention to this subject is also apparent; before anything is said of their operations it will not be amiss to refer to what had been effected prior to their establishment. The extraordinary absence of land animals in New Zealand, the deficiency of game, and of insectivorous birds was first remarked by Captain Cook, a name which will always be connected with New Zealand, and be held in reverence as one of its earliest and best benefactors. He introduced that valuable tuber, the potatoe, the carrot and turnip also; the first soon became one of the chief supports of the natives; to judge of the high estimation it is held in, it is only necessary to state that page 291 it has fully thirty names given to the varieties which they have observed; the turnip, a species of turnip cabbage, soon became wild and spread everywhere, and is still a valuable addition to the stock of esculents, both the leaves and root are eaten, and it cannot be said to have greatly deteriorated; it generally prefers the alluvial soil on the banks of rivers, and there grows with remarkable luxuriance. But the chief introduction of Captain Cook was the pig, this has increased in a most extraordinary manner; the Northern Island is so perfectly overrun with it, that sheep-owners, to save their lambs from destruction, are obliged to destroy it without mercy. There are three kinds of pigs which have been naturalized, whether the produce of the original pair left by Captain Cook, or from later importations, it is impossible to say. The ordinary one, which has stocked the forest, is black, with a very long snout, almost resembling that of a Tapir, this pig was probably the original one. The next is a grey one, commonly known by the name of Tonga tapu, and may therefore be supposed to have been thence derived. The third variety is generally of a reddish brown, marked with lateral black or dark stripes, running the whole length of the body.

The next benefactor of these islands was the venerated Mr. Marsden: his name will be handed down to posterity as a friend to New Zealand, in a temporal as well as spiritual point of view.

It was only in 1791, that the pure bred merino was introduced into Britain by George III., who perceiving the great advantage which would accrue to his country if that valuable animal could be naturalized, alter much difficulty succeeded in obtaining a small flock of the negrette breed, which was transferred to Kew. It was not long after their arrival that Mr. Marsden visited England, and justly thinking that Australia more nearly resembled the native abode of the merino, boldly made an application to the King; that monarch saw the importance of introducing the merino into Australia, and presented him with a ram and four ewes. Their arrival was the commencement of a new page 292 era in that colony. This public-spirited man also imported a purer race of cattle, which long went by his name; and some of these early found their way into New Zealand, where he also brought the horse, which with the cow greatly excited the admiration of the Maori, by their size and bulk, especially when they saw Mr. Marsden mount the former, they were struck with amazement, many thinking the horse and its rider were one. The natives appear to have been puzzled what to call it, at first naming it he kuri—a dog, which it is still occasionally called.

He likewise saw the necessity of establishing a mission farm, as a nucleus for disseminating our domestic animals throughout the island; one was therefore formed at the Waimate, and stocked with a little flock of sheep, some cattle and horses. The domestic birds were gradually introduced—geese, ducks, fowls, guinea fowls and pigeons; goats and rabbits also found their way to the island, and such a variety of dogs that they soon completely destroyed by admixture the original one. The useful cat followed the steps of the Missionary, and so much was puss esteemed on her arrival, that a Turanga chief carried one from the Bay of Islands to Poverty Bay on his sacred shoulders; and good reason there was to prize the feline race, for man not only introduced useful animals, but involuntarily the rat and mouse as well; these multiplied at such a rate, as speedily to overrun the island, and almost destroy the native rat, which was formerly very numerous and much prized as an article of food; so destructive did the natives find the mouse, that they called it the toro naihi, * or scythe; when the cat came to their aid the mouse obtained a second name te kainga ngeru—cat’s food.

Captain Hobson brought the first hive of bees to the island, but they did not increase. Mr. Cotton, the Bishop of New Zealand’s chaplain, was more successful, and from his hive both islands are now well stocked. They have

* Toronaihi, literally “drawknife,” a very sharp instrument used by whalers in cutting off blubber from the fish, and applied to the mouse from its destructive character.

page 293 increased to such an extent, as to have become wild and fill the forest, so that the bee may be said to be already more established in New Zealand than it is even in England, where it requires much care to preserve it through the winter, whereas from the mildness of the New Zealand climate it is quite as much at home in its forest mansion, as in its artificial ones, and actually for several years honey was far more reasonable in New Zealand than in England. At present it is not so much prized or attended to as formerly, otherwise honey and wax would form no inconsiderable article of export.

