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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9 (January 1, 1930)

Pictures of New Zealand Life — The Church on the Hill

page 45

Pictures of New Zealand Life
The Church on the Hill

That is where a church should always be set, if possible. New Zealand has some picturesque examples of this fitting choice of site. Nelson Cathedral is one that comes to mind. Once upon a time there was a fort there, a redoubt and stockade combined; it was built in 1843 and was named Fort Arthur, after Captain Arthur Wakefield, who was killed at the Wairau. Then when a place of defence was no longer required in Nelson, this principal church naturally was set there, on the hill that commands the principal streets. Taking a jump to the far North, there is a pretty church at the historic village of Kerikeri, Bay of Islands; the Commerce Train tourists saw it the other day. It sits on a mound overlooking the old-fashioned hamlet. St. Bride's Church at Mauku, is another; it is one of the story-churches of our history, for it was stockaded as a fort in the Maori War. The tall spire topping its dark shingled roof looks out over the tree tops on and around its sentry hill.

One with a wider look-out is the tiny Presbyterian Church at Pukekohe East; you catch a glimpse of it from the railway line near Pukekohe town. It is on the high verge of a steep descent to an ancient crater valley; it is painted white and it glints in the sunshine, like a heliograph signal when the westering sun strikes its windows. This church, too, was a war-time fort; there was a lively battle there in 1863, and some of the Maoris who fell in the encounter are buried on the hill-slope.

And there is the prettiest of them all, quite near Wellington—the English Church of old-style design that stands on the beautiful hill, small-wooded like a park, at Pahautanui township (correctly Pauataha-nui); a distant glimpse of it can be got from the railway line near the bridge across the narrow estuary at Paremata. A story-place this, too; the church amid the flowering native trees stands on the site of a Maori fortification of 1846, Te Rangihaeata's palisaded pa.

The Story of the Rocks.

Train-travellers who make a motor-car jaunt from Matamata or other convenient stations to the wonderful hydro-electric works at Arapuni, would have a run of particular scenic interest if they returned by way of the Hinuera Valley. One comes through it on the main road between Cambridge and Matamata, and the Arapuni road links up with it. It is a most fascinating place, this Hinuera (Hinu-wera—“Hot Oil”—it originally was). Anciently the Waikato River flowed through this level-floored valley into the Upper Thames basin and the Hauraki. Most likely, indeed the “Firth” of Thames, as we know it on the map, did not exist; the sea probably flowed inland as far as where Morrinsville now stands. The terraces along the Waikato bank speak eloquently of the time when the great river flowed at a higher level than it does to day.

The valley is walled on each side by dark vertical bluffs of columnar rocks, of volcanic origin, page 46 cave-riddled, weathered into all sorts of bold forms. It is a splendid class-room of Nature's making for the student of geology and physiography. Those columns and bluffs of vitreous rock tell a story that no observant traveller can miss—at any rate it is only a very dull wayfarer, or one only concerned with speeding-up for his meals, that could fail to give a thought to their making.

Birds of Lone Mintaro.

Tramping up that ground canyon the Clinton Valley, on the way from the head of Lake Te Anau to McKinnon's Pass, where the foot-trail goes to Milford Sound, we came to a forest pool, a little lake bosomed in the rata and tawai and ribbonwood trees. Some early explorer, I think McKinnon himself, christened it Lake Mintaro. On either side of the forest-filled valley rose the lofty overmastering walls of granite, with long thin waterfalls strewn like white waving ropes down their grey precipices. An army marching through the forest would have made no sound, so thick was the soft carpet of moss and ferns. In the midst of this wild park Mintaro lay perfectly still, a lagoon of jade.

On this pool of solitude were little fleets of water birds, mostly blue duck (the whio of the Maori), with some putangitangi, or paradise duck. They cruised around and around; they whistled
Railway Improvements at Auckland. The new overhead bridge recently completed at Campbell's Point, Auckland-Westfield deviation.

Railway Improvements at Auckland.
The new overhead bridge recently completed at Campbell's Point, Auckland-Westfield deviation.

and made queer metallic cries—the whistlers were the whio—the harsh cries were those of the paradise duck. Those pretty birds were not afraid of man; at any rate they did not take flight when we approached and stood still, trying to look as much like tree trunks as a trio of beswagged trampers could. “Whio” and “putangitangi” went on arguing and insect-snapping and fishing; they knew we weren't going to interfere with their day's job.


The shorewhalers and offshore hunters go whaling in fast and powerful motor launches with bomb-guns, and there is a small steam whaler operating out of Whangamumu, North New Zealand. But the humpback whale is as a rule the only big game killed—the sperm whales are practically extinct, and only now and again is a right whale killed—the kind that has the valuable whalebone in its mouth (the stuff when cut out looks like long black slabs with hairy edges). The people who are making big money out of our Southern Ocean whales are the Norwegians, whose operations on a huge scale are nothing less than a wholesale massacre. Soon there will be no more whales, say the few old-timers of the Coast, wagging their white whiskers.