Monday, 17 July 2017

Rotorua's Agricultural Heritage

Rotorua Agricultural, Pastoral and Industrial Association.

This awesome association was formed out of  a suggestion and enthusiasm for all things farming and agricultural by Rotorua's Mr. T. H. Sloane in 1909, he was at that time a member of the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce. The Association was duly formed and the first summer show was held in February 1910 at the Lake Front, then known as Marine Parade.  The first show was such a success they continued with annual summer shows moving to Arawa Park as the preferred location.

Their fourth show was rained out and it was decided after the committee meeting they did not have enough money to continue and Mr Sloane had to step in again and along with Mr J. Banks to re-energise local enthusiasm and competitive spirit. Thus in 1917 a summer show was successfully held.

In 1923 their first Winter Show was held and was successful enough that these shows also started being an annual event.   Excerpt from Don Stafford File "Rotorua Motor Transport Co. building had been available for the Winter Show Exhibition, but room was not there to provide space for efficient display of exhibits or to provide the amusement attractions necessary to draw public attendance"

In 1930 the Rotorua A&P Assn. ran a joint event with Dannevirke A&P Assn. to raise funds for a dedicated building for the summer and winter shows.  This was an 'Art Union' event. Following this Mr E. La Trobe Hill (Rotorua Architect) was given the go ahead to prepare plans & specifications for our new facility. This was built on Old Taupo Road and cost £2,900.

The A&P Grounds are between Uta Street and the Utuhina Stream.
This  copy of  the 1935 Map is owned by Rotorua Library, copyright belongs to Wises Maps.
Rotorua Library would welcome any memories and photographs of this site and shows held there.  Please Email :

Friday, 30 June 2017

Business in Rotorua : Timber Mills

Early Timber Mills c.1888-1915.

Book Review : Tall trees & tramways / by Bryon Somervell c2011.

Mr Somervell, local Rotorua resident until his death in 2013, wrote this book about the early mills of Mamaku, Rotoiti, Ngatira, Oropi, Te Whaiti, Urewera, Maungapohatu, Pukareao and Reporoa-Rerewhakaaitu, and the tram-ways built to transport the timber to sale yards.

Most of these mills are no longer in business, but in their heyday when native trees were plentiful, the owners employed many men in various jobs.  The earliest mill belonged to the Steele brothers who were able to purchase leases, from the government railways owners, of bush land in what is known as Mamaku, in 1888. The brothers continued in business until 1954, owning some land also in Tutanekai Street which bordered Amohia & Eruera Streets, of Rotorua where they sold the timber, built an Assembly Hall and a stately home.   Other early pioneers in this industry were the Kusabs brothers, A.W. Roe & Co., Arahiwi Timber Co., and a number of smaller mills.   The author has researched widely and in depth to bring us this fascinating look at Rotorua history and the founding industry that continues to this day.   Illustrated throughout with photographs and maps.

Steele's Assembly Hall, Tutanekai Street. Original photograph owned by Rotorua Museum

Monday, 19 June 2017

Business in Rotorua : A spotlight on Tutanekai Street

Businesses of Tutanekai Street 

Tutanekai Street named after the famous Te Arawa Chief who fell in love with Hinemoa highborn chieftainess of Owhata.

When the Rotorua Town was formally laid out, Tutanekai Street began with Hotels and Guest Houses as the main businesses, Steele's timber yard, C.A.C. Clarke's Cordial Factory and little else as Arawa Street was the focus of the CBD at that time.

Many of the buildings we see today on Tutanekai Street were built in the late 1920's to 1930's such as Graeff's Building, Woolliams Building, Musgrave's Building, Inverness Building, French's Building (demolished 2016), Jubilee Building, Harris & Co Building, Central Chambers, Mokoia Buildings and the Rotorua Buildings.

Photograph by Faeryl Rotherham,
Other photographs of building facades can be seen on Kete Rotorua

Hotels and Guest Houses of Tutanekai Street
Tarawera House c.1891
Windsor House c1898
The Palace Hotel (moved to Tutanekai from Lake Road) c.1899
The Waiwera built 1903
The Australia built c.1900
Thirwell House c. 1901
The Empire built c.1907
The Waverley c.1917

Postcard from the Dave Fuller Collection

Rotorua's 1st Assembly Hall was built by the Steele Bros. who owned a large Timber Yard on the corner of Eruera and Tutanekai Streets in 1899. This was to continue as Royal Pictures,  King's Theatre and later the Majestic Ballroom. Dismantled in the 1930's to make way for McKenzies Department Store.

Published in the Daily Post, City Celebration Issue, January 1963

Friday, 9 June 2017

Business in Rotorua : A Spotlight on The Palace Hotel

The Old Palace Hotel : Lake Road to Tutanekai Street

You can view this image at Kete Rotorua. Photograph supplied by Dave Fuller.

Image from Papers Past : Advertising for the Palace Hotel, 24 Aug 1933, NZ Herald.

Let us know your memories of this iconic Hotel 
Demolished 1975.  The Palace Tavern was built behind this building on Arawa Street in 1966. It now houses Vic's Turf Bar ; Rotorua Secondhand Market ; Speedy Signs and Spark Business. 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Business in Rotorua : A Spotlight on Sheaf’s Pharmacy

 A Spotlight on Sheaf’s Pharmacy

This pharmacy operated in Tutanekai Street from 1928 to 2003. First owned by D. Sheaf 1928-1957 then Mr Ross Wells 1957-2003.

