Monday, August 17, 2009

Waterview's first nightsoil spat, 1874

In November 1874, a stink was being kicked up in the night soil disposal business in Auckland.

In August , the City Council reported that they had acquired several allotments at Waterview (actually, as more information came to light later, it seems they'd merely obtained permission, via their contractor, to use farmland in Waterview which was leased out by someone else. Very messy business), and the contractor Able Fletcher was instructed to start using them. (Southern Cross, 27 August 1874) This option didn’t work, as the charges were higher due to the increased distance from the city. The Waterview site hadn’t been used by early November.

At that time another nightsoil man, Thomas Faulder, also had a contract to collect from the city’s closets and dispose of same on an open area of land he owned, today's Chinaman's Hill in Grey Lynn. This was a large paddock in Arch Hill, fronting Great North Road. But complaints had come in that the refuse wasn’t being plowed in, that it hadn’t been deodorised, and liquid seeped from the property, raising anxieties all around. Folks had to either hold their noses as they rode or drove past, or call on their horses for more speed. The concerns had been simmering for months.

John Bollard of Avondale stepped in, and offered his 150 acre farm on Rosebank for the Council to use instead. It was considered that having the Whau River as a drain for the nasty overflows was better than Arch Hill. (Southern Cross, 17 November 1874) That offer doesn't appear to have been taken up. at least not then.

Then, the Waterview argument began.

On 18 November, Waterview resident John S. L. Cox wrote a letter to the City Mayor which was published in the Southern Cross:

To P. A. Philips, Esq. :
"Sir, — Knowing the interest you take in all matters pertaining to the public health, I beg to call your attention to the following particulars relative to the night-soil depot, Water View, Parish of Titirangi. Some few months ago Mr. Fletcher came into the district and called upon some few of the settlers to enquire whether they would allow him to bring a certain quantity of night-soil on their land as manure. These names were presented to the Highway Board to show that they were willing to have the public depot.

A counter petition was signed and also presented to the board. The result was the board refused his request to make Water View the site of said depot. These names were again used as though no such action had been taken.

When the settlers heard that the Council were about to grant a licence to bring it to Water View, another meeting was called when it was resolved : — 'That if the Council could force them to have it in opposition to their wishes (and not unless) they would recommend that a portion of section 17 or 18 be fixed as the site. Also that every load be first deodorised, then properly buried; that it so remain until the inspector declare it proper to be removed, and the whole to be managed to the satisfaction of the public health officer.’

Instead of carrying out these regulations, Mr Fletcher has deposited a quantity on a dedicated street, which by the order of chairman of highway board, has been removed. Since then he has brought it on to private property and is still doing so. In the one case there is only a street between this land and my own, the other is only a few chains distant. Another party can if he w ill, bring it up to my fence. To have a public depot is bad enough, but to have one on each side of you is intolerable. If these things are to be allowed, the hitherto healthy district of Water View is condemned. With these facts before me and then terrible consequences, I most earnestly entreat your interference. I am, &c,
John S. L Cox, Settler, Water View.
November 18, 1874.
(Southern Cross, 19 November 1874)

A week later, William Thomas wrote to the Mayor via the Southern Cross. William was one of the sons of John Thomas, the builder of the first Star Mill. As I covered in Terminus, he entered into partnership with his brother John and Thomas Barraclough in 1870, until selling his stake back to the others in July 1874. Perhaps, at that time, he had a lease on the farm next door, later known as Oakleigh Park, until the Garrett Brothers took over the lot later in the decade. At least, this seem to be what the following exchange may imply.

Per favour of Daily Southern Cross.
Sir,— ln last Thursday's issue of the Cross I noticed a letter signed John S. L. Cox, settler, Waterview, in reference to Mr. Fletcher and the nightsoil, and I think Mr. Cox is going far out of his way and taking a deal of trouble to try and injure Mr. Fletcher, and to keep the district back, as we all know that it is the want of manure that is the great drawback to settlers.

