Maori Land Development Scheme, Kaitimako, near Tauranga. This 746 acre block is to be subdivided into 7 dairy farms for Maori settlers within the next two years.
Property of Turirangi Te Kani, Te Puna, near Tauranga. Mr Te Kani, a returned man, had his house built by the Maori Affairs Department and started on the land by growing crops. He was the first Maori to be assisted by a Maori Land Board in the establishment of small poultry farm. Now Mr Te Kani concentrates mainly on dairying.
There is one difference between the school at Matakana Island—the island that stretches along the coast opposite Tauranga Harbour—and the schools of various other outback communities. It may be a trivial difference but it is a significant one. It is well known that the Education Department made a great contribution to progress in isolated communities by putting bathing facilities for the children in the schools. In some places all the children are bathed. In Matakana Island however, where there are absolutely no aids to man except horses, rain-tanks and one small aeroplane, only a small minority of the children need the use of the school showers.
Nothing could tell more of Matakana Island's 400 inhabitants, nearly all Maori, than the children. Apart from the few that live around the school they arrive in the morning in three so-called ‘school buses’. Two of them are drawn by four horses, and another, the big champion bus, is drawn by six. One of the little buses stands on the beach underneath a tree. The big one stands on a paddock at the back of the school. There the buses wait until the afternoon when, first the horses arrive and the drivers, and then the children climb on for the ride home.
The small buses take an hour to get home; the big one takes three hours. First it gallops along Matakana's only road, a mile of clay road from the school to the jetty, then it slowly descends to the beach, turns to the right and plods its way along the
This bus is like a second home. During the winter it is probably lit with an oil lamp and the children sing the songs they have learnt in school while the waves ram against the bus and ebb and flow across the floor.
This is the school which seems to have reached a per-child record for the Post Office savings contributions. The total collected is around £1,200; some of the parents give their children five pound notes tor their contributions.
Most of the older people had a very rudimentary education; the school was a new element in their lives. Successive headmasters brought the new ideas of mainland civilisation not only to the children but also to the parents. The present head, Mr Nicholls, recognised that the main problem for Matakana is that of intensifying production on the large areas cultivated or grassed. The Matakana Young Farmers' Club, which has done so much, with the leadership of the agriculture instructor, Mr Allo, was started through his initiative.
In the crude hard struggle with the elements in which the Matakana Islanders
‘The new lady teacher they sent us last year is so beautiful; you would hardly believe it,’ so I was told, and she was certainly lovely. The very best things of this earth are sent to Matakana Island; that is how the Islanders see it.
The parents see that the children live up to this. One can imagine what incredible efforts must be made, in the circumstances I pointed at, to send the children to school immaculately dressed, as if they were going to an important ceremony.
The Matakana Islanders are always busy. Arriving on the island on a summer's day, I was struck by the stillness of the sea, the dry, hazy atmosphere. The road running from the idle jetty was sandy, dusty and was meant for slow walkers. The overseer's cart stood against a fence, and also looked as if it had plenty of time. All that is deceptive, and one soon notices it. Nobody is sitting down, everybody is, quite steadily, going about some business, mostly the business of farming. Matakana Island used to specialise in cropping ventures, in particular maize, kumaras and early potatoes; during the war when maize production was part of the Maori agricultural war effort, the Islanders grew as much as 1,000 acres of it. At present a changeover is occurring towards dairying, mainly under guidance of the Department of Agriculture. Production on the island is about 200,000 lbs. butter fat. Many Islanders are employed by the Forest Products Ltd., which has a large plantation on Matakana.
One is struck by the big areas and the big herds that everybody seems to be handling, and the future problem will be not the development of idle land but the intensification of production on the present holdings. There still is some idle land, mostly due to difficulties of title.
The Matakana Islanders are one of the few Maori communities which have orga-
nised co-operative enterprises. They own a store and are running a lucrative ferry company.
Here, then, is a Maori community that has made a striking success in adjustment to the Pakeha world. The reason lies in their isolation, say the moralists, in their long distance from the distractions of the mainland. It may be so, but looking over the history of the island I was more struck by how little, than, how much had happened. The Matakana Islanders were not attacked by the Ngapuhi's, when Tauranga was invaded; together with so many other Maori communities they learned from the missionaries how to grow crops, particularly wheat. The Maori wars, the land purchases, the corruption of the eighties and nineties passed them by: at the turn of the century they were still growing wheat. They did not know about regular crop rotation, so went on cultivating ever new areas until they too were exhausted and the Islanders changed over to other crops, oats and barley. This lasted until the twenties.
When the Maori Affairs Department Started land development operations, there was comparitively little land entirely undeveloped. A few farmers had their lands gazetted, but the majority went on in the old way. Maize and kumara, too, were already grown extensively at that time.
The development of Matakana Island was undoubtedly speed up through the war and the very large-scale crop growing war effort financed by the Waiariki Maori Land Board. Generally, however, this community has enjoyed little government assistance. It is a community that has grown in direct line out of the pre-Pakeha Maori people: Western civilisation filtered through slowly while the people had time, at their own place, to grasp enough of Western ideas to become successful farmers and citizens, and to grasp, essentially, far more of the Pakeha world than other groups who were forced into contact with the Pakeha at a faster and more disturbing rate.