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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


The Borough Formed.

In March 12th, 1888, a proposal to form a borough was carried on the motion of Mr. J. Curtis (who had replaced a member of the board who had resigned).
Though the district was proclaimed a borough at the end of June or the beginning of July, 1888, the members of the old Town Board carried on for some two months, and two meetings of the Borough Council were held by the old members. For this period, Mr. W. J. Kirk acted as mayor.
The first meeting of the newly elected members was held on August 28th, 1888, when the following took their seats—Mr. S. R. Johnson (mayor), Councillors R. Mothes, Upton, Henry, Fraser, Collett, Kelly, Wilkie, and Hess; (Cr. Stansell was absent).
In September, 1888, Mr. Leonard Kirk resigned from the position of Town Clerk and Mr. Reston was re-appointed.
In November of the same year, street names were first placed at the corners of streets.
A proposal for a loan of £10,000 for water and drainage was rejected in June, 1898.
Mr. E. P. Bunny was appointed borough solicitor at this time.
In September, 1889, the Town Clerk resigned under a cloud, and Mr. Hester was appointed.
In December of this year, Mr. R. C. Kirk was elected Mayor for the first time.
In June, 1898, the borough became thoroughly modern and up-to-date in that it arranged for a bank overdraft.
At this time, a, proposal was made for the drafting of a bill to give Petone control of its foreshore below high tide-mark in order to give it power to erect a wharf. In after years this project was several times revived, but no action was ever taken.
In October, 1890, an ambitious scheme was proposed to borrow £20,000 for water supply, drainage and street improvements.
Prior to this date, the Wellington Gas Company had obtained rights to erect gasworks in Petone, and had acquired the land on which the present gasworks is situated, and also a strip of land about half a chain wide, running
from the gasworks through the block of land between what is now Buick and Bolton Streets to the beach. The purpose of this strip of land was for the construction of a tramway from the proposed gasworks to connect with the Hutt Park railway on the Esplanade and so give a rail connection through to Wellington for the purpose of coal haulage. In March, 1891, the Council approved of granting a concession to the Wellington Gas Company to run a tram or railway.
In May, 1891, a proposal to form a Fire Brigade was successfully launched and arrangements were made to hire a manual fire engine from the Wellington City Council with which to pump artesian water for fire prevention.
This manual engine rendered good service for many years, becoming finally the property of the Brigade.
The Wellington Harbour Board was, in June, 1891, requested to provide a wharf.
In July, 1891, a report was obtained on an electric lighting scheme, and again, in March 1893, a reference was made to the same matter.
In September, 1891, a proposal was made (but not carried out in its entirety for many years) to carry Jackson Street through to the river.
There was a change of mayors in November, 1891, Mr. R. Mothes being elected. One of his first acts was a proposal to borrow £5,000; £3,500 for street improvements, £500 for water for fire prevention only, and £1,000 to liquidate the overdraft, but nothing was done in regard to any of these proposals.
In March, 1892, the Wellington Gas Company was asked for its terms for installing gas lighting.
Towards the end of 1892 a more ambitious loan proposal was mooted; £10,000 for drainage, £1,000 for the Fire Brigade, £1,000 for municipal chambers, £2,000 for a recreation ground, and £6,000 for gasworks. None of these schemes eventuated, but they served to educate the public to the need for progress.
In December, 1892, Mr. R. C. Kirk returned to the mayoral chair.
In March, 1893, a big flood occurred, as a consequence of which the Petone stopbank (mentioned elsewhere) was built.
In the same month, improvements to the sanitary service were effected.
In the early part of 1894 several drainage schemes were debated and, in December of that year, a poll of ratepayers to borrow £10,000 for drainage and £2,000 for street improvements was carried, and resulted in great improvements in the borough. The drainage scheme adopted was part of that now in use for surface drainage, by which the water is carried out over the foreshore in shutes. The scheme was inaugurated at a formal ceremony on July 17th, 1895.
