A Tale of Two Cities – Michael Fowler

Joyce Barry: It’s a great delight to have Michael here … the history of Hawke’s Bay … so welcome Michael, and welcome to all of you. Thank you.

Michael Fowler: Thank you for that. Welcome Joyce, and welcome ladies and gentlemen, and Mayor Lawrence Yule and Councillor Cynthia Bowers, and Ewan McGregor … welcome everybody.

For quite a few years I have been collecting information about the squabbles before Hastings and Napier – mainly ‘cause it’s just been interesting. And since there’s been a recent talk about amalgamation I thought, it might be time just to put this material … see the light, as it were.

These are my objectives: just a bit, sort of housekeeping to start with to see how local body structures have developed in Hawke’s Bay since the 1850s; review some of the major squabbles between Hastings and Napier – that’s the entertaining bit; discuss if any past squabbles [are] of any relevance today between Hastings and Napier; provide opinions as to voluntary amalgamation between Hastings and Napier. And I stress it is opinions – I’m trying to be … not controversial as possible, as it’s been an interesting in the lead up to this talk. Anyway, just some of the conclusions.

So basically, Hawke’s Bay was administered from New South Wales up to 1841, and it was part of the New Ulster Province to 1841, and then from 1841 to 1852 there was a Constitution Act, which split into six provinces, of which Hawke’s Bay was part of Wellington. These colonies were largely self-sufficient, but there was quite a bit of dissatisfaction in Napier – because remember, Napier was the main city then – about being administered from Wellington. And part of the problem was that a lot of the taxes that were paid in Napier went to Wellington, and we didn’t really see a lot of benefit from that. So when legislation was passed in 1858 – called The New Provinces Act – if there was a population of more than a thousand people you could form your own province, which was exactly what, on 1st November 1858, Hawke’s Bay did. Wellington after the fact, actually tried to lumber Hawke’s Bay with some of their debt which they had incurred for some of their infrastructure, but the Hawke’s Bay people told them basically to quietly shove off. Napier by default of course was the capital city – that is why there are so many government departments there today.

So the earliest form of local government was actually the Roads Boards, and in 1876, there were thirty of them in Hawke’s Bay. So they had the power to rate, value property, build roads, without reference to what the other Roads Boards were doing. So you had thirty Roads Boards, all concerned with their roads. As the government subsidised these Roads Boards, as well as the ability to rate, they broke out like a rash everywhere, so some cynically suggested that the first road in the district began at the Road Board chairman’s front gate, [chuckles] which often happened.

In 1876 the Crown favoured a Counties system of government which became the Hawke’s Bay County Council … wasn’t too long before conflict started between the Roads Boards and the County Council. The County Council had no authority to overrule the Roads Boards, who thought they were onto a pretty good thing so they just continued on their merry way. Self-interest of course was reigning everywhere, and there were some more accusations at the Road Board chairman, basically because they found that they were valuing their properties at forty per cent lower than everybody else, which meant they paid less rates. So the Hawke’s Bay County Council was clearly unhappy about this, but it took nearly ‘til 1894 ‘til all of the Roads Boards were absorbed into the Hawke’s Bay County Council, and that’s basically because after the big floods that they had, they couldn’t afford to maintain the roads.

Meanwhile in 1874 Napier was pronounced a borough, and Hastings a town board in 1884, and then Hastings was a borough in 1886. A Rabbit Board was established in 1887, a response to rabbits released by Colonel Whitmore in Rissington in 1861. He also was the one that planted all the Willows that clogged up the trees [rivers] as well. Rabbits as we know, bred like them and caused lots of damage to the farm lands, and eventually became part of the Hawke’s Bay Pest Destruction Board. Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board was another body formed in 1944, prompted by the Esk Valley floods. So in 1950 Napier was proclaimed a city, and Hastings was in 1956.

In 1977 one of the first attempts to perform local government with a united council was attempted to be formed in Hawke’s Bay, but Napier [and] Hastings, not surprisingly, fought over its structure, where it should be headquartered. Hastings mayor, J D O’Connor, called it the battle of Hastings 1977 [chuckles] when Napier was named as the administrative authority where O’Connor feared for loss of control and vital functions for Hastings – especially as Napier said that they would take care of all the planning for the district. Now Napier, in lobbying to be the headquarters, pulled the bigger population card in saying it had the airport and most of the government departments. But the united council fizzled out, and 1989 would of course be the next time when local government was reorganised.

So as you all know, in 1989 Hastings merged with Havelock North and the Hawke’s Bay County Council. The new area of Hastings was about five thousand two hundred and seventeen square kilometres – does that sound about right, Lawrence? And Napier was largely untouched at only a hundred and four square kilometres. So the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board and Pest Destruction Board, became part of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

So the 1989 amalgamation was really a forced marriage by the government, and drew some negative reactions from Havelock North … [shows slide] and they are carrying the coffin of Havelock North down the main street. [Chuckles]  Havelock North reacted quite badly, and – well they had the mayoral chains, and held their breath, and other things. [Chuckles] But actually more serious that the Havers people doing their revolt, was a rural revolt. And some of you may remember that, and I know that was very stressful on Jeremy [Dwyer]. So Jeremy actually received some death threats, I understand, over that. It was a very difficult time. It tested Napier and Hastings’ relationship again, especially when I think Napier waded into [weighed into] the discussion, which I think Hastings felt [was] a bit unhelpful. Those of you who were here in 1999 will know that there was also an attempt to amalgamate Hastings and Napier, and a poll resulted in seventy-five per cent ‘No’ from Napier, and seventy-four per cent from Hastings.

As I’m sort of an academic, I’ll just introduce a bit of what social scientists call, ‘Social Construction’. So I’ve got a definition from a guy from the internet, which I thought was … Paul – can’t pronounce his second name – Boghossian, or something. So social construction – this thing such as a structure could not’ve existed had we not built it, and we need not have built it at all, at least in its present form. Had we been a different kind of society, had different needs, values or interests, we might’ve built a different kind of thing, or built this differently. So we can actually see – the history of local government – where there has been social construction. In other words, we didn’t want to be part of Wellington, so we formed our own province. The Roads Boards were early social … we need a road – what do we do? So a lot of it was organised. The difficulties have been when, with structures such as when the County Council was basically … the government said that has to be formed; or in 1899, such as the rural revolt and Havelock hiding the mayoral chains … that rural structures aren’t necessarily socially constructed – that’s when there are issues. In other words, when they are forced, would be a socialist constructionist argument into that. So the 1977, in the eye of the council’s scheme was clearly unacceptable to Hastings and consequently agreement was never reached.

