1866 - Carter, C. R. Life and Recollections of a New Zealand Colonist Vol. II . [New Zealand sections only] - CHAPTER I. THE HARBOUR OF PORT NICHOLSON AND ITS APPEARANCE...p 1-20

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  1866 - Carter, C. R. Life and Recollections of a New Zealand Colonist Vol. II . [New Zealand sections only] - CHAPTER I. THE HARBOUR OF PORT NICHOLSON AND ITS APPEARANCE...p 1-20
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Old Supreme Court, Bank of Issue, and Registrar's Offices.

Council Chamber, and Colonial Secretary's Office.

Munn's Hotel. Grocer's Shop.

Munn's Landing Wharf. [See page 5.]

The weather boarded building to the right, called the "Old Supreme Court," though it is now the year 1871, is still a government establishment of a most important kind: namely--the Offices for the Registration of Deeds for the Province of Wellington.

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Life and Recollections of a New Zealand Colonist.



AFTER we had dropped anchor in Lambton Harbour, opposite the town of Wellington, we had leisure to look around us, but we could discern little else than the dark outlines of hills rising up on all sides of us. The shore where the town lay was edged, or rather dotted, with glimmering lights, which, though few and far between, looked cheering in the general gloom that encompassed our ship.

Next morning at daylight, I went on deck, with

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eager eyes, to scan our new place of abode--our future home. I felt satisfied with what I saw of Wellington. I was not disappointed. A finer site for a great commercial, yet picturesque, city I had never before seen. The harbour appeared like an inland lake, and was surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills of moderate height, and mostly covered with trees.

The town or city of Wellington itself is laid out on a broad belt of land, consisting of flat, terraced and undulating ground, extending from the foot of the hills at the back to the edge of the waters of the harbour. In some parts of the town the land is level, in others sloping, and in several places it is formed into terraces--so that the houses rise tier above tier, and as the city increases in size, it will become more and more like Naples or Genoa, in Italy; but unlike them in its harbour which, though near the sea, is land-locked--shut out, as it were, from the ocean; while the harbours of the two celebrated maritime cities I have named are open bays, in which shelter for ships, loading and unloading, is obtained by means of fine piers of masonry run out into the sea at places offering natural facilities for such purposes.

On a calm and cloudless day there are, in my estimation, but few spots on the earth that look so clear and bright, so romantic and beautiful, as the waters of Port Nicholson, and the ever-green hills which surround them.

In looking about us from the deck of the Eden, we could not see the sea, nor the passage by which we had entered the harbour. Port Nicholson, or as the

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sailors like to call it, "Port Nick," is, on an average, about 6 miles in length, from north to south, by nearly 5 miles in width. The southern or sea end of it, at its eastern corner, is cut through by the entrance passage, it is also indented in the shape of two broad fingers-- the first, a long one, being represented by Evans's Bay (itself a fine harbour); the second, or shorter one, by Lambton Harbour, in which lies the shipping. In this harbour of harbours, partly opposite the entrance-passage, are two islands, one large, the other small; at the north end of the main harbour is the alluvial valley of the Hutt, narrow and subject to floods, but extending a good distance inland, and famous for its fertility. On the east and west side of this spacious harbour, or that part of it north of Lambton Harbour, are very small valleys, gullies and ravines in some places; but the land generally consists of low though bold hills, rising almost from the water's edge, and whose surfaces are for the most part covered with evergreen shrubs and trees.

As to the town itself, it lay there, as it does now, basking in the sunshine, on the western side of Lambton Harbour; and when for the first time I saw it in 1850, it presented a clean and agreeable, but primitive appearance. The houses were nearly all built of wood, and mostly one story in height. The principal street was the Beach 1 a narrow space between the houses and high-water mark, called a road, on which, in parts of

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it, two carts could hardly pass, and over which, in places, I have seen the water flow at high tide. Along this beach were the principal shops and stores, while back from them and on the flats, one at each end of this beach, houses were scattered here and there, like a few sheep in a very large field.

The population of the whole province, in 1850, was calculated at 5,911 souls, distributed over 9,720,000 acres of land, which was the estimated area of the then Province of Wellington.

