ANZAC Day 25 April 2014 The APRIL / MAY 2014 issue of the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council

(WRHPC) newsletter

Lower Hutt’s stunning Modern Movement Civic buildings are facing a crisis. See story pg 2.

Most of us enjoy the ease of communication and access to knowledge that is available via the internet. And the cost to us to use these facilities is minimal. Question: what is a swingletree? (Hint: before tractors, every farmer would have had one). Many things have been revolutionised by the internet but where are the digital museums and historical societies displaying their items online? There have been a few valiant attempts at digital museums but they just seem to lack appeal. Or does ‘heritage’ in general just lack appeal to the general public? Do you – or does your historical society - have boxes of valuable treasures stored away that very few people know exist or what they contain? Unfortunately, most of the boxes that we currently fiercely protect will be dumped unopened in a few years time. Think about it - are your kids interested in retaining them? We need to rescue those treasures before we lose interest in them. Don’t put it off for someone else because they won’t do it. All you need to do is: • gather a few photos of the item (the cameras in mobile phones are very suitable - you can do that, or a teen will be able to help) • write a few paragraphs about it (you can do that too) • find a place to store and show the above - the internet is the best place and WRHPC can do that for you. Hey that’s easy - and the cost was $0! Why not start by collecting together all your Society’s newsletters like the Otari-Wilton’s Bush Trust did recently. After a jolly hunt round by several people, they now have a digital archive of all their newsletters safely held for posterity in the WRHPC Library, for all to enjoy. Cost: $0. And Porirua’s WW1 project is another fine example (story this page). Email me if you need help: Otherwise just chuck out those boxes now and save everyone the trouble. Don Picken, WRHPC webmaster.

Parade to celebrate Fire Brigade centenary

Nathan King has been a volunteer with the Upper Hutt Fire Brigade for almost 10 years and is one of the organisers of the Brigade’s centenary celebrations, kicking off on Friday 4 April. “Saturday is a day for the public, and we are having a parade of vintage and contemporary fire engines, including a 1938 Ford V8 being brought up from Ferrymead in Christchurch,” says Nathan. The 25 vehicles will park up next to the Upper Hutt Library and there will be demonstrations of what they can do. “We’ll also have a portable kitchen fire demonstration and activities for the kids,” he says. The Brigade was formed in the aftermath of the tragic Benge & Pratt fire in 1914 (see story pg 3), and other events include a wreath laying service and centenary dinner. “We’d love to hear from anybody who has photos, memorabilia and stories,” says Nathan.SeeUpper Hutt Fire Brigade’s Facebook page, and the Calendar pg 4 for Parade details. E:

Porirua Historical Association is well underway with its own WWI commemoration project - an online collection of stories of local servicemen and women. “Ideally it is planned to obtain a photo of the soldier and contact any remaining family members to get them to approve the story,” says secretary Brian Mosen. The work builds on WW1 research started by Plimmerton member Allan Dodson in 2011. The group is aiming to engage schools, and is looking to extend the project to other ‘villages’ within Porirua, including Porirua Mental Hospital from which many doctors went on to join the NZ Medical Corp, some gaining high ranks in the NZEF. There are plans for an exhibition at Pataka next March. See Alan’s monthly stories at For more centennary projects go to

Porirua honours WW1 links online

The Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council (WRHPC) consists of groups and organisations engaged in promoting our region’s heritage. Visit Contacts: Webmaster T: 04 972 2876 E: / Phil Parnell T: 04 479 2239 E: WRHPC, P.O.Box 2280, Wellington 6140. Contributions always welcome for Heritage Today E:


Our Taonga: Lower H utt Civic Buildings

Debate over Lower Hutt’s civic complex is coming to a head, after two years of discussions over the costs of earthquake strenthening, and changing community needs. Demolition of community centre (above the Horticultural Hall and Town Hall are being proposed and local left). This follows on from groups are advocating passionately for the the site’s special values Option 3E+, approved by Coucil in November, (a as the council gears up to reach a final decision in time for its $10.5m new centre requiring Annual Plan process. We bring you up to date with the issue.

