By John Subritzky
A major port was envisaged at the end of the Rosebank Peninsula. But this was not the only strange proposal for Motu Mānawa/Pollen Island. Twice before, the idea of an aerodrome on the island had arisen. It is curious to think that from 1947 to 1989 Pollen Island was considered as a possible site for a major port. Weird ideas are not a new thing!
Motu means island, and Mānawa can mean mangrove. The other island (Traherne) that is overrun by the motorway is Motu Te Kou, meaning “fishhook.”
These islands, straddled today by the North-western Motorway, have long been part of the transport network. In pre-European times, waka paddled past the shell bank island on their way up and down the Whau to the intercoastal portage to the Manukau. The paddling tradition on the Whau is still maintained today by the West End Rowing Club on Saunders Reserve.
The mudbanks between the island and the mainland were used by Ngāti Pāoa as a burial ground, to preserve bodies. Some remains were disturbed during motorway construction in the 1950s.
While there are no remnants of permanent settlement in the area by Ngāti Pāoa, Te Kawerau a Maki, Te Waiohua or by Ngāti Whātua, there are remembered traditions linking it with the greater surrounding area used in general food gathering and fishing. And it is here that Avondale’s earliest historically dated event occurred: the battle at Te Rangimatariki between Ngā Oho, Te Taou, and Ngāti Pāoa in 1792.
When Rosebank Peninsula was surveyed in 1843, Motu Mānawa does not appear on the damaged map. The island remained unnoticed when the HMS Pandora surveyed the area in 1854. The earliest map of the island dates from 1857. Even now, commuters speeding along the motorway are largely oblivious to the wilderness between them and the sea.
Dr Daniel Pollen purchased the island on 10 March 1858. Pollen had brickworks on Rosebank Peninsula, and he also ran some sheep there. A son was born at his Rosebank property in 1856, but shortly after they were living in Eden Crescent. Pollen served as Native Minister, Colonial Secretary, and as the country’s ninth Premier for a seven-month period in the mid-1870s while Julius Vogel was overseas. He was also the editor of the New Zealand Times newspaper.
Mining of shell and sand from the two islands lasted 80 years, with a never-ending supply of shell being constantly washed ashore from the extensive cockle beds. A Mr Potterill offered to supply shell to the Avondale Road Board in 1915. Then Thomas Edwin Roe, called “Shellback Roe” by locals, burnt shell from Pollen Island to sell as lime.
The Avondale Road Board offered to purchase the island from the Pollen Estate in August 1915, but that was declined by the Public Trustee. Three years later they finally succeeded, and progressed their plan to build a bridge and tramline to extract shell. Once completed, small carts were pushed from the Domain (where the motor racing track is now) out to the edge of the shell bank, filled, and pushed back to the mainland.
In a typhoid epidemic in 1922, lime from Pollen Island was shipped to the Point Chevalier mental asylum and used to decontaminate freshwater springs. By 1941, the island’s formal shell-gathering days were over when a rifle range was set up on Rosebank Domain in August 1941.
Potential use of the island as the site for Auckland’s aerodrome was first mooted at an Avondale Borough Council meeting in November 1923. In July 1929, canal promoter David B Russell planned to reclaim land around the island for an aerodrome. By March 1930, Pollen Island was on the short list of proposed sites for Auckland’s aerodrome. City Council engineer James Tyler reported back unfavourably regarding the airport idea to the Council on the remote site that at most was “4ft above high water”. The aerodrome idea was briefly revived 40 years later in October 1969 when the Waitemata Aero Club wanted to use the island. We can all be glad that Māngere eventually became our international airport!
Pollen Island was sold to the Harbour Board in 1957 for ￡300. A 700-acre reclamation was planned and in July 1974, Pat Eyre, Waitematā delegate to the Harbour Board, pushed for Pollen Island to be developed as a container port. The Harbour Board’s general manager Bob Lorimer felt that a port development at Pollen Island was of “national significance”.
For many years mangrove wetlands around both harbours were reclaimed by using them as landfills. The mangroves were considered to be eyesores that needed to be covered over, not ecological assets. Forest and Bird mounted a campaign for a reserve and in 1993 Ports of Auckland agreed to lease the island to them for $10 per year. “Motu Mānawa / Pollen Island Scientific Reserve” was gazetted in September 2006. It was the only marine reserve in NZ that had a motorway running through it!
Mud snails and mud crabs provide a seafood feast for the shore birds. These include spoonbills, dotterels, wrybills, oystercatchers, pied stilts, white-faced herons, shags, and godwits. At the high tide mark there are salt marsh plants. Then a metre further back there are coastal shrubs. The vegetation zones get compressed over a short distance!
Now the island can only be accessed on foot by going under the Whau motorway bridge and slogging across the mudflats at low tide. The rich diversity of shoreline birds and flora is largely protected from both pests and humans because it is cut-off by the motorway. This is a surreal disconnection from the surrounds – Sky Tower, the Harbour Bridge, and the valuable real estate of Te Atatu and other suburbs.
Sometimes we don’t realise what we have until we lose it. Fortunately, we didn’t lose Motu Mānawa/Pollen Island.
Compiled with information provided in a talk earlier this year by Lisa Truttman, part of the “Whau Heritage Series”. To hear Lisa’s talk about this and other topics on Sound Cloud, visit:
By Lisa J Truttman
Craigavon is the western-most reserve at Blockhouse Bay. Originally purchased from mana whenua by Charles Robinson in 1845, by the late 1840s it became Crown Land, part of the 1859 subdivision known as the South Whau township, the Auckland Provincial Council’s settlement where it was hoped a port town would emerge beside the harbour. This was not successful, so in 1884 the Central Government gave it another go, resurveyed the failed 1859 subdivision, but left the land west of Connell Street as a Crown Reserve.
The Government resurveyed the reserve in 1896, and laid out the line of Connaught Street. They started selling lots from August of that year. William Henry Smith bought four of them, around 20 acres (the Motu Moana site) that year, and the following year three more lots (15 acres) being more or less the Craigavon Park site. In 1900, two more lots were bought by Smith, followed by a further purchase of 4¾ acres in 1905, these last two purchases completing what is Craigavon Park today.