We are now going to some of the squabbles. I see a relative is here. Before we get into the squabbles … I talked to a professor who’s actually studied conflict. I gave him a bit of background – he said the worst conflicts you can get, is between two organisations. I said “what about, you know, Auckland?” And he said “well, there’s six of them … six of them, and the conflict is less when there’s more of them. When there’s two, like Hastings and Napier, it’s a lot more pronounced.” So some people might say, “well you know, how come it’s easier in Auckland than it appears to be here?” It’s because of that potential one and two.

So the first sort of issue that Hastings had was the Gas Board. In 1885 the Napier Gas Co [Company] wanted to establish a gas works in Hastings. There was apparently friction between both of them at this stage, and when Napier Gas Co applied for legislation to establish in Hastings – it was held in a town hall meeting; there was three hundred people, which was about a third of the town’s population, and they were trying to get the MP, … the Member of Parliament, Captain Russell … to lobby against the bill. So Town Board chairman, Robert Wellwood, was against this, and he said … as reported in the paper … ‘If the Napier Company started here, all the profits would go and be spent in Napier, whereas if they had a company of their own, the profits would remain in the place.’ Others such as the local butcher Mr Forman argued, “that they did not care if the profits went outside of Hastings”, and he addressed Napier like a different country, saying, “the more foreign capital they could get into the place”, [laughter] “the better.” So they treated Napier as some kind of foreign entity. Only sixty-nine people voted. There was a huge stir when one of the people against Napier Gas coming, stirred up the mothers of the school … over where Central School is over there … and said if the thing blew, all the kids in the Hastings district would be dead, so it was quite an interesting argument.

The next issue was that Ahuriri, the inner harbour … and this is probably one of the longest and most divisive issues that Hawke’s Bay has ever faced … the inner harbour, which is there [demonstrates] versus the outer harbour or the breakwater, where Port of Napier is now. I wrote an article for Hawke’s Bay Today … couple of weeks ago … and I said, ‘New Zealand in the nineteenth century was akin to America’s Wild West.’ Okay? ‘There was not the population to support industry and commerce, and Hastings in 1885 had a thousand people, whereas Napier had seven and a half thousand.’

Just as an interesting aside, in 1890 Napier had eight thousand three hundred people; New York had thirty-six thousand. New York now has twenty million, and Napier has fifty-nine thousand. [Chuckles] A lot of the earlier pioneers actually thought that New Zealand would have a population of about fifty-five, sixty million about now, and they were actually trying to aim for that. We’ve obviously disappointed them. [Chuckles]

So many who were establishing in rural areas such as Hastings, realised the port was a major strategic asset, and if it was taken away from Napier it would weaken its position. So to be quite clear about this – they were very open about their dislike of Napier, as you’ll see from some of the comments. So in 1879, a group of eleven men formed the company called the Clive Grange Estate, and a railway company. What they wanted to do in 1879 was establish a port near Cape Kidnappers – in other words, take the business away from Napier, and have a railway there. So in other words, the railway would go through Hastings, straight to the port and miss Napier out. [Chuckles] Shareholders included J N Williams from Frimley and John Chambers from Te Mata. A Hawke’s Bay Herald correspondent got wind of this, and then a Napier man, M R Miller, was actually running for the Napier Borough Council office, just before the election … obviously not that astute of a politician, or an aspiring one. So this Mr Miller was shareholder and Secretary of this organisation. The company didn’t have enough money, due to a recession, and disbanded. Unfortunately the Napier people did not take kindly to Mr Miller, and he ended up in Wairoa, [chuckles] so I understand it was like he was run out of town. [Chuckles]

So Napier was obviously very concerned about this attempt to establish another port, so they held a meeting … [shows slide] there’s John Chambers and J N Williams … they held a meeting in … [shows slide] that’s where the Art Deco offices are now … the inner harbour – basically they had a meeting there to push for a breakwater port. So they wanted the existing port where it is now.

So the inner harbour had two main problems: there was a shingle bar, so the Tutaekuri [River] used to run through round where Omarunui is now; and also the bigger vessels had to have smaller barges, to transport their … ‘cause the bigger ones couldn’t come in the port, so they had to have these lighters called barges. So the Napier Harbour Board members said “yes – we’ve got to have this breakwater wharf”, and dusted off an old plan by Mr McGregor, who did it in 1873. But when the Hawke’s Bay Harbour Board members took it to a vote they were outvoted, mainly by Hastings and rural interests. So with the Harbour board they were outnumbered; when we got to the hospital, they had the numbers. So that’s why Hastings didn’t get a hospital sooner.

So Mr Miller, who was now for Wairoa, he got elected, surprisingly, as that town’s representative on the Harbour Board, and was still harping on about having a harbour at Kidnappers in 1881, but a Napier representative, Colonel Lambert, said “if a breakwater or harbour was established south of the Tukituki River, Napier would be snuffed out”. And that was exactly what the plan from Hastings and rural interests is [was]. You may think that I am getting at Hastings, but you’ll see that Napier was just as bad in some areas as well. So in 1882, the Napier Chamber of Commerce, newly formed, pushed for some action on the breakwater harbour, and Napier Borough Council was behind this as well.

So the new members in 1883 favoured a breakwater scheme and a design was accepted by a man called John Goodall in 1884, so in order for these works to take place, they needed a loan of £200,000, which was [is] $24 million. So a Special Act of Parliament was passed in October 1884 called the Napier Harbour Board Empowering and Loan Act 1884. So this Act gave the authority to rate areas in Hawke’s Bay, which was why a lot of the inland towns resented paying rates for a Napier port. So they had this ratepayers hole, and a Mr Harding from Waipukurau, one of the original shareholders of the Clive Grange company, was very upset, and he wrote a letter and said: ‘You and other Napierites may rely on it’ … that’s the harbour … ‘but it is only a question of time but Kidnappers will be the port, and Hastings the capital town of this province. And to spend more money at Napier for harbour works is just taxing the people for the benefit of a few Napier shop keepers.’ So … yeah, it’s really to the point. So the people of Hawke’s Bay however, wanted the breakwater harbour and the poll was passed easily.