Early in 1898, the need for having an engineer was recognized. Mr. Hester, the Town Clerk, resigned and Mr. George Smithies was appointed Town Clerk and Engineer.
About this time, the council took a hand with pushing the Government into action to straighten and widen the Hutt Road from Wellington. This ultimately resulted in the major work of straightening and duplicating the railway line, and straightening and widening the Hutt Road. It is to the credit of the Petone Council that this important work was the result of its representations.
Towards the end of 1898, after some legal difficulties had been overcome, the right of the Wellington Gas Company to erect gasworks and supply gas to Petone was cancelled. The Gas Company, having no further use for the land it had purchased (the present side of the gasworks and the greater part of the recreation ground), the Council leased the area from the company with a purchasing clause; an arrangement was made with the Trotting Club to lease the ground and for many years this was the site of the Club's trotting meetings. The Club subsequently went into liquidation,
and when the sport was revived, the new club found a home at the Hutt Park, from where the Racing Club had recently removed. One of the conditions of the Trotting Club's lease was that the club had to erect a grandstand to the value of £200. It is interesting to note that this stand has only just been demolished, and more interesting still, to note the difference in the price of the old stand—£200—and the price of the new one—£10,000 — which is to be opened as part of the Jubilee functions.
On December 21st, 1898, a poll of the ratepayers was carried to erect gasworks, the history of which undertaking is told elsewhere.
Petone has always had a strong radical section among its ratepayers and this accounts for early interest in the movement, which was gaining ground all over New Zealand, to change the system of rating on capital values to rating on unimproved values.
In April, 1899, a petition was presented to the Council asking for a poll of the ratepayers on the question: the petition being in order, the poll was granted and, on May 3rd, 1899, a poll resulted in the proposal being carried by 72 votes to 5. The poll was, however, set aside as the Act required a vote of at least one third of the ratepayers. There were at this time, 455 on the roll, and therefore, the poll was negatived. The question remained in abeyance till 1901, when the matter was again ventilated, and in November, at a second poll the proposed innovation was defeated. A strong agitation was set up, and several speakers were imported, notably Mr. A. W. Hogg, M.P. for Masterton. and Mr.P. J. (now Justice) O'Regan, and the poll was finally carried. At this time, considerable traffic in land was taking place in Petone, some of it of a purely speculative character, and it was to discourage the practice of holding land for a rise in values that led to the agitation for rating on unimproved values.
Conflicts between local bodies and the general Government, such as is now in evidence in regard to the payment of rates on State houses are not new, and Petone had such fights. In December, 1899, the Koro Koro road was completed by the Government, and though it did not comply with the standard set up in the borough, the Government compelled the council to take it over and maintain it. Another conflict ensued in 1906, after the first workmen's cottages were built in Patrick Street. In May of that year, a motion was passed asking Parliament to amend the Rating Act to make the Government finally liable for rates on occupied Government land, and Government workers' homes. This agitation has now been transferred to the sister borough of Lower Hutt.
In January, 1900, the council took a firm stand in regard to approving the alignment of Buiek Street north. The owner desired the street to run at right angles to Jackson Street, when it would not have ended, as at present, on the recreation ground. The action of the council in refusing this resulted in the present entrance to the ground. The council also arranged that a strip of land set aside for a tramway should be included in Buick Street, thus resulting in a 1 ½ chains street. The council still hoped to run a tramway up Buick Street and hence the splay at the south western end, to allow the tram to sweep round.
In February, 1900, the present "brick area" bylaw was passed.
On May 9th, 1900, the gasworks were opened.
On June 11th, 1900, the disastrous fire mentioned elsewhere occurred.