In 1899 the Auckland Star described Smith’s “block of fairly good land on the line of the proposed canal that may some day connect the waters of the Manukau and the Waitemata . This gentleman has a neat little furnished cottage close to the beach, on the site of an old Maori pah, and surrounded by a little bit of native bush, in what is known as Green Bay.”
Smith was born in Ireland around 1850. As a young man, he took up work at a Belfast drapery store, and in 1874 at Portaferry, he married Mary Anne Caughey, youngest daughter of a grocer named James Caughey. The Smiths sailed to New York immediately after, and lived in the United States until 1879, then returned to Belfast.
But, with William’s health deteriorating, they decided to emigrate yet again, this time to Auckland in 1880. Marianne (as she now spelled her name) is said to have set up her Smith’s Cheap Drapery House, at the corner of Queen and Airedale Streets, opposite the present-day Town Hall site, from 1880, joined in business by her husband William from 1881. William’s obituary states, though, that he set up the business with his brother-in-law Andrew Clark Caughey. Whatever really happened, Smith’s Cheap Drapery House was in business from the later date at least.
The partnership of William Smith and Andrew Caughey, with shops on Queen Street and at Newmarket, began in September 1882. William Smith was for a time a City Councillor, and like his wife Marianne was known for his generous philanthropy towards various ‘slum missions’ and Christian charities. Smith was also, though, first and foremost a businessman. The land he owned at Blockhouse Bay was more than just a getaway spot, or at least that was the intent.
Back in 1903, he joined in with the short-lived Waitemata and Manukau Canal Promotion Company. At the time of his death in 1912, the Whau Canal proposal had been revived, and would be kept going clear through most of the 1920s, by promoter David Bruce Russell. So, while the Green Bay land the Smiths owned was a pleasant holiday spot for them, and while William Smith is said to have planted some trees there in a bout of bush restoration which was a trend at the time, it was most likely that the underlying reason for the purchases were as a long-term capital investment. We do have the canal schemes, in part, to thank for both Craigavon Park’s and the Motu Moana camp site’s existence today.
By 1922, Marianne Smith advertised camping sites and cottage on “Mrs Smith’s property” to let, for 25/- weekly plus rates. Then, in 1929, she decided to gift part of her Blockhouse Bay property to Auckland City Council. When Sir James Craig, Viscount Craigavon, Premier of Northern Ireland and a friend of hers visited New Zealand in November 1929, Marianne handed the deeds to him in a ceremony, and he in turn handed them to the Mayor of Auckland. The park was to be named in honour of her friend, as she wanted “to keep an honoured Ulster name for ever part of Auckland.” Mrs Smith also asked for the construction of entrance gates bearing the words “Craigavon Park.” The gates would cost the Council £382.
Lord Craigavon started out as James Craig (1871-1940), the son of a wealthy whiskey distiller, who followed a life-path that took him to the Second Anglo-Boer War until 1900, organiser of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteers in Northern Ireland, a weapons smuggler supplying Imperial Germany prior to the First World War, and a politician. He was made a baronet in 1918, and appointed the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1921. In 1927, he was created Viscount Craigavon of Stormont.
From the 1930s he became increasingly controversial for his anti-Catholic and anti-Republic of Ireland views, and even suggested to Winston Churchill during World War II that the UK should invade the republic by force and install a Governor-General. He was still Prime Minister of Northern Ireland when he died peacefully at his home in November 1940.
Visiting American landscape architect Fred Tschopp provided Auckland City Council with a plan for the development of Craigavon Park. He proposed sweeping curving paths, incorporating the existing plantations in the middle with tree planting all along the pathways. In 1935 the Council had decided to lease the park for grazing to a Mr Barker for 2/6 per month. T S Aldridge, the Council’s superintendent of parks, suggested in 1939 that the park should be gradually developed, and planted with rhododendrons and azaleas.
During World War II, the military authorities had the use of Craigavon Park from 1942 until 1944. In October 1944, the Green Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association asked for use of the park for picnics, and as a motor camp. Strict regulations regarding cooking facilities, water supply, lighted pathways, and proper sanitation stood in the way of Craigavon Park ever being a camping ground, or even (another idea at the time) as a transit camp site for those waiting for better housing. In May 1947, Barker was let back in with his cows.
By 1961, Craigavon Park was around 75% to 80% bush-covered, but this would not last for long. Early in 1965, a swathe of the regenerated bush and trees were cut right across the width of the park, for the installation of a power pylon. There have been some improvements since then, though. From 1982 Craigavon Park has been part of the Te Ara o Tiriwa walk linking Avondale South Domain (now Gittos Domain) with Craigavon Park and Green Bay via Te Whau Point. Play equipment has been upgraded three times since 1988. Old pines were removed in 2005, allowing for native trees to replace them.
As a regenerated semi-wilderness, scene of controversies over usage, reports of suspicious activity amid peripheral greenspace, it seems that Craigavon Park’s future will always be, at least in the foreseeable future, as the Park on the Edge of the West.
Connell Brothers Farm | Jomac Place
By John Subritzky
The hearse pulled up outside Chrysalis Early Learning Centre. Bob Connell had come back for the last time to the site of the original homestead. The oak and the pohutukawa, planted about 80 years earlier by his family, were now magnificent trees. The Connells had grown up with the trees and now the family stopped to collect acorns for Bob’s funeral.
In pre-European times, Maori had lived for a while here, on the shore of the Whau River. Shell middens with traces of charcoal from their fires was mapped by archaeologists. They tell us that cockles were the main shellfish eaten, but a range of other sea creatures were also locally sourced and on the menu, likely eaten between 1540 and 1670 AD.
In an amazing link back to those early Maori, their mahi was uncovered in the form of two postholes, 1 m apart. The circular postholes were of a very regular shape, measured 30cm in diameter x 33cm deep and 15cm diameter x 12cm deep and had flat bases.
There was a succession of European owners before the Connell Family bought the property in 1921. All that was left from that period for the archaeologists to find was the remains of a small brick house or hut, and a scattering of early 20th century bottles broken bricks and other debris visible on the foreshore.
The Connells were market gardeners on the 10ha site that is now Jomac Place. They grew potatoes and kumara for many years. Bob Connell claimed, that for a while after WWII, they were probably the biggest kumara growers in the country.