Enter William Nelson … meat baron. [Shows photo] That’s the original breakwater, Napier port about 1900.

So William Nelson became involved, and he of course favoured an inner harbour. So he financed a lot of the Napier South reclamation, and his son would play quite a part in the Inner Harbour later on. So they had another ratepayers’ poll in 1999 [1899] to extend the breakwater, but once again Hastings and Hawke’s Bay opposition caused the poll to fail.

George Nelson, son of William Nelson got involved. He favoured the Inner Harbour, and he drew up some plans for it. And his father even kindly bought him what we now know as Hawke’s Bay Today, which was the Hastings Standard, which became the Hawke’s Bay Tribune – he actually bought a newspaper, so his son could promote the Inner Harbour scheme through the newspaper. So the objectives of the paper were to have a strong regional focus for Hastings, and promote the Inner Harbour scheme. So Nelson was quite a clever man … and a Hastings person managed to get the Napier people to form the Ratepayers’ Association, in which he frequently appeared and tried to convince Napier people of his plans for an Inner Harbour. So once again, in 1910 they tried for another loan. It failed. George Nelson did not give up on his plans for an Inner Harbour scheme. World War I put things on a hold, but in 1920 the Inner Harbour faction finally won out, so you’ve got a situation where now, they’d sort of half-built this breakwater which I showed you before, and now they’re going to spend a lot more money to develop this. So you had two parallel schemes going, and they’re both fighting about … basically, which one should we put money in. So instead of having one good one, they sort of, over a period of sixty years, bounced back and forth. So the loan did go through; George Nelson was rewarded as being the engineer for the scheme, but he fell out with them – basically, he was only getting a salary of … equivalent today of $47,000 … and he wasn’t overly happy about that and left. This sort of fighting between the Hawke’s Bay Harbour Board got national attention, and Truth newspaper of all places, called the Harbour Board the ‘Comic Opera Board’. [Chuckles]

The 1931 earthquake of course, raised the harbour floor. An ardent Harbour supporter and Hawke’s Bay Tribune editor, W C Whitlock, received a phone call from Daily Telegraph editor, Trevor Geddis, who reportedly said “What price your Inner Harbour now, Whitlock?” So both the newspapers were fighting each other through the editors over this. So Trevor Geddis was determined to have a breakwater harbour; got elected first time in 1932, and managed to push through a loan, equivalent today of $37 million to get the port through, and of course it never turned back since there [then].

The next issue that we had … oh, that’s Trevor Geddis and W C Whitlock there [shows photos]. He was the editor of the Daily Telegraph, and W C was on Hawke’s Bay Tribune, and that’s the breakwater early 1900s.

The next issue was the Napier to Gisborne railway. Now I didn’t know too much about this, but while doing research … in 1912 Prime Minister Joseph Ward came here, and he mentioned that the Napier to Gisborne line was delayed due to fighting between Hastings and Napier. Napier was selected as a route due to the sea port, but Hastings maintained that a lot of the line went through unproductive land, and so basically the line should go from Hastings, straight up … you know, through Esk valley. So Joseph Ward said: “I do not think there ought to be any spirit of rivalry between Napier and Hastings in connection with an important undertaking of this kind.” He “could not see how Hastings was to go ahead without Napier; the latter town could not progress without taking Hastings with it. He would advise people to sink their petty differences, and work for the welfare of the whole district, and so [im]prove upon natural advantages”. And sadly, that advice was never heeded.

The hospital – Napier of course, was established first, so they had the hospital. Hastings wanted a hospital in 1898, but the land was too expensive – they wanted to go to Gordon Road. The next attempt was in 1906, but the Napier members of the Hospital Board defeated this by four votes to three. So as I said before, Napier had the numbers of the Hospital Board, and they were able to outvote Hastings’ interests in terms of Hastings having the resources to have a hospital. So every time – to placate Hastings – they suggested something … they suggested a District Nursing scheme after the failed attempt in 1906. The next time they suggested one in 1911, they suggested an ambulance which apparently was a rickety old thing. So they said “you can have an ambulance to go from Hastings to Napier.” Walter Shrimpton, the Napier member, was great … apparently expert … at using delaying tactics to Hastings. 1913 – another attempt, and Hastings doctors all went and said “Look, we need this hospital”. And they said “How many of your patients need urgent attention?” And unfortunately only two of them said, “Oh, we had a couple”. So they said “Well, you don’t really need one, so [chuckles] we’re not even going to offer you an ambulance for a district nursing scheme this time – go away”.

1914 – an ex-mayor, W Y Dennett, proposed a street collection where money would go half to Napier – the street collection was in Hastings – half would go to Napier; half would go to Hastings for a hospital. But the Napier Board chairman said “we’re not having any part of this”, and refused to send the collection boxes over from Napier. [Laughter] So what happened is Hastings made their own collection boxes up, and had it.

World War I interrupted things, but after the 1980 [1918] influenza epidemic, there were calls again for the hospital. George Ebbett, the mayor in 1918, was a formidable man and he really ruled Hastings, you could say, with an iron fist for quite a while. He was a very capable and formidable man – he was only mayor for about two years, but he really didn’t need to be mayor because most of the town listened to him anyway, because he had such … say, mana. George Connelly, who wrote the history of the Hawke’s Bay Health Board, said this – he said: ‘George Ebbett waited alone for the members of the Hawke’s Bay Health Board.’ George Ebbett did not need people with him to support him, he waited alone, which means … just showed you how much, you know – “I’m going to do this alone.” So Ebbett stressed to the Board they did not want to rival Napier, but they just wanted a cottage hospital for emergency purposes. He promised a hospital in Hastings would be handed debt free to the Board. So he said, “Right, if we give you a free hospital – no debt”, you know, so they couldn’t really turn that down.