In February, 1901, a move was made to abolish the ward system which was creating parochialism on the council. In the same month, loan polls were approved for a water supply, street improvements, and gasworks extension. The loans rejected were for a municipal library and the purchase from Mr.E. Jackson of his baths on the Esplanade between Sydney and Nelson Streets. It is perhaps not generally known that a concrete bath exists on private land facing the Esplanade. It was filled from a pipe leading to the sea and was at the time very popular. When harbour bathing became the vogue, the bath ceased to be used and was filled in with sand and built over.
In May, 1901, Mr.R. C. Kirk went out of office and Mr.R. Mothes was elected in his place. Mr. Mothes held office for a year only when Mr.G. T. London was elected.
On September 8th, 1902, a private dwelling adjoining the council's property in Bay Street was purchased and converted into offices and public library until such time as the Council could proceed with the building of the premises authorized by the loan poll. This building was afterwards removed to the Gas Works' site and used as the Gas Works' Manager's residence.
In November, 1902, the minutes of the council record the death of ex-Councillor J. P. Gaynor. It is worthy of note that three generations of this family have occupied seats on the council: Messrs. J. P. Gaynor, Snr., Mr.J. P. Gaynor, Jnr., and Mr.J. R. Gaynor, at present a member of the Council. The same three members of the family have also occupied important positions in the Petone Fire Brigade. Mr.J. P. Gaynor is at present Superintendent and Mr.J. R. Gaynor, a member and Secretary.
The foundation-stone of the reservoir dam was laid in April, 1903.
In August, 1903, the Town Clerk resigned and Mr. A. Webster was appointed.
In October, 1903, an attempt was made to pass a Bill through Parliament giving the Council full control of the foreshore, with a view to beautification purposes, but the Legislature rejected the Bill.
In January, 1904, Mr.S. Jickell resigned from the position of Engineer and Mr.W. H. Cook was appointed in his place.
At this time, Jackson Street did not extend past Oriental Street and the Wellington City water mains crossed the Hutt River on a foot bridge opposite Waione Street. All vehicular traffic for any place east of the river, including Wainui and Days Bay, had to go round by Lower Hutt. In January, 1904, a report was ordered by the council on extending Jackson Street to the river and building a bridge. This bridge, the present "Pipe bridge," was afterwards built by the Wellington City Council; the Petone council and other local bodies sharing the cost.

Tramway Proposal.

The first move towards providing a tramway service was made in May, 1904. The first idea was a modest one for a tramway along Jackson Street to serve as a feeder to the railway, but the idea grew till it embraced a combined system for Lower Hutt and Petone and even extending into Wellington.
In June, 1904, a conference was held on the question with the Lower Hutt Borough Council and ultimately a Tramway Board for the combined districts was set up. In July, 1905, an offer was considered from Mr.T. E. Taylor, M.P. (better known as Tommy Taylor), to install tramways, and an offer was also received from the Wellington Meat Company to supply electricity for the tramways.
The proposal for tramways was finally ended by the rejection of a poll to borrow money for the purpose.

Extending Petone.

In June, 1905, Messrs. Ward Bros., who had large landed interests on the Eastern side of the river, recognizing the value to them of a bridge giving them direct access to Petone, made an offer of £500 towards the cost of such a bridge. This was the beginning of an interesting story of an attempt by Lower Hutt land owners, east of Petone and south of White's Line, to bring themselves into the Petone Borough. Petone was then recognized as one of the most progressive boroughs in New Zealand, while Lower Hutt was more or less in the stage of a country village closely surrounded by farms.
Subdivision of land into building sections was, in Petone, proceeding by leaps and bounds, and naturally land owners over the river desired to come into the picture, but access to Wellington was only to be got round by
the Lower Hutt bridge and, in the absence of transport and the poor state of the roads, there was little chance of successful subdivision of the lands over the river, hence a petition presented by the majority of the ratepayers in the area above-mentioned, to be included in the Petone Borough.
