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No. 22 (April 1958)
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George Turner lifts a post for a fencing job on a new block. (Elsdon Craig Photo)

THE MAN
WHO BREAKS IN THE LAND

FEW farmers who are producing to capacity on their own land have a prouder record of achievement that Mr George Turner. Mr Turner is a Maori who has no farming land of his own. He has devoted half of his working life to breaking in land for other people under the department development scheme. He and his four hard-working sons have watched without envy or regret dozens of more fortunate people than themselves succeed as a result of the sound foundations which their knowledge, energy, and purpose have laid.

But Mr Turner considers he is well rewarded for his efforts. He can call himself a New Zealand farmer in the true sense of the term because he farms New Zealand and is pleased to be able to add to the national wealth.

For the last four years he has been farm manager on the Paewhenua Block, near Te Kuiti. He began his career with the department in 1937, when he helped to break in the Kopua Block, of 460 acres, not far from Pirongia. Today, he had the satisfaction of seeing three enterprising former Maori Battalion men. Jim Nelson, Peter Daniels, and Charlie Lingman, successfully settled on the land which he transformed, with the help of others, from scrub country to smiling dairy farms. After a few years at Ngutunui from 1939 onward, he returned to Kopua just before it was settled to supervise the fencing and subdivision.

Mr Turner cast his mind back to the hard, slogging days at Kopua as he surveyed on the hill his new house recently erected by the department.

“I lived in a tin shack in those days,” he said grimly. “Yes, it had two rooms. I was in one of them and the tractor in the other.”

When he came to Kopua, only 140 of the 1100 acres was in grass. The rest was unfenced scrub country. Mr Turner said he “scratched his head a bit” when he saw what lay before him. But he had the answer to his problem in his four husky sons.

“Yes,” he added, proudly, “they are the only labour I have employed here. We have done all the work ourselves.”

In the first year they burnt off 640 acres, got the contractors in with their tractors, and grassed the area in the same season. Next year this hardworking family broke in the rest, except for 140 acres of hill country, which they will deal with as soon as it is ready to take a fire. Meanwhile, father and sons have erected no less than 20 miles of fencing.

“I have got on a lot quicker with this block than with any of the others,” said Mr Turner firm-

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ly. “The reason for this is that I have a better crew. Often we have worked from daylight to dark on seven days a week.”

Today the station is carrying more than 4000 sheep and more than 400 head of cattle. The family does all the shearing, crutching and stockwork. Tom Turner, aged 22, drives the heavy tractor, which figured largely in the 7000 bales of hay they baled last summer. It also helped to establish a fine 40 acres of swedes. Jimmy, aged 26, is the mainstay at shearing time. He is a 300-sheep-a-day man and was mainly responsible for the 70 bales which were offered at the last wool auctions. Frank, aged 20, is learning from his father and elder brothers. Joe, who was on the block in the early stages, is shepherding at another department station and Henry, the fifth son, is working in a mill at Rotorua.

Asked if, at 60 years of age, he considered he had been rewarded for the hard work he had put into the land on behalf of other people, Mr Turner replied without hesitating and with obvious feeling. “It has brought a lot of money into the country. It has meant a few more bob for New Zealand. I only hope the settlers will keep it up when I am finished. The land development scheme is the best opportunity the Maori people have ever had, if they only carry it on. Otherwise, they would just be sitting round the camp fire smoking the torere. They can plant their own potatoes now instead of having to buy them.”

When George Turner was out of earshot busying himself with some fencing posts, a departmental officer added something to the story which the modest farm manager would not have included.

“You know,” said the officer, “the owners of this block appreciate very much what George is doing for them and the amount of work which he has put into their land. They have been out several times and had a look.”

In 1961 the block will be cut up into four dairy farms and two sheep runs. The owners have nominated several young men to take over the units. They are scattered throughout the country from Taranaki to Tokaanu and some are already attending agricultural colleges in preparation for the day when the occupiers will be chosen.

At present the hardest job which the department has at Paewhenua is to get George Turner to take a holiday. His excuse is always that he has something to do on the farm. Although some people say he “kills himself with work,” his tall, lean sinewy frame suggests that he has benefited from a life spent milking cows in his own tribal territory at Pirongia, working on the railway in the Glen Murray district, bushfalling in the summer and wielding a shovel for the Works Department in the winter, and now breaking in land for his own Maori people.

But the day will come when George Turner will not be able to work as hard as he used to. Somebody has suggested that it would be a suitable gesture to a man who has ungrudgingly given years of his life to working hard to help others, if some of the people who are fortunate enough to own land, set aside a few acres for George to enjoy in his retirement. It would certainly be a small enough reward for the benefits which his example and energy have brought to the Maori people and New Zealand. George would then be able to grow hi potatoes instead of having to buy them. And, if h can find some idle moments, he will then be able to smoke his pipe round the camp fire.

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SCHOOL MAORI CLUB PROVES POPULAR

A Maori club formed at Papakura East primar school has more European than Maori children It was suggested by a Maori pupil and approve by the Headmaster, Mr W. G. E. McGowan, wh said it created such interest among the children that it was not possible to admit all who applied.

The European children learned the words Maori songs quickly, but they had difficulty mastering the rhythm. As well as Maori song “Sing a Song of Sixpence” was performed English with actions by the Club.

Mr McGowan said the club promoted harmo in the school and encouraged the co-operation Maori parents, who were equipping the membe with piupiu.