Dine’s tales a valuable Hawke’s Bay archive
By Roger Moroney
Dr Owen Dine was a remarkable man.
His devoted work within the Hawke’s Bay medical fraternity was second to none – as was his devotion to assembling a history of the Petane region, which takes in the Esk Valley, Bay View and Westshore areas where he plied his stethoscope and medications for many a year.
He undoubtedly began picking up colourful and diverse tales of the early years and of long-established families as he served the people of the district.
He was hugely respected and not a man to step back when stepping up was required.
Upon retirement in 2001 he began compiling a complete history of Petane and its people-as well as issues of local politics, erosion, reading and commerce.
Sadly, he died before his immense collection of notes and manuscripts could be worked into book form – but that was where noted author Judy Siers stepped in after being approached by Dr Dine’s family.
She, like them, became committed to getting the work into print, and the result is a crisp and colourful history.
One of his sons, Andrew, said the project had been a non-profit one as the family simply wanted to have the valuable history of that part of Hawke’s Bay published – for the benefit of future generations and as a legacy to dad.
He said the book had been well received in the local community and feedback had been positive.
As the notes on the cover effectively sum it up, it is “a compilation of history, memories and anecdotes”.
The name Petane, it is pointed out early in the piece, was the result of pronunciation and spelling changes over the years of the name Bethany – which had been applied by the Rev William Colenso.
It is when you read through the early pages of its Maori history and that of the early European settlers that you quickly realise the amount of work Dr Dine put in.
It is concise, complete and detailed.
He noted that in the 1850s the Maori population of the Esk Valley was estimated at 1100. There were two Europeans – Mr and Mrs William Craig. From this information (and it is a delightful theme throughout the book) the remarkable tangents of tales emerge; in this case, how Mr Craig eventually moved to Napier and set up the Vulcan Foundry.
The other pioneer families are then examined, and the examination of noted local families and faces continues through the decades and through the many colourful chapters.
Amidst the proﬁles are chapters on everything from the region’s history of schooling, of the old North British and HB Freezing Works, the railways and roads, the hotels and inns, the shipping disasters on that coast, the ﬁshing, the earthquake, the 1960 tsunami. . . everything.
There are several thought-provoking profiles of erosion and the disintegration of the one [once?] sandy Westshore seafront.
It’s not a new phenomenon, for back in 1893 a petition signed by 48 people was presented to the Napier Harbour Board. It noted concerns that the construction of a breakwater had begun to restrict the ﬂow of shingle which used to bolster the Western Spit, which was showing signs or erosion.
The later controversies revolving around erosion and port expansion are also detailed.
There are gems galore within the 552 pages.
Like early policing, and how the local constable during the 1930s and ’40s, Darcy Walden, was “circumspect” in his decisions – like turning a blind eye to two British chaps who jumped ship and were found working on a local market garden.
The landowner however said they were excellent workers and would be sorely missed if taken away. . . so the constable chose to ignore their presence.
And the arrival of Chinese market gardening and some of the side issues it created in the early 20th century.
As reported in 1909: “The police last night raided the premises of a Chinese fruiterer named Lin Hoy, in Hastings St, Napier, and arrested 16 out of 17 Celestials engaged in playing fan-tan, or watching progress of the game.”
Those arrested were marched in line to the police station-an “unusual sight” which drew a big crowd. Lin Hoy was charged with allowing his house to be “a common gaming house.”
There is so much to read, learn and be entertained by here, with the tales embellished by many excellent photographs.
Like an early picture showing the Rangitira Reef off Westshore beach and shots during the great ﬂoods which swept the region.
It is a terrific archive which is a valuable addition to the history of Hawke’s Bay and one the Dine family can be very proud of.
Yes, when Dr Owen Dine set out to do something, he would always do it very,very well.
Petane, by Dr Owen Dine; published by the Dine Family; $55 through Beattie and Forbes or directly from the family by emailing petane[@]xtra.co.nz
Photo caption – DEVOTION: The late Dr Owen Dine on the day he retired from medical work – but his retirement hours became devoted to producing a remarkable history of the region he doctored in for more than 40 years.