Though the rabbit was early introduced into various parts of the island, it is doubtful whether it has greatly increased; the hawk, cat, and dog, are its inveterate enemies; it is still too domesticated to escape them; when, however, it acquires its native wildness, it may increase in the same degree as its congeners at home. The silver grey variety, whose skin is so much prized in China, was introduced years ago, but has not multiplied. Hitherto only fancy pigeons have been brought, which have thriven well in spite of their enemies; it would be advisable to procure the common inhabitants of the dovecot as well. The Australian bronze-wing pigeon, the Wonga-wonga, has recently been added to the number of our imported birds.

Two kinds of pheasants are already naturalized in the province of Auckland. Mr. Brodie has the honour of having stocked the northern end of the island with the English variety; the other, which is now becoming quite abundant in the neighbourhood of Auckland, is from China; it has already found its way beyond the Waikato. Great credit is also due to Mr. Brodie for his patriotic efforts in introducing the smaller kinds of English land birds. The Honorable Henry Walton, of Wangarei, brought the silver pheasant, which is to be found near that place.

The institution of Acclimatisation Societies is of great public utility, for however laudable the efforts of individuals may be, yet they must of necessity be contracted in their results when compared with the combined action of numbers; page 294 hitherto their efforts have been only partially successful, from the want of a systematic plan of action. Great numbers of birds have been sent out, but proportionally few have survived to make their debut on our shores; this loss and waste of means might, perhaps, have been obviated by a different arrangement. It requires an agent who is acquainted with the rearing and feeding of whatever may be intrusted to his care; had this plan been adopted, it is probable that the hares, partridges, sparrows and other birds sent out, would have been more likely to have reached their destination.

Relative to the selection of those animals, birds, or fish, which may be most profitably introduced, the alpaca appears to be one of the most important; the Australian colonies have been sensible of its value, and South Australia has acted nobly in purchasing a flock, which was procured by Mr. Ledger with great difficulty and expense from South America. The alpaca has since been brought into New South Wales, and thence has reached New Zealand, so that this valuable animal will soon be naturalized, as the country, from its mountainous character, so closely resembles its natural abode. Next to the alpaca may be mentioned the Chinese sheep, so remarkable for their fecundity, as well as for the value of the fleece; these animals are said to produce from three to five at a birth—it may more justly be entitled a litter—and they have two of these litters in a year. Nor is their maternal ingenuity inferior to their fecundity, as they wean the stronger lambs, and allow the weaker ones to suck for a longer period; they are said to produce from seven to twelve pounds of wool annually, and to weigh from 140 lbs. to 170 lbs. as mutton, and to be of a quality not inferior to the Leicester. These sheep inhabit the northern part of China, near the great wall, and therefore belong to a colder climate than that of New Zealand. Nor must the Cashmere goat be omitted, as it is questionable whether its silky hair, or that of the alpaca, will prove most advantageous as an article of export. From the late lamented Prince Consort, and also from Lord Petre, the colony received page 295 valuable presents of the red and fallow deer. Prince Albert presented a couple of the latter to each of the provinces; these are beginning to increase, and will prove as durable and useful a memorial monument as any erected to his memory, and at the same time a connecting link of his name with New Zealand. Sir George Grey has also introduced another kind of deer from the Cape.

From our Australian neighbours we are beginning to borrow their varieties of the kangaroo to stock our grassy plains, as well as the emu, bustard, and wild turkey, with several species of the pigeon.

A brief allusion may here be made to the efforts of the Governor in the cause of Acclimatisation. Since his return to New Zealand he has purchased The Kawan, an island some five or six miles long, and three or four miles wide, which he has converted into a Zoological Garden, or rather park, which from its size far surpasses any thing of the kind in Europe, unless it be that of Windsor.* Here he has already congregated many of the useful birds and animals of Africa, Australia, and other parts, where they are suffered to roam at large; its insular position, too, precludes the possibility of escape of any but the birds.

There is also a valuable Botanical Garden commenced, which, from the mildness of the climate, will allow of plants


Windsor Parkcovers 3800 acres
Richmondcovers 2468 acres
Bois de Boulogne (France)covers 2095 acres
Hampton Courtcovers 1800 acres
Phœnix (Dublin)covers 1752 acres
Central (New York)covers 850 acres
Kewcovers 683 acres
Regent’ scovers 478 acres
Kensingtoncovers 362 acres
Izar-Sko-selo (Russia)covers 350 acres
Hydecovers 289 acres
Victoriacovers 249 acres
Imergarten (Prussia)covers 210 acres
Greenwichcovers 185 acres
Batterseacovers 175 acres
Green and St. James’covers 50 acres each.

page 296 and trees from almost every part of the world being naturalized. It is not too much, therefore, to predict, that before long The Kawan will be a spot of much interest to travellers, and of great benefit to the country.