Ebbett later conceded this was a mistake, ‘cause it was very difficult to actually raise finance. When the money was raised in 1923, Napier got cold feet about the idea, and began to argue of [about] the proportion between maternity beds and emergency beds, so they had an argument about that. When tenders were called in 1925 to build the hospital, Dr Ballantyne of the Health Department went overseas, and unfortunately for Hastings, his Deputy was not keen on Hastings having a hospital, so all correspondence was stopped. So George Ebbett literally met Dr Ballantyne when he got off the boat from Wellington after his overseas trip. There were more delays – because there were delays the price went up – just a few hundred pounds. The Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board was not allowed to fund that deficit, which held things up, but finally a hospital was opened in 1928, but Hastings lost the battle for emergency beds. So it was only a maternity hospital. George Ebbett said, “there was one thing that a Hastings organisation could be proud about, which was there was no sign – there’s George Ebbett [shows photo] – there was no sign of any intention or likelihood of the Memorial Hospital being used as anything else but a maternity home.” So he’d achieved [shows photo] – and that’s the opening of it – but effectively a maternity home. Napier would not … the members would not let Hastings have emergency beds, you still had to go to Napier.

So the earthquake would settle things. The Napier Hospital was wrecked. Hastings Hospital – it’s still there today, and [shows photo] that’s the chapel – was built to withstand earthquakes, so that survived brilliantly. So with no hospital now in Napier, Hastings saw this as an opportunity to steal the base hospital. But Napier members, furious at what they saw as Hastings kicking them while they were down, refused. But you can imagine, you know, the tension building up in Hastings. And as we all know – you mess with health, you know, and that’s a real political hot potato, isn’t it? So the anger in Hastings just basically spilled out. So while Napier in the past had ignored Hastings, this time they were extremely vulnerable – that’s Napier [shows photo] – especially when most of Napier had evacuated.

So when Hastings realised a substantial amount of money … so this lady here, Henrietta Kelly was in that building there, [shows photos] which is that old Masonic Hotel. So that’s Marine Parade where Breakers used to be over there – I don’t know what’s there now, another restaurant. That’s Marine Parade afterwards. She actually passed away in there and died, and she left £35,000 for a hospital. So the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board [HB Hospital Board] was furious about this, ‘cause the money could only be used for a Hastings Hospital.

So then they got a legal opinion from Logan, Williams and Wright, which stated that the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board actually didn’t have to spend the money at once. So in other words, they were just trying to let it sit there, and not be used. But basically they did manage to extract the money. Between 1933 and 1944 the Kelly bequest financed the full hospital. Without the bequest, Hastings would not have had the hospital. It’s interesting that even back in the 1930s the Health Department was concerned about having two hospitals so close together.

But in 1938, as part of this building programme, a children’s ward was being built, and there was a suggestion that Napier children would be sent there, so ‘Hastings Influence Denounced’ ‘”Napier’s Birthright”’. You know, so these are the sort of headlines which – we’d probably cringe today – ‘Division on Board’. So it goes on about comments, and a Napier man, Mr McRae, at a public meeting typified Napier’s response when he said, “None of my children will go to the shingle bed [chuckles] with fog all summer, and water in it all the winter.” [Laughter] We’re going to actually come back to that comment.

Interestingly enough, I often get asked “was there any liquefaction in Hastings during the ‘31 earthquake?” And as far as I can tell, no – Napier there was [chuckles] – yeah, but not any in Hastings.

Two main hospitals were eventually built as you know – the Memorial in ‘61, and I think Napier’s was 1966 or 1970 – I couldn’t quite extract that. So of course we know in 1998, due to nationalisation of health services, Napier’s was closed, and Hawke’s Bay became the regional base council [hospital]. And it’s interesting … some of the debates at the time when they were building Napier … some of the concerns that they had for actually shifting it over here were raised then, but Napier wanted to rebuild it.

But even now a Napier group, as recent as April 2011, called Hope Hawke’s Bay, still want the Napier hospital to function. Spokesperson and Napier city councillor Michelle Pyke said “Severe liquefaction from the earthquake or tsunami would mean the Regional Hospital in Hastings was accessible and vulnerable to damage.” So you can see – nothing new under the sun, is there? Yeah – but as I say, I’ve had no evidence of liquefaction in Hastings – Napier South did – I’ve read accounts of it happening there.

The next issue is the University. So in 1858 [1958] a project to celebrate the centenary of Hawke’s Bay planned for a University to open in Hawke’s Bay within twenty years. So in 1859 [1959], the Hastings City Council – it was a city then – submitted to the Government a plan to establish a University. So attention was drawn to the fact that many of the brightest young people were leaving Hawke’s Bay, and not returning. So in 1960, W E Bate, a solicitor here … I think he was an ex-mayor as well … created, the University of Hawke’s Bay Trust Act, which was passed by Parliament, and Mr Bate was the Chairman, a post he held until 1983. Mrs Hedley – there’s a Hedley building and land where EIT [Eastern Institute of Technology] is now – donated the land. But as Mary Boyd, a Hastings historian who passed away recently, put this delicately – “Provincial Bodies other than Hastings, Waipukurau, Waipawa and Waipawa County Council, oppose the scheme.” Yep – so they weren’t happy about having … basically where EIT is, having it there now.

So the Education Board had already identified the need for a Teacher’s Training College in Hawke’s Bay, and a branch University as a necessity, but both were established in Palmerston North. As we know, the branch University and Massey Agricultural College and the Teacher’s College … well the Teacher’s College didn’t, but the Agricultural College became Massey University. So a Polytech was proposed in 1966, but this time Hastings was not happy about it ‘cause it was too far away. And I think the original argument why they didn’t want the University was because Taradale wasn’t then part of Napier, so it wasn’t that close to Napier, and I think they were opposing it on those grounds.

So while EIT is a great asset to Hawke’s Bay – I mean it’s taken nearly into the 1990s to actually build it into an asset. Had they not squabbled, we would have had probably a bigger University in Hawke’s Bay right now, which would’ve been … Yes, and as I say, you look at a place like EIT – I mean they’re a huge asset – not ‘cause I work there – they’re a huge asset to Hawke’s Bay, not only for the money that it brings in, but also just trying to educate our young people as well.