Petone was willing but there was a legal difficulty. To join another body the two places had to be contiguous, and at that time Petone was shut off on the Eastern side by the Hutt county land. Gear Island was, and still is, in the County and a piece (now part of Petone) on the south eastern corner alongside the river mouth was then also in the County. A petition was accordingly put in hand to have Gear Island included in Petone. The then owners of this land were equally divided in favour and opposition to this proposal. The matter was then referred to the Government for solution and a Solomon's judgment was given that the Island was to be divided half to Petone and half to Lower Hutt.
The Petone Council had sense enough to see that such a judgment, though it would give the desired contiguity, would be a mistake in public policy. It was quite clear that divided control of Gear Island would have been a mistake. The decision, however, closed the avenue to Petone pushing her boundaries farther east. It was about the same time that an attempt was made by Alicetown residents to come with Petone but sufficient signatures to the petition were not forthcoming.
In July, 1905, a plan for re-naming Petone streets was passed by the Council, the idea being to adopt the American idea in regard to north-south street, naming them from west to east—First, Second, etc. and for the east- west streets it was proposed to give short, easily pronounced Maori names, retaining as far as possible historic Maori names. The idea however did not have public approval and was dropped.
In this month a sealed bottle containing current newspapers and other records was placed in the concrete foundations of the Municipal Buildings then in course of construction.
At this time, steps were taken to acquire from the Buick Estate the site on which the Technical College now stands. This was afterwards accomplished, and the site handed over for technical school purposes.
In September, 1905, Jackson Street was given its first sealed coat of tar—Petone being one of the first towns in New Zealand to adopt the practice of tar-sealing its roads.
Though Petone was at this time a much more important town than Lower Hutt, it had no Court house and sittings were held in Lower Hutt. The Petone Council for the convenience of its residents, bore the cost of renting the Oddfellows Hall for court purposes and courts were held here until a court house was erected.
In October, 1905, the council purchased land for the widening of Jackson Street at the junction with the Hutt Road.
In December, 1905, a series of important loan proposals was placed before the ratepayers, for the diversion of the western hill stream, completing the Municipal Buildings, a new sanitary system, wharf sheds, combined boat and bathing sheds, water reticulation extension and a settling tank. The majority of these were carried, but once again agreement could not be arrived at with Lower Hutt in regard to the hill waters' scheme and that could not then be carried out. It has, however, in more recent years, become an accomplished fact.
In January, 1906, an important event occurred in the family of the mayor, Mr.G. T. London, with the result that on January 23rd, the council presented him with a silver cradle. Had that event not occurred, the present mayor, Mr.G. London, would not now be occupying the mayoral chair.
During 1905, negotiations had been proceeding with the Hutt Park Railway Company for the purchase of the line or, alternatively, its lease by the Council. Terms suitable to the council could not be procured and the project was dropped. The council desired to use the tramway in con
nection with its new sanitary service which was, for its kind, the most up- to-date in New Zealand.
In 1906, steps were taken to exercise the council's right to purchase the Recreation Ground area, and the first steps towards a sewerage scheme were taken.
In 1906, the Government subdivided the Wilford settlement and, due to representations made by the council, the site of the present Wilford school was set aside for school purposes.
In April, 1906, the council successfully opposed a proposal to vest the Hutt Park in the Lower Hutt Borough Council. Up to that time the Park had been vested in private trustees and when they died a new form of control was necessary. After the proposal for vesting in Lower Hutt had been squashed, an Act was passed bringing in the present control which vests the Park in the surrounding local bodies, and provides for joint control by the Hutt Park Committee.
In June, 1906, one of the numerous, and so far abortive, conferences was held with the Lower Hutt Council on the question of amalgamation.
In April, 1907, the Borough was gazetted a Fire Board district, and the control of the Brigade passed out of the hands of the council and was placed under a Fire Board, the action being due to representations made by the council.
In August and again in September, 1907, the Post and Telegraph Department was urged to install a telephone exchange in Petone. The exchange was approved in June, 1909.
