The Industrious Heart A History of New Plymouth / 2



The Directors desire to impress on you their wish that the most ample arrangements be made for securing places for public recreation. Many of the vices and diseases of old countries may be traced to the absence of provision for this purpose, and there can be no excuse for the founders of new colonies to neglect to profit by the sad experience which history affords them.' 1 This was part of the comparatively meagre instructions from the Plymouth Company to their chief surveyor, Frederic Alonzo Car- rington* who was charged with designing the future New Plymouth. His main duty was 'simply to select a site' and to 'carry out the necessary surveys'. He was 'to use every exertion that the whole of the town be mapped out and the sections properly arranged and numbered, by the arrival of the first expedition of settlers'. The only stipulation regarding the town site was that sections should be 'of a quarter of an acre', the streets should be of 'ample width' and there should be 'reserves for various purposes' . Outside the town there should be provision for suburban and rural areas where settlers could make a living by growing crops and raising stock for their own use and for export to other centers.
It was a formidable assignment. With his brother, Octavius Car- rington, and John Rogan, both qualified surveyors, seven survey men and 'a number of natives? he began work in February, 1841. In addition to the undulating topography, dense vegetation which had to be cleared to establish the lines, wet, cold weather and very primitive living accommodation, there were many difficulties with the natives, as well as his own men, which hindered progress. However, by November 4, Carrington displayed his map of the town. It showed 2267 sections 'surveyed and ready for selection'3 by settlers. He had made' adequate provision for streets, squares, schools, hospitals and public buildings of all kinds, botanical gardens, parks and boulevards, the latter (known later as the town belt) extending around the entire circuit of the town and separating it from suburban districts"." This feat has been described by later surveyors as 'magnificent'. Even in 1980, with modern instruments including automatic measuring equip- ment, it would have been an extremely difficult task to achieve during a Taranaki winter. Four months later suburban and rural lands were ready for selection. When Governor FitzRoy cancelled the original land purchases-a decision which came to be known as FitzRoy's Folly-almost all of Carrington's Town Belt was lost when it was awarded as compensation to out-of-town dispossessed settlers. The general outline of the plan having been completed, there was much detailed physical work to be done in the suburban and rural areas and when Carrington left the colony in 1842 (he returned later to pursue a distinguished career in the settlement) his position as chief surveyor was taken over by Octavius, and a third Carrington-Wellington-also a surveyor, joined the team. The next two decades brought many vicissitudes to the settlement. Local administration of the area, 400,000ha delineated as the 'Province of New Plymouth'* under the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852 (U. K.) was the responsibility of a Provincial Council. During this period the settlers' main concern was staying alive, especially when armed hostilities broke out between Europeans and Maoris following lengthy disputes over land. When in 1863 the situation was beginning to ease, although the town was still little more than a military garrison, the New Plymouth Town Board was formed under Provincial Council authority. Many women and children, and some men, were still in Nelson where they had been evacuated under martial law , and time and capital were being frittered away by the enforced idleness of settlers who had been forced to flee their properties outside the military barricades.
The board was elected on December 19, 1863.5 W. Devenish who topped the poll with 87 votes, was appointed chairman of the first meeting to be held in January 1864*. The new body realised its problems early, and in the first month of its existence no less than seven meetings were held generally 'at half past six oclock " at which main discussion centred round problems of reading, footpaths, sanitation and fire prevention. At the first meeting J. Pearce was appointed 'overseer of public works' for which he was to be paid 70 cents a day. (His place on the board was taken by J. C. Sharland.) The secretary was T. Burton at a alary of $300 a year. But where was the money to come from to pay him and all the other men who were to do the work so obviously necessary? During January a public meeting was called. After lengthy discussion the 51 settlers present became the town's first ratepayers, agreeing that a rate of 4c in the dollar be levied on all householders. Less than a year later, at yet another stormy meeting, this was increased by 100 per cent, and the chairman was instructed to 'wait upon His Honour the Superintendent to ask for a financial advance on the moneys to be collected' . There is no record that this was forthcoming, but when Provincial Superintendent Brown attended a board meeting several days later he said that he was 'expecting daily the arrival ofa stone-breaking machine for use at Henui Reefwhere there are one thousand yards ofloose stones'. This brief item in the minutes pointed to the fact that roading was-and it remained so for many years-the main concern of the settlers. Carrington's plan had only been partially implemented and problems faced the Town Board regarding individual boundaries.