One half of this population, I should think, was located in the town of Wellington, the buildings of which spread over its 1,100 town acres, presented a scattered appearance. The houses which formed this commercial town in embryo, were not remarkable for their large dimensions, or their relationship to any particular order of architecture. There were a few good shops on the beach, which would not have discredited a provincial town in England. Here and there was a commodious store, a large dwelling house, and a creditable public building--such as the Mechanics' Institution, the central portion of which was then but just completed. But, looking at the town from our ship Eden, some of the shops on the beach appeared little larger than good sized boxes, with A. shaped tops to them. Their gables faced the shipping, and had one little window in the centre of each of them, while a door in one side of each of the lower parts of their fronts, and a moderate sized window on the other side, completed their architectural appearance.

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The day after our arrival we landed at Munn's Wharf. It was the official part of Wellington that we first placed our feet upon. It was near the pretty green knoll on which Government House stands, and opposite the two wooden buildings in which, at one time, the whole government business of the Colony was carried on. The frontispiece to this volume shows this primitive but exceedingly useful and well-used block of buildings. The drawing is mainly copied from a view of that part of Wellington taken by S. C. Brees, in the early days of the Colony. The left hand portion of the block was one of Manning's houses, originally brought from England by Dr. Evans, and which afterwards eame into the possession of Mr. Richard Barrett, who opened it as a public house, and it was then known as Barrett's Hotel. This Mr. R. Barrett was a whaler, who had, previous to the arrival of settlers, lived with the natives for about eleven years; had taken a Maori woman for his wife, and shared in the wars and migrations of her tribe. He rendered valuable assistance to Col. Wakefield in acting as interpreter in various negotiations for the purchase of land, at Port Nicholson and other places, from the aborigines, and was rewarded with a gift to his children of the land on which the hotel stood. After a time Mr. Suistead, a Swede, became the proprietor of Barrett's Hotel, and increased its accommodation and attractions by adding, to the right of it, the central two storey building with a pediment. This new wing projected in front of the original building, and had then a billiard room

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on the ground floor, and a Freemasons' Hall on the floor above. The Hotel, under Mr. and Mrs. Suistead's judicious management, prospered. Many, I have been told, were the young Colonists who spent their ample means in gambling and drinking at this favorite public resort, while they were waiting with land orders to take possession and cultivate their farm lands. Mr. Suistead made his fortune and retired from the hotel.

During the year after my arrival in Wellington, the upper part of the new wing and its masonic hall was fitted up as a Council Chamber, and used by Sir George Grey as such in 1851; while the part under it constituted the General Government Offices of New Zealand up to the year 1853; after which, and until 1855, the first Wellington Provincial Government was installed on the lower part, and on the upper portion the first Wellington Provincial Council held its important, and sometimes stormy, sittings, with E. G. Wakefield as the clever and formidable leader of the opposition. The left hand or main building was used about this time as Supreme Court, Bank of Issue, and Registrar's Office. The Council Chamber was shaken down in the earthquake of 1855. Fortunately the Council, which was in session, had adjourned; it being the race day when the earthquake occurred. Soon after that grave event, I purchased the ruins of this building and portions of the furniture, at auction, for £50. As the original imported structure still (in 1871) stands, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, public building in Wellington, a certain historical

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interest clings to it; and as from sheer decay it must soon pass away along with the old Colonists who have witnessed its creation and vicissitudes, I have introduced a view of it into this volume as something to look back upon, and, perhaps, remind a future generation of the humble and early beginnings of the brave men who founded the settlement of Wellington, twelve months before any other settlement was founded in New Zealand.

When on shore, I found that the houses of the majority of the inhabitants, in the rest of the town, were in a style of genuine simplicity--a long, narrow, but very large box: the sides fronting the streets were about 8 feet in height and from 20 to 24 feet in length; they had a door in the middle, and a window about 5 ft. by 3 ft. on each side of the door. The house was divided into two rooms, one on the right the other on the left, and was frequently supplemented with the fashionable and useful lean-to, sometimes constructed at one end, but oftener in the rear of these truly convenient and comfortable colonial cottages, which being generally painted white, looked neat, clean and fresh.

The first settlers landed here January 23rd, 1840, and at this date Wellington was only about ten years old, 2 and the wonder to me was that so much had been done in so short a space of time, and that too under so many difficulties, which I knew Wellington had had to contend against.

