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Our New Zealand Cousins
Chapter VII

The s.s. Rotomahana—Opotiki, a military settlement—A sensible system of emigration—Faults of the. Sydney system—A chance for capital—The town of Gisborne— Napier—Public spirit—Projected :'harbour works— Napier, the Malta of the southern seas —An attenuated army.

We left Auckland on a Thursday afternoon in the Rotomahana. She is seldom driven at her full speed, as the vibration is somewhat excessive. The catering is first-class, and the army of stewards are more than ordinarily attentive and obliging. They are quite military in the precision of their movements. At the sound of a handbell they range themselves in position. At another signal the covers are removed with a flourish. At each fresh signal some fresh manoeuvre is repeated with a precise exactitude which would rejoice the heart of a rigid disciplinarian, and which, in good sooth, contributes much to the comfort of the passengers, and entirely does away with the usual scrambling and disorder at meals on shipboard.

At the bottom of the deep bay which trends southward from Auckland's spacious harbour, and a little to the westward of East Cape, lies the small military settlement of Opotiki. It was formed during the war, each settler in exchange for the fee simple of twenty acres being liable to military service. Officers got a proportionately larger grant. This is now a flourishing community of farmers and wool-growers.

In some of the country papers I noticed the advertisements of an Immigration Society, which seemed to me to be capable of a useful develop­ment in Australia. The idea seemed to be to encourage lads and lasses to emigrate under the auspices of the society; and it undertook to pro­vide situations for the adventurous youths on their arrival in the colony. Farmers and settlers, de­sirous of having helps, were invited to send in applications to the local agents, or to the head office; and, from what I read, it seemed that in return for board and tuition in all sorts of country work, giving "colonial experience," in fact, the new comer was bound down for a term, to his host and teacher. Doubtless such a system might be abused. But under careful supervision, and the direction of genial men of tried probity, would it not be better than the haphazard no-system which is pursued in Sydney and elsewhere ? In New South Wales emigrants are often shamefully treated. Domestic servants, indeed, are competed for as if they were prize pedigree stock, but male labourers, artisans, and such like, are often turned adrift without knowing to what part of the country they should go for employment. A labour bureau after the American fashion would be a decided improvement on the present faulty system.

The scheme I refer to as being advertised in the New Zealand papers seems to have the meritof being in accordance with common sense. The Sydney plan is something as follows:—Here is a young fellow yearning for an opening in the outer world. His parents are quite willing* to give him a little money to start him. They cannot give him much ; but what little they can scrape together is precious. It is the hard-earned savings of much self-denial and laborious years, The youth under our Sydney system arrives in a strange country after a voyage, during which he has little kindly supervision, and may be exposed to many sadly adverse influences. He is cast out on his own resources, with less thought bestowed on him, than on the bales of merchandise that travelled out with him in the hold of the ship. He soon finds out the value of his letters of introduction. If he apply to a labour agency—a perfectly irresponsible medium, be it remembered—not even licensed by the State, or supervised in any official way, he may, after con­siderable expense, succeed in finding employment. He may ? Yes ! But he may not—most often does not—till his little hoard has vanished, and he is no longer in a position to refuse any offer. Then begins the life in the new world, round which was centred so many roseate hopes and anticipations. The best material in the world would feel cast down, and the lad does not really get the best chance. How many get wearied and disheartened before the battle is well begun ? How many sink in the fight, and are lost after all the brave hopes and worthy resolves? But suppose now that on his arrival he was met and welcomed by some good cheery inspector of such a society as I am referring to. His luggage is looked after for him. He is directed to the lodging guaranteed by the society. He has a list of vacancies put before him, every information as to locality, mode of life, prospects of success in this or that, are clearly and kindly explained to him. His money, if he have any, is put safely out at interest for him. His selection is made. He knows he has some one who will take, an interest in him. He acquires his experience, and at the end of two years' time, who can doubt that he is ready to start a career for himself, and become a valuable acquisition to the State?

Methinks there's room for philanthropic, patri­otic Australians doing something in this direction, which ought to have been done long ago, which Dr. Lang (fine old Great Heart!) did do, and which the societies I speak of are doing now, in connection with immigration to New Zealand.

I am aware that heartless scoundrels have acted nefariously under the guise of doing all that I suggest; but, under directors of known character, such a scheme would, I think, be a laudable and patriotic, and, I verily believe, might be made a profitable venture. The young immigrants would be in fact apprenticed. In my humble opinion there is far too little apprenticeship now-a-days in every department of human effort.

But a truce to moralizing.

