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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


Town Board Formed.

In 1881, the "Town Boards' District Act" came into force and the following year Petone was, on November 16th, gazetted a town district. The first board was elected on December 9th, 1882, when the following members were returned: Mr. W. J. Kirk (the Board's first and only Chairman); Messrs. R. Brown, D. Buick, H. Udy, C. W. Haines, H. Collett and J. S. Manning. The first meeting of the Board was on December 13th.
It is most unfortunate that the minutes of the board for the first eighteen months of its existence have been destroyed.
Evidently there was some opposition to the setting up of the board as the following letter from "The Evening Post" shows:—

Petoni Town Board.

To the Editor.
Sir:—It is perhaps known to some of your readers that the Petoni township has lately been proclaimed a town district, and that a great deal of bitterness and ill-feeling has been engendered through the action of a few interested persons in trying to upset the movement. Their conduct would doubtless have been best treated by the silent contempt it deserves had not Mr. Mason, the member for Hutt, stepped out of his way to interest himself in their behalf and introduced Messrs. Valentine and Reston to the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Dick) and there accused Mr. Kirk (one of the promoters of the movement) of making an incorrect declaration in stating that two-thirds of the householders had signed the requisition. Now, under the circumstances, perhaps a plain statement of facts might interest the public.
Some months past, several residents amongst whom were Mr. Kirk, Mr. Valentine, and myself, met on the railway platform when the advisability of forming Petoni into a town district cropped up. It was suggested that a meeting should be called for that purpose, Mr. Valentine making himself conspicuous in his advocacy by offering to
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Petone Borough Council Outside Staff.

Front Row: W. Brown, O. Thomas, J. White, H.B. Wilson. S. V. Haines, R. L. Park. N. Minus, R. Sherson, R. E. Foote, J. Grant
Middle Row: P. Arthurs, C. Parrant, T. J. Henry (Engineer), W. Bain (Engineer), R. P. Goodrick (Assist Foreman), H. Goodwin (Borough Foreman). A. E. Morgan (Reserves Foreman), H. Bates, H. Haines, A. E. Boswell, H. Flux, H. Ingham.
Back Row: J.E.Douglas, A. Carlson. R. Mitchell. L. Packwood, P Riguey, S. Smith, R. Flux, G. Ofsoski (Assist,. Foreman Reserves), J. Dowsett, J. Richards, W. Cottrill, H. Hornell. G. Gough.
pay his share of the cost of advertising. There was a crowded meeting, presided over by a Dr. Hector, at which it was declared with only one dissentient voice, that it was necessary to have Petoni proclaimed a town district, and a committee was appointed to define the boundaries and draw out a requisition. Another meeting was held in the following week, at which the committee brought forward their report, which was adopted by a substantial majority. I suppose that during the interval, Mr. Valentine discovered that an hotel situated within a town district would have to pay a license fee of £40 per annum instead of the £25 he was then paying. Consequently, he with two or three others also personally interested, in a manner I can explain if called upon, worked up a strong opposition, and we therefore experienced some difficulty in obtaining the required number of signatures. I took the trouble to count the occupied dwellings in the district, and made 84, exclusive of those occupied by natives. We at length obtained 59 signatures, two of which had in the interval between starting and sending in the requisition, left the district, but we still had one over the required two-thirds. We did not strike off the names of those who had left, as they still held a large stake in the district, and we thought their names could do no harm, as we had enough without them. I think the result of the election of commissioners is a good proof of the feeling of the district, as although three of those who opposed the movement were candidates, not one of them was elected; and those who worked the hardest to push it through were returned by a large majority. Hoping in justice to Mr. Kirk and others (who have been made the butt of a great many ill-natured remarks, both in public and private) you will find room in your columns for this explanation.
I am, etc.,
D. Buick.
"Evening Post,"
December 14, 1882.
Petoni, 11 December, 1882.
About middle of 1884, the Town Board had a set-back through the action of its Town Clerk who, apparently, made out the monthly cheques in payment of various accounts, and then cashed them himself, and left for pastures new.
At this time, the board met in the old schoolroom in Sydney Street (afterwards called Ranfurly Hall) where now stands the Chronicle "printing house, and it was natural that, in seeking a successor to the defaulting Town Clerk, the board should ask the headmaster of the school, Mr. C. R. Joplin, to carry on, which he did until a Mr. Jas. Reston was appointed to all the clerical offices at £80 per annum.
Up to September, 1884, the board had banked at the Hutt, but at this date, the account was transferred to Wellington: there being no branch in Petone. Wages paid by the Borough at this time were 8/- per day, but four years later, in 1888, the board had to retrench and paid only 6/6 per day," the roadmen to find "their own tools." In November, 1884, the Town Clerk was granted the privilege of retaining 50 per cent. of the fees.
Dr. Wilford, father of the late Sir Thomas Wilford, who then resided in Lower Hutt in the building now occupied by the Electric Power Board, was appointed medical officer to the Town Board.
The chief work of the infant board was forming the various streets, and draining the low-tying parts, mostly by means of
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A Contrast: Jackson Street, looking west from empire hotel, before and after widening.

