Picturesque New Zealand/Chapter 11

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Picturesque New Zealand by David Paul Gooding
Chapter XI

CHAPTER XI

The Sea of the Greenstone—Two Mistakes—Christchurch—Horse-Racing and Gambling—Drunkards' Islands

Southwesterly, across stormy Cook Strait, stretches the five-hundred-mile length of Te Wai-o-Pounamu, "The Sea of the Greenstone,"—The New Munster of early colonial days, the South Island of to-day. Here, in 1770, Captain Cook took possession of New Zealand in the name of King George III. Here Abel Tasman, long before, was deterred from landing by hostile Maoris, and sailed away, leaving behind him a territory that would have made a rich prize for Holland.

In old Maahunui are fertile grain-fields, wide and dreary tussock plains, and mountainous chaos. Here, wearing away the beds in which they lie, are the remnants of an ancient icecap that deeply grooved the mountains and piled their debris in drifts from one hundred to a thousand feet deep. Here also are glacier-gouged basins filled by sea and torrential streams where one can sail on mirroring waters from five hundred to more than a thousand feet in depth. In this land are enchanting gorges; alluring forests; unnumbered waterfalls; swift, clear rivers that flow in profound, narrow canyons; and silt-laden rivers that ramble over wide beds of glacial wreckage.

In traveling from Wellington to Lyttelton, the first of the chief ports of the South Island, going south from the North Island, I voyaged on one of the longest railway ferries in the world. It is a trip of one hundred and seventy-two miles, and it connects with the express trains of the two islands.

En route to Lyttelton I had an excellent view of the Kaikoura Mountains, comprising the Inland Kaikouras, with a maximum height of 9462 feet, and the Seaward or Lookers-on Kaikouras, with an extreme elevation of 8562 feet. The Lookers-on range was so called by Captain Cook, because opposite to them a large number of Maoris in double canoes approached within a few rods of the Endeavour and, stopping there, gazed at the ship in amazement.

When a navigator charts land as he sails past it he is likely to make a mistake. Captain Cook did so when he charted Banks Peninsula as an island. Another and more serious mistake was made near this same peninsula by a Captain Taylor, who mistook a cliff for a harbor entrance and unintentionally rammed it. His vessel was wrecked, and the place of its destruction is called "Taylor's Mistake" to-day.

No mistake was made, however, when Canterbury's first settlers chose for their homes Banks Peninsula and the plains beyond. To-day the peninsula is famed for its cocksfoot harvests, and Canterbury Plains are rich in houses and lands, in wheat and wool and mutton. On the peninsula, overlooking the beautiful harbor of Akaroa, British sovereignty was proclaimed in the South

CHRISTCHURCH CATHEDRAL

Island for the third time, and French possession, perhaps, was thereby forestalled by a few hours. In Akaroa to-day are seen landmarks of the first French settlers in this island.

On the plains the Canterbury Association, headed by a bishop, founded Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand. It was the association's aim to establish settlements limited to members of the Church of England, but an influx of people of other faiths prevented its realization. "The most English city of New Zealand" is set behind the high hills of Lyttelton, its port. From Lyttelton it is reached by a million-dollar tunnel more than a mile and a half long. Some day, if the dream becomes a reality, the city will be connected with the sea, seven miles distant, by a ten-million-dollar canal.

Fresh as I was from the cramped quarters of Wellington, my first view of the outlook of Christchurch was relaxing. Here were long vistas of clean, well-paved streets, and many open spaces. Here were the meadows, gardens, and recreation grounds of Hagley Park, the grassy, willow-shaded banks of the tortuous Avon, and Cathedral Square, the traffic heart of the city. From the Cathedral's tower I saw the entire city embowered in its trees and hedges and fanned by its numerous windmills.

The Christchurch of early days stood wholly on the plains; the Christchurch of to-day does not. The original site—a chessboard-like area a mile square with streets bearing ecclesiastical names—long ago became too limited for the city's growth, and in addition to filling suburbs on flat ground it is slowly climbing the Cashmere Hills, part of the coast ranges.

The city has a number of buildings worthy of more than passing notice. The Roman Catholic Basilica is a $300,000 church two hundred and ten feet long and one hundred and six feet wide. The front portico, supported by four Corinthian stone columns forty-five feet high, is flanked by two dome-shaped towers one hundred and eight feet high. Over the portico, midway between these towers, are the kneeling figures of two angels at the foot of a massive cross. Canterbury College, which has an enrollment of about five hundred students, is a pile of ornate stone buildings. The Museum is the best institution of its kind in New Zealand, and very well equipped in its natural history departments. The Cathedral is an attractive edifice with a spire that has been twice damaged by earthquake. It looks down upon Cathedral Square, where the street railways centre, the newspapers have their offices, and some of the leading hotels are to be found.

While the city has more miles of street railway than Auckland, Wellington, or Dunedin, its passenger traffic is considerably less, due to the fact that Christchurch has more bicycles than any other city in the country. There are thousands of them, and they have become a factor in the transportation problem of the city.