Next one’s the airport. Some mayors there – R D Brown, A I Rainbow – that’s J M Blake from which was [?] made this day on the calendar – [shows slides] that’s an aerial mapping plane there. In 1963 the National Airways Corporation wanted a sealed runway for their replacement planes. Napier favoured the existing Beacons airport where it is now, but Hastings wanted a Fernhill site in Swamp Road. So R D Brown, who loved flying – he was a great friend of Piet van Asch’s and that’s probably why he’s there – they wanted one out at Swamp Road, and also Mayor Giorgi also wanted it at Swamp Road as well.

The squabbles caused delays. Hastings withdrew opposition to the Beacons scheme – that’s where the airport is now – basically because the Government had already decided to go to Beacons. So they sort of said, “well, okay, we’ll give in now”, even though the Government had already decided.

And they wanted a motorway link between Hastings and Napier. The motorway became a major regional issue, and the Hawke’s Bay County Council refused … you know how the route goes now? They refused to let that scheme go because it might upset the farmers, who [whose] land the road was going to go through. So all that was built was – as you go over the overpass from Taradale, the overbridge – that bend around there, that was the only bit that was ever built.

It’s interesting that a gentleman rang me up today and said, he knew the NAC manager in 1964, and Hastings people were so wild that the airport went there, that many people drove to Palmerston North to catch their flights to Auckland. Yep – so that actually happened – they would rather drive to Palmerston North and catch the plane than take it from Napier.

This is just a small one of interest – the Fire Brigade. The Fire Brigade … normally quite co-operative, but in the 1940s, there were some issues about who would be responsible for rural fires. So when arguments broke out over who had the rights to fight them, there was a fire in Omahu Road … at the edge of Omahu Road. All Hastings and Havelock North appliances attended that, and somebody apparently called the Napier Fire Brigade as well, in a panic. Which is apparently what you’re not supposed to do. So the Napier appliance turned up, and the Hastings and Havelock people ignored them. And they just sat on the appliances watching the fire. The hose was not taken out of the engine, and even though hundreds of acres were burning, the Napier people just turned around and just went home … went back without unloading a hose.

The next one is Hugh Baird, and I know Ewan knows Hugh and so does Cynthia as well, and others may as well. The Milk Corporation. In 1952 there was a Hawke’s Bay Metropolitan Milk Board, and what happened was that the Milk Board wanted local or Government ownership, and they needed a limited liability company to do this. Hugh Baird told a story which I was able to listen to on a tape, that when Peter Tait, who was mayor at the time of Napier, was overseas, Hugh Baird [chuckle] managed to get all the shares for Hastings and buy them. [Laughter] And when Peter Tait arrived back in the country, he sort of rang up Hastings and said “What’s going on with the Milk Board?” And Hugh Baird says “No, no – it’s fine – it’s all done.” [Chuckles] So he managed to do that, which was … apparently was a very profitable investment for Hastings.

We now come to the earthquake. [Shows photo] – that’s the Hawke’s Bay Farmers … the IMS building. About the time of the earthquake, Hastings population was gaining on Napier. So for the first time Napier started to sit up and really take a little bit of notice because the population was increasing.

The head office of the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Co-op [Co-operative] Association was in Napier – it went to Hastings. [Shows photo]  That’s taken after the earthquake. So Napier wasn’t too happy about that. But Hastings has always had a strategy of retail – in other words – they’ve always tried to build retail, and you can see it as you go back in the past. So Napier’s CBD again was completely devastated in the 1930 [1931] earthquake. The only difference really between Hastings and Napier was the water supply. Hastings had water most of the time – not all of the time, but most of the time. Hastings also had large ferroconcrete [ferrocement] buildings, earthquake ones, that were built between ‘24 and ‘29.

So after the shock of the ‘quake began to subside, trouble started to brew. Wounds, very fresh between both towns, would be ripped open again. So an editorial appeared in the Hawke’s Bay Tribune in 1931, headed ‘Civic Rivalry’ … ‘Help or Hindrance’. Reference was made to Marcus Porcius Cato, a statesmen and orator in Rome. ‘He was convinced in his own mind that Rome’s salvation depended on the destruction of Carthage as representing a dangerous rival power. His cry was ‘Del endo est Cathago’, (Carthage must be destroyed). ‘Napier and Hastings have not quite reached this extremity, but was getting pretty close.’  [Chuckles] So Hawke’s Bay Tribune editor, W C Whitlock, and his grandfather who’s here [on slide] stated that:

‘A common disaster should give rise to feelings of mutual sympathy, but this did not occur. Bitterness now crept into the equation’. He bemoaned the fact that ‘the earthquake is called the Napier earthquake. Hastings is practically ignored in the overseas coverage, and it was an act of God that Hastings was left in a somewhat better position than Napier, and that Hastings was left in a somewhat better position to recover than Napier. Napier should not blame Hastings for an act of God. Neither should Napier expect Hastings to mark time’ … here we go … ‘in the hospital yard until the economic lesson staff (sometimes called the Commission)’ – Napier was run by a Commission of three men – ‘certifies Napier to be physically fit. Hastings is in fact, already convalescent, and nothing can stop your forward move into the midst of events, not because Hastings is consumed by an unworthy desire to steal a march on a rival, but because that’s just the way things are. Neither man or [nor] communities can stand still – they must go on, or they must go back. It is time to cut our artificial feelings of rivalry and realise each community has it’s part to play in the rehabilitation of the whole area.’

So there’s kind of mixed messages in there – you know, ‘we should work together, but hey – don’t expect us to stand still on the hospital issue.’ Other metropolitan newspapers started to report the demise of Napier – ‘Was it finished?’ Things were happening behind the scenes, and one of them was the hospital. So when Hastings and Napier were having lists of those who were injured with their little broadsheets that they produced, and who died in the earthquake, other metropolitan newspapers were reporting some disturbing developments. The Evening Post predicted that ‘on 11th February the ancient rivalry between Hastings and Napier would break out again in terms of Hastings vying for the capital of Hawke’s Bay. Many stated they would never return to Napier, and if the harbour was ruined by the rising of the sea floor, Hastings would undoubtedly have an opportunity and probably get a head start. But only the coming years would disclose whether this temporary advantage would become permanent.’