From East Cape to Gisborne, a distance of about eighty nautical miles, one sees but a wild mountainous country, with a precipitous, rugged coast. This country is as yet exclusively in the hands of natives, if we except the two widely- separated hamlets at Tologa Bay and Waiapu. There is no farming. The settlers subsist by their trade, and barter with the natives. The Maoris themselves cultivate—chiefly maize and potatoes, and a very little wheat at times. This they thresh out in primitive style by the aid of their horses' hoofs. Native wheat in New Zealand can be known, as native indigo is, in India—by the dirt in the samples.

There is a large amount of fine forest-land and many rich fertile valleys inland waiting exploita­tion, but the coast is very barren. There is a proposal before the speculative public now to form a great popular syndicate and acquire this tract of country by purchase, and then settle it on a com­munistic plan. Here's a chance for the disciples of Henry George. I would like to see it tried.

Turning round Gable End Foreland, a sheer abrupt rocky face like the gable of a mighty house, a formation, as one can see by the detached fragments and hummocks in the sea at its base, evidently the result of some tremendous land­slip, we enter Poverty Bay, in the mid circum­ference of which nestles the neat and thriving little town of Gisborne.

The roadstead is exposed to south-east gales, and a poor stranded barque, lying battered and broken on the strand, with the exultant waves hungrily licking her riven ribs, proved conclusively how dangerous these can' be at times. Even in this little coastal town, public spirit is ahead of Sydney in at least one respect. Gisborne can boast of a Harbour Board. A loan has been proposed, and plans are already prepared, and will shortly be proceeded with, for the formation of a harbour which will render the anchorage safe at all times. On the substantial wharf are com­modious sheds. The streets are wide, planted with shade-trees, and the embankment of the river is strengthened with flourishing rows of pollard poplars. The river winds picturesquely past, skirting the town, and the bridges, footpaths, &c., were all in capital order. There is a capital hotel, kept by Wilson, and many really highclass- looking shops.

A cheese factory has been started here lately, and the cheese^ I tasted was exquisite in flavour. There is a future for Gisborne. The back country contains magnificent pastures, and the people seem wideawake. The getting ashore was a hazardous feat. The sea was high. The steam launch bobbed about like a cork. The gangway was slung from the ship, and was now high in mid-air, now banging on the funnel, or deck, or cabin hatch of the launch. Luckily we all got ashore and back to the steamer again without accident; and in the evening away we steamed for Napier.

We arrived off Napier, in Hawke's Bay, very early, and caught the first launch. The offing here is too exposed to south-east winds; but here, too, the Harbour Board is vigilant and active. It is indeed pleasant to see the signs of so much enterprise and public spirit. The sea-shore here is fringed with shifting banks of shingle, which has been carried down from the main range by the swift rivers that tear through the gorges and denude the hill country, on a scale which is, perhaps, paralleled nowhere else on the face of our globe. This moving shingle is carried up by the currents, which set strongly into the bay, and many leagues of lagoon which formerly existed have been silted up by the sea action. In fact, the bold spit, behind which lies the town itself, was formerly an island ; and tradition has it, that Captain Cook sailed between the spit, which was then called Scinde Island, and the mainland, over the very spot on which is now built the trim, bustling town. Port Ahuriri, the merchants' centre, with all its great wool and produce stores, and commodious warehouses, is built on reclama­tions from the marsh. On the shingle bars, in fact, which have been cast up by the ocean currents. There is still a great body of water in the lagoon inland, and this creates a very powerful scour, sufficient to keep the channel deep and open with the aid of a dredge, which is constantly at work. The workmen employed by the Harbour Board are kept busily engaged raking out and stacking up the great round water-worn boulders, which the tides are perpetually casting on the bank at the mouth of the harbour. Acting under reliable engineering advice, the board propose to build out a long breakwater into the deep, which would turn the ocean currents, and with the strong natural scour from the lagoon, would, it is believed, keep the harbour clear. The plans provide for a harbour with a depth of thirty-six feet, as the tides are high here.

It was proposed to expend 300,0001, on this important work. In Parliament the motion was scouted. But the Napierites were determined. The prejudices of party, the divisions of cliques, the differences of creeds, were all forgotten. Common cause was made, and after a long and sore struggle, the bill was passed, and very shortly the work will be commenced. Already there is an enormous meat-preserving industry flourishing at Tomoana, where the cleanest, most succulent dainties of this description are turned out in a style not excelled anywhere. Large areas are now laid down in tobacco, and this bids fair to become a thriving industry. The Hawke's Bay pastures and crops are famous throughout Australasia. Cheese factories are being established. The frozen meat industry has already attained goodly propor­tions. Much timber is exported, and the port is bound to become one of very great importance. Already the annual exports have reached the imposing total of 600,000/. More power to the Harbour Board, say I, and good luck to the plucky, public-spirited people of Napier.

