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Avondale Historical Journal No. 9

Avondale Historical Journal No. 9

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Published by Lisa Truttman
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand
Journal of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society, Auckland, New Zealand

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Lisa Truttman on Jun 25, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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For the better part of 50 years, from the mid 19th century to the dawn of the 20th,Auckland men of influence seriously considered the benefits and practicality of a canallinking the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours. As the New Zealand Herald in 1956, acentury after the first musings on the scheme put it, this was “The Canal That WasNever Dug.”
Of the two routes, one other discussed as going through the Tamaki Isthmus via Ota-huhu, the Whau River proposal off-and-on occupied the minds of Avondale’s business-men, land agents and industrialists up until the late 20th century.The distance between thetides of the Waitemata andManukau Harbours by thisroute was estimated (in1903) as being only a mileand a half, making thesteaming distance from Ka-raka Bay to Queen St only12 miles, while from Manu-kau Heads it was 25 miles.
“If the canal were made it would be a most pleasant ending to the sea journey to Auckland, via the West Coast, for the Whau River is very pretty in parts, and when it is utilised as a ca-nal there would probablyarise a demand for residen-tial sites.”
, 1903).
By the early 20th century, whereas businessmen wanted to cut down the cost of cartinggrain and agricultural products from the Waikato in the previous century, it was now aneed for the raw products of industrialisation that drove interested financiers and busi-nessmen to form their committees and seek the easiest route from the south to Auck-land. By 1903, they wanted better transport for King Coal, both from the Waikato(Huntly fields alongside the Waikato River) and from the West Coast.A survey of the suggested line of the Whau canal was undertaken in the late 1850s.Captain Drury of H.M.S. Pandora then estimated the total cost at one million pounds
(continued on page 2)
sterling. The “only serious engineering difficulty on the route” involved “a cutting of athird of a mile through the hill, where Manukau blockhouse is situated, and which rises
The 1903 party from the Waitemata-Manukau Canal Pro-motion Scheme, alighting from the steamer at Keane's Brickworks, during the 1903 inspection of the proposed canal route. From The New Zealand Graphic, 25 July1903.
The AvondaleHistorical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated
January – February 2003Volume
The Canal ThatWas NeverDug
1 – 2
Growing Up inthe 1930s and1940s
3 – 4
Inside this issue:
The Canal That Was Never DugThe Canal That Was Never DugThe Canal That Was Never DugThe Canal That Was Never Dug
over 400 feet above sea level.” (NZH, 11/2/1883).In 1869, Auckland businessmen were still pressing for thescheme, trying to persuade shipping companies to bringships direct to Onehunga from Melbourne. “
 In 1883 the“Auckland Weekly News” re- ported a suggestion that instead of following the Whau, theroute could be moved east to gothrough the Avondale flats, per-haps joining the Waitematanear the end of Eastdale Road.”
Challenge of theWhau)
In his presidential address tothe Chamber of Commerce in1900, Samuel Vaile “deploredthe Government’s apathy aboutthe canal. ‘It is difficult to un-derstand why this importantwork has been so long ne-glected,’ he said. ‘Certain it isthat if it were made it wouldbring in a large increase of trade to our port andcity.” (NZH 24/1/1956, on thecentenary of the Chamber of Commerce)
The New Zealand Herald of 16/7/1903 reported that
“The committee and subscribersto the Waitemata-Manukau Canal scheme, together with alarge number of gentlemen interested, made a visit of in-spection yesterday along the route of the proposed canal,which is intended to link the Manukau and Waitemataharbours, and materially shorten the sea distance between Auckland and the West Coast ports."The party were taken by the launch Ruru to the mouth of the Whau River and beyond to Archibald’s brickworks,where Mr Archibald came on board, kindly piloting thesteamer to Keane’s brickworks. Here a landing was ef- fected. It had been arranged to get up as far as the Whau River bridge, but the tide was falling when the steamer reached Keane’s. Brakes were in waiting at the bridge,and the party were driven as far as Astley’s tannery,where most of them alighted, proceeding on foot over theselected route to the highest point along it. Here Mr At-kinson, who was in charge of the party, pointed out the principal engineering difficulties and the cutting whichwould have to be made."The party then descended through Mr W. H. Smith’s property at Karaka Bay, where it is proposed to make the Manukau entrance to the canal. After a brief inspection of the geological features of the bay and some further expla-nations by Mr Atkinson, and also be Mr Hamer, who ap- peared to be thoroughly convinced of the practicability of the scheme, the party rejoined the brakes and returned totown.”
In the next few years three shaftsand a large number of exploratorybores were sunk in the NewLynn-Avondale district, but noth-ing more was done.
 J. W. Harrison, in a 1905 report,suggested that two locks should be constructed. He estimated thetotal cost of a canal at £788,00. In 1907 a Mr Hamer produced  for the Waitemata-Manukau Ca-nal Promotion Company a fur-ther set of plans. In 1913 Mr  David Russell proposed a canalscheme that included a number of locks and pumping stations to-gether with some deppening of the river and its approaches. Hesuggested that dredgings could be used to create an artificial is-land on which could be built  playing fields and a multi-storeyed hotel. The total cost of the project was estimated at over £2,000,000. (Challenge of the Whau)
