Thursday, October 2, 2008

The 1914 Night Soil Protest at Waterview

The following is from notes of a speech I gave in 2004.

Just outside where the Waterview Church stands today, across the width of the Great North Road, a protest was staged in 1914 against the use of the Cadman Estate (now part of Heron Park) as a night soil depot. It was a sure sign that settlement had picked up markedly in Waterview – settlers here were not going to put up with what might have gone unnoticed in a more rural environment.

The Tamaki night soil depot was closed in late 1913, and Health Department officials went looking for alternative sites. The local authorities on the isthmus were all keen that there should be another depot, but not at all keen that it should be in their districts. It was decided that the Cadman Estate would be ideal, and legislation put through meant that the Department didn’t have to listen to local authority concerns.

20 January 1914, Auckland Star.
“Forced to look for a new site, the Public Health Dept. decided that Avondale provided a satisfactory way out. The residents of that district received an unpleasant surprise yesterday, when it was discovered that the sanitary carts had during the night been brought into the township, & the matter had been distributed over a well-known property, on which was situated a large boarding house. The owner of this property, it is further stated, runs cows over his land, & holds a license to supply milk throughout the district.

“A member of the Avondale Road Board, in imparting this information to a Star representative this morning, said it was obvious that the site was an impossible one for the purpose. The ground was too hard in that locality to permit of proper ploughing, with the result that the matter was only partially covered, & with the prevailing wind blowing in the direction of a fairly thickly populated area, the residents were considerably alarmed. Already the member for the district has been interviewed, & asked to intercede with the Minister of Public Health.

“The Board's solicitors have also been instructed to take immediate action, & a public indignation meeting is to be held forthwith. When inquiry was made at the Public Health Office this morning it was ascertained that the site was regarded as the best available. The information was further imparted that it was only to be used as a temporary depot, though no idea could be given as to how long it would be necessary to continue sending Auckland night soil into the Avondale district.”
23 January 1914, Auckland Star
“During the small hours of Monday morning last residents in Waterview, a portion of the Avondale district, were rudely disturbed by rumbling noises & queer odours emanating from no one knew where.

“At the back of a property, the estate of the late Sir A J Cadman, & presently leased to Mr Harrison, several loads of nightsoil had been deposited, & a man was busily employed in ploughing it in. It was soon apparent that Pt Chevalier had succeeded in getting rid of their sanitary depot, & that Avondale had been chosen to replace it. At a meeting of the Road Board last evening, ratepayers attended in large numbers & expressed their indignation in an unmistakable manner.”
On the 26th of January, an open air meeting was held outside the Avondale Post Office, at the present day Avondale Roundabout. 200 men attended, angrily demanding that the Avondale Road Board do something. On 28 January, the Brownes Road and Cameron Street barricades went up.

From the NZ Herald:
“Residents of Avondale erected two barricades on the roads used by the sanitary contractors & since Friday last the deposits have had to be placed elsewhere. At each barrier was a notice to the effect that the road was closed to traffic. Counter moves were made last night, under the direction of the District Health Officer, Dr. Makgill.

“Accompanied by Senior-sergeant Rutledge & four constables, the health officer proceeded to the locality where the barricades had been erected, in order to remove them.

“Browne's Road, at the extremity of which one of the obstacles was placed, was reached by motor-car shortly before midnight. The party then went afoot to the second one, situated in Cameron Road, about a quarter of a mile nearer to the foreshore. Heavy timbers had been used in the building of both barricades, and though the police were reinforced by the mounted constables stationed in the district, they could not commence operations, being without tools. After a brief interval, however, the contractor (Mr Burke) arrived with two assistants who brought crowbars & other implements with them.

“Dr Makgill, in order to place the subsequent procedure on a legal basis, was the first to make an attack upon the formidable barrier, which was roughly nailed together here & there with 6in nails. This done, the contractor’s men and the constables soon made short work of the remainder, & a gap was made through which, 20 minutes or so later, the first of six sanitary carts passed safely to the depot. No opposition was experienced in the work of demolition of the first obstacle, though one individual from behind an adjacent hedge uttered a warning to the effect that the police had better not touch the barricade unless they produced their authority. Some female voices also were raised in protest from the outer darkness.

“At the Browne's Road barricade, half a dozen residents appeared on the scene & raised verbal objections to the proposed removal of it. The Health Officer thereupon proceeded to the residence of the chairman of the Road Board (Mr J Potter) with whom he was conferring at an early hour this a.m.”
More barricades were erected on subsequent nights. I haven’t yet found out exactly how things turned out, but I’d say the depot turned out to be very temporary indeed.

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