Newspaper Article 1998 – Quake highlighted need for Red Cross

Quake highlighted need for Red Cross

The Hastings branch of the Red Cross Society has moved from its headquarters of 20 years. Herald-Tribune reporter KATE TAYLOR looked into the history of the Red Cross in Hastings.

During the First World War, various guilds and bodies were set up in New Zealand to provide comforts and welfare services for the sick and wounded.

But it was not until the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in 1931 that the need for an organisation such as Red Cross in New Zealand was highlighted.

The first Red Cross Society was established in 1931 following an extensive relief programme in aid of the victims of the earthquake.

The first meetings were held in the mayor’s room at the Hastings City Council, but the society grew quickly and in 1936 it moved to rooms above Rolf Keys in Heretaunga St West.

Former commandant of the Hastings Red Cross Society, Topsy Bolt, said times had changed dramatically for Red Cross through the years.

Miss Bolt joined the Hastings branch in 1940 and is now its patron, along with Jean Orbell. A former commandant of the society, she was also a Karitane nurse and in charge of the Mahora Plunket aid post during the Second World War.

One of [the] society’s main aims was to show people how to cope with disaster, which obviously war was, she said.

Red Cross classes specialised in home nursing, first aid, hygiene and sanitation. Miss Bolt was one of more than 200 girls who sat the first exams and did 60 hours hospital training to become a voluntary aid.

She said when trained nurses were called to duty overseas, girls did service in New Zealand military hospitals, hospital ships and their local hospitals. A transport division was also formed, with members training in engineering as well as first aid.

The next home for the Hastings branch was a property in Eastbourne St, where it was based from 1954 to 1978. It then bought a house in Tomoana Rd, which it has since outgrown.

Hawke’s Bay regional field officer Sarah Stove, said the core function of Red Cross had not changed in New Zealand since the war but its approach had.

She said the Tomoana Rd house was not suitable for the commercial first aid courses they now run to help fund core activities.

Training courses were run in the large front room of the old house which was also used for a used clothing shop and a once-in-a-fortnight drop-in centre where elderly people could have a chat and a cup of tea while rolling bandages for the hospital.

The building also housed three offices and an office/storage room for the training instructors.

Today, the society has a range of community tasks, including taking about 60 people a week to medical appointments. Last year Red Cross bought a 10-seater van to help keep up with the demand.

“We don’t charge but donations are always gratefully accepted,” Ms Stove said.

Red Cross has emergency response units in Napier and Hastings, run by volunteers using Red Cross funded equipment. Red Cross also has the mandate for emergency clothing and civil registration in a civil defence emergency.

Each week, more than 500 hot meals a week are delivered by volunteer drivers through the Meals on Wheels service and the hospital library delivers magazines to wards and day rooms at Hawke’s Bay Hospital in Hastings. A range of paperbacks, large-print books, wheelchairs, commodes and walking sticks are all available on loan.

Among fundraising activities undertaken by volunteers is knitting for needy families. Like most organisations, fundraising plays an important part. The Hastings branch is running a lottery to raise funds for the community vehicle service. There will also be the annual gala at the end of November and the annual telephone appeal in March, as well as Red Rose Day.

Hastings coordinator Maree Costello said Red Cross was well-known for raising funds for international programmes, but was “community-based and community-minded” as well.

There are ten branches in Hawke’s Bay at Bay View, Hastings, Havelock North, Kaiwaka, Maraekakaho, Napier, Omakere, Takapau, Te Awanga and Waipukurau.

Dannevirke is a branch in the Manawatu-Wanganui district and there are also Red Cross groups at Puketapu and Waihau/Patoka.

The international Red Cross movement was formed in the 1860s by a young Swiss businessman, Jean Henri Dunant. He organised volunteers from nearby villages to care for 40,000 French and Austrian soldiers who lay dead or wounded after a bloody battle in 1859.

He recorded the experiences in a book which roused the conscience of the rest of the world.

In 1863 the Red Cross International Committee was founded. Its first Geneva Convention was held in 1864 where the Red Cross symbol was adopted.

The red cross on a white background is now a world-wide symbol which guarantees the protection of personnel, buildings and equipment involved in wartime relief activities.

Photo caption – Hastings Red Cross patron Topsy Bolt commandant of the Hastings society at the opening of the Hastings War Memorial Hospital in 1959


Society grew too big for its headquarters

The Hastings Red Cross has found a temporary new home in Karamu Rd, but is still looking for bigger premises.

The society grew too big for the Tomoana Rd-Avenue Rd house that had been its base for 20 years. It was sold before auction earlier this month to private buyers.

The society is temporarily based in the former Lollipops Playland building beside Video Ezy in Karamu Rd.

Training courses and other activities will be based from there until they find a suitable property to buy.

Photo caption – The exterior of the Red Cross building in Tomoana Rd which was sold earlier this month.

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Business / Organisation

Red Cross Society

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

27 October 1998

Creator / Author

  • Kate Taylor


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


  • Miss Topsy Bolt
  • Maree Costello
  • Jean Orbell
  • Ms Sarah Stove

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