So the start of the post ’quake troubles really happened when a lot of the Hastings landowners started making advances to the Napier shopkeepers. But as you can see from that back picture there was a wreckage, so they wanted Napier shopkeepers to come to Hastings. Then Sir Andrew Russell, who was on the Hawke’s Bay County Council, tried to get the Hawke’s Bay County Council shifted from Napier to Hastings. Francis Logan said, “So far no local authority or big firm had decided to quit Napier, the future of which appeared to be so attractive that most of the applicants for houses were residents of other towns who decided to make sunny Napier their home for the future.” [Chuckles]

As I said, the next battle would be over the full service hospital. In July 1931, Hastings members of the Hospital Board tried to block a loan to rebuild the Napier hospital, but it was defeated on a casting vote of the Napier Chairman. In August 1931, Hastings tried to block the hospital’s application for another loan to build the hospital on the basis that ‘the Hastings site is large and level, and that the Kelly bequest was not available to Napier.’ And it got nasty. Napier’s Mr H Latham wrote in November, that ‘after the ‘quake he’d overheard two Hastings businessmen on Napier hill stating, “Hastings is done now … Hastings is made now – we will get our hospital”, as they looked at the wreckage of Napier. Latham also stated that “ordinary humane sympathy that one is entitled to, was absent” – this is talking about Hastings people. “In its place there was almost a ghoulish elation at the prospect of Hastings benefiting from Napier’s affliction.” Mayor Roach replied, and said “these are wicked untruths and libels upon the people of Hastings”. Latham replied, “Napier has suffered enough without the technicals of an office being thrust into our midst, endeavouring to suck our vital organs away”. So it was pretty nasty between them.

Hastings had had their rebuilding carnival in 1931 – some of you may’ve seen this in the newspaper last week. ‘Advance Hastings, Premier Town’, ‘Scoullars for Furniture’, ‘Buy in Hastings’. So Hastings had had their rebuilding carnival in 1931, but hearing that Napier was holding one in 1933, Hastings decided to have one in November 1932. Hastings councillors were divided over this as being unfair to Napier, but Mayor Roach said, “well, we set a precedent ‘cause we had one last year in November, so that means we can have another one”. So this carnival was held – they’ve obviously plagiarised Mickey Mouse; and there’s a ‘Carnival Spirit’ there … have a few beers … groggy at the back there – they liked their drink; and ‘The Gayest Festivals of 1932’. So that was their carnival.

Newspapers – so one effective way that Napier [would] respond to Hastings’ attempts to basically get stuck into them, was newspapers – so they had two, The Herald and The Daily Telegraph. Hastings couldn’t afford a newspaper due to its population size, but in 1886, the Hastings Star began, but only lasted ‘til 1888. Mr Desmond spoke in Hastings – he was a candidate for the Hawke’s Bay County seat, and was asked to describe the local newspapers. And basically he said: “The Hawke’s Bay Herald was in the employ of the land speculators of the East Coast land ring. The Napier Telegraph Editor was bad at heart, and would sell his mother for gold if he could get it.” [Laughter] The Hastings Star was favourably reported, but the Herald refused to print the favourable comments.

The Napier papers also took delight in sending Napier people across to visit Hastings and publishing their comments, or aspects, of Hastings. In terms of the Inner Harbour debate, the editorial said: ‘Hastings aspires – it always did aspire. The present object of its affection is a postman … postboy messenger … call him what you want. In view of the extra business, wealth and importance we are to derive from behaviour” … that’s Napier … “we want to be furnished with the nimble footed Mercury”. He then stops, and says he’s interrupted by a vagabond hen cackling under his window. Now this ‘vagabond hen’ is representative of Hastings, okay? So he goes on and he says:

“I’ll hear no more!
Thy profit in thy speech
‘Tis cacklers such as thou
Destruct would teach.
What ho, my faithful dogs
Queen, Juno, Gyp
Bring me this hen
In your jaws’ deadly grip
Disturb my castle building she shall not
For I’ll consign her to the iron pot”

[Laughter] So he’s describing Hastings as a cackling hen, and he’s going to send his dogs to basically get this hen and then take it to the iron pot, which of course Napier didn’t want.

In 1888 the Hawke’s Bay Herald reported: ‘Long ago when they were selling the first sections for Hastings, that Hastings would become the Christchurch of the North.’ Well, we know what’s happening down there at the moment, and our sympathies go with [to] them, but ‘we’d rather Christchurch would be called the Hastings of the South. [Laughter] The crowd assembled at the auction of Hastings land beamed into a smile of hope’, said the news reporter. ‘I computed it to be two miles, fifty-seven and a half yards long’. The reporter then said he had not received any letters from Hastings of the South lately. [Chuckles]

So in 1887 while writing his editorial, the Napier Herald editor looked over the Heretaunga Plains and saw there was snow … very rare event. And he said: ‘A cutting blast brought with it a light sheet which afterward changed to snow which lay on the Plains this morning, as if Hastings was doing penance in a white sheet for all its sins in land speculation.’ [Laughter]

This is an example of when they sent someone across to Hastings and got them to report on what they found: ‘I dropped it on cousin cynical Hastings. Hastings aspires to have a beach, but it may be closer to having one than it thinks. Hastings streets are like Napier’s beach – stones on the road and sand on the footpath.’ [Chuckles] If the stones and sand were all that was needed to establish a sea port, then Hastings was there.’

They also mocked the English accent of the Hastings people, and then even stated that ‘the Salvation Army, who were having a rally, said that even the Salvationists had an absence of the virulent testifying which is characteristic of the Orthodox Salvation sinner.’

A visit of school children in 1887 caused a huge uproar … Hastings’ school children going to Napier … ‘cause they were scared that Hastings’ children would upstage the Napier ones.

