Air Services begin across Cook Strait
Free education becomes available to all under the age of 19
Fire, Earthquake and War
Fire, earthquake and war the first 60 years of Hawke’s Bay’s newspapers were marked by disasters local and international, and as the papers suffered alongside their communities, they also frequently played a strategic role in recovery efforts.
On 18 December 1886, ﬁre ripped down Napier’s Tennyson Street, showing no favouritism in selecting its victims. The fire, which began in a warehouse, was fanned by a strong northerly, the fire brigade, hampered by low water pressure could do little to stop it and the offices of the town’s two rival newspapers, the Hawke’s Bay Herald and Daily Telegraph were among the 26 buildings destroyed.
It was a signiﬁcant setback for both; the Herald had made substantial additions to plant and premises and at the height of the blaze, employees rushed out carrying cases of type, documents… anything they could save. The cost of the replacement offices, a substantial brick and stone building erected on the same site near the Church Lane corner, was $5000.
The Telegraph also rebuilt on its fire-razed site, making a start within three days. It had resumed publishing the day before, producing a small newssheet at the premises of printer Robert Harding.
The first issue reported it was “printed on one of the old machines that stood Saturday’s fire, with a piece of calico for a cover. Crowds were attracted to witness the novel printing on the ruins of the conﬂagration”.
Progress continued and on 1 February 1931 the Telegraph celebrated its diamond jubilee, hiring a steam train to take staff and families to a sports day and picnic at Ellis Wallace Road, Eskdale.
Two days later, their newly re-modelled and solid-looking offices were in ruins, ﬂattened by the 7.9 Richter-scale earthquake that struck Hawke’s Bay mid-morning on 3 February. Several staff were trapped inside, one was killed a young printer outside between two adjoining buildings was crushed in the falling rubble.
The linotype press, one of the most modern of any of New Zealand’s provincial newspapers, was reduced to a tangled wreck, but again the Telegraph rallied. Editor Trevor Geddis arranged the use of Ball and Co’s printing offices and on 4 February, the first of eight daily news bulletins appeared, printed on a treadle operated hand press. The bulletins, the only source of official information, were a vital means of communication in the devastated town.
A few days later, when Ball’s offices were declared unsafe, the Telegraph moved again, this time taking refuge in a play shed at Te Awa School, where it worked for almost three weeks before relocating to speedily-erected temporary premises on the comer of Vautier and Dalton streets. It was back in full production on 23 February but faced several more shifts, first to ‘Tintown’ Clive Square, then the since-
demolished Marist Hall, before being back in permanent premises two years later. These, the much-admired art deco building designed by EA Williams, were heavily reinforced against earthquakes.
The Hawke’s Bay Herald, its offices also destroyed, proved less resilient and its days as a Napier printed paper ended with the acceptance of Hastings’ Hawke’s Bay Tribune’s offer to print on its behalf. A few months later the two papers’ ownership companies combined and although the Herald continued as a separate publication until 1937, it eventually merged with the Hastings paper to establish the Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune.
Like the Telegraph, the Tribune lost one staff member in the ’quake, although not in the newspaper offices.
Chief reporter Arthur (Darby) Ryan was killed leaving Hastings Post Office when the large clock fell on him from two storeys above.
The Tribune’s Karamu Road-Queen Street corner offices were badly shaken, the upper storey housing the commercial offices becoming so unstable it was later removed. Staff salvaged the damaged press and two linotype machines, and with 30 ‘extras’ employed for the reconstruction effort, re-established operations in a temporary iron shed.
Meanwhile, printer Percy George collaborated in the production of a newssheet providing important public information such as casualty lists and evacuation, salvage, sanitary and safety instructions The first appeared on 5 February, handset and printed on a treadle machine, and by the 11th and last issue, circulation was over 1700. On 16 February, the normal four-page paper was back on the streets.
The following 15 or so years brought other challenges for the Bay’s newspapers, first the Depression and then the Second World War, which saw staff leave to join the forces, and newsprint and other necessary materials rationed, so that the Herald-Tribune for example, was reduced from its usual 12 to 6 pages, to six. Paradoxically, the international tragedy provided opportunities to add new visual interest to newspapers with dramatic photos from war correspondents overseas.