The three brothers and their sister grew up on the farm, playing in the Whau River. Bob said, “We used to swim down there when we were kids, but it was mighty muddy!” They also had small boats and went fishing. One time they netted 740 flounder in one day, giving the surplus away to neighbours. “They were very nice flounder,” said Bob.
In December 1959, the three boys, Daniel, Roy, and Robert became tenants in common on the farm. In 1996 Roy’s share went to Daniel and Bob, who by then were both retired.
The original homestead was pulled down by the Connell brothers in 1951. Bob said that it had been built from kauri and had individually made blacksmith nails. After that, the site was farmed as part of the market garden, and a new house was built. The house was located approximately where the street is now (Jomac Place).
In 1993, Neville Exler filmed the three brothers on his Sony Handicam, giving an insight into their last few years market gardening. They had started selling off other parcels of land from 1965. The writing was on the wall as their land was surrounded by industrial buildings.
Bob noted, “We don’t have much compost in the soil now; we have worked it out. We have mined the soil. We know it’s going to factories, and we won’t last much longer. It’s like the house. It’s going to be pushed down in a year or two. It’s not worth spending money on.”
The Exler film shows them harvesting cabbages, loading the boxes onto the tray of their trusty Massey Fergusson tractor before taking the boxes to their truck to load for the markets. Asked about how they grew the cabbages, Bob said that they propagated the cabbages from seed they grew themselves. They selected about 100 of the best cabbage plants each year and transplanted them into a garden together. To avoid the bees crosspollinating the cabbages with cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts, they would cover the plants with scrim to keep the bees out. Then they would crawl under the scrim and worked them with little brushes to pollenate the cabbages themselves. Bob claimed that this gave them some of the finest seed in the country.
By the time the land was sold to Jomac Properties in 2008, it was no longer being actively farmed. Bob was living in the house and he was feeding so many ducks that people referred to it as “The Duck Farm”. That didn’t seem to bother Bob. He kept a bag of poultry food at the front door and would regularly throw some to the assembled flock. When challenged that he was creating a nuisance with wild ducks, he would claim that they were all his birds.
Jomac Properties developed and subdivided the land. Their first preference for the road name was Connell Place, after Bob and his family. However, as there were many other roads around Auckland with that name it was declined, so they settled on Jomac Place. The Avondale Historical Society suggested four other names to the Avondale Community Board, but these were turned down. Deputy Mayor at the time, David Hay, felt that the developers were entitled to name the street after themselves and the Board agreed.
Approximately half the sections were sold. Jomac built on some sections and continues to lease them out. Ironically, the company that owns and leases these properties is called Connell Place Properties. It was named in the expectation that it would mirror the road name.
In 2009, it looked like the magnificent pohutukawa and oak trees would be felled, so a protest was mounted with a petition gathering about 1,200 signatures. The battle was led by Sigrid Shayer, a former Avondale resident who was chair of the Tree Council at the time, Imi Tovia, and Nina Patel, with support from Catherine Farmer.
The conflict dragged on, coming close to the time when the end of tree protection was in sight. Auckland Council had granted non-notified consent to fell the trees, then backtracked and sought to protect them. In late 2010, Jomac Construction was asking the courts to call off the Tree Council's crusade against them felling the pohutukawa and oak. It was reported that the developer had previously offered to keep both trees to mitigate the removal of 25 other generally protected trees on the main site.
Darius Singh purchased the lot with the trees on it for a childcare centre. He says it’s one thing to protest the removal of trees, but actually protecting and incorporating them into a development is another challenge. He sees the two trees – a native and an exotic – as being biculturally symbolic. The trees’ canopies have almost grown together, or touching each other as Darius says. The place where the Connell children grew up and played is the same place where a multitude of other children are now doing the same thing.
The Chrysalis Early Learning Centre building curves around the trees like a cocoon. Early on, they were visited by a cloud of monarch butterflies. This confirmed to Darius that the centre’s name was right. Under the oak tree is a bench seat with a plaque dedicated to the Connell brothers, “For starting a dream, planting the seeds of an oak and a pohutukawa, side by side”. Now a diverse group of children are growing up together, side by side.
By Lisa J Truttman
As flames lit up the December night in 1872 at the junction of Rosebank and Great North Roads in the district then known as the Whau, and as Martha Poppleton huddled nearby with her husband and family watching the first hotel in the district burn to the ground, I do wonder if she thought, “Oh, no, not again?”
Martha Rainey was born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1843. The Rainey family emigrated to Tasmania by early 1845. In 1855 Martha married Yorkshire-born James Poppleton in Victoria, and the couple headed briefly back to England in the early 1860s. They arrived in Auckland in November 1868.
The Poppletons appear to have settled immediately in Avondale. Martha was an accomplished amateur singer; she joined in with community performances at the local asylum at Pt Chevalier, and special events raising funds for various causes at the Whau Public Hall on St Georges Road. In December 1870, James Poppleton got the licence for the Waikomiti Hotel, and the family shifted further west.
On Monday 1 May 1871, the Poppletons entered local legend with Martha’s first accident.
About midnight on the Sunday before the incident, a man named James Thomas Steer had had somewhat too much to drink at another hostelry, was in possession of a revolver, and decided then was a great time to bang loudly on the Poppletons’ door to regale them with the story of a wild bull that had tried to attack him. Steer told the bleary-eyed Mr Poppleton that he’d fired his revolver three times at the bull and scared it away. Poppleton kindly invited Steer in to sleep things off for the rest of the night.
The next morning Steer, still quite excited by his adventure, decided to tell Martha Poppleton about it as well. He felt that, to prove the truth to his story, it would be a great idea to hand the weapon in question to Martha to check out. Martha, though, was quite inexperienced with any type of firearm, and was unaware that it was loaded, capped, and cocked at the time. It went off, while it was aimed at Steer.
To quote the news report from the time, Steer “then became very much excited, and Mr Poppleton and his servant got the wounded man put into a cart, in order to convey him to the Provincial Hospital. While being brought into Auckland, Steer got very violent, and bolted from his guardians. He then made rapidly for Auckland, and was arrested by Sergeant Walker and another constable at the Anchor Hotel, under the impression that he was suffering from mental derangement.” He was later examined, found not to be a lunatic but simply a man who had been accidentally shot by a woman in the shoulder, and was taken to hospital, where he later recovered.