1896, when Hastings got its first newspaper after the second one, the Napier paper tried to [stifle?] press releases, because the Napier editor was chairman of the NZ Press Association. And just to finish off this little bit, as reported by an Auckland paper: ‘Napier doesn’t love Hastings, and Hastings returns the compliment with interest.’ [Chuckles]

The Hastings Standard has referred to Napier as ‘Hastings’ sunny sea port’. So the Hastings paper referred to Napier as ‘Hastings’ sunny sea port. The Auckland paper protest is like saying ‘Pukekohe considers Auckland as merely an access to the sea.’ [Chuckles]

But what are these influences on today? Well the Gas Board … that is no longer, gobbled up by Contact or Orion – I think it was Orion; the port … the port is now owned by the Regional Council – it’s a very valuable and profitable asset; the railway … it’s at the point where it’s use is almost non-existent; Hospital is now in Hastings … that’s a relevant issue, but for completely different reasons; Education … EIT is now flourishing – we missed out on a full University but we’ve built EIT into a valuable resource; the airport … fifty per cent by the Crown – more of a strategic asset. Hastings at one point thought they were going to actually build their own airport, but then there’s difficulty just getting the runway extended. Milk … that Milk Board’s all gone now; you’re aware we’ve only got one newspaper, in Hastings, and there are some Napier people that weren’t happy about that at the time; the earthquake … well, it’s still known as the Napier earthquake, which does annoy some people.

So of all those issues, the hospital issue was not really a local decision, and even the port coming under the Regional Council was more a product of the 1989 local government reform.

So many in Napier, as we’re all now aware, resent Hastings’ location as being a [the] base hospital, and it will probably take a generation to forget this. So really, in terms of the past differences, a lot of these are now largely forgotten – you know, generations have passed … that one there [shows photo] is still there due to Hastings having the base hospital. As I said there’s still people in Napier trying to get the hospital back.

I want to touch on why I think Napier … and it’s no secret, it’s come out in the papers that it’s not really happy to contribute towards amalgamation … why it may necessarily be like that. Well right from the start, Napier was established as the capital, and one of the driving forces behind Napier was its 30,000 Club. Now this 30,000 Club was formed in 1912, and it had many objectives in addition to raising Napier’s population to thirty thousand. So they tried to foster civic pride; establish industries; having a free port; encouraging tourism; Napier as being bright and breezy … [shows photos] and that’s actually the Marine Parade … they’ve been turned out for the photo. So many of the objectives of that Club were actually to promote Hawke’s Bay, but they actually were mainly limited to Napier. The 30,000 Club existed right into about the 1950s, and really set the foundations for years to come in building Napier’s identity. Most of Napier’s foreshore was planned by the Club. About the time of the earthquake of course, they thought Napier would never get to the population because of the limitation. But Napier, right from that time, had what we would call branding today, promoting itself as a seaside resort; a healthy and sunny place; the ‘Nice of the South’ … exactly what they said – the Nice of the Southern Hemisphere.

And over the years, Napier’s also developed some real powerful, cultural symbols such as the Aquarium, the Marineland [shows photos] which is there. And I believe that a lot of the issue with Napier is not actually that they want to see dolphins swimming around – it’s so much a part of Napier’s identity, I actually believe that they’re actually grieving for that loss. So I think that’s a part of what I believe. We also know what happened when Pania was stolen – national news, a big issue. So we’ve got the Napier Arts … so you see Napier represents itself a lot with symbols, it remembers things and attaches a lot of attention to symbols. When I took that photo, the naked lady’s gone … minus the lady. So I turned up to take the photo, and I said “the lady’s gone!” [Chuckles] And then I read that notice saying that it was being cleaned or something, which … I did remember something about that. Even the symbolism of the Veronica Bell. Hastings was helped by the ‘HMS Diomede’, but there was no real relationship formed with that ship. But there was with the ‘Veronica’. So I believe Napier attaches part of its identity … it attaches itself to symbols, and a powerful symbol of their heritage. And of course since the 1980s another powerful sense of identity has been created in Art Deco, and Napier brands itself ‘Napier, the Art Deco capital’. Although some dislike Art Deco – well, only a few – its sense of identity both here and nationally cannot be disputed. And the Hawke’s Bay Museum also started in Napier because of their interest obviously in history and things cultural.

Hastings is quite different in organisations and symbols. There was a movement called Advance Hastings which I can’t find a lot of detail about, but once again it centred about retailing, and about parades to get people to come and shop. It was probably in response to Napier’s 30,000 Club. The other organisation which some of you would be aware of is Greater Hastings, which was formed basically by Harry Poppelwell after Napier became a city in 1950. It was formed to try and promote Hastings’ interests and also to become a city, but it focused once again on parades and shopping. In doing this research I guess I found things in Hastings’ strategy to compete with Napier as a strong retail presence … trying to build that strong retail presence.

I think – and some may [be] upset with this – but I don’t think Hastings attaches the same … [shows slide] there’s the Advance Hastings symbol up there … does not attach the same importance to memorials or symbolism that Napier does. 1995 was the first time, when Hastings actually put something on the clock tower to remember its victims of the earthquake. And also too, Hastings … and I think there’s reasons for this … has struggled in some ways with its identity. ‘The Fruitbowl of New Zealand’; taste fine sunshine, take a fresh look at Hastings, part of Hawke’s Bay; Fantasyland to Splash Planet; The Salt of the Earth’ episode. And I’ve even heard one suggestion saying ‘Hastings – it’s near Napier’. [Laughter]

So I believe part of this with Hastings, is the size of Hastings. Napier’s one hundred and four square kilometres; Hastings is five thousand two hundred and seventeen – it’s more difficult I believe for Hastings to build that with so much disparative [disparate] interest. It’s easier for Napier, and let’s face it, a lot of … when you talk about associating Napier, is that Marine Parade. And it always has been their flagship, and they’ve known it too.

A student from Auckland University, Caitlyn Crook, also looked at the differences between Hastings and Napier, and she too came to the conclusion that Napier’s Art Deco is quite a strong factor in their identity.

That’s Harry Poppelwell [showing slide] – that’s a part of the parades that he did. So Hastings is quite different – it doesn’t appear to value heritage buildings as much as Napier. Many Napier Art Deco guides are in fact from Hastings and Havelock North. And it’s really been difficult to get Hastings Spanish walks going, and I understand that they’ve folded. And Hastings actually has a very good collection of Art Deco buildings, so you can see there’s quite a difference. There’s people … part of the Art Deco Trust … that actually come from Hastings and Havelock. Part of it’s wanting to belong to a successful organisation – I accept that, but it’s very difficult to get, sometimes, things going – I’ve found, anyway, personally – in Hastings.

