Hutt City Libraries Online Heritage Collection > Texts

Petone's First 100 Years (1940)

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The Power Behind Industry.
Hutt Valley Electric Power Board.

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In considering the progress of the industrial and domestic life of the Hutt Valley, and in particular Petone, it is interesting to note how this development has synchronised with the introduction of electricity into the area, this wonderful servant of man being practically non-existant in the Valley until the formation of the Hutt Valley Electric Power Board during 1922.
A careful scrutiny of the conditions that existed during the earlier stages of the board's development, forces one to appreciate just how difficult it was to estimate the possibilities of the consumption of electricity in the area the board proposed to reticulate. For instance, the all-electric wireless and the talking picture plant did not exist, cooking by electricity was in its experimental stages, and the housewife who has now become accustomed to using such appliances as vacuum cleaners, toasters, kettles, electric sewing machines, refrigerators and electric food mixers, wonders how she managed without them.
If sufficient time is taken to reconstruct our domestic lives under the dominance of the kerosene lamp with its odoriferous wick which simply refused to be trimmed straight, then, and then only, do we appreciate our present supply of electricity which we obtain by merely pressing a switch, that little mechanical contrivance which has been so aptly named the "wizard in the wall."
An Order in Council to proclaim the constitution of the Hutt Valley Electric Power Board was approved under the Electric Power Boards Act, 1918, and was published in the New Zealand Gazette No. 53 on the 6th July, 1922. The Hutt Valley Electric Power Board was properly constituted
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from that date and covered the areas from the top of Paekakariki Hill and all that country East, including the Hutt County, Makara County, Johnsonville Town District, Eastbourne and Bays district, Petone Borough, Lower Hutt Borough, Upper Hutt Borough and the country extending to the Rimutaka range beyond Kaitoke. A further area was included by proclamation during 1923 and again on the 22nd September, 1937.
The first meeting of the Hutt Valley Electric Power Board was held at the Town Board Chambers, Upper Hutt on Wednesday, 16th August, 1922, this being the place and time appointed for the meeting under the hand of the then Hon. Minister of Public Works.
At this meeting there were present Messrs. W. H. P. Barber, representing the Upper Hutt Town District, F. H. Mather, representing Eastbourne Borough, J. W. McEwan and H. C. Jay, representing Petone Borough, A. J. Hobbs and W. T. Cotton, representing Lower Hutt Borough, H. Foley, A. W. Press and A. J. McCurdy, representing Hutt County.
Mr. McEwan, whose local body service has been outstanding in the district, was elected the first chairman of the board.
A special committee was set up to go into the question of provision of suitable office and stores space, and it was decided to purchase the property on which the board's main office now stands.
The first estimate of the cost of reticulation of the board's area, together with an estimated statement of annual income and expenditure, was submitted to the board by the consulting engineers, Messrs. Templin and Toogood at a meeting held on the 9th November, 1922. The estimate allowed for sufficient capacity to supply 4,650 consumers, and was at the time considered rather ambitious. However, owing to the extraordinary development of the valley, this figure had been exceeded by 1927.
The first agreement for bulk supply with the Government was for five years. This agreement was for 3,000 K.V.A. maximum at the end of the five years guarantee; bulk supply was taken from the Khandallah substation. During 1930 the load had developed to such an extent that it was imperative that a further point of supply be made available. Negotiations were put in hand and approved by the Public Works Department, who ordered the necessary equipment for an entirely new point of supply at Melling. The new Melling substation was put into service during 1931 and since that time, the load has increased to such an extent that further additions are on order.
The board's first electrical inspector was appointed at a meeting held on the 17th May, 1923, when intending consumers began to be interested in the wiring of their houses in readiness to take current.
Many house wiring installation contracts were let on the block plan as an endeavour to reduce the cost of wiring. The system worked well and when the board first made power available in the district, a number of consumers were ready to switch on.
The first energy supplied over the board's mains was used to light Jackson Street, Petone, on Christmas Eve 1924, and so a new era dawned.
About this time, the board entered into contracts with a number of industrial consumers, thus it was early in 1925 that a number of local residents and factories actually used power supplied through the supply authority's mains, although a few factories had generated power for their own use prior to this.
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Hutt Valley Electric Power Board. 1940.

Back Row: J. B. Grey (Supply Engineer) P. Dowse (Lr. Hutt Boro.) J. W. Andrews (Lr. Hutt Bora.) H. E. McBain (Accountant) R. G. Stephen (J'ville Town Bd.) E. F. Hollands, M.I.E.E. (Engineer & Genl. Manager) L. Stewart (Petone Boro.) J. J. Maher (Hutt County
Front Row: A. Walker (Eastbourne Boro.) S. Blackley (Hutt County) G. London (Chairman) (Petone Boro.) A. W. Press (Hutt County) B. W. Bothamley (Makara County)
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The demand in the board's area has, with one exception, grown at possibly a more phenomenal rate than any other board in the Dominion.
When energy was first turned on in the Hutt Valley, there was no Waterloo-Woburn-Ava railway service, nor were there any number of dwellings along that stretch of line, the area traversed by the line being then practically open farming land. There was no industrial area along Seaview Road, even Seaview Road itself did not exist.
No one had conceived the possibilities of the electrification of the line through Tawa Flat to Paekakariki.
At the latter end of 1929 a reorganisation of the board's staff was made and an Engineer and General Manager was appointed.
To-day the personnel of the Board is:—
Chairman, G. London, Esq., representing Petone Borough.
L. Stewart, Esq., representing Petone Borough.
A. Walker, Esq., representing Eastbourne Borough.
S. Blackley, Esq., J. J. Maher, Esq., and A. W. Press Esq., representing Hutt County.
R. G. Stephen, Esq., representing Johnsonville Town Board.
J. W. Andrews, Esq., and P. Dowse, Esq., representing Lower Hutt Borough.
R. W. Bothamley, Esq., representing Makara County.
W. Greig, Esq., representing Upper Hutt Borough. (Died, 1940).
It is a matter of interest to note that A. W. Press, Esq. has represented the Hutt County without a break since the inception of the board.
The board's chief executive officer is the Engineer and General Manager, E. F. Hollands, M.I.E.E., M.N.Z.I.E.
As an indication of the board's growth, the following statistics are given:—
1925/26 1939/40
Population 27,275 53,000
Number of consumers 3,892 15,421
Maximum load in K.V.A. 1,342 12,144
Units sold 3,681,720 53,041,350
Number of electric waterheaters 44 4,235
Number of electric ranges 157 3,883
Revenue from sales of electricity £24,413 £151,659
A record of the chairmen since the inception of the board is as follows:—
Chairman Year Chairman Year
McEwan, J. W. 1922 – 1926 Blackley, S. 1932 – 1933
McCurdy, A. J. 1926 – 1927 Anderson, A. 1933 – 1934
Hobbs, A. J. 1927 – 1928 Stewart, L. 1934 – 1935
Barber, W. H. P. 1928 – 1929 Bothamley, R. W. 1935 – 1936
Press, A. W. 1929 – 1930 Maher, J. J. 1936 – 1937
Windley, A. 1930 – 1931 Press, A. W. 1937 – 1939
Walker, A. 1931 – 1932 London, G. 1939 – 1940

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