Thursday, October 7, 2010

Point Chevalier Motor Bus Company 1915-1920

The company operated briefly, but judging from the closed company file left behind in Archives New Zealand and the following article from the NZ Truth, 14 August 1915, it made some waves. It certainly allowed the Truth full rein for biting Wellington-based sarcasm.

Point Chevalier Motor Bus Co. Ltd. Prospectus
The Hope to do a Great Many Things with £5000

While Auckland is a beautiful place, it also enjoys some notoriety by reason of the companies it manages to float at times. A lot of this comes from the fact that wherever a goldfield exists one finds a class of people who have quite an optimistic outlook upon this sordid world. Thousands of companies have been floated in the Northern City to get imagined riches from the Thames goldfields, and since the latter have all but petered out, the company promoter is turning his ingenious mind to other things.

In the prospectus under review we get seven gentlemen who desire to float the Point Chevalier Motor Bus Co., Ltd., asking the public to subscribe £5000 in quite a useful venture. That is what "Cambist" concluded when the prospectus of the company was first handed to him. Why should the district lying between the Avondale "nut factory" and the smellful soap works of Cox's Creek, not have an up-to-date motor service? Why not, indeed!

The fact is that the Point Chevalier district, which in times gone by used to belong to dear old Paddy Dignan one of the best of the old-time publicans, and the biggest shareholder of the Bank of New Zealand before the crash in 1890, has developed into an important suburb in spite of everything. The western winds may sweep over the place and make it feel cold, for Auckland, but nevertheless, it is a fine old spot, and has its own attractions. One of the principal attractions, in fact, the chief attraction, is the vast number of allotments that can be easily obtained there, if one has enough money in hand to tempt the owners of the clay lands thereabout. But means of communication are not of the best, so have a motor bus company by all means. Such a movement does a lot to help to soil the "lots."

In the first place let me say that it is no reflection upon the seven gentlemen who are trying to float the Motor Bus Co. to call these proposed directors "guinea pigs." They are out for guineas, all right, if they are to be judged by the prospectus. In stating the objects of the company they put their remuneration down at £1 1s each for each meeting of directors, or such sum as "may be decided by the company in general meeting." Well, seven guineas every time these gentlemen squat m the "seats of the mighty" will produce mighty good results for the act of so sitting. Good old Auckland! No one ever hears of a director going short of a feed, and no wonder.
Dropping into more serious mood, "Cambist" would like to ask what Messrs. [Thomas] Dignan, [Thomas] Fry, [Andrew Wright] Anderson, [Thomas] Baster, [Albert Gilbert] Quartley, [Maurice] O'Connor, and [James] Mackey really know about motor bus companies? Not one of these people describes himself as an expert in that class of business. Two of them are "gentlemen" but who ever heard of a gentleman running a motor bus business? And the secretary does not sport anything more enlightening than F.N.Z.A.A. after his name. The motor bus business has shipwrecked many investors Iin different parts of the world. Lately in Australia quite a large number of such companies have come to grief, principally because they fell into the hands of incompetent managers. Well "Cambist" does not want to say that the “guinea pigs” in this case are incompetent persons, in the same sense. What he does say is that they have taken modest care to hide their motor bus qualifications. However, they are down for one hundred shares each, which is rather more than the usual subscription that promoters put their names down for. Still, it would not take a great many meetings to refund in fees the amount they could draw if they were minded to "call the Board together" often enough. In cases where the Board is without sufficient knowledge, it usually requires a lot of meetings to teach all the members something about the art of running a motor bus company. It would be cheaper if they could point to an expert manager, and leave that manager alone. Why did they not do this at the first?

Looking over the memorandum of association, one is fairly staggered at the business this company proposes to undertake. In the second clause it is stated that they can "carry out any of the business of electricians, mechanical engineers, suppliers of electricity for the purposes of light, heat, sound, motive, power or otherwise, builders, contractors, ship owners .and ship builders, aerial ship or plane owners and builders, traction vehicles owners, and builders' manufacturers, repairers and suppliers, of and dealers in all plant apparatus and things required for, or capable of being used in connection with railways, tramways, motor air transit, or for or with the generation, distribution, supply, accumulation and use of electricity, or magnetism for any purpose whatever."