A small breed of the buffalo, which is much esteemed by English farmers on account of its compact form and the facility with which it fattens, might be obtained from India more directly than from England.

The attention of the Australian and Tasmanian Governments has of late been turned to the introduction of fish; many unsuccessful attempts were made with the salmon, but at last their efforts have been signally crowned with success. Salmon and trout, and also the carp, may be said to be introduced both in Tasmania and Australia; the latter has already reached New Zealand. The trout and salmon, it is to be hoped, will soon fill our Alpine streams and lakes, which are most suitable for them. There are other valuable fresh-water fish which might be added to these, as the perch and tench.

Perhaps no nation we are acquainted with has practised Pisciculture to the extent of the Chinese, in fact, it is only within the last few years that such a thing has been thought of in Europe, and this was initiated by a Chinese, who commenced it in France, and already that country has made great progress in this new department. To introduce, therefore, the various kinds of fish for which China is celebrated, it would appear to be the best plan to obtain a native of that country acquainted with this art, who might also bring with him the spawn of their choicest kinds, and thus in a very short time our lakes and rivers would be stocked with valuable fish. When the comparatively trifling distance of China to that of Britain is taken into consideration, it is evident the expense to be incurred, and the risk of failure will be far less in one case than in the other. A gentleman sent to China upon an agricultural mission by the French Government, M. Eugene Simon, made a valuable report on the fish and fisheries of that country, and also despatched specimens of several kinds which he thought capable of being page 297 bred in Europe. He speaks of them in the highest terms, and says that it would not be difficult to select forty or fifty species worthy of observation.

Amongst those he reports is the Lo-in, or King of Fish, classed as Crenilabrus by Dr. Bridgman, measuring sometimes six or seven feet in length, weighing from 50 lbs. to 200 lbs. or more, and said to equal the famous salmon of the Rhine. Then comes the Lein-in-wang and the Kau-in, almost as good and even larger than the other; the Lin-in, finer than any Carp in Europe and weighing sometimes 30 lbs.; and the Kin-in, or Tsi-in, which does not weigh more than from 10 to 12 lbs., and is the finest and most delicate of all, in flavour partaking at once of the trout and sole.*

This is sufficient to shew what a field China presents to the friends of Acclimatisation. Nor is Australia to be overlooked; the large fish called Murray Cod, found in the waters which run westward, is worthy of attention: in size and weight it perhaps equals the largest of the Chinese fresh water fish, and there are several others also, as the perch, rock cod, &c. The Australian fresh water cray-fish, rivalling our marine one, the Koura, in magnitude, would be a great addition to our streams.

A recent report of the Nelson Acclimatisation Society shews that however great their losses, still something has been done when it is able to state that it has released as many as 143 birds, although it is sad to find two poor mateless ones amongst them, a solitary robin and a sparrow.

The expensive efforts made in these remote appendages of Britain to introduce her smaller families of birds must strike our countrymen at home with surprise, who have from time immemorial been using equal efforts to exterminate those

* “Suter’s London Mail,” for June 1864.

Grey Linnets7
Australian Sparrows6
Black Swans7
From the Report of the Acclimatisation Society, Nelson, Sep. 1864.

page 298 very birds we are trying to introduce; these efforts must not be supposed to result solely from remembrance of the little warblers whose sweet songs are associated with our earliest years, but from a conviction of their great utility in keeping under those noxious insects which here, from the want of such assistants, prove so destructive to the hopes of the agriculturalist.

A writer remarks, “Bird tenting in England means shooting or scaring them away, but in Australia—preserving birds with the most assiduous care.” The Australian Colonies, in the establishment of Acclimatisation Societies, prove themselves to be in advance of the parent land. Its Zoological Gardens can only be regarded as places established for the amusement and instruction of the mass, but not for purposes of disseminating new species; as an instance of this it may be mentioned that the prolific Chinese breed of sheep was introduced some years ago into one of the Zoological Gardens at home, where it multiplied so rapidly as to puzzle the savans what to do with its increase, but instead of trying to introduce the breed to the notice of the agriculturalist, as George III. did the merino, the only use the keepers of the garden could find for it was to feed their lions and tigers, and other carnivora, with its produce. In our southern colonies how different are the aims of its inhabitants; they are endeavouring to enrich their adopted homes with animals of every kind which are capable of being serviceable and profitable to them, and even in this day of their infancy how energetic is the effort they are simultaneously making, to accomplish this laudable object. It requires but little foresight to predict how great will be the change which a few more fleeting years will thus be effected in them. *

* New Zealand, the youngest of Britain’s colonies, already possesses eight Acclimatisation Societies, situated at Auckland, Ahuriri, Wanganui, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland.