City of Napier – City and 75th Jubilee Celebrations 1950

City of Napier


Souvenir Programme 1/-

MARCH 18th to 25th, 1950


THE DISTINCTION of being proclaimed a city has been achieved by Napier, capital and chief seaport of the rich, fertile province of Hawke’s Bay, little more than a century after the first traders at the settlement made their homes at Ahuriri and just 75 years after the town was officially recognised as a borough.

The first white man to set eyes on the site of the city-to-be, Napier, was James Cook, when he sailed down the East Coast of the North Island in 1769. Cook left behind him the name Hawke’s Bay, a few trinkets, and an astounded native population, although he sailed away without landing in the bay. Whalers who set up stations on the coast in the 1830’s were the first white men to become well known to the Hawke’s Bay Maoris and in 1839 William Barnard (“Barney”) Rhodes set up a trading post at Ahuriri. Its exact location is not clear and it was closed in 1841, after being burnt down by the Maoris.

Permanent Settler

The first permanent settler of whom there is accurate knowledge was Alexander Alexander, who opened a store in Onepoto Gully in 1846 or 1847.  By 1852, according to William Colenso, who established a mission station at Waitangi in 1844, the little port was a bustling place of trade with eight hotels which were often full.

Site Purchased

The site of the town of Napier was bought by Mr (afterwards Sir) Donald McLean from the Maoris in 1853. He paid £7000 for the land and the first sale of sections took place in 1855.

As the population of Napier grew, so the town extended over the hill, and by 1858 there were 15 houses in Emerson Street and several in Shakespeare Road, which had not been properly formed. The town was administered as part of the Wellington Province until 1858, when Hawke’s Bay became a separate province. The lagoon washed against the hills from the foot of Shakespeare Road right round to Pandora Point, and one of the first jobs undertaken in Napier by the new Provincial Council was to drain the swamp through which ran Carlyle Street. Afterwards this road was formed and metalled.




THE YEAR 1874 marked the realisation of  the desire of the townspeople of Napier for independence. On July 29 at a meeting of residents presided over by the Provincial Superintendent, Mr J. D. Ormond, the following motion was carried after a proposal for a town board was defeated: “That in the opinion of this meeting it is expedient that the town of Napier shall be created a borough under the Municipal Corporations Act, 1867, and its amendments.”

A petition was prepared, signed by 184 residents and presented to Parliament, and the answer was a proclamation, dated November 26, 1874, declaring Napier a borough and defining its boundaries.

The first Borough Council was elected on January 19 of the following year, and Mr Robert Stuart was returned as Mayor, with the council comprising Messrs J. H. Vautier, T. K. Newton, J. W. Neal, H. R. Holder, E. Lyndon, A. Bryson, F. Tuxford and G. H. Swan. |

Streets Transformed

The council transformed muddy streets by giving them a white limestone surface, later adding gravel, and finally laying them down in bitumen or concrete. In the early days three wells provided the town’s water supply, but a 14-year waterworks loan of £1000 was floated in 1876. The work was completed in 1877.

For the first Borough Council election 493 residents were listed on the electoral roll. In 1891 the total population was 8341, in 1906 it had risen to 9054, in 1921 to 14,536, in 1938 to 15,700, and in January, 1950, to 20,000. When Napier became a borough the town was valued at £45,000, while on April 1, 1949, the capital value was fixed at £9,817,795.

Cathedral to be Rebuilt

Some of the most important steps in the history of the city have been taken in the fields of education and religion. The first organised effort to establish an educational institution was made by the early settlers when they raised a fund to build a private school in 1855. This school was privately run until the first public school was opened in 1879. In 1874 the Boys’ High School was opened and the Girls’ High School was established in 1884.

The first church to be built in Napier was erected by the Roman Catholic Church in 1859. The Presbyterian Church built St. Paul’s Church in 1861 and St. John’s Church was erected by the Church of England a year later. The foundation stone for St. John’s Cathedral was laid in September, 1886, and the edifice was opened in December, 1888, but was destroyed in the 1931 earthquake. The Diocese of Waiapu now plans to rebuild the cathedral.



THE HISTORY of Napier is a story of unbroken battling against encroachment by swamp and sea, from the time the township became recognised as one of the future provincial centres of the thriving young colony of New Zealand until the present day.

Despite the extensive reclamation carried out by the Borough Council along the southern base of Scinde Island, Napier was experiencing a famine in land by 1900. The ingenuity of a small group of citizens gave the town a new lease of life. These men – Messrs William Nelson, C. D. Kennedy, G. Latham and A. Langlands – formed a company which diverted the Tutaekuri River from its outlet into the inner harbour to a new mouth two miles south of Napier. Silt deposited when the river rose in flood and spoil carried down from Bluff Hill provided the filling for a 1000-acre block which became known as Napier South, and by 1925 the whole of the 1000 acres had been reclaimed. No sooner was the filling in completed than the land was built on and by 1930 another land famine threatened the future of Napier.

Disaster – and Relief

On February 3, 1931, disaster struck at the province. An earthquake shattered Napier and Hastings, and a fire which swept through the business area of Napier completed the wreck of the town. Those who surveyed the scene of carnage on that fateful day did not realise that the earthquake also provided the only thing that would allow Napier not only to be rebuilt but to expand indefinitely. But that is just what did happen, for the earthquake raised thousands of acres of land from below the highwater mark in the Ahuriri lagoon.

Thousands of Newcomers

The people rebuilt their town and Marewa was the first new suburb to spring up on the raised land. The State and private home builders played complementary roles in housing the thousands of people who poured into Napier in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. Title of the raised land was held by the Napier Harbour Board and in 1934 the board reached an agreement with the Napier Borough Council which enabled a scheme for opening up this suburb to be put in hand. Six years ago another agreement led to the opening up of a smaller block, of 28 acres, and a further agreement completed the in 1946 led to the development of Onekawa, the new suburb springing up on the city outskirts.

One residential outlet for the growing city is the town district of Taradale, lying less than four miles to the south-west of Napier. Nearly as old in its history as Napier itself, Taradale has become a thriving residential centre.


THE FUTURE of Napier has never been more assured than it is to-day, for plenty of land is available for further expansion. The demand for sections in the young city’s newest suburb, Onekawa, is proof that growth of the city has far from stopped, and it will not be many years before up to 4000 more people will be housed on this area, most of which is still down in green pastures.

When it became apparent that the potentialities of Marewa and the 28-acre block had been nearly exhausted, the Borough Council opened fresh negotiations with the Napier Harbour Board, and in 1946 agreement was reached between the two bodies on a long-term plan for a block of 1050 acres, extending from the outer boundary of Marewa almost to the racecourse at Greenmeadows, to be eventually absorbed into the borough.

The block extends from Taradale road to a point 14 chains south of Kennedy Road, and it will be a number of years before the whole of the area is taken into the borough. The first part to be absorbed into the city was the 278 acres adjoining Marewa and on this area, containing about 950 individual residential sites, the suburb of Onekawa is being built.

Modern Town Planning

The new suburb has been town-planned on modern lines and will be wholly devoted to residential purposes, except for community buildings and a small shopping area. The authorities of the Roman Catholic Church have purchased a site for a church and a boys’ college, six acres have been set aside for a primary school, and two centrally placed blocks, totalling 25 acres, are to become parks and recreation grounds.

No Doubt About Future

There will be no through traffic on the roads in Onekawa except on the two main arterial routes, Kennedy Road and Taradale Road. The sections in the new suburb are roomy, ranging in size from just under one-fifth, to over one-quarter of an acre.

Beautification of the city has been one of the objectives of the Borough Council, and it has been pursued in the new suburban areas. In Onekawa one innovation is the placing of power poles behind the sections, eliminating them from the streets.

Onekawa celebrated its first birthday on January 25, 1950, for it was one year prior to that date that the first sections in the new suburb were handed over to the prospective home builders. In that first year more than 100 sections have been placed on the market and the new suburb is rapidly coming to life, for the first dozen homes are occupied already and as many more are well on the way towards completion.

When development of Onekawa is complete – it will not be very many years – the opening up of the next block of land in the direction of Taradale will give still more room for expansion. Napier’s future is no longer in doubt. To-day the population of the city is 20,000. By 1965 it might be nearly double that figure.



Official Ceremony



1.45 p.m.

3.00 p.m.
ARRIVAL OF OFFICIAL PARTY   (Guard of Honour: Napier Boys’ High School Cadets)

NATIONAL ANTHEM   (Massed Hawke’s Bay Bands)

HYMN   (Massed Napier Church Choirs)   (Massed H.B. Bands)

“O God Our Help in Ages Past”

I.   O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

II.   Beneath the shadow of Thy Throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.

III.   Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her fame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.


MASSED MARCHING DISPLAY   (Hawke’s Bay Interhouse Marching Assn.)   (Hawke’s Bay Scottish Pipe Band)

THE HON. W. A. BODKIN   (Minister of Internal Affairs)


“GOD DEFEND NEW ZEALAND”   (Massed Napier Church Choirs)   (Massed Hawke’s Bay Bands)

1.  God of Nations! At Thy Feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices we entreat,
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,

2.   Man of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place –
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption, guard our State,
Make our country good and great –

BLESSING    The Rt. Rev. N. A. Lesser, Bishop of Waiapu.

MARCH PAST – OLD IDENTITIES   (Hawke’s Bay Scottish Pipe Band)

NAPIER MASSED CHURCH CHOIRS    Conductor, Mr John Emmett

MASSED HAWKE’S BAY BANDS    Conductor, Mr Charles Bryant (President, H.B. Brass Bands’ Assn.)

Most Gratifying Occasion

THE PROCLAMATION of Napier as a city is one of the most gratifying moments in my term of office as Mayor, and it is with a deep sense of pride that I express my congratulations to all those who have contributed towards this achievement.

The advances made since the early days, a century ago, are due to the combined efforts of all those who have been citizens of Napier, and particularly of the community’s leaders, including the former Mayors and Councillors who controlled the affairs of the town. It is fitting that the celebration of Napier’s elevation to city status and the 75th jubilee of the Borough of Napier should fall together, for their coincidence clearly shows the rapid progress that has been made in such a short span of time. I have received many messages of congratulation and goodwill, from all parts of the world, on Napier’s achievement of city status. One of the most valued is the following, from Lord Napier and Ettrick, for our city was named after his famous ancestor, Sir Charles Napier:-

“It is indeed a privilege and great honour for me to offer to you, your city, and its illustrious citizens, my warmest congratulations on this auspicious occasion. NAPIER and ETTRICK (Lieutenant-Colonel the Lord Napier and Ettrick, T.D., D.L., J.P.)”

I must also express my thanks to the host of citizens who have played a part in organising these celebrations. Every contribution, no matter how large or small, has been of the utmost importance in making the festivities one of the most memorable occasions in the history of our city. The enthusiasm and energy which has been displayed is a good augury for a bright, happy future for the young City of Napier.
Mayor of Napier.



THE TRADITION established by Napier as a mecca for tourists has become more enriched with each passing year of the last few decades, until to-day the city admits no peers in New Zealand as a seaside holiday resort.

Centre of interest always is the Marine Parade, with its attractions built on the foreshore close to the town. With the beautiful Tom Parker fountain adding a kaleidoscope of colour to the evening scene, the Parade provides Summer attractions for all ages from dawn until well into the night. A swimming pool and hot salt baths, the beach for sun-bathing, cool gardens and lawns for a stroll, a skating rink for the more energetic, the sound shell for concerts and other entertainment, putting and bowling greens, and tennis courts –  these are among the facilities offered to all who wish to take advantage of them.

Variety of Entertainment

Thousands of holidaymakers pour into Napier every Summer, and particularly over the Christmas-New Year period of festivities, and they are attracted not only by the physical  beauties of Napier but by the comprehensive programme of entertainment that is provided for them. Among these entertainments are bathing beauty contests, impromptu concerts, Kennel Club ribbon parades, exhibitions by juvenile pavement artists, open-air dances, band programmes and concerts by Napier’s famed Frivolity Minstrels. Adding to the festivities are a wide variety of sporting activities.

Ambitious Scheme Ahead

Although the Marine Parade already provides a wealth of entertainment in a colourful setting, its development – like that of the City of Napier itself – is still far from complete. Plans for additions and improvements are constantly being considered and an ambitious scheme lies ahead. It includes new sunbays along the promenade; offices, dressingrooms and other facilities on the land between the putting green and tennis courts; a new skating rink, comparable to the best in New Zealand, south of the tennis courts; and a war memorial community centre embracing facilities for all forms of indoor activity from dancing to table tennis.


WHILE THE Marine Parade is the central attraction for holidaymakers visiting Napier, it is but one of the many beauty spots that the city and its district offer. For instance, few places in New Zealand offer such a variety of entrancing scenes as Scinde Island, the hill which comprised old Napier. The hill is also the site of the delightful Botanical Gardens, and the amphitheatre of the Gardens, surrounded by the tree-clad hillsides, presents an ideal setting for the festival of Carols by Candle-light which is celebrated in Napier on Christmas Eve.

Several parks provide the setting for sports activities, with Nelson Park as the home of cricket and McLean Park the home of Rugby and athletics. McLean Park, venue of the historical national track and field championship meeting held prior to the Empire Games at Auckland, admits no peers in this Dominion, perhaps in the world, as a grass track for athletics. Marewa Park, League Park and the South Pond are the headquarters of other sporting movements.

Pleasant Contrast

Among the most attractive beauty spots in the city are Clive and Memorial Squares, lying side by side in the heart of the business area. Their quiet, peaceful lawns and gardens, set out amid a wealth of trees and shrubs, provide a pleasant contrast to the busy city scene.

In addition to the Municipal Baths on the Marine Parade, swimmers and sunbathers find that Westshore is a grand beach and there are many other perfect beaches and riverside picnic spots and swimming pools both north and south of the City.