Not long after this, in June 1871, James Poppleton took up the license for the Whau Hotel, and moved back to Avondale.
Things were fine. Martha was still singing and entertaining people, performing “in a manner that called forth a warm acknowledgement” from appreciative local audiences. She and James, as proprietors of the hotel, were at the centre of Avondale’s early community, the hotel being as much a gathering place for meetings and events as the public hall at the other end of the settlement. In mid-December 1872, James Poppleton was deeply involved with a committee planning for Boxing Day sports on one of the nearby paddocks.
On the night of 17 December 1872, Martha decided to hang a dress beside the last embers of the kitchen fireplace, then went to bed. James was the last to retire at 11.30 pm, checking that everything was all right before he did so. The only fire still alight was that in the kitchen.
Between 1am and 2am, Martha awoke, and found the hotel full of smoke. Frantic, she woke up James, who went downstairs to investigate, and found the kitchen ablaze, all round the fireplace. He decided not to try to put the fire out, as he felt it was beyond that. He called out to Martha, and the couple evacuated their family and tried to save what they could of their possessions, mainly the hotel’s money box, and some furniture. Within an hour, the entire two-storey, ten-roomed building, dating from 1861, was burned to the ground. While there was no real evidence as to the cause presented at the resulting inquest, it remains local belief that Martha may have hung that dress a bit too close to the embers …
The Poppletons moved away from Avondale after that. James would come to have the Eden Vine Hotel, then a store at Henderson, before the family left for Australia, where he died in 1882 after a painful illness. Martha outlived him by a number of decades, passing away in Victoria in 1924. Today, where Martha would practice her songs and had hung her dress to dry on that December evening, you can get your teeth examined by one of the local dentists. There are no signs left of the accidental Mrs Poppleton.
By Lisa J Truttman
One summer’s day, in December 1881, two days before Christmas, Lawrence Teirney got off his horse bus outside the Whau Hotel (this being just before the district was renamed to Avondale) on the Great North Road, took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and offered to give fellow horse bus driver a proper thrashing in the form of a spontaneous expression of the art of fisticuffs in the otherwise quiet rural surroundings.
Lawrence Teirney was born in County Cavan, Ireland, and sailed from London with his family in 1874. Teirney is said to have found work at first as a groom, but by at least early 1877 he was working for Frank Quick, driving one of the horse buses to and from Avondale. By January 1879, Teirney was in business for himself, in opposition to Quick.
He had two court appearances with regard to the way he conducted his public transport business. The first, in November 1879, resulted from an incident where he reportedly ran a buggy off the road near the junction of Symonds Street, Mt Eden Road and New North Road. Enough doubt was cast on the other party’s sobriety that Teirney was let off.
Then came the Collins incident of December 1881. Both Patrick Collins’ bus (working for Frank Quick) and Teirney’s left the city, Teirney half an hour ahead of Collins, but Collins managed to catch him at the Whau Hotel, near the present-day roundabout in Avondale. Teirney left the hotel five minutes before Collins, but Collins again caught up with Teirney, this time in New Lynn near Quick’s stables. Teirney stopped his bus, and blocked the road.
Collins called for Teirney to clear the road, the other refused. Collins tried edging his horse bus around Teirney, only to find the other man shifted his vehicle as well, blocking Collins. Then both drivers started a mad drive, at speed, back towards the Whau Bridge – which was a one-lane narrow timber affair at that time. Teirney reached the bridge first, and stopped his bus, blocking the bridge. Then, half a minute later, he drove on a bit further, blocking the other end of the bridge before finally taking off, racing up the hill back towards the Whau Hotel, Collins in pursuit.
Teirney was charged with a breach of the Public Works Act, by allowing his horse bus to remain for a length of time in the centre of the road, but as the prosecutor cited the wrong section of the Act with which to charge him, that part of the matter went no further. For creating the disturbance, Teirney was fined 20s plus costs of £1 4s.
The start-up of the Northern Omnibus Company in 1883, a short-lived venture (only until 1884) linking the City with Avondale (and New Lynn) via both the New North and Great North Road routes, seems to have brought an end to Teirney’s horse-bus driving career.
It looks like, by June 1886 he was making his living as a cabdriver and carter in the city. He and his wife Bridget made a successful application for land at Swanson, at the junction of Waitakere and Kay Roads. Bridget received a 999-year lease on the land – it left her children’s control in 1906, two years after her death.
Lawrence Teirney was elected to the first school committee in Swanson in 1887, and the Teirneys were also supporters of the local Catholic congregation. On 9 December 1915, Teirney died at his daughter’s Waihi home. He was buried in Swanson Cemetery, beside Bridget.
Adapted from Lisa Truttman’s Whau Heritage Talk about Lawrence Teirney, which will be uploaded on Auckland Library's Soundcloud site shortly. Check at soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries
Early train incidents at New Lynn
By Lisa Truttman
Over the years since the railway line from New Lynn to Glen Eden was laid down in the late 1870s, it has changed. Before the trenching of New Lynn Station in 2008-2010, came the elimination of the level crossing at Titirangi Road from 1939 to 1940. This latter project also changed the appearance of the crossings over the streams that make up the Rewarewa Creek watershed, on either side of Titirangi Road. Today, we’d hardly know they were there.
Before the First World War, the two viaducts were still both visible, and were the scenes of two incidents from the early days of rail in New Lynn.
On Tuesday, 19 November 1912, a number of school children were playing in the scrub near the Titirangi Road crossing. One of them, Edward Dyer aged five or six, wandered onto the viaduct just above and west of Titirangi Road. Suddenly around the bend further up “Scroggy Hill” as that incline used to be known, a speeding train appeared. It was the train from Helensville, bound for the city. Terrified, young Edward fell across the rails, and clutched them tightly with fear, not knowing what else to do in his panic as the train came nearer.
But that day he was a very fortunate young boy. Another of the children nearby, Alexander Frederick Barron, aged 11, spotted what had happened, summed up what to do, and rushed onto the bridge. He scooped Edward up into his arms, and both of them leapt over the side into the scrub below, mere moments before the train passed above them.