 I remember it always in it's location at 272 Tutanekai Street for many years, the street number changed some years ago, after Sheaf's closed, this location housed McKenzie Fashions (closed 2015) and currently undergoing renovation (see image below).
Alison Leigh - Digital Information Specialist at Rotorua District Library
The Wises Street Directories 1940-1955 list the street number as 132.

You can view this image at Kete Rotorua

For more information on Douglas Sheaf you can read Don Stafford's "The New Century in Rotorua"

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Industry in Rotorua : the early years

Industry providing jobs in Rotorua c.1880's-1930's 

Rotorua has long been the stronghold for saw milling.  One of the 1st mills was the Rotoiti Sawmill Co. which was established at the lake edge, the other belonged to the Steele Brothers leased in 1888 in the Maraeroa-Oturoa block and not long after this they set up a new timber yard which was sited on the corner of Eruera and Tutanekai Streets and took up the entire block back to Amohia Street. 

Don Stafford records in his 'Founding years of Rotorua',  that "Railway construction, probably more than anything else, gave impetus to the development of a timber industry for Rotorua" 

Joan Boyd records for us the history of Afforestation in NZ and principally here in Rotorua in her book 'Rotorua forests : a history' c.1980.  
By the late 1890's a nursery was set up in Rotorua at the foot of the hills adjacent to the Whakarewarewa thermal area 1. , following this afforestation began in 1901 at Waiotapu, the planting of the trees was undertaken by good-conduct prisoners at the Waiotapu Prison Camp. 2.  This planting continued apace and by "1926 some 47,000 acres had been planted on the Kaingaroa-Waiotapu blocks." 

Joan's book gives a great insight into why Rotorua still has a forestry industry today. 

Another not so well-known industry in Rotorua c.1889-1900 was Sulphur Mining which was started by a Mr J.H. Taylor c.1889 when he purchased two pieces of land which encompassed the area "known locally as 'Sodom and Gomorrah' as sulphur deposits there were substantial" p.318 by 1893 Mr Taylor had sold his sulphur business to a Mr Wilson, By then other sulphur deposits were being worked by Maori... in Tikitere and Taheke" p.319. Don Stafford records that during this time "shipments of 100 tons to Auckland were not uncommon. Francis Moss Boord was one of the 1st and probably largest dealers."
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19021211-4-3

Another industry in Rotorua in the 1920's was our Rotorua 'mud' which made good 'face powder' which 'takes the tone of any complexion' as reported in the Bay of Plenty Times 4.8.1927. This industry was still very much in vogue in 1936 when the Rotorua Morning Post reported this :'Tourist Department workman commenced excavating a quantity of thermal mud from a blowhole on the Arikikapakapa extension reserve' to be sent to health spas in England.

With thanks to the Don Stafford Collection, Commerce folder for this interesting snippet. 

*Tourists of today are still buying Rotorua Mud products at all good souvenir shops.

To read more of Rotorua's history look out for books by Don Stafford, Phil Andrews and Enid Tapsell.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Careers and Education in Rotorua : Past and Present

Careers in a bygone era

These days a career must have an IT component to it, and the student must have a computer or device like iPad Pro.  Just think what changes there have been since 1886 (post Mt Tarawera eruption).

In the 1885/86 Electoral Roll the careers/occupations for Rotorua were : Bakers (6), Bootmaker (1), Builder (1), Butcher (2), Carpenter (12), Coach Proprietor (1), Coach Driver (4), Dentist (1), Farmer (3), Groom (7), Physician (1), Postmaster (1), Resident Medical Officer (1), Stable Owner (1), Surveyor (4), Veterinarian (1), Barman (2), Bath Attendant (1), Clerk (1), Contractor (1), Gardener (1), Native Agent (2), Native Interpreter (2), Overseer (1), Publican (1), Sawyer (7), Storekeeper (9) and Waiter (2).

Don Stafford's "Founding Years of Rotorua" tells us that the population at that time was approximately 453 Europeans and 1,375 Maori. By 1901 the population of Europeans had jumped to 1,278 and an estimate of 930 Maori.

In 1901 the occupations listed included an Architect, a Station Master, a Cordial Maker, a Tobacconist, 7 Engineers, 2 Police Constables, 3 Photographers, 3 Laundresses, 13 Storekeepers , 2 Fruiterers, 2 Mill Owners and 7 Domestic Servants, to name a few.

Sulphur Mining was a booming industry from 1889 with Rotorua's biggest dealer being Mr Francis Moss (Mossy) Boord and it provided an income for local Maori landowners around the region.

Also at this time the Okere Falls Power Station was built and also Gold Mining occurred around Horo Horo and Kaharoa, but this was a short lived occupation as little gold was found and other rumored finds in the region were unsubstantiated.

One of the most unusual occupation for the time was Mr Lakin's Fern Collecting business.

This advert was placed in the Wises Post Office Guide of 1898.

As you can see some careers are still very much in existence although the methods/styles might have changed, a carpenter, butcher, veterinarian and builder are still careers worth pursuing in our modern age.

For more information pick up Don Stafford's books The Founding Years of Rotorua and The New Century in Rotorua which can be found in the New Zealand History and Travel section at 993.423z STA

The Wises Post Office Guides are available online via the Library Edition of