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Kaipara, or, Experiences of a settler in north New Zealand

Chapter VI. — Living in New Zealand

page 33

Chapter VI.
Living in New Zealand.

Sunday had now arrived—our first Sunday in Auckland. It is kept, as in England, as a day of rest, except by those unhappy individuals who are unfortunate enough to reside near a Salvation Army barracks! There is no rest or peace for them.

Early in the morning we heard the distant sound of martial music, and imagined that some volunteer corps was going to hold church parade; but as the sounds came nearer we were undeceived—no volunteer corps that ever existed would consent to march behind such ear-torturing noises. I hurried out and found that the disturbing sounds proceeded from the Salvation Army band. I am told that these Salvationists do a good deal of good: if they really help people to heaven with the awful apology for a band they at present possess, surely they would do a vast deal more good if they had better page 34instruments and more practised bandsmen. The big drum, cornet, trombone, flute, and other instruments take a leading position in their ceremonial and should therefore be put on a thoroughly efficient footing. If this were done, many persons who now rush away holding their ears when the Salvation Army band is heard approaching would stay, if only to listen to the music.

We attended service at St. Paul's Church, and had scarcely returned when Mr. — called. We found him very gentlemanly and agreeable. He dined with us, spent the afternoon, and gave us a good deal of valuable advice. He said the roads were far too bad for my wife to think of going up country yet, and recommended my securing a house in Auckland for three or four months, and after seeing my family settled, that I myself should take a trip to the new township in order to see what I thought of it, and then make my final arrangements.

This advice appeared so sound that I determined to follow it implicitly. On Monday morning, therefore, I started out on a house hunt, and with little trouble succeeded in finding a suitable verandah cottage in the suburb of Parnell. My goods by this time were landed page 35and stored in a warehouse near the wharf, so before our week was up at the lodgings I had them removed to our new home, in which we were soon comfortably installed.

Parnell is undoubtedly the aristocratic suburb of Auckland. It is as pretty as aristocratic, and I trust we sufficiently appreciated the honour of being the temporary possessors of a cottage within its precincts.

Several retired naval and military officers, and gentlemen from other of the recognised professions with small private incomes, reside there with their families, and form a society, agreeable, enjoyable, and exclusive. There is not the least doubt that New Zealand is a grand country for English people with certain tastes and private incomes of, say five or six hundred a year. I don't refer to those who are fond of theatre-going and such like vanities, or those who place cookery among the fine arts, for, as I have already hinted, New Zealand is no place for them. The persons I mean are the lovers of outdoor amusements, such as riding, sailing, fishing, and shooting, and those who like their rubber of whist, their chat and game of billiards at the Club, and their social, unceremonious evenings with their friends. The happy possessor of an page 36income such as I have indicated could own a house in town and a place also in the country, where he might with his family pass the summer months; his country property need cost him nothing to keep up, for he would have no difficulty in finding a respectable working-man tenant, who, if allowed to live rent free and work the land, would not only look after the place and keep fences, &c., in repair, but would willingly keep his (the owner of the property's) horses in horse feed all the year.

If he selected the north Kaipara district, his property would be bordered by the inland sea, and he could keep his five-ton cutter sailing boat, and enjoy the most delightful water excursions up the numberless beautiful creeks. A two-roomed shanty, costing about ?30, would be ample accommodation for the working-man tenant.

But I can imagine my reader exclaiming, "Living must be much cheaper than in England to enable people with moderate competencies to thus have within their reach almost all the enjoyments which fall to the lot of rich county families?"

It is not so, however: the necessities of life, with a few exceptions, are on the contrary dearer page 37in New Zealand than at home, but the out-of-door pleasures of life are infinitely cheaper. Small properties of twenty or thirty acres planted, fenced, and laid out in paddocks, orchards, &c., with a good six or seven roomed house, and outbuildings, can be bought for four or five hundred pounds; decent hacks to ride at from seven to ten pounds a piece; and a good second hand five-ton sailing-boat for between twenty and thirty pounds.

Children can be fairly well educated in the private schools of Auckland at far less cost than they can be in England.

In New Zealand it is not necessary to keep up the same style as in the old country — a man is not supposed to keep a wine cellar: he eschews top hats, kid gloves, &c.: his dress suit is more likely to deteriorate by moths than by wear: he lives plainly, and dresses so: his clothes which are too shabby for town he can wear out in the country—no one will think him one whit less a gentleman if he appears in trousers patched at the knees. Set dinner parties are not fashionable, though pot luck invitations are. To gentlemen and ladies who cannot enjoy their meal unless it is served à la Russe, I say—Stay where you are!—but to page 38those who can enjoy a good plain dinner plainly put on the table, and are contented to drink with it a glass of ale or a cup of tea, the usual colonial beverage, and who are fond of outdoor amusements, I emphatically cry—Come! this is the country for you. You can have your town and country house—your horses and your sailing-boat, your fishing and shooting—and can save money. Ay! and invest it profitably too, if you keep your eyes open.

I trust the kind reader will excuse the fore-going outburst, and accept my assurance that I am not a tout for a land company. I am anything but in love with land companies now. But to resume.

My family being now in comfortable quarters, I started on my journey to " the town that was to be," in which all my hopes were centred.

The railway jerked me as far as the village of Hamilton, some eighty-six miles from Auckland, in a little over five hours and three-quarters, I having travelled by the fast train. From thence I was conveyed to Cambridge by coach, and was soon settled pro tern in a comfortable hotel. I had still thirty odd miles to travel, and had been puzzling my head all day long how to manage it, as I feared I should page 39never find my way riding by myself; but here luck befriended me, for to my great delight I found a party of surveyors, four in number, staying at the hotel en route for the very place. I speedily made their acquaintance, and, was informed they had hired for the journey a four-wheeled trap, called a buggy, and would be very glad to have me for a travelling companion, as they had a spare seat. I need scarcely say I joyfully accepted their kind offer, and we were soon on the most friendly terms.