The Avon River—named for a stream in Lanarkshire, Scotland—flows through both the business and the residential sections of Christchurch, and the stranger is surprised at the number of times he comes upon this pretty but shallow stream. It divides Hagley Park, a beautiful tract of four hundred acres not far from the business district, and which includes recreation grounds and botanical gardens.

Perhaps more popular than this park, however, is Riccarton Racecourse, five miles out from the centre of the city. Horse-racing is a national sport, and this is the best equipped track in the Dominion, offering every November a $10,000 stake. Within the last twenty-five years, here and elsewhere, $125,000,000 has passed through the "tote," legalized and taxed by the State, of which sum the Government has received considerably more than $2,000,000. Into "the machine" the people pour their earnings until, after big race-meetings, even the milkman cannot collect when he presents his weekly bill at the kitchen door.

The day after a race-meeting at Takapuna, an Auckland trans-bay suburb, an Auckland butcher sent his delivery boy on a collecting tour. The accounts of his customers totaled about four hundred dollars. At night the lad returned.

"How much did you get?" his master asked him.

"Four and six (one dollar and eight cents)," was the stunning reply.

In horse-racing in New Zealand millions of dollars are invested by the two hundred thousand habitués of the racecourse. According to Sir George Clifford, if racing were stopped in that country, $5,000,000 would be withdrawn from circulation annually. The extent of the totalizator investments is astonishing. At Riccarton, where the annual attendance is about eighty thousand, the totalizator receipts for eleven days' racing in a recent year exceeded $900,000; and with bookmakers, whose occupation became illegal throughout New Zealand in 1911, the investments were many thousands more. At Ellerslie, Auckland's racecourse, in a later year, the totalizator returns were more than a million dollars.

It is a wonder, after such betting, that New Zealand racetrack habitués have any money left for other gambling. But they have; thousands of them always speculate in "Tatts." And what is "Tatts"? The greatest lottery concern in Australasia. Not officially. No, no! Officially it is Adams's Tattersall's monster cash prize consultation. "Tattersall's," says Tattersall's of itself, "are the only genuine successful consultations in Australasia, conducted under license from the Tasmanian Government, and drawn under special supervision of a representative of Government, and in the presence of the public and members of the press, also the police." Every year "the trustees of the late Mr. George Adams's estate . . . conduct the Sweep Business," says Tattersall's.

It certainly is a sweeping business, all around. From the public millions of dollars are swept by Tattersall's—which, however, retains only ten per cent of the whole—and the Tasmanian Government sweeps in

CHRISTCHURCH FROM CATHEDRAL

about a quarter of a million dollars a year in stamp duty and a dividend tax on prizes.

The "fixtures" on which Tattersall's yearly promotes "consultations" — what an agreeable word this is! — are eighteen different race-meets in Australia and Tasmania, representing a grand total of nearly two million tickets, exclusive of oversubscriptions, which sometimes are very large. The chief drawing is on the Melbourne Cup, for which 300,000 tickets, one third being ten-shilling subscriptions, are originally issued. In the ten-shilling issues the first horse draws $50,000, or twice as much as the highest prize allotted to the most fortunate holder of a five-shilling ticket.

In New Zealand, Tattersall's does an enormous business, despite the New Zealand Post-Office Department's refusal to forward any mail addressed to Tattersall's or to any addressee known by the department to represent it. How then does Tattersall's get the money sent to it from the Dominion? By bank drafts, through the aid of friends in Tasmania, and through men in New Zealand who for a small fee forward the subscriptions to Hobart. Tattersall's clients are cautioned not to send post-office money orders, and they are advised to send their letters to "any friend in Hobart, who will have no difficulty in seeing that the letter reaches the proper hands." There are many "friends" in Hobart.

Playing the races and taking chances with Tattersall's are by no means the only forms of gambling in New Zealand. In that country the gaming instinct is very pronounced. Gambling is countenanced by the State, is indulged in by churches, and is widespread among the people. The Government, it is true, frowns upon lotteries, prohibits raffles, betting on cricket, football, and other sports, and forbids the publication of racing tips and dividends outside racing-grounds. But it legalizes the totalizator. O inconsistent Government!

With gambling are associated intemperance and prohibition, both very live questions in Maoriland. There the prohibitionists have the brewers and publicans on the jump. In many towns public-houses have been closed; "ten o'clock closing" has been made universal; barmaids, of whom there were more than barmen in 1911, have been restricted in number, their registration since June of that year being prohibited; and in the elections of that year national prohibition was an issue for the first time, but it failed to secure the required three-fifths majority.

An interesting result of the drink traffic in New Zealand has been the establishment of drunkards' homes by the Salvation Army. On two islands near Auckland the Army has quarters for considerably more than two hundred patients. The patients are required to work a certain number of hours each day, and on leaving the institution are given cash gratuities of from five to fifteen dollars. Toward the support of the committed men and women the State gives a capitation; the voluntary patients pay for their accommodation.