Since writing, the plans have been adopted, the contracts let, and the work has been begun.

These same good folks of Napier must surely have sturdy legs. They would need them. The steeps, and stairs, and climbing walks, and bellows- bursting paths, beat Edinburgh hollow, and would even, I think, run Malta hard. The town itself, with its shops, hotels, public buildings, factories, &c., is on the flat on the landward side of the spit or mountainous bluff. The merchants' portion, as I have said, is at. Port Ahuriri on the seaward side of the spit. But the dwellings of the shopkeepers and merchants are perched high up on the pre­cipitous sides of the hilly bluff itself. They are perched aloft at every conceivable altitude, and look down at you from towering elevations. They crown rugged heights. They line precipitous gullies. They stick like limpets to sheer walls of rock. Embowered amid artificially made gardens they peep at you from shady foliage in places where you would think it hard for the trees them­selves to keep a foothold. All the villas and houses are of wood, and really the general effect of this garden crowned, villa bestrewn, precipitous bluff-land is very pleasing. There are many deep cuttings leading to the various ravines, and every­where wooden steps and winding walks. The extent must be some thousands of acres, some few miles perhaps, but every spot on which by any exercise of ingenuity a house could possibly have been built has been taken advantage of. Napier is, in fact, the Malta of the southern seas, only with all the rich accessories of southern vegetation, and the clear, crisp, glorious freshness of the southern atmosphere.

There is a very efficient water service. Fire-plugs at every corner. The streets are clean and the shop fronts bright, and the municipal watercarts, drawn by really magnificent horses, actually keep the dust laid. Think of it, ye city magnates of Sydney!

There is one hansom cab. The driver is neat, obliging, and moderate in his charges. He hops down to open the door for his fare. He cheerfully assists with luggage. In one corner of the cab is a small hand-bell to draw his attention to the wants or wishes of his passenger. A neat glass panel is provided on which to strike matches. A file of the latest newspapers is ready at your elbow, and in the remaining corner is a handsome horn-shaped vase, with a dainty fresh bouquet of flowers, set in water, and brightening up the interior.

Think of that, ye long-suffering cab patrons of Sydney! Think of it, ye much maligned, cour­teous, gentlemanly, angelic Bayards; ye never-to- be-forgotten cabbies of Sydney.

The Salvation Army at the time of our visit to Napier had become somewhat attenuated. The officers outnumbered the rank and file in rather too much Mexican fashion. The band consisted of one very uncertain cornet and two blasting—not to say blasted—instruments, whose scope seemed limited to a hard-and-fast slavish adherence to one monotonous sound, emitted in jerks or slabs as it were. The sound would have suited a jungly boar with a bad cough, but was not calculated to rouse any one to religious fervour. Rather the reverse. The army consisted of three instrumentalists, five red-coated officers, two poor girls in poke bonnets, and as far as we could see one rank and file.

To me it was really a. melancholy sight. No­body seemed to take any notice of them. The row they made was simply exasperating. Yet they tootled away, and sang hoarsely their one tune (it never varied, at least during the four days we heard them), and perambulated the streets with a regularity which surely merited more recognition than it met with.

On Sunday they paraded past the churches, rather markedly as I thought, and seemed defiant in their blare and irreverent noise. It seemed out of harmony with the quiet Sabbath air of the place. The Presbyterian Church we attended was crammed. Every seat was uncomfortably full. The minister, a plain blunt Scot, with an unmis­takable accent smacking of the Grampians, gave an eloquent extempore sermon on "The persistent influence of a good man," which was listened to with marked attention. The singing, to the accompaniment of a capital organ well played, was excellent, and most heartily joined in by the crowded congregation. The English and Roman churches seemed just as well attended as the Scotch. On the whole, my impression of Napier was that it is a well-ordered, self-respecting, thriving town ; and the pleasant and profitable Sabbath we spent there was not the least enjoyable of the many delightful days we spent during our trip.

In the afternoon we wandered along the shingly beach under the overhanging cliffs, and watched the breakers come rolling in. We climbed the flag­staff-hill, past the asylum and gaol, and had pointed out to us the quarry and cutting in the hill, where the prisoners are sensibly forced to work, and in part pay for their subsistence, instead of being pampered and kept in easy idleness at the expense of the ratepayers.

Back to church in the evening, where the congregation was just as dense and as attentive as in the morning. On Tuesday we bade good-bye to Napier.

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