In September, 1907, a system of house numbering was introduced, and in this month, Mr. Mestyer was asked to report on a sewerage scheme. The report formed the basis of the scheme ultimately adopted.
Another important event in September, 1907, was the taking over of the public library by the council. Hitherto, this had been managed by private citizens and the council thanked Messrs. H. A. Morris and H. Damant for their long service.
It was at this time that the Hutt Park was taken over by the Hutt Valley Local authorities from private trustees and, on the suggestion of the Petone Borough Council, the present committee of control was set up. There had been a good deal of discussion as to whether Wellington city should be included in the control scheme, but finally that body was excluded.
Another important matter brought to fruition towards the end of 1907, was the taking over of the Taita cemetery by local bodies, and the setting up of a committee of control.
Throughout 1907, negotiations proceeded with the Wellington city council for the erection of a traffic bridge over the Hutt River, such bridge to carry the Wellington city water mains. Petone had prior to this, been considering the erection of a bridge on its own account, but the washing away of the old trestle footbridge which carried the mains across the river brought matters to a head, and after lengthy negotiations, a basis was arrived at with the city council and other local bodies.
In October, 1907, a plebiscite of the ratepayers was taken as to whether the bridge should be in line with Jackson Street or lower down. The Jackson Street alignment was carried by 161 votes to 125.
The building of the bridge meant the extension of Jackson Street, and in this connection, the Gear Meat Company gave, free of cost, the land through its property on condition that the council raised no objection to the transfer of its manure works (then on the present site of Lever Bros.) to the main Gear Meat Company's works.
Petone's contribution to the bridge and its approaches was £8,659 17s. 3d.
In October, 1907, the first proposal for a Town clock was suggested. In this month, the Crown Lands Department at the request of the council,
handed over to the council 28 acres of land accretion at the east end of the foreshore. A portion of this land has since been used as the site of McEwan Park. The Lands Department also handed over the area known as the Petone Domain, and the council was constituted a Domain Board.
In January 1908, the town clock was purchased; the new Fire Board was elected; a proposal made for the raising of a loan for draining low lying lands; and a report ordered on a scheme for reclaiming land in the Koro Koro bight.
In August, 1908, the Lower Hutt borough gave notice of its intention to terminate the gas agreement.
In September, 1908, the Petone Council made representations to have certain lands under the control of the Hutt county brought into the borough. This area included the block on which the casing works stand and other land south of Lever Bros. These were finally included in the borough, an undertaking being given that the council would not interfere with the carrying on of the casing works industry.
In January 1909, in pursuance of its policy to encourage higher education, the council sought to acquire an area for the establishment of a High School in Petone. Its efforts were not successful.
It was in this month that a report was received from the Harbour Board which gave the cost of a proposed reclamation scheme in the Koro Koro bight as from £170,000 to £200,000.
In August, 1909, the engineer reported that a public bath 100' by 35' could be constructed on the recreation ground for £2,242.
A tender for £498 was accepted in August for the erection of the brick cottage on the recreation ground.
In October, 1909, a petition from 1,022 ratepaters was received requesting that the land along the foreshore be preserved as a beach.
At this time, some revenue was gained by the council by letting the right to paint signs on the cliff face of the Koro Koro Road. The council was divided on the question, and a motion to have the signs removed was defeated.
In October and November, a scheme for electric lighting for the streets of the borough, including Koro Koro, was considered but was rejected.
The scheme was proposed in connection with the generation of electricity for pumping of water in the eastern drainage scheme, which was approved by the council.
In January, 1910, the brick area was extended to all shops erected in the borough.
In March, 1910, the minutes of the council record the death of the first Mayor, Mr. S. R. Johnson.
In September 1910, a committee of citizens raised a fund to provide an ambulance van for the borough and the council agreed to provide a shed for the storage of the van. This van and its successors rendered great service to the citizens in providing transport for patients to and from the hospital—indeed, its service was not confined to the borough, the van being on call for ser ice from as far afield as Eastbourne and Upper Hutt. The ser ice was maintained until the inauguration of the service under the Wellington Free Ambulance Committee.