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It will be readily understood, that we were exceedingly glad to land, which I am happy to say my wife, her brother and myself did, in good health and spirits. We soon had our goods, &c., landed, and placed in our first New Zealand cottage, which was soon put in order. It consisted of two rooms and a lean-to, built on the cliff at the north end of Thorndon Flat, and we paid £20 a year rent for it. The weather was warm and beautiful; and often have we sat at tea looking down on the bright waters of Port Nicholson, and the beautiful scenery which surrounds them. Wellington being a sea-port, did not appear so dull as we had expected to find it; sometimes, when the soldiers of the garrison paraded the beach, with the band playing at their head, it was really gay and lively.

My first endeavours were directed to the best means of procuring a livelihood and ensuring my future advancement in the world. I began by presenting my letters of introduction. One was to Mr. Read, a shopkeeper on the Beach, who with his wife behaved exceedingly kind to us. I next waited on Mr. Fox, at the Land Office, who told me that if I knew my business I needed no other recommendation; work was plentiful, and the best thing I could do was to commence business for my myself; in the meantime he would do anything for me that he could. I had also a letter of introduction to an Irish gentleman, Dr. Fitzgerald, at this time Colonial Surgeon in Wellington. His brother Thomas was also here, holding the Government appointment of Chief Land Surveyor, and acting also as Colonial Engineer and

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Architect. When I presented my letter of introduction to the Doctor, he was very affable, and introduced me to his brother, Mr. T. Fitzgerald. They both interested themselves a good deal in my favour, and strongly advised me to commence business for myself. The latter gentleman informed me that there were only two builders of any note in Wellington--Mr. J. Wilson and Mr. C. Mills. This advice accorded with what I saw of my profession in the town, as well as with my own predilections and settled convictions, and I at once resolved to commence business for myself.

For several years prior to this period, I had ceased to work at the bench, but I now decided to assist at the work, set it out, and personally overlook the men, until such time as, from the increase of my business, I might dispense with the former, and confine my attention to supplying drawings and a close superintendence of the men and of the business in general. This course, which I adopted, was one great cause of my success, and laid the foundation of my future large business. The other two builders (Mr. W. and Mr. M.) did little else but attend to their books, and give general orders to their men, leaving the latter to carry them out in the way they thought best.

My rivals in business were both respectable men, and well versed in their profession, and both of them having worked at the bench, they were practically acquainted with it. Mr. W. was a Scotchman; steady, shrewd, proud, but perhaps over speculative. Mr. M. was a Londoner; of a free and easy disposition, smart in business, and good-natured.

Their mode of doing business migbt answer very

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well if it had been a large one; but in a small business, as theirs was, and in a place where men worked short hours, received high wages, were independent, wasteful of material, and often careless of their employers' interests, a great deal was lost by it. I thought, that the more I did myself the more would be my profit, and that my presence amongst those I employed would act as a check to idleness and waste; and also as an incentive to greater exertion. I also made it a rule, as far as possible, to act kindly towards my men, and from the whole of this policy or mode of management, I consider I derived great pecuniary benefit. Further, I made it my study to execute the work well--as well as I could get men to do it--and at a very little above the prime cost price. This was done with a view of drawiilg custom and of satisfying the public that I was master of my business.

I spent my first Christmas Day in New Zealand under circumstances totally the reverse of those I had been accustomed to in England,. Instead of my Wellington Christmas Day being a cold, wet, frosty, snowy, or dismal foggy day, it was a very warm, dry, sunshiny, bright and beautifully clear day; and in place of roast beef, old potatoes, dried or preserved fruit pies, and plum pudding, we dined off roasted goose, green peas, new potatoes, black currant (fresh gathered) pie, and, in memory of old England, we had as an extra, the traditional plum pudding. The apartment in which we dined was not provided with a roaring fire, nor were the windows and doors closed. On the contrary, there was no fire at all in the room, and the windows were partially open to let in the

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balmy cool air and let out the vapour and warmth.

On the 5th of January, 1851, I felt a slight shock of earthquake--a momentary tremor of the ground under me--for an instant, and it was gone. This was the first I had felt. These shakes I afterwards noticed occurred at intervals, and were so slight as not to be felt by some persons, and very little notice was taken of them by those who did feel them.