However, when the Main Trunk Railway was opened in1908, the canal proposal lost its previous status as a highpriority public works project. The last known suggestionto build canals in the Auckland Region, including at theWhau, was in 1982, when Auckland City Council’s re-sources and organisation committee agreed to reopen dis-cussion “on the construction of five canals linking theWaitemata, Manukau and Kaipara harbours, and the Wai-kato River.” (NZH, 10/12/1982)Then, it was suggested, the renewed canals proposalwould provide an alternative to a roading-based transportsystem (long since the successor to rail, and the cause of many headaches for local politicians in the region). Thisidea was probably sparked off by the “Think Big” devel-opment projects of the Sir Robert Muldoon governmentera of the
(continued on page 4)(continued from page 2)
1970s to early 1980s. A Mr L J Johnstone even went sofar as to prepare a 23-page report on the scheme, whichdid not come to pass.
 Above: Sketch drawn in 1907 for the "Waitemata- Manukau Canal Promotion Company", showing acoastal steamer passing through the biggest cut, 130 feet deep, between Karaka Bay and the Whau estu-ary. From NZ Herald, 24 January 1956.
The Canal That Was Never DugThe Canal That Was Never DugThe Canal That Was Never DugThe Canal That Was Never Dug
The Avondale Historical Journal Official Publication of the
Volume 2 Issue 9
 Page 2
(continued from last issue)
We were asked to bring any old lead or copper orbrass to school to help the war effort. Dad milked thecow in the paddock where the Auckland Rifle Clubhad their mounds for shooting from. On Saturday af-ternoon, while Dad milked the cow, I would collectthe cartridge cases. By the time we were asked to takethis metal to school I had seven one-hundred-weightboxes of .303 cases and I used to take one box toschool at a time on my trolley. Amongst the metal atschool was a lead fishing-sinker. I asked for it, andwas refused, as it was wanted for the war effort. Aweek later, I took some old lead wastes to school froma neighbour, and was told to put them in the shelter-shed with the lead, and that was when I got my sinker.
Fishing was always something I enjoyed doing, and Ihave been going to Doubtless Bay and Mangonui forfifty-six years, but in those days I used to fish off theMangere Bridge and Onehunga wharf, a walk of sixkilometres each way! We would catch kahawai in theAugust school holidays. If my father arranged a fish-ing trip for the freezing works social club on a Satur-day, we kids would go along too. My father wouldtake an ox liver , tie it on a light rope and poke holesin it, and hang it over the side of the boat. He couldnot leave it there too long, as it would bring sharksaround. He would pull it up and use it for bait., andboy did we get some schnapper.
In 1942, when the Americans came to New Zealand,they took over Waikaraka Park, covered it with tents,and that is where I saw a snake. It was a green grass-snake that had come in a load of canvas covers beingbrought in from the islands. A serviceman promptlykilled it with a stick. I used to take my trolley down tothe camp with a kid from down the road, whosemother used to do washing for the servicemen, and wewould return it a few nights later. The Americans al-ways looked after us with tips -quarter-dollars-hatbadges, pocket-knives, sheath-knives, candy chewinggum, and comics. When I started work I had threepairs of American overalls and three pairs of suedeboots, also a couple of Eversharp pencils and pens.We used to run errands for the Americans while theywere assembling the jeeps. They loved our ice-creamand our Chesdale cheese. We used to buy it in the bigboxes for them. I got six and a penny for an Americandollar. That is sixty-one cents; today an American dol-lar is worth two dollars seventeen!
We used to go to school barefooted, and take short-cuts through the paddocks.
On a frosty morning two of 
The Avondale Historical Journal
Official Publication of the
Volume 2 Issue 9
 Page 3
my friends had chilblains. The farmer always kept acan of oil by the gate-post for the hinges, and the kidsused to put the oil on their toes to ease the pain. Itseemed to help. We found bare feet better than bootsin wet weather, because they dried quickly, whereasthe ones with boots sat all day with cold wet feet.
As an apprentice I was fortunate to be able to work-onmidget cars from Western Springs, also Philip Lewis'copper car and his 1924 and 1927 Sunbeams. I didvalve grinds on both of those cars.
When I was about four years old Mt Smart was amountain, not a stadium. From the east side It stilllooked like a mountain, although the west side hadbeen quarried for many years for ballast for the rail-ways. About 1935 they started on the east side and wewatched that mountain disappear, until today we haveEricson Stadium in its place. It was interesting theway the blasting was done. They would start at 7.30 inthe morning, drilling holes and putting the plugs of gelignite in, and at 10.00 a.m. they would start blast-ing - the signal for morning tea. The same procedurewas followed for lunch, afternoon tea and knock-off.These were the only times blasting was carried out, togive time for any delayed action shots to go off.When our family moved to Remuera at the end of 1944 we were near the Orakei Basin, and Dad hadbought me a ten-foot sailing dinghy. I soon found outabout the flounder in the Purewa Creek, beside theOrakei Basin. I took the mast out of my boat andfound that it could be rowed successfully, and afterabout a year I was able to buy a flounder net with themoney I had earned delivering groceries for the Self Help grocery chain, after school and during the holi-days. The net cost £10 and with Dad and my friendand his uncle, did we catch some flounder! I don'tthink the creek had ever been fished with a net before.We took hundreds of fish out of there over a period of nine years, and fed the neighbourhood every summer.(Not many fridges in those days!)Walking across the bridge at the bottom of OrakeiRoad I saw about six wheels off cars in the water.People used to steal the wheels to get the tyres, andthen dump the wheels. I spoke to a chappie at work whose father was a blacksmith, and asked if he could
(continued on page 4)
make me up a couple of grappling-hooks to get thosewheels, and afterwards I used the grappling-hooks asanchors for my net. We finished up with seven oreight wheels. I took them to work, where we cut the
Growing Up in the 1930s and 1940s (continued)Growing Up in the 1930s and 1940s (continued)Growing Up in the 1930s and 1940s (continued)Growing Up in the 1930s and 1940s (continued)
 by Bruce Spencerby Bruce Spencerby Bruce Spencerby Bruce Spencer

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