It took a while for the greater community to become aware of the story. Perhaps the boys, fearful of the punishment for being so near a very dangerous place, kept quiet about it. But when John Gardner of the noted New Lynn brickmaking family approached the NZ Herald with the sum of 10s, as the start of a fund to reward Alexander for his heroism the following month, the story came out. At a special presentation at New Lynn School on 19 December, Alexander Barron was given an illuminated address, a copy of the Boys Own Annual from his schoolmates, a cheque for one guinea from John Bollard, the local MP, and a silver watch from John Gardner, inscribed: “Alexander Barron, for bravery, December. 1912, from a few admirers.” Early in 1913, Alexander was also awarded a bronze medal from the Royal Humane Society.
The remainder of his life was much more ordinary. He and his wife lived at Pt Chevalier during the 1920s to 1930s, but from the mid 1940s he was a farmer, living in Cliff View Drive, Green Bay. Barron Drive, so close to his home, may have been named after him and his family in the early 1960s. He died, still a resident at Green Bay, in 1976.
The other incident at the railway viaducts in New Lynn is a much more famous one, related in books and articles over the years.
On a foggy winter’s morning, Thursday 28 May 1913, a goods train from the city arrived at New Lynn Station. In those days, in order for the train to move onto a siding to keep the main line clear, it was necessary to go forward up the incline almost as far as Titirangi Road, then reverse back. Fog cut down visibility severely, and the rails were greasy and slippery. The driver of a passenger train from Helensville, rounding the bend and heading toward Titirangi Road, did not see the goods train that was still on the Rewarewa viaduct, and on the single line, just west of the road, until too late. The engines collided head on. Two of the passenger carriages telescoped and crumpled. The windows were blown out of the next two carriages behind them. It was fortunate that no one died, out of over 100 passengers aboard, but there were a number of injuries, including among the train crews involved. One passenger, a Mr E H Stone, remained in a critical condition for weeks, his chest badly crushed.
Locals from New Lynn and Henderson demanded a ministerial enquiry into how the accident happened. The Railways Minister at the time, William Herbert Herries, said that there needed to be a departmental enquiry first before he could instigate a ministerial one. The Railways Department did hold an enquiry, and the result was the dismissal of both the driver of the Helensville train, John James Corich, and the tablet porter Thomas William Mortimer who was in charge at the New Lynn station. But this enquiry was held behind closed doors.
The residents demanded a public enquiry, and so one got underway in September 1913, four months after the crash. It turned out that while the tablet porter had received the danger signal that the train coming from Helensville was approaching, he’d had too many duties to keep sufficient watch on what was happening (although Mortimer denied he was overworked). There was no fog signalling at New Lynn station – a fog signalman was appointed only two months after the crash. The practice of shunting goods trains from the main line to sidings was well-known in the district as a potential disaster waiting to happen, with four passenger trains a day passing through New Lynn station, and with New Lynn’s goods traffic, thanks to the brickyards, increasing month by month at that point.
The enquiry found that the driver of the passenger train, Corich, should have reduced his speed, given the weather conditions, but recommended reinstating him at a lower status due to his youth and lack of experience. Corich tried to appeal against the railway department’s ruling the next year, but was convinced to withdraw, as he still had a job with the department. Mortimer on the other hand was recommended to be exonerated. He was described as the New Lynn station master in 1914, before serving as a guard for most of the rest of his career.
Photos: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 22 AWNS-19130605-10-05, -10-06, and -11-1
Adapted from a publication by Lisa J Truttman
The 3 Guys Site
Albert Gubay was born in 1928 in Rhyl, Northern Wales, from an Irish mother and a Jewish emigrant father from Baghdad.
According to his obituary, his business was struggling in the mid-1950s, and with worries as far as supporting his wife and two children were concerned, Gubay apparently made a pact with God, he said in a later interview. “Lying on my bed one Sunday afternoon, I said, ‘God, where’s the next penny going to come from? God, please help me — and whatever I make, when I pass on, half will go to you.’ And that was it: I was at peace with the world.” Most of his fortune wound up being given away, in his lifetime and after he died in early 2016.
By 1967, Gubay had opened up a chain of Kwik Save Discount stores in Britain, following a world trend from just after WWII. Retailing was stripped to basics. Basic stores, basic fittings, often using adapted older buildings. By January 1973, he left Great Britain to live in New Zealand for a time.
The origin of “3 Guys” as a name is uncertain. The press thought it was Gubay himself and two relatives, but a study in 1998 found that Gubay was fascinated with an American discount retailer named “Two Guys from Harrison.” He left New Zealand permanently in April 1974. His New Zealand companies were sold in 1984.
The first Auckland store opened in Mangere in January 1973, followed by Papatoetoe, Mt Eden, Northcote, and Glen Eden. It’s said that he wanted to open a store in Green Bay, but local opposition changed his mind and he opted for Avondale instead; his Lynley Buildings Ltd owned the Avondale land, more or less, from August 1973.
I remember in Standard 4 at Avondale Primary in 1974 when the teacher brought up that Mr Albert Gubay was going to build a supermarket in our suburb and had us write letters of welcome to him as a class project. The supermarket here in Avondale was completed in September 1975. The development proved controversial from the start, because instead of the open-to-the-main-road view of the supermarket we had been expecting, a blank wall was to be the frontage to Great North Road right through to the building’s demolition in 1997.
Then there were the issues with Auckland City Council and the zoning of the property. When Lynley Buildings Ltd purchased the site, it was with the intention of building a full-sized supermarket as part of the standard size specifications of the chain and extending parking over what is today the state housing units, next door to the former Suburbs Rugby Football clubrooms. However, only part of the land, nearest Great North Road, was zoned as C3, commercial use. The rest was zoned R4, residential, with restrictions in terms of parking use and capacity. The company claimed that it thought the land could be used for parking when it was purchased. The Council stuck to their guns, and pointed out the zoning. So, the supermarket in Avondale was built 40 feet smaller than others in the chain, to provide more parking space at the rear. An application for a further 4800 square feet addition was also refused by the Council. The Council considered making an offer at the time to purchase the disputed land for parking purposes, but the offering price meant that idea had to be abandoned. That area, in Lynley Building’s plans as presented before later appeal hearings, was intended for the site of a tavern, operated by the Portage Licensing Trust, as part of a broader development of the block between the supermarket and the rugby club buildings. However, the Trust found themselves unable or unwilling to commit to such a development.
