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July—August 2016

The Avondale
Historical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical
Society Incorporated

Our Avondale —
in 1898
Recently, the Sir George Grey
Special Collections team at
Auckland Library extended
their set of NZ Graphic images
online to include the 1890s.
While looking through them
one night, I spotted this: a
view of the saddling paddock
at Avondale Racecourse, back
when the course entry was
Wingate Street, so this was
very close to Great North
Road.
Then, I realised what else the
photo showed us, 118 years
later: a rare view of lateVictorian central Avondale,
from the paddocks in behind

NZ Graphic 1 October 1898,
NZG-18981001-434-3,
Courtesy Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

where the Unity and Excelsior buildings are today, through to the blacksmith’s building that
was on the site which became the Salvation
Army hall, the old Avondale School, across
Crayford Street to George Thomas’ store, and
other houses and buildings I intend to look into.
Geddes Terrace was five years in the future.
I know it’s grainy — but it’s also a wonderful
find.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Page 2

A sign at Saunders Reserve
Back in 2006, Avondale-Waterview Historical Society
member Margaret Griffiths asked for help in appealing to Auckland City Council to have a sign installed
at Saunders Reserve, on Rosebank Peninsula, in honour of the Robertson family. The process ended up
taking 10 years, and spanned the amalgamation of the
councils into the Auckland Super City. This month,
came news of the installation of a sign at the reserve,
which does refer to Peter Robertson and his assistance with the running of regattas on the Whau River.
The following is a historical summary of the story of
the reserve.
Saunders Reserve, featuring the Kurt Brehmer
Walkway, has been created from a series of ten land
transactions in which areas of the eastern foreshore of
the Whau River have been vested in the Auckland
City Council (now Auckland Council) from 1984 until
2009.
The reserve includes land from two of the original
Crown Grant farms of the mid 1840s, the majority
(including the site of the West End Rowing Club)
once owned by Dr Daniel Pollen from 1855 until his
death in 1896. Dr Pollen was one of the early settlers
in Avondale, his house was located on the other side
of Rosebank Road, and he served briefly as Premier of
the Colony of New Zealand from July 1875 to
February 1876. Around 1860 he started one of the first
brick and pottery making operations in West
Auckland, close to the intersection of Patiki and
Rosebank Roads.
In 1908, a merchant named Peter Robertson purchased
20 acres of the Pollen property. His father, also named

Peter, arrived in Auckland in 1844, setting himself up as
a baker and confectioner in Auckland. Peter Jr was born
in 1847, and with his brother David founded the wholesale firm of Robertson Brothers by 1867. Peter
Robertson first purchased land on Rosebank in 1884 and
built his home “Riverside” at 495 Rosebank Road by
mid 1886. More land purchases followed, in 1903
(adjoining Riverside) and the land backing onto the
Whau River in 1908. Robertson ran for a seat on the
Avondale Road Board in 1894, and succeeded in 1897,
serving until 1902.
While Robertson’s western property remained mainly
grazing land (and later market gardens), the piece jutting out into the Whau River took on the local name of
Robertson’s Point. From 1907 to 1936, this piece of
land was to play a part in the development of first the
sport of motor launch racing, and then rowing. In 1906,
the Avondale Motor Boat Club was inaugurated, and
racing was held off Robertson’s Point, some including
Peter Robertson himself in a motor launch named
Eileen. However, by 1908 it was found that the conditions at the Whau Estuary were too muddy for formal
motor launch races, with the craft of the time.
On 18 February 1928 and 2 February 1929, the
New Zealand Power Boat Association held series of
speed boat and outboard races on the river, with the
events starting and finished from Peter Robertson’s
grounds, where free parking was provided. The 19291930 season of power boat racing was started with a
series of races also on the Whau River, 23 November
1929, watched by spectators on Robertson’s Point.
When Peter Robertson died in 1929, the property was
administered for a time by the Public Trustee, and
leased to his son Benjamin David Robertson. On
2 March 1935 and 21 March 1936 the Annual
Provincial Rowing Championships were held at the

Image from Auckland Star,
23 March 1936

The Avondale Historical Journal

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One of four new interpretive signs recently installed by Auckland Council at reserves in Avondale.

Whau Estuary, with facilities for the competitors and
spectators provided on Robertson’s Point with permission from B D Robertson, continuing his father’s connections with aquatic sport. The 1935 regatta was the
first held in the Auckland region since 1899. At the
1936 regatta, “a special challenge race was put on the
programme for blind oarsmen from the recently-formed
Jubilee Rowing Club. This was the first time such a race
was contested in New Zealand Rowing history.” An inter-provincial eight-oared championship had been held
on the river in 1930, and a training camp for the 1934
Auckland Provincial team had been held previously on
the Robertson property.
Reckitt & Colman Limited purchased the Robertson
property in 1960, along with another property which
forms part of today’s reserve, adding to an adjoining
property from 1958. By the early 1980s, Auckland City
Council found that the foreshore area of a number of
these western Rosebank properties were being used for
the dumping of rubbish, mainly from local industries. So
when Reckitt & Colman decided to subdivide their
property to create a Rosebank Industrial Park along
Saunders Place, land was vested along the foreshore to
the Council, with plans to convert the area into a park.
The foreshore was designated as a local purposes re-

serve or esplanade under terms of the Local Government
Act 1974 (Esplanade Reserves), while a recreation reserve was set aside near the end of Saunders Place as
part of the reserve contribution payable for the subdivision. Other parts of the reserve have been added under
similar provisions. Saunders Place was named after one
of the directors of Reckitt & Colman at the time, with
the reserve named after the new street.
In April 1999, the West End Rowing Club shifted from
its St Mary’s Bay base to Saunders Reserve. The club,
formed in 1884, was forced to move due to rising rents
and deterioration of areas of safe and secure rowing water around Westhaven.
Clearances of the foreshore area owned by the City
Council in 2000-2001 due to the campaign at the time to
eliminate the painted apple moth provided an opportunity to lay out a walkway within the reserve, from
Saunders to Charann Place. This was named the Kurt
Brehmer Walkway, in honour of the noted local conservationist. The Kurt Brehmer Walkway was officially
opened 23 March 2002.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Page 4

When the trams came to Avondale ...
Image from the NZ Herald 1 February 1932, showing a tram about to travel back up Rosebank Road from the terminus at Avondale, the day the tram service was inaugurated for our district. Jamieson’s butcher’s shop can be seen on
the right — but this is before the Unity Buildings,
constructed later that year, so the other corner to the left is
Copies of Avondale Historical Journal and AWHS
still empty.
Newsletter produced for us by
Words Incorporated, 557 Blockhouse Bay Road,
Blockhouse Bay.
Next meeting of the
The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank
Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:
at St Ninians, St Georges Road
SATURDAY, 6 August 2016, 2.00 pm

Avondale Business
Association

This will be the 2016 ANNUAL GENERAL
MEETING

for their continued support and sponsorship of this
publication.

The Avondale Historical Journal
Published by:
the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc. (since September 2001)
Editor: Lisa J. Truttman
Society contact:
19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland 0600
Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804
email: waitemata@gmail.com
Society information:
Website: http://sites.google.com/site/avondalehistory/
Subscriptions: $15 individual
$20 couple/family
$30 corporate