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Hunting with Mr Hastie


thumbnail Stu Murray-913A lifetime of memories from Stu Murray

Just after the second World War, Nelson Hastie (Mr Hastie to me) was a highly respected old timer. I first saw him with his bullock team shifting Ernie Brown’s house from up near the bushline to closer to Brown’s Rd. He had a big whip, and if a bullock wasn’t pulling his share the whip would be cracked and the bullocks name would be called out and he would visibly strain more. The whip never touched the bullock. This was while I was at primary school.

He and his brother Wallace, I believe, won a New Zealand cross-cut saw event. Whenever I ran into Mr Hastie his favourite conversation starter was always “Can I show you the art of sharpening a saw?” Well, at my tender age my interests were girls, footy, cricket, surf fishing, pub, dances, shooting rabbits with a .22 rifle, table tennis and attempting to work on the farm, and that left little time to fit in saw sharpening. In hindsight that lost art would have been a great skill to have under my floppy cotton hat. Because I passed it by I became a bow saw man and just purchased a new blade when required which was usually after I’d left it on the ground and didn’t find it for month or so.

One day Mr Hastie contacted me through his brother (he didn’t have a phone) and asked me to visit that afternoon which I did. Behind his house were the Brynderwyn Ranges, and a pig had turned up that he had been trying to get several times and he was now going to track it till he got it. I had my ankle length oil skin with me and he said that was all that I needed as he had everything and was all organised to go. He gave me a backpack – a sugar bag with hay string straps with something in it. It rattled, and at our first stop (afternoon smoko) I found I was carrying tea cups and three big loaves of homemade bread. Mr Hastie lit a fire, boiled the billy (one match, unbelievable in the sodden dripping native bush) and told me we were about three hours behind the pig. So smoko was short.

It was relatively easy to follow the pigs tracks but it was very, very hard going through the undergrowth where our quarry easily pushed through as he was the right shape. We stopped about an hour before dark and Mr Hastie made me a bed out of fern with a hip-shaped roof of nikau fronds. Dry bread and black tea was dinner, and unknown to me we had dessert. It was a fruit off a native tree, the name of which totally eludes me. It was very tasty but not enough to fill my stomach. So sad KFC was still many years from being invented.

I slept well and had to be woken in the morning. After about an hour struggle through the undergrowth I was told the pig was now about four hours in front of us, but the going was easier with the odd patch where timber had been milled and native grasses had grown. The pig had slowed but we never got closer than half an hour. We had been

heading west since we started and by afternoon smoko we could hear traffic on SH1 brought to us by the westerly wind. The pig turned around and headed back towards Bream Tail.

We camped up again more in open ground. The weather had been kind to us and it looked as if it was going to stay that way. I was more tired this second night as we had traveled all day, but it had been easier. I was shown the dreaded ragwort. Mr Hastie said he had told the Council about it several times but they weren’t interested full stop. That night we had luxury – grapefruit materialised for dessert.

The morning of the third day was easy going near the tops of the Brynderwyns and we were catching up to the pig very quickly, so close communication was by signals. The pig turned 45 degrees and headed down a gully that connected to the one behind Mr Hastie’s house, where we started this journey.

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