The former vehicle entrance off Great North Road was closed and became a covered mini-arcade just beside the supermarket. I recall a laundry there, a furniture shop, and other uses. But the land between the sealed carpark and the rugby clubrooms was left to the weeds, the houses that once existed there, the former horse paddocks, shed and garages, long since removed in the 1970s, in the expectation of full-on commercial development. The supermarket was never able to expand to regain that lost square footage. In 1988, the property was passed on to 3 Guys Property Ltd. The supermarket and arcade continued for a while but was finally closed on 27 June 1997. General Distributors Ltd (for Progressive Enterprises) merged with 3 Guys Property Ltd in August 1997, and the supermarket and arcade was demolished by the end of that year.
The property was transferred to Morning Star Enterprises Limited (a property arm of architect and developer Arthur Mortenstern), and subdivided. The surplus land was sold to Housing New Zealand in March 1998, and 36 units were built there.
The 3 Guys brand in Auckland, which had been taken over by Progressive Enterprises, eventually disappeared in 2003, replaced by Countdown stores.
Two restrictive covenants were placed in the title for the former 3 Guys site early in 1998. A supermarket owned by 3 Guys Property Ltd in Valley Road, Mt Eden was transferred to General Distributors back in May 1997 — and a covenant placed on the title of the Avondale land in January 1998 meant that while the land at Mt Eden was used as a supermarket, the land at Avondale could not be similarly used. In the same month, the Council placed a covenant on the title that while the Avondale supermarket site had been further subdivided into two parts, neither of these could be sold separately from each other.
Morning Star Enterprises conveyed the former Avondale 3 Guys site to Rawhiti Developments Limited in March 1998, and in turn it went to Challenge Petroleum Limited two months later. The company intended using the vacant site as a service station, a proposal that received approval from the City Council’s planning department.
However, around 40 business owners, plus the Avondale Primary School Board of Trustees took exception to the plans, and a community campaign ensued, fronted by local businessman Duncan Macdonald. The main issue was the impact on traffic in the area, and a likely increase in danger to pedestrians, especially school children. A petition was organised, and a picket staged on the Great North Road frontage. The protest was covered by local press: as a result, Challenge Petroleum withdrew their resource consent application in January 1999.
In April 1999, Auckland City Council purchased the site for $1.5 million, the transfer formalised in July, to ensure public access to the parking area. By now, Macdonald was president of the Avondale Business Association, and the ABA liaised with Council on concept plans to be presented to interested developers of the site. In September 2000, the ABA oversaw and supplied materials for local arts group 'Wai Kauri’ to paint a mural depicting the history of the Avondale area on the fence at the rear of the 3 Guys site.
It was announced that the Council had found a buyer in 2001 (at a loss of $153,650) and in 2002 the Council placed a further encumbrance on the title, ensuring that Quinnian Zhang had to provide 100 public carparks for recreational purposes, a street-level retail component on the majority of the Great North Road frontage, and to comply with certain community objectives for mixed use retail/residential for the property.
For the next 15 years though, the site remained empty, overgrown in places, and almost constantly used as a casual rubbish dumping ground. The owners prepared a number of development plans, none of which seemed to go very much further than the drawing board. One attempt in 2007 (for a development on the site of 54 residences, office, retail and café/restaurants) almost led to Council reversing their decision to amend the 100 public car park spaces encumbrance on the title to 61 spaces, with guarantees of access to the Avondale Central reserve. But negotiations appear to have broken down at the time.
Whau Arts Festivals were held there in 2014 and 2015, and in July 2017 four organisations sought to “reactivate” the site by installing two shipping containers there in an effort to create a community hub. This sparked controversy, and polarised part of the community. Eventually, after opposition from local businesses and the ABA, the containers were removed.
The private owners put the site back on the market, and Auckland Council’s regeneration agency Panuku purchased the site in October 2017. Panuku reported to the Council’s Planning Committee: “The large site in the middle of the town centre has been vacant since the late 1990s. This results in a lack of continuity of the town centre and a perception that the centre lacks vibrancy ... we will ... seek good development outcomes on the central development sites (1909 — 1949 Great North Road and 1907 Great North Road) through advocacy, negotiation or acquisition.”
In recent years the site has been the venue for the Art Park, as well as community activations.
Now the new library and community centre are being designed to replace the strip of shops west of the site and the Spider. The town square area where the Spider is will also be redeveloped. Along with the current demand for apartments, this renewal in Avondale should enable Panuku to negotiate a suitable sale of the site to a developer. Finally, the decades old vision for street level retail and apartments above could come to fruition.
Adapted from publication “At the Heart of the Village. The Lives and Transactions at the Former 3 Guys Site, Avondale”, written by Lisa J Truttman for the Avondale Business Association.
Avondale's acclaimed landscape artist
By Lisa Truttman
William Allen Bollard was born, according to one family tree, 25 April 1869. His father was John Bollard, and his mother Jane née Ganley. John Bollard had an 86-acre farm on Rosebank beside the river leased from William Innes Taylor since 1863.
As a boy, William would have attended the Whau School in the public hall opposite the Presbyterian Church.
As a teenager, he developed a flair for the artistic, and was apprenticed to John Henderson in Wyndham Street in the City. Henderson’s “Decorative Establishment” boasted services in painting, glazing, paperhanging, artistic decorating, and signwriting.
But William also studied under the tutelage of artist Kennett Watkins, master of the Auckland Free School of Art in 1880, and president of the NZ Art Students Association in 1884. Watkins was known for his landscape paintings, and this would later be William Bollard’s main theme of work.
At 18 years of age, two of William’s works - a view of J M Alexander’s Mt Albert residence, and John Henderson’s Ponsonby home - were put upon display in the window of Phillipps and Sons in Queen Street. They were described in the NZ Herald of 25 August 1888 as “equal in distinctness of lines to photographs.”