open drains. Nearly every street had its own open drain, which was bridged or culverted to give access to the houses.
In November, 1884, the Board flirted with the idea of coming to an arrangement with the City Council for a water supply, and, from this time onwards, alternative ideas for a water supply are frequently mentioned in the minutes of the board. Loan polls were actually taken, but nothing was done until after the borough was formed.
The ward system of representation was introduced into the Town Board district in December, 1884, three wards being constituted. One included all the district north of Jackson Street, but not Jackson Street: another, all east of Nelson Street south, including that portion of Jackson Street: and the third, all west of Nelson Street south, but not Nelson Street itself. The ward system continued after the borough was formed until the year 1901.
In December, 1884, a company known as the Hutt Park Railway Company, approached the board for the right to lay a railway line from the main line along the beach to the river, the line to have, for one of its purposes, the carrying of race patrons as far as the river on the way to the Hutt Park, which was then Wellington's race course. Permission was granted on condition that a 45-feet strip was left clear for a roadway along the Esplanade which was not at this time formed. This railway was duly constructed, and was used for race traffic, but its chief use was to carry offal from the Gear Meat works to manure works then situated in what is now Lever Bros, building.
During Mr. G. T. London's term as Mayor, an effort was made by the borough to purchase this railway, but the negotiations fell through, and the railway was finally removed.
In 1884, the board was by no means sure of its power in regard to the Esplanade, then unformed, and the board's solicitors were requested to advise as to the true position and, again, in May, 1885, the Government was asked to lay off a road along the Esplanade.
It sounds strange to those who recall the recent straightening of Jackson Street to learn, that, in April, 1885, a motion was placed on the minutes that steps be taken to straighten Jackson Street. This street then extended from Beach Street to Victoria Street, and ran at various angles, and was of various widths. It came into being in a very informal manner. Mr. Jackson was one of the owners of Section 5, one of the 100-acre blocks, and when he sold portions, he gave a right-of-way to each, and thus Jackson Street was commenced. References to straightening this street are mentioned right up to the time of the major effort a few years ago.
In April, 1885, Mr. Reston resigned from the position of Town Clerk, and Mr. William Jones, who was clerk to the Hutt County, took over the duties at £60 per annum.
It was at this point that Richard Clement Kirk, a young solicitor, first makes contact with the board, he being granted, under certain terms, the use of the board's office, and when, in October, 1885, Mr. Jones resigned from the position of Town Clerk, Mr. R. C. Kirk was appointed solicitor, town clerk, rate collector and treasurer at £75 per year.
Evidently town boards had greater powers than local bodies to-day, as we read that "Mr. Chapman was granted a refund of his rates on condition that he spent it on Chapman's road."
In October, 1885, the board considered a drainage and water scheme, and at the same meeting called tenders for the erection of an office. The tender of Mr. J. J. Abrahall for building the office for £69 was accepted, and the building was erected facing Jackson Street, about the western end of the present municipal buildings, and served for many years, and is now on the Recreation Ground.
In January, 1886, the first move was made to extend Jackson Street from Victoria Street to the Hutt Road, and negotiations were opened with the owners of the land, the Gear Meat Company, which was offered at £100 per acre.
In February, 1886, a loan proposal was mooted to raise £6,000 for water and drainage.
In May, 1886, it was laid down that all streets should be at least 40' wide. Mention was made of Bond Street as running off the main road.
In this month, an approach was made to the Wellington Fire Brigade, and a guarantee was given to pay for the brigade's attendance at fires.
The members of the new board elected in 1886. were Messrs. W. J. Kirk, A. W. Collett, Edwin Jackson, J. C. Kelly. George Carter, Edmund Battersby, and C. W. Haines.
Mr. Wm. Buick offered to sell eight acres of his land for £1,500 for a recreation ground. The offer was declined. A portion of this was afterwards purchased and added to the recreation area which had been purchased from the Wellington Gas Company.
A proposal was made to form borough in October, 1886.
Jackson Street was extended at this time as far as Queen Street, which was also then formed.
A proposal to approach the Hutt Town Board for a joint water scheme was rejected by the board, and in February, 1887, Percy's stream, as a source of supply, was mentioned.
It was about this time that the Wellington Gas Company was granted a concession to supply gas which, however, was never carried any further.
To lighten the darkness, a system of kerosene street lamps was instituted, the first installation consisting of eighteen lamps. The successful tenderer for the construction of the wooden posts was Mr. J. J. Abrahall.
Towards the end of 1887, the board became in financial difficulties and Mr. R. C. Kirk's appointment as Town Clerk was not renewed; the purpose being to save his salary.
In November, 1887, Mr. F. W. Leonard Kirk, a younger brother of Mr. R. C. Kirk, was appointed Town Clerk at a lower salary.
In, January, 1888, the board made its first grant to the Taita Cemetery of £25, and about this time a poll to borrow £5,000 for a water supply was carried, and it was decided to purchase 15 acres from a Mr. Hodgins for £24 an acre for waterworks. Nothing came of the proposal.

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