In January, 1911, the council bought from the Hutt River Board for £400 the land for the approach to the pipe bridge.
In January, 1912, the council was advised that the Hutt Valley Tramway Board had ceased to exist, and in April of the same year, a syndicate asked for rights to lay a tramway from the Petone railway station to the Hutt Park, and the following month a poll was taken to ascertain if the citizens were in favour of a municipal or a privately owned tramway service. The voting was:—privately owned, 213; municipally owned, 117. Nothing came of the proposals, as in March 1913, the syndicate advised the council that it was not going on with the service.
In September, 1912, Loan polls were carried for £40,000 for sewerage, £2,000 for water supply, and £600 for the town clock. In this month, the council office purchased its first typewriter and duplicator.
During 1912, the council became concerned at what was considered the dangerous speed of motor cars past the entrance to the railway station, and in order to slow down the traffic, raised crossings were laid down leading from Jackson Street to the station across the Hutt Road. These crossings became known as the "Petone Hurdles" and received the strong condemnation of motorists who had to go "dead slow" over them. So great was the outcry that ultimately the crossings were removed.
In January, 1914, Percy's gardens, an area of 14 acres, was offered to the council for the sum of £8,000. No action was taken.
During the war years, the council undertook many patriotic services, but otherwise little civic progress was made.
During the years 1918–21, trouble frequently occurred between Lower Hutt and Petone on the subject of the gas supply. The Petone Council also had to meet considerable labour troubles with its gasworks employees.
In August, 1921, the first proposal was made for a joint board to control the gas supply for the two boroughs, and in January 1922, after a Lower Hutt mayoral election, agreement was reached between the two boroughs for the setting up of a board.
In January, 1925, a joint Lower Hutt-Petone scheme was inaugurated for dealing with the hill waters and in August, 1926, a loan proposal of £8,000 was authorized for this purpose.
About half-way through 1925, the borough changed over from gas to electric lighting.
In August, 1925, the council decided to continue Udy Street through to Cuba Street, and to lay out sites for tennis courts on the northern boundary of the extension.
In December, 1925, an exchange of land was effected with the Crown Lands Department and the portion known as North Park became council property. The exchange became necessary owing to land taken by the Crown for railway purposes.
In August 1926, a loan of £10,000 was authorized for sewerage drainage extension in the eastern area.
In December, 1928, a loan of £61,000 was authorized for replacing water mains with larger mains. Of this sum, £20,000 was raised and in February 1930, a further sum of £20,000 was raised which completed the work.
In March, 1931, a loan of £3,500 was authorized for a water supply for Koro Koro.
In March, 1932, an unemployed scheme for constructing a swimming bath in Udy Street, now known as McKenzie Baths, was approved.
A question which is at present exercising the minds of local bodies, that of legislating in regard to the control of artesian water supplies, was first discussed at a conference of Hutt Valley local bodies in March, 1932. In May, 1934, an agreement was reached whereby the Wellington City Council was allowed to take not more than 5,000,000 gallons of artesian water per day from the Hutt Valley.
In July 1934, a plan was adopted for the widening of Britannia Street, and in January 1935, the Catholic authorities dedicated a 15-foot strip of land for this purpose.
Loan polls for £3,500 for foreshore improvements; £5,000 for recreation ground improvements; and £750 for improvements to McKenzie baths were rejected in April, 1937.
In July, 1938, a loan poll authorized the raising of £10,000 for a grandstand.
In December, 1938, the council decided to proceed with the widening of Udy Street.
In August, 1938, the council applied to the Government Loans Board for permission to raise £5,000 for building a ladies' rest room and giving further library accommodation.
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Jackson Street.

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Jackson Street.

A contrast: Jackson Street from Post Office—before and after widening.

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