By June the following year, aged 19, William entered into a partnership with signwriter and decorator Robert Henry Froude; ‘Bollard & Froude’ began to advertise their business as “signwriters, decorators and gilders,” “paintings of New Zealand scenery always on hand. Pictures mounted and framed,” at 177 Queen Street.
In 1891, William married Harriet Sankey, and the couple would have one son: John Henry Allen Bollard, born 22 June 1893. Sadly, Harriet passed away just weeks later, and was buried in Rosebank Cemetery.
Bollard & Froude worked on the signwriting for commercial premises in central Auckland, and as a highlight were appointed the official signwriters for the Auckland Industrial Exhibition of 1896. In 1899 however, they parted ways, Froude buying William Bollard’s interest in the business. Froude carried on the business in his own name until he went bankrupt in 1913.
William Bollard, however, became involved with the Auckland Society of Arts, exhibiting his work at their shows but also attracting criticism from the press such as “not as good as his work of several years back.”
By 1904, he shifted to Dunedin, where he set up a studio. There, two of his paintings exhibited in the window of the Dresden Piano Company shop attracted much more favourable comment, said to “attract attention on account of their effective treatment and harmonious colouring.”
By 1906, his work was exhibited and auctioned at McCormick & Pugh’s Art Gallery in the city.
In 1910 he married for the second time, to Emma Hawkins Meadowcroft. The couple would have two children, Margaret Jane Ganley Bollard in 1911, and Albert Ernest Bollard in 1912. Emma, though, died 14 June 1915, aged only 37.
There was more sad news just over a year later – his first son John was killed by shellfire in action in France 25 September 1916. The shell blast flung John 60 feet into the air. When his body was recovered, it was described as badly mangled, with the clothes stripped away by the blast. John Henry Allen Bollard’s name is included on the marble roll of honour prepared by Avondale Primary as a past-pupil of the school.
When William Bollard died in 1941, the Dunedin Evening Star printed a considerable obituary:
A familiar and popular figure to many Dunedin citizens passed away suddenly on Saturday in the person of Mr William Allen Bollard, the well-known landscape painter and teacher of art. Deceased, who was in his seventy-third year, was one of the best known artists not only in Dunedin, but also in many other parts of New Zealand, and landscapes from his brush are to be seen in many different parts of the country …
For the past 40 years he was a regular exhibitor at all the exhibitions of the Otago Art Society, and his landscapes, characteristic in their broad and colourful treatment, were always a source of interest to visitors. Mostly his subjects were local beauty spots, with which he had a very intimate acquaintance, and his style and manner on canvas became readily recognisable.
Though he has left in pictorial record many charming views of Otago landscape, he was also fond of the picturesque country of the northern Maori, which he knew in earlier years, and sometimes used his brush effectively in such scenes.
“Mr Bollard possessed the individuality of the artist to a marked degree, and this was reflected in all his work, specimens of which will be greatly missed at future exhibitions of the Otago Art Society, with which he was connected for so long. In oil and water colour he was equally at home, using both, confidently and convincingly.
Three of his pictures of Dominion scenes are hanging in New Zealand House, London, and work from his brush is to be seen in hundreds of Dunedin homes.
At the point where the Rewarewa Stream from New Lynn flows into the Whau River, lies the 5.9ha Ken Maunder Park, home to innumerable local sporting moments for over 60 years. Like so many of our city’s green swathes and reserves, though, this one has a story beyond the kick of a goal, or the scoring of four runs.
New Lynn, like most of the Whau area back in the mid-19th century, was sparsely-settled, and used mainly for the grazing of stock. Farmer Henry Hayr had a cattle run there in 1852, buying the original 84 acres from the Crown for his own farm in 1854. “Hayr’s Grant” went through a number of ownership changes and subdivisions, until in 1887 brothers Henry and James Binsted purchased nearly 19 acres of Hayr’s former ground, closest to the river.
The Binsted brothers were butchers, starting up their first shop in Victoria Street West in 1881. They ran a small slaughtering operation to stock their Freemans Bay shop, but then saw an opportunity in New Lynn for a site to continue running their own slaughterhouse, clear of restrictive Auckland City Council regulations. In 1886, they took over the £5 Waitemata County license from a Mr Frost, and in 1887 purchased the New Lynn property Frost may well have already been using for his own business.
It was a perfect spot for something like a slaughterhouse, close to main roads leading from the cattle ranges to the west and east, and where all the resulting effluent from their processing plant simply washed away on the tide down the river to the harbour. Their New Lynn slaughterhouse supplied not only their Freeman’s Bay store, but also the Avondale shop they took over at the St Judes Street corner by c.1890. That same year a road to the slaughterhouse was laid out, the future Binsted Road, ending right at the water’s edge.
From 1893, the brothers ran their “Avondale Styes” farm there as well, breeding and selling pedigree Berkshire and Yorkshire pigs. By then, their complex at New Lynn included (beside the pigs) a feeding room, scalding shed, “boiling down place” and the slaughterhouse.
In 1907, James Binsted stated that a bullock at his works could be killed and dressed in three-quarters of an hour, and the same time would see eight to ten sheep slaughtered. Men were paid £2 15s per week wages, and did other work as well as slaughtering. The Binsted slaughterhouse was one of New Lynn’s main sources of employment, rivalled only by the brickyards beside the railway line.
The Binsted land had a brief part to play in the story of the Sandford-Miller bi-plane which was being trialled at Avondale Racecourse during 1913. The plane achieved the first cross-country flight in New Zealand on 31 August that year, taking off with Sandford at the controls from Avondale, heading west. Sandford turned back to make for the racecourse again, but the engine failed, and he made a forced landing on a glide in Binsted’s paddock against the slaughterhouse. Two weeks later, after repairs by Miller, the plane returned across the Whau River to Avondale.
By the First World War, James’ son John Claude Binsted managed several country butcher shops, supplied by the family’s New Lynn operation. One thing the Binsteds couldn’t do was sell their meat within the bounds of Auckland City at the time, as they were of course not using a Council-approved or owned facility.
A fire at the slaughterhouse in 1916 did some damage, and probably heralded the end of the complex’s use. After James Binsted died in 1920 (his brother Henry had died in 1895), the Avondale shop was sold to Hellabys, and the sheds at New Lynn were dismantled in 1921.