ower Hutt’s Civic buildings were designed by Structon, King Cook and Dawson in the late 1950s, fine examples of the ‘Modern Movement’. The two halls are individually listed on the District Plan so are subject to its objectives, policies and rules. But the site is designated for Council purposes, meaning “[Council] can do virtually anything it wants provided it is seen as being for Council purposes,” says conservation architect Ian Bowman who has written about the landmarks in 1950s Buildings – Lower Hutt’s post-war modern movement buildings (available to read in the Library at www.wrhpc. The two buildings are included in an historic area which is also listed on the District Plan and are registered with the NZHPT. The Modern Movement emerged in the 1920s and lasted well into the 1960s. It prioritised function over ‘style’ and ornamentation, and the unashamed use of new mass produced materials such as concrete and glass. It was introduced to New Zealand by professionals fleeing persecution in Europe, including Ernst Plischke. Ian Bowman notes that Lower Hutt was one of the fastest growing centres in post war New Zealand. The civic complex was planned holistically, considering transport and other needs,


and proximity to the beautiful public gardens. With its memorial library, it would be a “city worthy of the returning soldiers” and the sacrifices made during the War, he writes. Today, the Modern Movement style is possibly not as widely appreciated as Victorian and Art Deco modes. Asked whether he had been surprised by the outcry from heritage supporters, Deputy Mayor and chair of the Seismic Committee David Bassett said “I’m not sure how strong [the heritage voice] is...if I took a vote on people who contact me, the majority would be happy to see us get rid of the Town Hall.” Local architect Bruce Sedcole commented that the public only mobilised around Art Deco in Napier when the first buildings started to come down in the 1980s and he does not want to see this happening here.
Option 3F features a glass atrium leading to Riddiford Gardens.

demolition of both Halls). David Bassett says a larger centre is needed to better cater for the community, and to attract conference income to the city.

Survey due in April

N ew option proposed

The Council recently put forward ‘Option 3F’ (estimated cost $16.4m) in which the Town Hall is retained, earthquake strengthened and redeveloped inside, and the Horticultural Hall is demolished to make way for a new conference /

The committee has asked Petone-based Peter Glen Research to carry out a “statistically valid survey” asking people whether they favour Option 3F or 3E+. As we went to press, Peter Glen confirmed the option to retain both Halls would not be presented, and he anticipated 300 people would be approached.He was finalising the scope, questions and format of the survey in consultation with the Council, but said a combined telephone and face to face surevy was likely. The sample group would probably be sent background materials to read in advance of the questions. The survey is being planned so results can be fed into the 2014/15 Annual Plan, due to be approved in June. (the public can make a submission at http:// www.huttcity. Your-Council/Plans-andpublications/AnnualPlan-2014---2015/.

have been deemed “not suitable in their entirety” by Council. Hutt Architects in Small Practice (HASP) developed their own design following the 3E+ brief, which retained front and rear sections of both Halls, and strengthened and modified them to meet new demands, though this was dismissed by a council consultant as too expensive. Along with Historic Places Wellington, they welcome Option 3F over 3E+ but believe the option to retain both Halls should also be on the table. “We are not advocating uncompromising adherence to the original plans,“ says Bruce Sedcole, “but we believe the same goals can be achieved by retaining both buildings and making minor changes. It is a question of vision and whether the Council is willing to be creative.” Ruth Mansell of HPW: “We would like to see more time allowed for good explanations and debate about these options.” Ruth is worried that the survey wording and questions may be simplistic, and that the questions and options for Annual Plan submissions may also be limited. Community action group Heart of the Hutt will present a petition at the HCC meeting in Wainuiomata on 29 April. They also support Option 3F, but question projected events numbers so favour ‘Baseline Option 1’ ($6.3m to strengthen both Halls).