I now began to be known to the public as a Builder. The first job I undertook was that of erecting a shop on the beach, which was variously criticised by the trade. To increase my business I entered into a verbal partnership with a builder in a small way, who was a superior man, a good workman, intelligent and generous--whose connexion joined with mine, might, I thought, prove advantageous to us both. This occurred January 7th, 1851. Our business thus united, formed (for Wellington) a tolerably large one, and we began to tender for large works--the responsibility and labour of preparing drawings and estimates falling entirety to my lot. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I had made a mistake in entering into partnership; for I found my partner was addicted to intemperance --a moral defect to which I had a great dislike. However, I was for a time obliged to make the best of a bad verbal arrangement.

The political state of Wellington at this period was far from satisfactory to a majority of its inhabitants. The government for the whole of New Zealand, which, in 1851, was temporarily located at Wellington, consisted of Sir George Grey, an

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Executive Council--exclusively formed of his head officials--and a Legislative Council, which latter was nominated by himself, and composed of the officer commanding the troops, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney-General, William Hickson, George Hunter, George Moore (three Wellington merchants), and Henry Seymour (of Nelson). These three estates constituted our King, Lords and Commons, who, with the officials under them, not being directly or indirectly responsible to the Colonists, did pretty well as they liked. The Legislative Council, which was better known to the public as "Sir George Grey's Nominee Council," met whenever his Excellency required it to approve of, and assent to, what were generally his measures. This system was a mockery of self-government; but, by some, was justified on the grounds of expediency and the then dependent state of the colony on Imperial finances and protection.

In consequence of this state of affairs, remonstrances against acts of official unfairness, unless coming from those towards whom the officials were favorably disposed, were seldom heeded, and sometimes totally disregarded--as they were in my own case, when I and my partner tendered for the erection of the Colonial Hospital. In this business I considered that we were unfairly treated, therefore, published a letter commenting on the affair as a job. I think the effect of this letter was to ensure me better treatment in the future. I may add that, a year or two after this incident, myself, Mr. W. and Mr. M., I am happy to say, though still competitors

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in business, we were on friendly terms in other respects.

On the 19th of March, 1851, I assisted at and addressed a meeting held at the Mechanics' Institution, for the purpose of forming a No. 1 (and the first) Building Society in Wellington, when 41 shares were applied for. I was afterwards elected a member of the Managing Committee of the Society.

I might now be considered doing a profitable business, and settled in Wellington. My partner's unfortunate failing was my only drawback. At times his conduct was all that could be desired-- at other times it was the reverse of this. I foresaw we could not continue in business long together, and prepared for a dissolution of our verbal partnership.

It was in the early part of this year that I was recommended to a merchant, named William Fitz-herbert, a gentleman by birth, and a physician by profession, who had practised in London, and who had taken high degrees at Cambridge. In the early days of the settlement at Wellington, he had brought out a large amount of capital, but though he had shown great determination and enterprise in business, he had not succeeded in it so well as he deserved to do. I think he was too keen in some respects, and too fond of trying experiments in business to be successful in it. I executed some work for him, and so satisfied was he, that he requested me to contract for building a large country house which he was about getting erected in the Hutt. He had simply a plan and elevation of the villa, both of which had been prepared in Sydney, and

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he requested me to prepare detail drawings, a specification, and an estimate of the cost for labour. He called in no one to be consulted on the specification I made, nor yet did he ask any one to tender against me. In return for this mark of confidence, I estimated so as to leave myself but a very small profit, and without more to do he gave me the contract. I say me, because he had nothing to say to my partner, and held me solely responsible for this, the first really large contract we undertook. Ever after this, my first contract with Mr.Fitzherbert, he was always obliging and considerate towards myself, though at times he was reserved and distant when he choose to be so; but from this our first acquaintance, I date the commencement of that warm, political and personal, friendship which some years afterwards existed between us. As a proof of his wish to bring me into public notice, I quote the following from the Wellington "Spectator," of October 25th, 1851:--

"A Paper on the 'Comparative Strength of New Zealand and Australian Woods," written by Mr. Carter, was read by Mr. Fitzherbert, at the (New Zealand) Society's Rooms, in which details were given of several interesting experiments, the results of which were not unfavourable to New Zealand woods."

