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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


History of Petone Gas Works.

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Petone and Lower Hutt Gas Lighting Board, 1939.

Back Row (Left to Right)
A. Scliolefield, J. P. (Member), C. N. Astbury (Accountant), J. Adams (Works Foreman), O. Silbery (Secretary), H.G. Burrell (Member), A. M. Macfarlane (Member)
Front Row (Left to Right)
W. H. Edwards (Member), H. V. Horlor (Member and Deputy Chairman), J. Cumming (Member and Chairman), C. J. Ashton (Member),
Away back in the dim ages—and they were dim in those days— for, in that year 1886, there were no street lights of any kind in Petone and if you wished to go out at night, and especially if you wished to avoid tumbling into one of the many open drains or to miss a gorse bush, you carried your own lantern—the first projects for gasworks were discussed.
In 1886, two rival proposed companies, the Petone Mutual Gas Company and the Hutt and Petone Gas Company, approached the Town Board for concessions. Each company was offered the same facilities and private bills were promoted, but nothing came of either proposal.
That the administration of Petone's destinies appreciated the prospective growth of the town is shown by one of the conditions which the companies were asked to fulfil, and that was "that any works should be capable of supplying 10,000 inhabitants"; at this time, Petone's population was something over 1,000.
In 1887, the Wellington Gas Company was granted a concession to supply gas, and the company acquired considerable land in the Borough for the purpose. Later the Borough acquired the Gas Company's rights and purchased the land. The company
which established electric light in Wellington was also approached and later, in 1896 and 1897, fresh negotiations were made. Electricity, water gas, acetylene gas, as well as coal gas as mediums, were investigated, and there gradually evolved a proposal that Petone should erect its own gasworks. At first, the idea of co-operation with Lower Hutt was mooted, but Lower Hutt was not ready to shoulder any responsibility, and it was finally arranged that Petone should take the whole responsibility and agree to supply gas to Lower Hutt residents on special terms and conditions, and also to light the streets of the borough at a fixed price per lamp. There was some opposition from the Wellington Gas Company to a Bill, giving lighting rights to Petone in view of the rights held by the Company, but these were overcome and the gasworks scheme inaugurated, a poll to borrow £8,500 being carried on December 21st, 1898.
In February, 1899, tenders were called both in London and locally for gasworks plant, and later in that year, the work of construction was put in hand under the able supervision of Mr. G. Smithies, the borough engineer.
In April, 1900, the work had advanced sufficiently to enable the price of gas to be fixed at 10s. per 1,000 cubic feet with a discount of 10% on lighting charges. The revenue was estimated at £1,181, and the expenditure, £1,189, leaving a deficiency of £8. The price per street lamp to the Lower Hutt was fixed and arrangements made to celebrate the opening.
During the years which followed, the arrangements with Lower Hutt was found to be practically unworkable. Disputes frequently arose between the two councils about unlighted lamps. Frequently persons deliberately extinguished lamps after they had been lighted, or else lighted them again after they had been officially extinguished at the arranged hour at night. Then the Lower Hutt Council gave official backing to requests for the extension of gas mains to unpayable portions of the borough and altogether, feeling between the two communities ran high on the subject. In July, 1904, therefore, a proposal was made to the Lower Hutt Council that the borough should lease the gas mains, meters, and all plant within its district at a yearly rental which would extinguish the value of the plant at the end of the period when the agreement with Petone expired. Nothing came of this offer, and in September, 1905, the plant was offered for straight-out sale to Lower Hutt for £4,500, with a further offer to supply gas at 6s. 6d. per 1,000 cubic feet at a meter at the gasworks. It was found that there was some difficulty in carrying out this resolution as, unknown to all, a clause in its Empowering Bill stipulated that before a sale could take place, a poll of the Petone ratepayers must be taken. This was accomplished early in 1906, and in March, the deed transferring the property was signed. The borough solicitor, Mr. R. C. Kirk, warned the Council that in unconditionally parting with their rights over Lower Hutt, they were risking the possibility of Lower Hutt at some time in the
future, establishing gasworks. The Petone Council, however, had found the practical difficulties of satisfactorily carrying out the old arrangement so great, that they considered the new arrangement the only alternative, and as practical men. they could not visualise the possibility of Lower Hutt economically establishing a gasworks. The difficulty foreseen by Mr. Kirk
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The up-to-date "Chamber Oven" Gas Producer of Petone and Lower Hutt Gas Board—the first of its kind south of the Equator.

did however, eventuate, and Lower Hutt in 1921, did consider establishing works of its own. The question was the subject of a bitter fight in Lower Hutt, and a mayoral election was fought on the issue of gasworks for Lower Hutt or a satisfactory arrangement with Petone, the result being a victory for the latter. Negotiations were at once instituted between the two boroughs, the result being that the Petone and Lower Hutt Gas Lighting Board, representative of both districts, took over both the Petone and Lower Hutt assets and a perfectly smooth working arrangement was set up.

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