Campaigners respond

A number of groups and individuals (such as retired architect Charles Sands) have put forward alternatives to the Council’s options, though these

Heart of the Hutt: Facebook Hutt Heart. E: huttheart@ Historic Places Wellington: Ruth Mansell E: nz. HASP: Bruce Sedcole E:



Historically speaking at National Library

The Friends of the Turnbull Library have organised two public lectures for the coming months. In April, historian David Grant will speak on Norman Kirk and the 1973 Springbok Tour. Based in Wellington, David has written 13 major books, including The Mighty Totara: The Life and Times of Norman Kirk, about the prime minister of the third Labour Government. In May, Bridget Williams, ONZM, will give a talk on New Zealand Publishing: New Ways and Old Ways. A publisher for over 30 years specialising in New Zealand history and contmeporary issues, Bridget will share her company’s innovative directions and the key role of the Turnbull Library in her work. See Calendar for details.

Step out for peace at the Hutt Labyrinth

The Hutt Hospital’s Labyrinth is again a hub for World Labyrinth Day, on Saturday 3 May. The day will see people all over the world walking their local labyrinth spirals for peace from 1pm. “Labyrinth walking is used for relaxation, meditation, healing and prayer, and Hutt Valley District Health Board recognises this as an important expression of inclusiveness to all forms of healing and healthy living,” says Labyrinth committee member Merran Fleming. From 12.30pm, Taikoza drummers will perform under the oak trees that form a ring of magnificent protected trees around the labyrinth. Walking commences for the public at 1pm and will be followed by a light afternoon tea in the nearby hospital chapel. Everyone is welcome to this free event, which is also wheelchair friendly. See Calendar for directions.

March 29th marked the 100th anniversary of Upper Hutt’s greatest tragedy in terms of loss of life, which also ranked as a significant regional disaster. Late on a Saturday evening in 1914, signs of a fire were spotted at Benge & Pratt’s store on Main Street. Local constable Denis Mahoney rallied townsfolk to retrieve stock and protect surrounding buildings from the spreading flames. Just after midnight, however, an enormous explosion occurred, which was subsequently found to be caused by gelignite illegally stored on the premises. Eight men, including Constable Mahoney and the local Postmaster James Comeskey, died as a result of the blast and many more were injured. The disaster had a profound impact on the tightknit Upper Hutt community and led to the founding of the Upper Hutt Fire Brigade (see story pg 1). Check out photographs of the event and the history of the Brigade at Upper Hutt Library A commemorative plaque in front until the first week of of Upper Hut t’s civic buildings. May. Reid Perkins, Upper Hutt Library.

The Book Corner: Wanted, a Beautiful Barmaid: Women behind the bar in New Zealand 1830-1976 by Sue Upton. VUP 2013. Reviewed by Kate Fortune.
Photo: Kate Fortune

a side of New Zealand pub histories that has remained largely invisible: the women who poured the drinks.
Sue Upton.

Wellington researcher and historian Sue Upton has spun an extraordinary tale from the collections of Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand for this book. Sue was invited to give a talk by the Friends of the Library at the end of last month. She presented images and stories exploring

Her focus is a social history of the liquor trade and the controls (social and legal, written and unwritten) with which women workers had to contend. It begins in the 1830s when control over the sale of alcohol was first mooted and ends in 1976, when the last of the regulations that applied specifically to women was removed. As her book shows, the

various attempts to curb women’s involvement in bars – including the Register of Barmaids drawn up in 1911-13 – could not achieve what the legislators intended. The realities of earning a living, of serving local communities, of satisfying thirsty working men, often meant the doors were open, the women were behind the bars and the glasses were full – despite what the letter of the law might have said. Questions and comments from the audience ranged widely, with many revealing

vivid memories of the ugly side of ‘6 o’clock closing’. There were stories of police turning a blind eye on after-hours drinking in rural pubs, or a deaf ear on rowdy men whose thirst remained unquenched at 6pm. Younger audience members listened with growing astonishment, and appeared to appreciate this window into another strand of our feminist heritage. If you have a book on history that you’d like to review, please contact E:


Photo: Paul Lambert

Photo: Upper Hutt Library

Sound Archives Nga Taonga Korero and the New Zealand Film Archive is seeking help to identify the voices of five unknown Gallipoli veterans, which can be heard at: about-the-archive/news/who-are-thesemystery-voices-of-gallipoli-2/. The men’s recollections of landing at Gallipoli and the brutal conditions they encountered were recorded by the late Hawke’s Bay broadcaster Laurie Swindell (pictured), Laurie Swindell as part of a radio documentary called ANZAC , made at 2ZC in Napier in January 1969. The programme is in the collection of Sound Archives in Christchurch. The contact archivist is Sarah Johnston E: sarah. or T: 03 3748 468.