It had no copy of the plan-the only one in existence was lodged with the Provincial Council, which for some reason was reluctant to provide information the board sought. The minutes reveal that the board had little idea of the delineation of streets beyond the immediate town centre. An appeal for a copy brought the reply that one would be sent 'as soon as the Provincial Surveyor could find time to draw one'. Late in 1863 a copy was produced and it was discovered that some buildings had been erected on land set aside by Carrington for footpaths, or there were insufficient frontages, and the board perforce instructed the removal or setting back of several houses. Much of the board's time was spent in accepting members' resigna- tions and electing replacements. Few reasons were stated, but from the tenor of the minutes** it can be assumed that resignations arose from the frustrations at being unable to manage the town's affairs. At every meeting there were complaints from settlers-and board members. One, Dr Samuels, suggested that no rate should be levied if nothing could be done. Another, Mr Knight, felt the meeting (in April 1870) should adjourn for twelve months, adding that the board was 'a piece of bosh and nonsense'. Chairman Laurence called him to order. At the July meeting there was a suspicion of scandal: 'Mr Gledhill stated that the rule that no member of the Town Board should perform any work had been infringed on several cases', instancing 'some iron work in the gutter in front of Mr Callaghan's shop'. The matter was not pursued. 'Finding the subject an unpleasant one for himself he (Mr Gledhill) allowed it to drop,' reported the Taranaki HeraLd. Rating continued to be a matter of contention. The minutes record that a decision was made that 'vehicles or saddle horses plying for hire in the town should be licensed' but there is no record of the fee; that a fire rate of lc in the dollar be imposed on sections 'having buildings thereon within the town boundary'. This was estimated to produce about $140 a year.
The board could do little to satisfy the persistent demands of the townspeople, and in 1873 it heard a proposal to form itself into a municipal council. When the Abolition of the Provinces Act was passed in November of that year, enough townspeople with rateable properties (there were 118 signatures) signed a petition seeking the constitution of New Plymouth as a borough. The petition was successful, and on August 11, 1876, that status was achieved. 7 The concluding words of the minutes of the final meeting of the Town Board were: 'The secretary be instructed to knock off Honnor and Devine, stone-breakers. There was no further business. Arthur Stan- dish, chairman.' The rather depressing picture of the town, as depicted in the minute book during the final years' ofthe board's existence, is not substantiated by the events. There was, in fact, considerable progress in development. Fighting had virtually ceased, although there was still a necessity for the maintenance of a military force; construction of the railway had begun on August 21, 1873 with the line to Waitara being opened on October 14, 1875. In that year a harbour board was constituted and public buildings in the borough including a public hospital, three churches, eight hotels, a public library, 13 private and four public schools. Among industries in the town were two printing houses, a soap and candle factory, an iron foundry, a boat-building yard and two breweries, while outside the town there was a wool-scouring plant and a tannery. There was also a sharp rise in the prices of town sections. On July 26, 1876, an unreserved sale of sections in 'FitzRoy Town' took place. The function was considered an important one and the auctioneer and his clients proceeded in a train ofwagonnettes to the hall where the auction was to be held, preceded by the town band, 'whose martial strains inspiredjoy and courage in the hearts of intending buyers' , said the Daily News. Forty-six sections were sold at an average price of $22.90. Fitzroy, however, was still outside the borough boundary, the lines of which were Nobs Line to the east, and Cutfield Road to the west. Several of the purchasers at the Fitzroy auction were people who had been visitors from other parts of the country. The rest of New Zealand had varying opinions of New Plymouth. An impression by E. W. Payton" who wrote a book after a tour of the country in 1876, said: 'All the great bustling "cities" of the Colony had a patronising way of trying to snub New Plymouth, referring to it in such derogatory terms as the dullest hole in the colony ... nothing whatever to do there ... half the population spend their lives in bed because if they get up there is nothing to do there. I cannot say I find this impression correct; in fact I have a great liking for this" slow, old hole" and I am quite sure that many other towns have considerable reasons to be envious of it ... it is a quiet, unassuming place and has not done so much to attract immigrants and settlers by exaggerating reports, as some districts have done. It seems to me a good sign that the settlers are perfectly contented, and rarely evince any disposition to leave it.
This was the situation when the first borough council took over its administration. According to the minutes of the first meeting, on September 22, 1876, the following were present: J. Ellis, who, with 145 votes, had topped the poll, R. Chilman, W. H. Scott, A. Laird, D. Callaghan, T. E. Hammerton, A. Standish, J. M. Vivian and W. Reed. L. H. Cholwill was appointed town clerk. On October 1 at the second meeting Arthur Standish was appointed the borough's first mayor. Standish was a remarkable man; he and his descendants have played a prominent role in the affairs of the town. Standish Hill was the name given to the track which led to his estate in the area now occupied by Rugby Park and much of lower Westown. He built a large, two-storeyed house overlooking the estate. The building was demolished in 1979,justover a century after it was built, and most of the timbers were in excellent condition. Standish was a horse-racing enthusiast who owned and raced horses himself. The Taranaki Hunt Club still has the Standish Memorial race on its annual programme. Standish was born in England in 1838, came to New Zealand as a child, and as a young man studied law in Auckland and started practice as a solicitor in New Plymouth in 1861. Two years later he was appointed Crown Solicitor, and in 1876, in addition to being the first mayor of the borough, he also became a member of the first New Plymouth Harbour Board.

He was one of the party which made the epic journey in 1858 headed by S. Percy Smith (who later became Surveyor-General of New Zealand) up the coast to Mokau, across country to Taupo where they lived with the missionary, the Rev. Thomas Samuel Grace.
They were also the guests of the famous Maori Chief Te Heu Heu who gave the Tongariro Park to New Zealand. After travelling home via Wanganui and New Plymouth, they arrived on March 3, having 'walked 500 miles, canoed 46, and ridden on horseback 60'. Standish's son, Arthur Russell (Bus) Standish, took over his father's practice in 1903 until 1950, being a senior partner of the firm of Standish, Anderson, Brockenshire and Howell, which still exists. Standish's great-grandson, Peter, was the manager of the Westown Motor Hotel in 1974 to become the fourth generation of the Standish family to live and work on land farmed by his great-grandfather. Arthur Standish died in 1915. At that first meeting of the full borough council the minutes record that Standish, Scott and Ellis were appointed as a committee to 'inquire into the safety of the town as regards fire', and the formation of a Public Works Committee comprised Standish, Laird, Callaghan and Ellis, with Scott as the chairman. It was pointed our that although New Plymouth was now a 'borough', the Municipal Act under which it was established lacked any clause authorising the abolition of the town board.
The mayor was authorised to contact the Member of Parliament, Thomas Kelly, to rectify this fault, and Parliament subsequently passed retrospective legislation to support local decision-making and other actions carried out by the Municipal Council during the interim. Standish and his council seemed plagued by administrative difficul- ties. Meetings were held in the former Provincial Council building, the Taranaki Institute, in Brougham Street, which had been built in 1865. This was a remarkable building, and for many years it served a variety of purposes. Butler!" describes it thus: 'It must surpass that of all other buildings. It was our Parliament, court, town board meeting room, library, reading room, cardroom and resident magistrate's office; besides these all receptions and meetings of the period were held there. In declining years it functioned principally as the Soldiers' Club, a warehousemen's store, and housed Toe H, badminton clubs, a few art work displays, etc.' It was once the venue for a lecture on the art of growing turnips. In 1877 the borough council opened offices in the Foresters' Hall, in which subsequent meetings were held. The reasons for the vacation of the institute caused a furore in the town. The resident magistrate, H. Eyre-Kennedy, entering his court one morning, found the council chamber in such a condition that he felt constrained to write to the Minister of Justice complaining of broken chairs, snapped pen-holders, spilt ink and scraped varnish on the judges' bench.'It is impossible to convey an adequate idea of the scene of filth, disorder and destruction', he wrote, and complained of 'the personal incivility of the mayor of a petty little town'. Mayor Standish was quick to reply .
In an even longer letter he urged the Government 'seriously to consider whether a gentleman who can write so intemperately concerning the inhabitants of the place where he sits to administer the justice ... can inspire them with his impartiality and fairness' . Both letters received prominence in the Press, but there is no record of any action being taken, apart from the council changing its venue. Things must have quietened down, for in 1880 meetings were once again being held in the old Provincial Council chambers, and for the first time-and only time-New Plymouth had a Town Hall, this title being bestowed upon the Taranaki Institute building. But when it was moved in 1899 from Brougham Street into King Street, it reverted to its original name. It was demolished in 1937. In the borough council's first minute book are entries which illustrate perhaps more clearly than anything else the difficulties the new council faced.
That summer was very dry, and a 'memorial' was received from 60 ratepayers for the provision of a water cart. The council decided that tenders should be called for such a cart within a month, but such was the persistence of the settlers that the town clerk, Cholwill, was ordered to buy one from Auckland immediately. Taranaki had to struggle for its share in finance for the growing prosperity ofthe colony. Roading was still the most important need. The fighting had left some compensatory results, for military necessity had opened tracks from east, west and south in the province, and in New Plymouth in 1876 a stone bridge was erected over the Huatoki River necessitated by the forthcoming opening of the New Plymouth to Waitara rail link. New streets were formed and metalled and by 1878 the consent of the burgesses was given to raising a loan of $50,000 on security of 'endowments of the borough' for the construction of waterworks, gasworks, and 'general improvements of the streets'." One of the major problems facing the borough council for its first two years was the fact that there were no bylaws. Indeed, the council was legally prohibited from enacting any.
On the abolition of the provinces, the borough, under Section 345 of the Municipal Corporations Act 1876, was denied the possibility of repealing or amending previous laws and ordinances of the Provincial Legislature 'unless by special Act of Parliament' . The growth of the town, the emerging of the district from a state of anarchy and rebellion into one of comparative peace, made changes in local laws necessary. Corporate powers had been granted to the old town board for the administration of its internal affairs under the Provincial Council. But by the 'solemn mockery of Section 345 of the Municipal Corporations Act', the 'borough council was bound hand and foot to the provincial rules of a generation which is passing away, enacting in a confessedly transitional period' , said a leading article in the Taranaki News of November 9, 1878. This offending section was repealed by the Central Government in the same month, which drew the following comment from the News: 'Now that the Corporation has obtained its rightful powers it is necessary that it should turn its attention to some long-standing evils with alacrity. Perhaps the most important matters calling for attention are those relating to cleanliness and health. At present offensive rubbish is suffered to accumulate in back premises, or it is quietly thrown into the rivers .
Not long since we saw the carcase of an animal in the bed of the town river, which had apparently been thrown from a bridge, in a state of decomposition. Articles of ponderous character, such as broken bottles and jars, broken glass, iron hoops, iron cuttings, and kerosene tins, are carted to some unfrequented part of the town and there deposited. 'Now there should be an appointed place for the depositing of such matter as this, and both for health and decency's sake there should be regulations prohibiting the pollution of the rivers and the sea-beach with offensive matter. 'In the thinly populated parts of the town house drainage, with ordinary management, is an immaterial matter, inasmuch as the garden of a household will take as manure all the offal that is produced. But, as our report of the proceedings of the Borough Council at its last sitting , shows, where the houses are close together it is essential that attention should be paid to drainage and to the frequent cleansing of closets.
It should be borne in mind that the healthiness of new countries arises in a great measure from the fact that the soil and the streams are in a state of nature, unpolluted by the excretions of man, and that as the soil becomes charged with these excretions, so does healthiness decline. Our soil is wonderfully absorbent, evaporation is very rapid and there is a considerable rainfall; the streams also come to us from the mountains in a state of great purity. These things may retard the ill-effects of a want of cleanliness, but unless regulations are made and enforced for the removal of impurities from our closely-packed dwellings, the inevitable consequences of the transgression of the laws of health will result. 'Danger from fire also calls for wise preventive measures. Wood- shingled roofs should be in future prohibited in the centre of the town, and every house should have a brick or stone hearth in front of its fireplaces.
We have known a man occupying a quarter of an acre of land keep a team of horses, a saddle horse, and a cow, depending chiefly for the support of these animals on the grass of the streets and the plunder they could obtain from his neighbours' paddocks and gardens. Horses wandering unrestrained are an evil; they will run round a fenced paddock and entice the animals within to break out or will break in to them. If a garden gate should be left open they will enter and do damage. 'But the greatest mischief is done by animals that are tethered. Frequently they are left for several days picketed on one spot, until they ask imploringly each passerby to release or shift them. Riding or walking at night you are in imminent danger of breaking your neck over their tether ropes. Tied under your fence on a dark night the animal eats the grass so far as his tether will permit and then he will regale himself on the shrubs within his reach in your garden, breaking the tops of the palings in his endeavours to reach over and browse to the farthest extent. 'The Corporation should make such regulations as would tend to reach unscrupulous and unprincipled persons that the town is not a free common for their beasts, and that its streets are for the safe passage of the citizens and their wives and children by night and by day.
There are many other matters which will, doubtless, occur to the Committee appointed to draft the bye-laws and also to the Council, but these which we have mentioned appear to us to deserve the first and most serious attention.' 'The bylaws committee, consisting of Mayor Standish and Council- lors Humphreys, Rennell and Fookes, lost little time, and within two months had formulated an impressive total of 169 comprehensive bylaws which were adopted without alteration on January 9, 1879. They were listed under 11 headings, and formed the pattern for the government of the town which has been adhered to, with periodic amendments to meet the requirements of changes in living style and growth, ever since. They present, perhaps as clearly as anything else, a picture of life in the town more than a century ago: In the section dealing with' Streets' prohibitions included: 'No person shall ... discharge any catapault or shanghai ... drive any entire horse or any savage or dangerous animal loose ... discharge any firework in or within fifty feet from the side of any street ... go to sleep in any vehicle under his charge so as to leave the animal harnessed to the said vehicle without proper guidance ... ' Under 'Nuisances' every ownerofahouse in the borough was required to 'provide the same with a proper earth closet to the satisfaction of the officer appointed by the Council to superintend these matters ... ' 'No person shall bathe in any stream or river or any part of the sea' within the Borough within the hours of six 0' clock in the morning and six o'clock at night, except in such baths or places as shall be provided or allowed by the Council ... ' An annual fee of $1 0 was set for the use by the public of rooms where billiards was played, and a licence for rooms where public performances were held was $6.

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