Thursday, October 30, 2008

Avondale Letters 2

The 1912 Avondale (specifically, Blockhouse Bay) Roads Debacle. 50 ratepayers signed a petition, presented to the Avondale Road Board in August 1912 by Mr. William Pendlebury (a draper by trade who lived in Blockhouse Bay and who would later, in 1927, support the last borough mayor Herbert Tiarks) "drawing attention to what was termed the disgraceful condition of every road in the district, and hinting at incompetency on the part of those responsible for the management of the affairs of the district ... THe Chairman of the Board replied at length to the criticism levelled at the Board, and said that the loan money authorised was not nearly sufficient to carry out the work satisfactorily. The state of the weather had been a considerable factor in preventing the completion of the work in the time specified in the contract. Until the weather modified he did not see how the work on the roads could be expedited. The chairman's remarks were interrupted by frequent interjections." (NZ Herald, 9 August 1912)


(To the Editor, Auckland Star,published 9 August 1912)

Sir, -- With grim satisfaction I read in last night's "Star" the report of the meeting of Avondale ratepayers. I not only endorse Messrs. Pendlebury and Gittos' opinion, but think they were far too polite, and if I had been at the meeting as a ratepayer, after the experience I had yesterday afternoon on one of these famous roads, I fear my language would have been even more sulphurious than that used by the two gentlemen mentioned. Just allow me space to relate the story, and I leave it to you to judge if I have not good reason to be on the side of Messrs. Gittos and Pendlebury.

Yesterday, being a fine day, I ventured to invite my wife, a friend of mine, and his wife, to a motor trip round the suburbs, and as I am a stranger in Auckland, I asked my friend to take the lead. We started at 2 o'clock, and we spun merrily along, and my friend suggested to go over Avondale to Onehunga, and from there to One-tree Hill for tea, and from there I do not remember where to, but it was a fine programme, and the beginning was exceedingly pleasant.

We went through Avondale, passed the brickworks, and then intended to strike off for the Manukau Harbour. The road was not too inviting, but did not look treacherous, and as there were no danger signals, we ventured along. All of a sudden our car stopped and would not budge.

The ton and a-half steel and wood had buried itself in mud of such a tenacious, sticky nature, that extrication -- notwithstanding the heroic efforts of the mechanism -- seemed hopeless. Every trial got us deeper into the mire. The chauffeur and myself went to the nearest house, which happened to be Mr. Gittos' house, to ask for assistance. Mr. Gittos gave us boards and sacks, a spade, a rope and other paraphernalia, which under such circumstances are useful. We denuded the surrounding country of its ti-tree and put the branches in front of the wheels, to give them -- as our chauffeur said -- a "grip", but the car did not budge. One of the wheels went round like the fly-wheel of an engine, throwing up a tone of Avondale mud, and embedding itself deeper and deeper.

Then comes a man with a cart full of sacks of shells. "What is the market price of shells?" "A shilling a sack." I bought the load. The car was jacked up first on one side, and shells put under the wheel, then the other side. The car was then raised a little more, and a sack of shells was placed under each wheel. A few hundred-weights of ti-tree branches, gathered meanwhile by the ladies and some of the rising generation of South Avondale, were spread in front of the wheels. A rope was fastened to the car, and about half the population of South Avondale pulled as if life depended on it. The engine snorted and heaved, and -- Oh, delight! moved -- a yard, and then sank helplessly into some more Avondale mud.

The experiment was repeated, and though the rope broke and most of the pullers made a still closer acquaintance with the mire, the car was at last pulled on to high land. We had strenuously worked for fully two and a half-hours. The sun was setting when we returned from our excursion.

The only pleasant moment we experienced during our trials was when Mrs. Gittos brought us a welcome cup of tea and bread and butter.

This was the end of an outing which, but for the callousness of the Avondale Road Board, could have been most delightful.

My advice to motorists is: Shun the Avondale district until the Road Board has "mended its ways." In the meantime I would suggest to the Road Board to put up danger signals on the bogs which are called roads. -- I am, etc.,


The debacle continues here.

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