Identifying ANZAC voices

F rom the archives: The Benge & P ratt fire in U pper H utt, 1914

An unexpected journey
WRHPC member Merran Fleming says she doubted Mana Island had anything special to recommend it, but that was before she took a guided tour there. Now she loves it...
“Mana Island has always been my compass point. Growing up in post-war Tawa our basic ‘50s bikes easily got us as far as a swim at Titahi Bay. Someone said it was a farm out there on Mana. Mostly it just looked flat and boring. Then Pataka Museum curated a brilliant exhibition on Mana Island in 2009. Surprised and enthralled by its vivid and colourful history, and more particularly, its current transformation, I was hooked. A talk by Friends of Mana Island’s (FOMI) current president Brian Paget finished with a spur of the moment decision to invite anyone interested to a trip out to Mana. That invitation filled two launch-loads of people. It’s hard to get onto Mana. The tides and winds have to be right, postponements are to be expected, you have to pack your day bag just before you board the launch, and its surrounded by ‘No Landing’ signs. Both FOMI trips I have gone on have been quickly booked out and carried some repeat visitors. I became one of them this month.The group varied widely in age and fitness so was split into three when we arrived. After talks from Brian and the current DoC ranger Jeff, I joined the group doing the whole island circuit. Others took a more moderate and Brian Paget shares his knowledge. quicker trek to the trig on the old lighthouse site, and some stayed in the area that once supported Maori Pa, whalers, and the centre of early farming activity. DoC now houses their full time ranger there. In the four years since my first visit, the growth in the reforestation staggered me. The whole island walk takes around three hours of keeping up with Brian who is a fount of knowledge about everything Mana Island. Getting up onto the peneplain is the hardest part but not difficult. Nowhere is it dead flat, but across the tops, native flax and toitoi pepper the tall grassland, home to a thriving population of takahe. The most surprising aspect of Mana Island is to discover that DoC calls passing seabirds through loud speaker systems run on solar power. In the south west, passing birds are invited to spend the night in custom built numbered nests and a concrete gannet colony in the north east has been built to attract live gannets. Resting like a precious gem near to shore is the beautifully preserved original kanuka woolshed, painted bright red and inhabited by sheep built by Paraparaumu College students. It now houses historical displays from Pataka. But it is the northern most point of the island that draws me back. Site of the former lighthouse where the island tilts highest above the sheer cliffs and breaking sea, the breathtaking 360 degree views give a sense

of being on the prow of a mighty ship. I salute those who have spent decades restoring this island to its former glory through hard physical work and clever innovation. Returning to Mana marina nearly eight hours later is tempered by a promise to myself that, FOMI willing and tides permitting, I’ll go again one day.”

Above: The original woolshed, from where the first export of NZ wool was taken to Sydney.

Read more about Mana Island at & Porirua-s-suburbs/Mana-Island. For trips contact Brian Paget M: 021 523 444 / T: 04 802 4345 E:

Apr The 1913 Great Strike Photo Exhibition, and Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui telling unusual stories of the region, at Wellington Museum of City & Sea. Upper Hutt Fire Brigade Centennary celebrations. Vehicle Parade starts Trentham fire station 11.30am concluding at Upper Hutt railway station car park near Library. Display opens 12.20pm. Chocolate, an exhibition including the history of local company Whittakers. Pataka, Norrie St, Porirua. Remember the Wahine: Marking the 46th anniversary of the tragedy with wreath laying, bell ringing and the premier of new footage of the Launch of the Wahine. Accompanied by a display inside. Wellington Museum of City & Sea, from 12pm. 43rd Annual General Meeting and Conference of the New Zealand Federation of Historical Societies Inc, in Te Awamutu. Contact Neil Curgenven. M: 027 2441348 E: PET - a moving image exhibition focusing on our furry friends from 1905 to the present day. NZ Film Archive, 84 Taranki St. Tokelau: Then Now / Now Then: an exhibition exploring the island community which is predicted to be the first of the Pacific to be inundated from sea level rise caused by climate change. Pataka, Norrie St, Porirua. Talk on Norman Kirk by David Grant. Tiakiwai Conference Centre, Lower Ground, National Library, Aitken Street entrance, 5.30pm. ANZAC Day World Labyrinth Day. Hutt Hospital Labyrinth, near Hospital entrance on Main St. From 12.30pm. Talk by NZ publisher Bridget Williams. Tiakiwai Conference Centre, Lower Ground, National Library, Aitken Street entrance, 5.30pm.