Streets were planned across the property by 1939, including an esplanade along the coastline. Perhaps the family intended to subdivide the property for industrial use; only a small portion right at the tip was marked on the 1939 town plan as future reserve. Instead, from the late 1920s, the Binsteds’ land became a rubbish tip, so much so, that neighbours on Binsted Road complained to the town board about the nuisance.
The Binsted family retained ownership of the property through to 1951, when it was transferred to the last surviving trustee Harold Bollard. At that time, approaches were made to the New Lynn Borough Council to buy the land as a recreational reserve, along with a plea contained in the transfer deed for the preferred name of “Binsted Park”, recognising the many decades of the family’s ownership. The land title was formally conveyed in 1955 – but the Borough Council decided instead to call the new reserve “Rewa Park”.
Part of the land was sold to commercial interests, leaving only around two-thirds of the Binsted land as reserve. By 1956 football fields had been formed, and a mangrove swamp reclaimed by dumping still more municipal rubbish. The New Lynn Cricket Club established clubrooms there in 1961. By 1963, a bridge had been built linking the park with Queen Mary Avenue, ensuring that Rewa Park became a popular recreation area for locals. In 1967 though, it nearly became the site of a heliport, but local opposition to the idea proved too great.
In 1970, it was decided to rename Rewa Park; the name chosen was Ken Maunder Park. Maunder had been a member of the New Lynn Borough Council from 1955-1962, and later for a period until his death in 1969, including service as deputy mayor of the borough 1959-1962. He was widely active in the local sporting community, including as president of the New Lynn Bowling Club. So, despite the wishes of the Binsted family, their name remained connected only with the road that once led to their ancestors’ property.
In the mid to late 1970s, the Rata Street extension cut across the southern edge of the park. In 2007-2008, the original 1960s bridge link to Queen Mary Avenue was replaced. From 2011, Ken Maunder Park has featured prominently as part of the route for the Te Whau Pathway, which will provide a walking and cycling linkage between the North-Western Motorway and New Lynn.
Any inkling of the old slaughterhouse complex that was once there, and of the Binsted prize pedigree pigs, has long since faded from the community’s memory.
“We travelled over the open and barren heaths…observed nothing new in these dreary and sterile wilds,” was the sharp observation of William Colenso in 1842. I bet he wished there had been a hotel there when he went past!
New Lynn was hard clay country back when Alfred Ramsden turned up around 1880 from Australia and decided that the middle of nowhere was exactly the sort of place that travellers would want to pause and have a comfort stop - especially if they could be served a handle of beer from an open barrel. It was certainly in the middle of a rural area and New Lynn wasn’t yet a twinkle in anyone’s eye.
“Did New Lynn exist [in 1882]? There wasn't much of a train station, the shops weren't there (the main service centre for the West was Avondale, up until just after WWI). Folks lived there and had small farms, or house cows. They certainly had instances of folks ripping roofs off rental properties, and taking to each other with large sticks. But there wasn't much in the way of employment up until Gardners, Parker, Jagger and Crum [brickworks] turned up. It was a locality. That's about what you could say for it. The first school wasn't even until 1888. Up until then, kids went to Avondale.” comments Lisa Truttman.
In JT Diamond’s book Once the Wilderness, it says “Alf Ramsden chose what was then a centrally situated site. Radiating out across the countryside from this hotel were well worn tracks formed by locals making a bee-line for this centre of attraction.”
Being an enterprising sort of bloke and not someone who would buy a brick when he could make it, Alf set to and made his own bricks near the site of what is now the Fruitvale Railway Station. And that’s where the problems started because he wasn’t as good at making bricks as he imagined, and they were not fired properly. A short hundred or so years later Alf’s lack of brickmaking talent would literally come crumbling down.
What Alf lacked in brickmaking he made up for in spades in design, at least on the two sides seen as one approached it from the city. “The Hotel has excellent proportions with the division of the top and bottom storeys and two to three bays each side of the front door. Decoration is limited to the Italianate windows, the mock stone block edges, entry emphasis and fine pediments.”
Sadly for Alf it was all over in 1883 when he went bankrupt and moved on. The hotel seems to have continued on ok in following years as a staging post with large stables on the right, two hitching rails and a water trough out front. A hint of the trouble to come was when the licence renewal in 1904 was opposed by the local policeman. He possibly suspected that in the remote location those official opening hours were not being observed. That the hotel was being run by three women, a Mrs Hertz, Mrs Patterson, and a Mrs Featon was possibly just too much for the police.
Pub life ended permanently for the place the locals affectionately referred to as ‘The Old Grey Mare’, with prohibition in 1909. After this it became residential accommodation, although one part was rented out as doctors rooms from the 1940’s to 1966. Yugoslav migrants the Bartulovich family purchased the building in 1940 and sold it to the Waitakere City in 2005. In 1995 an engineer’s report deemed it unsafe to live in, and years of wrangling over the sale price to the council ensued.
At some stage an owner added some buttress walls on either side of the building. These probably extended the life of it but the poor foundations and weak bricks meant that no conservation technique could save the building. When it was eventually demolished one of those present, John Radford, said “Many vertical cracks had gone from the roof right down to the ground. The structure of the outer walls was essentially a series of free standing pillars (separated by vertical cracks) that were just waiting to fall over. I remember picking up one of the bricks that was on the ground following the demolition and was amazed that I could crumble it into dust in my hands. I was commissioned to come up with some proposals for a sculpture to commemorate the building which did not come to any fruition.”
Radford’s memory is supported by Randolph Covich “The bricks were delivered to Western Aggregates for recycling with the request to save as many as possible from the crusher, so a sculpture could be made. Unfortunately, they were too unstable and were crushed back into fill for building sites.”
And so in 2009 the end came for a fine old landmark from another era. It was literally dust to dust (and ashes to ashes) and the building returned to the earth from where it had come.
Owners of the New Lynn Hotel from 1893:
1893 Moss Davis
1904 Captain Cook Brewery
1907 Hancock & Co
1913 William John Pugh
1923 Jessie Louisa Pugh
1923 Samuel Havie
1923 Reginald Frederick Collard
1940 Rosko Kasich Bartulovich & Nicola Grgo Bartulovich