Towards the close of 1851, I felt I was in a position to separate from my partner; and in justice to myself I did so. He retained a portion of our connection; and I kept the remainder, including the whole of Mr. Fitzherbert's work. We parted on

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friendly terms. He continued in business, but I regret to say, never made any satisfactory progress.

I have now to allude to two events which occurred during 1851; the one being a cause for congratulation in Wellington, while the other cast a gloom over the town. The first event was the discovery of gold-fields, first in New South Wales, and next at Victoria, (formerly Port Philip). The news of the former discovery first arrived in Wellington by a brigantine, (originally built for, and owned by, Mr. W. Fitzherbert) called the William, Alfred, which arrived from Sydney on the 9th of June, with news that quantities of gold had been found at Bathurst. This almost startled Wellington out of its propriety. By some, the news--"Lumps of gold have been found!"--was hardly credited; but on the 22nd of the same month further news arrived which confirmed it, and stated that the "Sydney people are frantic with excitement." On the 9th of August following, the William Alfred again arrived, bringing more exciting news, to the effect that "A solid lump of gold had been found, weighing 106 pounds"--thus indicating that a second California existed in Australia. The timid people in Wellington now talked of going at once to the "diggings;" but the bold ones, to the number of forty, did go in the following November. They were the first batch of "Wellington Diggers." Wellington folk heartily wished all of them success--a wish I am sorry to say which was not realized. As usual, in the lottery of digging for gold, a very few persons were successful, but the many were unlucky and disap-

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pointed, and would have done better had they stayed in Wellington. The excitement was yet in its infancy--the great "Melbourne rush" had yet to come.

The second event, to which I have now to call my reader's attention, was the dreadful wreck of the ill-fated barque, Maria, Captain Plank, which occurred during a fearful south-east gale, at six o'clock in the morning of the 23rd of July. The Maria sailed on the 20th of that month from Port Cooper (now Lyttelton) for Wellington; and during a heavy storm, and on the night of the 23rd, missed our harbour's mouth, and, awful to relate, went ashore on the rocks near the Karori stream, by Cape Terawite, where she immediately went to pieces; and out of 31 souls on board only two were saved. The want of a lighthouse at the entrance to Port Nicholson, aided in bringing about this catastrophe; and Sir George Grey was urgently appealed to, to cause one to be erected. In deference to this appeal, Sir George laid before the Legislative Council a measure for increasing the duties on spirits to the extent of 1s. 6d. per gallon, for the purpose of raising the means to erect a lighthouse at the "heads." The bill effecting this object was passed, the duty was collected, but instead of a proper lighthouse being erected, a miserable shed, with a bow window in it, was constructed, in which was placed an indifferent lamp light. The money thus raised for the erection of a substantial and effective lighthouse, was expended by his Excellency's Government on official salaries and in other ways, in which

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the settlers had no voice. Often was the Governor upbraided and taunted with this bad faith--his "keeping his promise to the ear but breaking it to the hope." Years after (in 1858), when constitutional government had been introduced, a fine lighthouse, consisting of an iron octagonal tower, surmounted by a light which can be seen at a distance of about 20 miles off, was erected out of funds, for the second time provided by the Province. The light of this tower was first lighted and exhibited on the 1st of January, 1859. I, with the Provincial Secretary, professionally inspected it a short time afterwards. It was the first proper iron tower lighthouse erected in New Zealand.

Freed from the obligations and anxieties of a partnership, at the end of the year 1851, I was now fairly launched in business on my own account; and from the commencement of the year 1852, I may fairly date the beginning of my successful career as a Colonist. By this time I had experienced the troubles, anxieties, and perplexities of business as well as its pleasures: just as I had found out that in Wellington, we often enjoyed the beautiful weather we were favored with, and that sometimes we were annoyed by the high winds and the fierce and cold south-east rains to which we were occasionally exposed.