4-6 Apr

Until Apr 6 10 Apr

11-13 Apr

Until 12 Apr Until 13 Apr 23 Apr 25 Apr 3 May 13 May

June / July 2014 dates to E: .


Autumn 2014
The Upper Hutt Fire Brigade (left) was founded as a direct result of the 1914 Benge & Pratt fire.


See what our members have been doing in the past few months..... and find at more about the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council (WRHPC) at:

Cottage volunteers show off a vintage apron, and new tools donated by Mitre 10 in their ‘I love Upper Hutt’ campaign. Mayor Wayne Guppy lays a wreath at the recent centenary event (left).

Tragic fire not forgotten: The fire and explosion at Benge & Pratt’s store, Upper Hutt in 1914 was commemorated with a slide presentation at the Library and a wreathlaying at the City’s Wall of Remembrance in March. Descendants of the men who died in the event attended, many of whom had travelled from elsewhere in the country. A plaque on Main Start marking the spot where the tragedy occurred wass unveiled, and Upper Hutt Police held a function commemorating Denis Mahoney, the constable who died at the scene. “We took the enthusiasm shown by those attending to help keep the memory of this tragedy alive as a healthy sign of the strength of public interest in Wellington’s regional heritage,” said Reid Perkins, Community Heritage Co-ordinator, Upper Hutt City Library.. Safe and sound: The New Zealand Film Archive and Archives New Zealand joined forces in March to officially open New Zealand’s first specialised nitrate film vault, near Porirua Harbour. Nitrocellulose film was the most commonly used film stock in New Zealand from the birth of film, until the end of the 1940s. Many of our nation’s most important film treasures were created on this format, including the earliest surviving New Zealand film footage, The Departure of the Second Contingent for the Boer War (1900). This facility ensures they will be available for future generations to enjoy.

Volunteering at Golder Cottage: The Upper Hutt historic cottage had an open day recently to recruit more volunteers. Activities include gardening, maintenance and being a guide. The Cottage is on the radar for primary school students who come to learn about life “in Granma’s day”, and many Guides and Scouts have earned their history badges with a visit. NCEA art students have come for inspiration and there have even been movies made here. The Cottage will also be open on ANZAC Day, from 1.304pm with a display honouring one of the original sons of the Cottage, 79138 Private Linus Bernard Golder of the 40th Reinforcements NZEF died on September 3, 1918, at the age of 20. Golder Cottage, 707 Fergusson Drive. Open Saturday and Public Holidays 1.30pm - 4pm (except Xmas Day & Good Friday). Group tours during the week by arrangement. T: 04 528 2932 or 04 528 9855. .

Bolton St history fires young minds: Twenty five students from Sacred Heart College visited the Bolton Street Cemetery on 19 March, as part of their Year 13 History studies. They contemplated Richard Seddon’s towering tomb, Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s family plot, the more modest memorial to ‘father of Wellington’ John Plimmer, and a number of graves of Maori leaders who had converted to Christianity after 1840. Poignantly felt was the tale of young soldier John Balmer, whose love of swimming in Wellington Harbour led to his death in 1852 after a shark attack. Kate Fortune.

The Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council (WRHPC) consists of groups and organisations engaged in promoting our region’s heritage. For more information go to or contact Phil Parnell T: 04 479 2239 E: WRHPC, P.O.Box 2280, Wellington 6140. The WRHPC acknowledges substantial Funding support from The Lion Foundation; Lower Hutt City Council; Upper Hutt City Council and Wellington City Council.

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