Sports-minded City

Full facilities for sailing, lawn bowls, speedway racing, golf, tennis, croquet, and skating are also provided by the municipal authorities and individual sports bodies, both for the entertainment of the visitors and for city residents themselves, for the city is one of the most sports-minded centres in the Dominion. Those of a more leisurely frame of mind, who wish to see as much as they can of Hawke’s Bay, find that there are a variety of sightseeing tours available to many points of interest in Napier itself and in other parts of Hawke’s Bay. Expeditions to Cape Kidnappers to see the gannet colony – the only colony of gannets in New Zealand that is reasonably accessible – leave from Napier and from Hastings regularly, and another favourite jaunt is from Napier to the game farm at Greenmeadows. The group of kiwis at the game farm present a double attraction, because of unusual natural characteristics of New Zealand’s national bird and the fact that they are the only group of kiwis in captivity in the world.



THE EXPANSION of Napier in the past century reflects the degree of development of the land throughout the province of Hawke’s Bay and, to an increasing extent in recent years, the growth of secondary industry in the City.

Primary production has been the lifeblood of the whole province, and scientific progress in farming, together with more intensive cultivation, has led to ever-increasing prosperity of the province as a whole. The large freezing works between Napier and Hastings and the wool stores at Port Ahuriri, creating an occupation for extensive labour forces, provide a practical demonstration of the complementary functions of urban and rural communities, while returns from the wool sales held regularly in Napier – the boom in prices has carried the gross Hawke’s Bay wool cheque well into the millions of pounds a season – show just how important successful agricultural operations are to the economy of the province.

Contribute to Wealth

While sheep farming is the most important single phase of primary industry in Hawke’s Bay, several forms of land usage contribute substantially to the wealth of the province. Pip and stone fruit crops amounting to millions of cases are produced in the picturesque orchards on the fertile Heretaunga Plains, a wide variety of vegetables is produced in the market gar dens on the plains, vineyards are establishing an enviable reputation for the bouquet of Hawke’s Bay wines, apiaries are producing honey that is highly regarded for its quality, and in suitable locales dairy farms are adding to the Dominion’s production of butter and cheese.

4,300,000 Sheep Grazing

Statistics graphically illustrate the expansion of farming in Hawke’s Bay. Returns made in 1854 show that on something more than 200,000 acres being grazed on the Hapuku and Ahuriri blocks there were running 18,750 sheep and 216 cattle.

The latest returns available show that in 1946- 47 2,778,000 acres of the 2,799,500 acres of land in Hawke’s Bay was occupied. The area occupied was utilised as follows: – Tussock and other native grasses, 399,000 acres; native bush, 97,000; fern, scrub, and second growth, 257,000; barren and unproductive, 38,000; grasses, clover and lucerne, 1,911,000; green fodder and root crops, 44,000; grain and pulse crops, 9000; timber and shelter plantations, 11,000; orchards and market gardens, 5000; private gardens and nurseries, 5000; fallow, 2000.

In the 1946-47 season there were 4,300,000 sheep (more than one-eighth of the total in the Dominion) grazing in Hawke’s Bay, as well as 381,000 cattle, of which 49,000 were dairy cows in milk.




SECONDARY INDUSTRY has played an  ever-growing part in the thriving commercial life of Napier and this phase of the city’s activity reveals careful planning for an era of even greater prosperity ahead.

As a business centre Napier is one of the most up-to-date in New Zealand. All buildings in the commercial section of the town are of modern design, streets are roomy and well laid out, and the general appearance is one of healthy activity.

Industrialists, both large and small, have found Napier a pleasant venue for their enterprises in the past, and interest taken by outside manufacturers indicate that the future of Napier as a light industrial centre is bright. The Napier Borough Council has recognised the importance of this activity to the economy of the city and last year completed an agreement with the Napier Harbour Board for the opening up of a light industrial block of 71 acres on the west of Taradale road.

Room to Expand Assured

Preliminary development work has been carried out in the block and already several applications have been made for factory sites. The block fills a dual purpose – assuring light industries of room in which they can expand and keeping industrial undertakings away from residential areas, thus assisting materially in planning the new suburbs.

New Fertiliser Works

Both agriculturalists and townspeople are vitally interested in an enterprise which will become one of the largest single industrial units in Hawke’s Bay when it is established in the Napier district within the next year or two. This enterprise is a fertiliser works, and a company with £500,000 capital, backed by the primary producers of the province, has been formed to conduct the business. The fertiliser works will make an important contribution to the economy of Napier and Hawke’s Bay. Huge quantities of raw materials will have to be imported – production from the works is expected to total up to 130,000 tons of superphosphate a year – and this will mean the provision of additional facilities at the Port of Napier and between the Port and the fertiliser works to handle large shipments of essential materials. The works will provide an occupation for an extra labour force, and the output of fertiliser will be an invaluable booster to the primary production of the province.



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Booklet (9-32 pages)

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18-25 March 1950


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