So after the 1989 local body reorganisation, as I said, Napier’s boundaries changed only slightly, and Hastings has a diverse area incorporating town and country. So in terms of Hastings identity, as I said, it has a wider area and a more diverse population, making it perhaps more difficult to have a sense of identity because of the diverse interests. And then after the ‘89 amalgamation, ya know, Havelock wasn’t happy – the rural revolt – Napier basically carried on without too many difficulties – I know I was working for Napier at the time, as in management accounting, way back then.

So as you can see … read the newspaper … there’s some resistance coming from Napier in a few sort of … those horrible text things, which I think people should be made to put their name to. But many Napier citizens are also publishing their opposition, but little has come from Hastings. Some of the reasons why I think, Hastings … the resistance from Napier as I said – I believe that there’s a strong sense of identity that they’ve built, and it’s re-enforced by the earthquake and Art Deco; it’s a smaller area; there is I believe a possible a mistrust of Hastings’ motives; I believe there’s misinformation – I think there’s some information being talked about debt and things which is not correct, but that information has unfortunately I think, had a negative effect; and I think … there’s the Councillors in Napier and other people have a real satisfaction with the status quo. That’s my opinion, and why Napier is probably not interested – and probably it’s not rocket science and some of you may have come to that conclusion as well.

So why might Hastings district be more comfortable? The leadership of Mayor Lawrence Yule – there’s no doubt about it, people have responded to Lawrence’s leadership in this issue. He’s stood up and said “this is what I believe”, and now there are lots of people that are following. Hastings district is a larger diverse area. It’s also one that’s used to amalgamation – it’s had teething problems – it’s used to it. Also, some of the infrastructural initiatives driven by Hastings would, I suspect … Lawrence agrees with this … go a bit better with regional co-operation. And I know Napier’s got the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery, but I think Hastings has been visible in driving initiatives, and I think it understands or appreciates the need to actually have regional co-operation in that respect. There have been examples of that such as the Pettigrew Green arena, but I remember there was a bit of a kerfuffle over that, too I think, but I can’t remember the details. I’m over that.

So in conclusion – what’s different about the world that we live in today, that is different from the divisive past? Well, we can no longer afford to have two of everything. We’re so close to each other – or rather, political or government forces won’t allow us to have the two of everything, such as the hospital. New Zealand was once a very prosperous place in the 1950s, and we’re no longer able to live off the sheep’s back like we once did. At one stage, as I said before, Hastings believed it could establish its own airport to rival Napier’s. Clearly this is now not an option. Distance between both cities is now not an issue. We are … many of us are truly citizens of Hawke’s Bay. We work, shop, own businesses and live in each other’s cities. The world is also a more complex place than what it was in the past … globalisation; mobile citizens and capital; there’s more legislation such as the Resource Management Act; local government now takes on more responsibilities; mayors and councillors have to expand beyond the three Rs … roading, rates and rubbish … to now include economic and environmental considerations. We know that disagreeing over infrastructural assets has hurt Hawke’s Bay in the past, and possibly has the potential to do that in the future. And though structural reorganisational proposals are not necessarily the answer to the problems, sub-optimal performance[s] of organisations are not necessarily sometimes due to structural issues. But I believe that at the heart of the matter for me, is utilisation of Hawke’s Bay resources in the best possible manner for our region. For example, projects that are of benefit regionally should get support and not starve due to insufficient resources that one city or district cannot afford on its own. Also, these projects should not be seen as Napier or Hastings but as Hawke’s Bay’s. While this could be possible without re-organisation, some argue it could be achieved easier with one unitary local government authority.

So the world itself is moving in many areas of rationalisation. My organisation, the Chartered Accountant[s] … NZICA now … changes its name every five minutes as well. NZICA – we’re moving to more rationalisation models. We’re moving to more combining, so it’s not unusual for that to happen. So in this context though, there is a danger in loss of identity, community spirit and control, which I argue Napier possibly … well, fears. If amalgamation went ahead and one unitary body was established, I believe that in order to retain individual identities leaders, either elected or otherwise, will have to foster or maintain a community spirit – similar to what has occurred in the earlier formation of our towns.

So I believe Havelock in some ways has lost a lot of its community spirit as evidenced last year, and that’s not to point the finger at anybody, ‘cause I believe it’s not only local government, it’s individuals and communities that need to put their hands up. We can’t expect Councils to organise everything. So in some ways, loss of the purse strings does not mean that our community spirit has to die with it. I believe Lawrence Yule, in my opinion, is correct in raising the issue of amalgamation and the debate about it. One day – just in closing – I believe there will be one local government authority, and when this does occur a socially constructed model, where agreement is reached in shape or form, would be preferable to a forced model, which I have tried to show in the past has produced undesirable side effects. However, this requires a new mind set of thinking in Hawke’s Bay as a whole, while still retaining our unique identities. So we can probably … I mean James Wattie said this with some of the frustrating airport issues that were going on, but I think I like this quote: “Much bickering and political bias in the development of Hawke’s Bay causes delays. I only wish we could think of Hawke’s Bay … I would like to be the ‘Hawk Eye guy.’ And with that I’ve finished, and I thank you for your attendance here tonight.


Joyce: I think we should take two or three comments or questions.

Question: It’s not clear from what you’ve said what possible or real advantage there might be for me.

Michael: Yeah. I mean … I wasn’t going to get into this, but I guess if you think of Hastings and Napier as a whole … and Hawke’s Bay as a whole, then I think that for me it’s about resources. You know, are we using the resources … when we’re doing big projects, are we able to agree on one project and get resources to that project, without sort of – “well, if you support my project I’ll support yours”. So I believe that we’re too close together; that we actually need that type of thinking, or [we need an] organisation to do that. I mean you’re never going to get people that’ll agree with structural assets that are built, and that’s part of democracy and electing leaders that we do. But I mean, and I’ve heard Lawrence talk of this before, you know – if you don’t push infrastructural assets forward and be seen to be promoting Hawke’s Bay, you get criticised for that. You know, there’s people that want you to concentrate on rates, rubbish and the other one – roads, so yeah – it’s not an easy thing.

Joyce: Michael’s book’s here – may I finish by saying Michael has very graciously declined his gift tonight.

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Format of the original

Audio recording

Additional information

Landmarks Talk 13 June 2011

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.