ISSUED BY THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
With THE CO-OPERATION OF Messrs. Ball and Co
NAPIER, H.B., FEBRUARY 6 1931.
People seeking missing friends or relatives are requested to immediately inform the Police at Headquarters in Byron Street.
THE FIRE MENACE.
TWO BLAZES SUBDUED LAST NIGHT.
After the quake about midnight last night, fire broke out in two locations, on the Bluff Hill, and at Napier South. The blaze on the Bluff at the residence of Mr. Jenkinson, Seapoint Road, was caused through a copper in which a fire had been lighted, falling to pieces. The outbreak was a big one and menaced the whole of Seapoint Road, but sailors and marines were rushed up from the warships and did splendid work, digging down a bank to the blaze and crushing out the flames. The warships played their searchlights on to the scene of the fire, to aid operations. The blaze in Kennedy Road was subdued through the good efforts of the Napier Fire Brigade, who had water to aid them.
Five hundred people, mostly women and children, were evacuated this morning by train, bound for Palmerston North. Included in this number were the children from the Hawke’s Bay Children’s home.
GRAVE FIRE MENACE.
The public were expressly warned against the grave danger attending the leaving of lighted candles in their homes during a ’quake. All lights should be at once extinguished on account of the fire risk.
UNITED CHURCH SERVICE.
The Napier Ministers’ Association have arranged for a united church service to be held in Clive Square at the Cenotaph on Sunday Morning at 11 o’clock. If the weather is unfavourable the service will be held in the Congregational Church, which is undamaged.
A COMMON FUNERAL.
The funerals of the victims of the disaster who have been identified, with some unidentified, were held yesterday at Napier and Hastings. Fifty more people were buried in the Napier Cemetery and 49 were buried at Hastings.
SANITARY: Please secure advice on Sanitary Matters if you wish to assist in stopping the outbreak of disease.
Wash in sea for present. Report to Borough Office if no water.
Looting is absolutely forbidden as is illegal trespass. The naval and marine guards are armed and will shoot on sight where looting occurs.
Quite a large team of medical Officers and health inspectors have divided the city into the flats and the hills, with medical officers of health in charge of each district. Two other officers are in control of water distribution, and testing of water supplies.
Be careful of foodstuffs and flies.
We repeat the need for scrupulous cleanliness and also for destroying rubbish either by burning or burying, especially that liable to decompose.
LEAVING THE CITY.
The authorities at Nelson Park are doing wonderful work in getting women and children away by road and rail. Application for means to leave the city should be made at once to authorities at the park.
The authorities have taken steps to stop all northward bound traffic at the Ashurst Bridge, on the main road, and ensure that no tourists, sightseers, or other unnecessary traffic will enter the stricken area.
A very dangerous practice that should not be proceeded with, that of lighting fires in stoves that are now minus chimneys, has been much in evidence, particularly yesterday. In one instance a man climbed on to his roof and rebuilt his chimney with house bricks, after which he lit a fire. Marines had to be called in before he would extinguish it.
The Public Works Department has called for applications for labour for restabilising the essential functions of the city. All able-bodied men are being retained in the city for rehabilitation purposes and will not be permitted to leave unless in possession of a special permit.
It is most unwise to light fires inside houses, and any lit in gardens for cooking purposes must be extinguished before citizens go to sleep at night.
MEN IN URGENT DEMAND.
All able-bodied men willing to assist the authorities are requested to attend at the Police Headquarters, Byron Street, immediately.
Patrols are wanted, also men for clearing the streets.
The town is being divided into eleven districts, each to be searched by a leader with ten men, in order to take a census. All returns are to be in by 3p.m. today and any person not registered by that time is to report to the Borough Council office.
John Booth, aged 13, or anyone knowing his whereabouts, is to report at once to Mrs. Falconer at the Hastings Racecourse Hospital.
Boy Scouts are wanted urgently. All available should report to the Borough Council Offices.
Printed by the Daily Telegraph Co., Ltd, at Te Awa School.
Photo captions –
The Daily Telegraph office after the fire of 1886
The temporary office of The Daily Telegraph in Vaulter Street after the 1931 earthquake
The Victory Rotary Press reconditioned after the 1931 earthquake