Australian Pressmen visit ‘Maori Land’, 1912

In Maori Land With Australian Pressmen

The steamer run from Wellington to Lyttleton* is 175 miles, and the fare £1. As we travelled at night time and in a very fast boat we saw nothing, and in fact, as we got in very early in the morning, we did not have a meal on board. Some people stayed for breakfast, but we were anxious to get going, and as the train for Christchurch ran down to the wharf we had only to wait until our luggage was put into the van.

Those who did not understand the geography of N.Z. will wonder why we did not stay at Lyttleton, but as it appeared to us, it is really the port for Christchurch, or, as the Lyttleton people would put it, the chief port of the province of Canterbury. It is a prettily situated town, or borough, with a population of 4200. It lies at the foot of precipitous hills, which divide it from Christchurch and is decidedly picturesque, even as we saw it before breakfast on that Saturday morning. The streets are very steep and the town has a varied background of green hills and rocky formations.

The service between here and Wellington is called a ferry service and the fine big steamer, the Maori, which we travelled in is called the fastest ferry boat. The run down takes about eleven hours. Christchurch is seven miles away, and there is a tunnel a mile and a half long. It was the first tunnel made in New Zealand.

On arriving at Christchurch we were again accorded a hearty welcome by the members of the Fourth Estate, representing the great dailies of the beautiful Cathedral city. Motors were awaiting us at the station and a smart run landed us at that princely hostelry, Clarendon House, in time for breakfast.

A hurried luncheon and then off in motor cars for a general run round, as guests of the Christchurch pressmen. With recollections of the dust some of our rear guard got in the motor run around Auckland, we were all on our own guard and our cars kept at respectable distances from each other. It was a beautiful run full of interest and with an extra bit of thrill as we travelled at break neck pace along the coast road to Sumner, where we were entertained at afternoon tea and met the Mayor of Sumner.

Sumner is really a seaside residential suburb of Christchurch, and is a delightful spot, so far as its beach is concerned, about eight miles from Christchurch. The Cave rock on the shore is a place of interest, and golfers can get on this plain close at hand. Of course we were taken to Riccarton, the Flemington of New Zealand, where their great Cup race is run. It is a splendid course as may be imagined with the appointments on a magnificent scale. Even the Totalisator House is an ornament as well as a useful help to the Club from a financial point of view.

Hospital and Boatsheds alongside the Avon
Christchurch Hospital Doctors’ Residence on left, and glimpse of the Antigua Boatsheds on the right behind the willows. [2]
Of course we did the best of the suburbs and finished up with a most enchanting run along the Avon river, overhung by willows, which runs through a good portion of the town. Let us say here that after our few days in Christchurch, we concluded it was the most beautiful town we had seen in our travels. Most of us have never seen England, but we could from the illustrated papers and biographs readily believe it when we were assured that Christchurch is the most English looking town out of England.

The earliest settlers were Scotchmen, but the Canterbury Association of London sent out immigrants in 1850, and the intention was that only members of the Church of England should settle there. That is how it came to be called Christchurch. There is Cathedral Square, Cranmer Square and Latimer Square, and the present residents of the Island tell us that to this day Christchurch is looked upon as Church of England, and Dunedin as Presbyterian.

A special advantage that Christchurch has as a city is that it is situated on a plain some five miles square, and although the flat streets do not lend to beauty, yet the city is so well laid out, and the public reserves are so large that with the river running through it, well stocked with fish, it is really a charming place, whilst the magnificent buildings add to its majesty. For its size Christchurch has more cyclists than any place in the world, and no wonder, for every road is a cycle track and the motorists call it the “home of the motor,” but the bikes and motors never appear to be at home here.

Motoring Cathedral Square
Motoring in a “world touring” 1910 Hupmobile motorcar, outside the United Service Hotel, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, between 1910-1912. Plenty of men in hats. [3]
We were here, as every where else on our travels, in King’s weather, but we are told the climate of Canterbury resembles that of Great Britain, though in the plains there is more sun. Snow falls hardly once a winter on the plains, but in the hills country the climate is more rigorous and cold. The rainfall is about the same as Sale, 2-1 inches.

On Sunday we visited Christchurch Cathedral, the finest building in the city on a square of its own, close to the post office and other main buildings. There we learnt that the Totalisator was an agent of the Devil, but there was no expression of opinion about the bookmakers. It is really a lovely building, one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. T’he Cathedral was begun by the early settlers and contains many interesting monuments and tablets. The design was that of Sir Gilbert Scott, a leading British architect.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral is also a very handsome building in the Italian Renaissance style after St. Peter’s at Rome. And here at Christchurch they have a “no hat” custom amongst a great many of the men, and it is a common thing to see business men at all hours of the day travelling about without hats. Unfortunately the only man in our party who could do as the “no hat” men do was Mr. McMillan, and he left us at Rotorua. One reason for the popularity of the bare heads is that the place is so windy that it is hard to keep a hat on, but that is not a good reason.

We left Christchurch by an early morning train on Monday and arrived at Dunedin at a quarter past four the same day, having travelled this 230 miles in eight hours. [4]

* The spelling of Lyttelton is as used in the original published article.


  1. Featured image of Lyttelton wharves, circa 1910. Source: Christchurch newspaper photograph. Photographer unidentified. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library File Reference ID: 1/1-009874-G.
  2. Photograph taken by the Steffano Webb Photographic Studio, Christchurch. Image: National Library of New Zealand . ID: 1/1-005227-G.
  3. Source: Unidentified Photographer. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library File Reference: ID: 1/2-040946-G.
  4. Source: Extracted from ‘IN MAORI LAND.’, Gippsland Times, Victoria, Austalia, 24 June 1912, p. 3 Edition: MORNINGS.

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