I notice that he has given (what he says) the decision of a meeting held at Mr. Sansom's house in Waterview, respecting the depositing of nightsoil in the district, but I think he has willfully mis-stated what took place, as I was at the meeting. He says that it was resolved at that meeting that if the Council could force them to have it in opposition to their wishes (and not unless) they would recommend that a portion of section 17 or 18 be fixed as the site. Also that every load be first deodorised, then properly buried, that it so remain until an inspector declare it proper to be removed, and the whole to be managed to the satisfaction of the Public Health Officer." That is not like the resolution sent to the Council as the result of the meeting.

Now what factually took place at that meeting, was as follows : -After talking the matter over calmly for some time (respecting the depot, and the settlers receiving the nightsoil on their properties as manure, and properly deodorising it) at the suggestion of Mr. Bollard, chairman of the Whau Highway District, who was present, the whole of the settlers who were at the meeting, went down towards the beach to select a site for a depot for the balance, and they selected a portion of section 17, and resolved that if the Council did not agree to the position suggested, and selected any other site nearer to any settler, and he should suffer from the effects, that he (the settler) should receive compensation to remove from his property.

Now, that is the sum and substance of the meeting; the compensation portion of it emanated from Mr. Cox himself. He seems to have a great aversion to the nightsoil being deposited on his neighbour’s property around him as a manure. All the nightsoil that has been brought out as yet has been properly deodorised, and is no nuisance whatever, the truth of which can be vouched for, by all the settlers about. I may add, that the inspector has been to see the deposits, and he says it is properly attended to and he can find no fault — I am, &c.,
William Thomas.
(Southern Cross, 26 November 1874)

To the Editor:
Sir, —I am sorry to call your attention to the unpleasant subject of "Night Soil Nuisance," and positively would not do so, only that Mr. Thomas, in his letter inserted in the Cross, November 26th, attempts to show that I have " willfully misstated what took place at a meeting hold at Mr. Sansom’s Waterview." —I thank Mr. Thomas most sincerely for the letter he sent for publication, inasmuch as his own account of it most certainly confirms the truth of my assertions; but I do not thank him for the charitable view he takes of my sayings and doings.

Mr. Thomas in his letter acknowledges that the “results" of that meeting were reduced to the form of a resolution, and sent to the City Council :-- With such a resolution before him, it is most apparent that Mr. Philips knew he was not publishing a falsehood, when he used my letter in conjunction with his reply to 'Citizen.' As to the charge of 'going about to injure Mr. Fletcher,' I would say Mr. Fletcher, has, I believe, placed certain propositions before the Council, and entered into an agreement to carry them out on a given section of land.

Is it right, then, for Mr. Thomas to say I am trying to injure Mr. Fletcher because I use my utmost endeavour to induce him to fulfill his own conditions? When Mr. Fletcher brought the first load of night soil on to Mr. William Thomas’ ground, I told him he was not taking it to the place of appointment. He said he should take it where he pleased. I have yet to learn that a carter's will is law in this matter. To say the settlers met to select a site for a depĂ´t on their own lands, and take all the contractor could bring it is evident there could be no balance and therefore no sum required. “The compensation portion of it” did not emanate from me.

It was Mr Bollard who suggested that Mr. Thomas and myself should have compensation if a nuisance was created near our houses, it being supposed the Council had approved a site nearest to us, a condition Mr. Thomas fully agreed to. If the Council had formed a depot near to him, he would have thought it right to receive compensation, but seeing as he has consented to have the nightsoil deposited on his own ground and therefore could not make such an application he expects public sympathy. When Mr. Thomas and his family have passed through as much affliction, caused by offensive odours as we have, he too will have an “aversion” to the loathsome refuse, and will use his utmost influence to prevent it coming near his dwelling. It requires no very great discernment, to perceive the reason why Mr. W. Thomas has given such a favourable report as to its proper management; when he is allowing Mr. Fletcher to deposit nightsoil on his land, contrary to the express orders of the “Board of Health”. In the small village of Waterview, Mr. Fletcher has already deposited nightsoil on three separate properties. I am, &c., John S. Cox, Waterview.
(Southern Cross, 1 December 1874)

In January 1875, the City Council decided not to renew Fletcher’s licence to collect nightsoil from the city. The Council fell back on using Faulder’s Arch Hill depot instead, until they could get a permanent depot – somewhere … anywhere …

Waterview wasn't considered again until much, much later. The more notable protest happened in the 20th century.

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