During the year 1851, I noticed that political feeling ran very high in Wellington, and that there were two distinct and irreconcilable political parties --one of which was composed of the adherents of his Excellency, Sir George Grey--a Minority; the

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other consisted of the settlers, headed by Dr. Featherston, Mr. Fox, Mr. Fitzherbert, and others-- who formed the majority. Grey's party ignored government in accordance with English principles;-- the Featherstone-Fox party contended for self-government as the inalienable right of Englishmen and British subjects. These two parties were at civil war; one to retard the introduction of Free Institutions; the other to procure their immediate bestowal.

In consequence of Sir George Grey's indefatigable exertions (in 1848-9) to establish "Nominee Legislative Councils," a society, called "The Settlers' Constitutional Association," had been formed, and was now in active operation. This body having discussed and decided on a draft of a "Constitution," which they considered adapted to the then requirements of the Colony, called a public meeting on the 3rd of February, in the theatre of the Aurora Tavern, for the purpose of submitting it to the settlers for their consideration and approval.

I attended this meeting, which was a very crowded one. Both parties had been unremitting in their exertions to secure a good attendance of their respective supporters. The officials were active-- my friend, Dr. Fitzgerald, in particular, was very strenuous in his efforts to assist the Governor's cause. Dr. Dorset was in the chair. The proceedings were boisterous, but ended in the "Constitution" being adopted; and Mr. Fox, (who was about to proceed to England), was deputed to lay it before Her Majesty's Government.

In the midst of all this excitement and political

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feeling in Wellington, "Native Affairs," that bugbear of New Zealand, were in a quiescent state. There used to be a good many natives about in those days. I dare say they wondered what we were quarrelling about, and that there were no fighting and bloodshed after our wordy warfare and violent political contests. Whatever the natives thought, they said but little. They grew their maize, their wheat, their potatoes and peaches, and sold the latter two articles about the streets in Wellington at good prices. We had but few soldiers in the Zealands at this period, and while the natives were roundly estimated at 100,000 souls, the whole of the Europeans in New Zealand numbered about a fourth of that estimate; yet we (the settlers) felt much less dread of hostile proceedings from the natives than we did at a much later period, when the European population was 200,000, and the natives were calculated to have dwindled down to a fourth of that number--50,000. At this latter epoch it is probable the natives began to open their eyes and see the consequences of our increase and their decrease. The two, taken together, meant the extinction of the native race. Somehow or other, I always liked the natives. They were in general civil and good humoured; they would even take a joke and give a joke. They were Yankee cute in making a bargain, and did not always stick to their agreements, and were troublesome to manage, because they did not thoroughly understand our intentions, usages and institutions, and after all, they were but savages of a superior order.

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I used to try and find out if their names of places had any affinity to the real characteristics of such places; but, as a rule, I found them to be names given from accidental incidents rather than as allusions to the natural features of the locality named. Some of these names of places were significantly broad, and others incongruous and of an incomprehensible character, as the following names of places on the coast from Wellington to Wauganui will explain. I believe them to be correctly translated, for I employed one of the best of native interpreters (Mr. Baker, attached to the Law Courts in Wellington) to make the translation for me.



Porirua--"Pori," a tribe; "rua," two.
Pauatahanui--"Paua," Mother of Pearl shell; "taha," side; "nui," larger.
Horokiwi--"Horo," to swallow; "kiwi," a bird.
Paikakariki--"Pai," a ridge; "kakariki," paroquet.
Waikanae--"Wai," water; "kanai," a fish.
Otaki--Peculiar way of carrying a spear when making a speech.
Manawatu, from Manawatatu--"Manawa," lungs, breath; "tatu," satisfied.
Rangitikei--"Rangi," a day; "tikei," to stride.
Tutaenui--"Tutae," dung; "nui," larger.
Turakina--Thrown down.
Whangaehui--"Whanga," a bay; "ehu," from "tiehu," to splash.
Whanganui--"Whanga," a bay; "nui," large.
Ohau--"Hau," name of the person who gave the above names.
Wairarapa--(name of a district) flashing eyes.

The above names were given to places by Hau, when on a journey along the coast.

1   This beach now no longer exists, in the place of it is a spacious Macadamized road, with fine shops and stores on each side of it: the land on one side of the beach having been reclaimed from the sea.
2   It was not even that age, if we take into consideration the time at first landing lost in fixing the town at Petoni, near the mouth of the river Hutt, and then removing it to its present fine site.

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