There now, my prospective investor! Take a few shares and maybe "Cambist" will be invited to go with you on a flying trip over Cox's Creek, where we both can enjoy the aroma of the soap works free, gratis, and for nothing. But hold on a minute, there is more to follow. In clause 5 there nestles a nice little sentence— "for limiting competition."

So the Point Chevalier Motor Bus Co Ltd. has got a dash of Rockefeller about it. They would limit (or crush, to be explicit) all competition in the numerous things they would do. After reading this "Cambist" fears his chance of a flying trip over the Mad House on the Whau (pronounced Wow) done for. Limiting competition has the germ of capitalism in its worst form. Unfortunately Capital and Labor give many manifestations that are, at best, an ugly example of the grossest selfishness. Yet the little company proposes to take steps to be selfish by act of incorporation. It is questionable whether this is not ultra vires.

Clause 9 makes it possible to indulge in much land speculation. Clause 11 sets out powers for other transactions connected with land. Clause 25 heads, "to divide as profits among the members of the company the net annual income to be derived from the exhaustion of any wasting asset of the company, without any obligation on the part of the company to provide for loss on any previous year's operations." Land speculations connected with leases would come under this very well. Whatever it means they intend to lift all the profits they can, and quickly as they can. None of the old time precautions here. That clause is as modern as their blessed flying machines.

Clause 26 is a gem for Labor to take note of. "To promote freedom of contract, and to resist, insure against, counteract and discourage interference therewith, and to subscribe to any association or fund for any such purpose." "Cambist" says three cheers! Let him have a hundred shares so that he can smash the Labor push that provides all the wealth of the Dominion. That's the chat. Now we have got it at last.

Clause 30 shows how world-wide the objects of the £5000 Motor Bus concern is: "To procure this company be registered in any part of the British Empire, or in any foreign country, or place." So Point Chevalier will spread its kultur all over the globe, reducing competition, smashing vulgar Labor, when it is not busy running its smellful buses, or flying like a bird over the Mad House at the Whau (now referred to as the mental hospital, Avondale). There is only one thing that the directors seem to have overlooked—there is no provision made for the manufacture and working of submarines. By George! these are great things, quite as wonderful as the aeroplanes, and quite as dangerous. What a comprehensive lot the "guinea pigs" are at the back of this company. Why do they ever ask the public to come into the blessed thing, at all, at all? Whirrau and "Wow."

The word “kultur” was used here as a fairly sharp crack at Point Chevalier by the Wellingtonians. A German word, it wasn’t used in a friendly fashion then, in the second year of the First World War.

The company was supported financially by a loan from DSC and Cousins & Cousins Ltd (the latter well-known coach makers) at the start against two Kissel motor omnibuses, one capable of carrying 18, the other 20 passengers. Anderson Andrew Wright was described as being a motor bus proprietor, living at Surrey Crescent.

The only annual report in the file was from 1918. In it, it described a total of 164,000 passengers during 1917, over 24,000 trips using workers concession tickets of 3/- for 12 trips. The latter statistic, wrote the chairman, Thomas Dignan, “should be a great inducement to bona fide workmen to make their homes in the health giving surroundings of Point Chevalier.” Dignan himself, of course, lived at “The Pines” on Pt Chevalier Road. Such encouragement for "bona fide workmen" was to ensure Pt Chevalier district was a stronghold for the Labour Party during most of last century and into this one -- at odds, I'd have thought, withn the pro-Capital anti-Union sentiments of the company prospectus, as it turned out.

The company suffered losses in 1915-1917, and so were forced to raise the fares due to increased cost of upkeep and “the continually advancing price of oil.” Well, there was a war on at the time, of course …

The Point Chevalier Motor Bus Company went into voluntary liquidation in 1920.

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