The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 2 (June 1, 1933)
A Story of a New Zealand Achievement
A Story of a New Zealand Achievement
It is a glorious spring day and from the verandah where I sit I can gaze out across the Napier town and to the sea beyond.
A fresh breeze is blowing from the east, just strong enough to put some white caps on the waves. A white-sailed yacht curtseys and lifts as she makes her way across the bay.
The dark colouring of the water against the glowing sunshine reminds one of a lovely picture by Somerscales. In the distance, where the horizon melts away in tender mist, the trawlers can be seen making their way to the port beyond the Bluff.
Looking south is the lovely curve of the Bay, golden in the sunlight. The league-long rollers of the Pacific surge toward the shore, holding themselves in majesty until the mighty moment when they crash and break in lovely foam.
The Norfolk Pines lifting their tendril branches in the breeze make a gracious break between the shore and the sea.
Immediately in the foreground is the new town of Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.
The Tragedy of 1931.
In February, 1931, this town suffered a sad set-back. Earthquake, followed by devastating fire, had reduced much of the business portion of Napier to desolate wreck. The many premises built of wood which were sandwiched between the more modern buildings had fed the fire which followed the upheaval, and this, in the abscence of water, had spread, until some portions of the town were destroyed.
Water and gas mains were smashed and electric wires were either down or burnt.
All the life of the community seemed to be irretrievably stopped. Many who came to visit and help the sufferers at this time prophesied that Napier was finished and could never rise again after such a stupendous cataclysm.page 36
Napier citizens, however, are made of stern stuff. They were not prepared to admit for a single day that they were beaten. Recovering from the shock in record time, they instantly commenced the organisation that eventually led to the rehabilitation of the town.
The New Town.
The result of their efforts lies before us.
The new town has been laid out with widened streets and, as far as possible, in accordance with the latest town planning requirements. Overhead telephone and electric wires are a thing of the past. These wires are now carried underground.
The new buildings are erected in harmonious styles and with an effect that gives the observer a very attractive picture.
The Spanish style of architecture is mostly evident and the frontages have in many cases been finished in various shades of colour which are very pleasing to the eye. There are no posts to support the verandahs and this helps to give a graceful continuity of line to the long and widened thoroughfares. The new buildings are erected in ferro-concrete or brick.
A very fine effect is to be obtained at the junction of Hastings and Emerson Streets. This spot has again become the business centre and is the best place to see the town's present active life.
In the majority of cases the old names are displayed over the shops and warehouses, although the buildings are often a direct contrast to the owner's pre-earthquake premises. It can be said that the chrysalis has developed into the butterfly.
To-day when the view down the longer street is bathed in sunlight, and the pavements are crowded with expectant shoppers, is a good time to see what is going on. The pleasant breeze and sunshine conspire to give one and all a feeling of delightful optimism; and the pleasing colour of the ladies’ summer dresses, the fresh buildings and glittering plate glass windows combine to make one feel a very spirit of cheerful holiday.
Upon the Marine Parade great improvements have been carried out which will help visitors to Napier to enjoy their stay. A large area has been reclaimed from the sea and this has been laid out in lawns and shrubbery with very beautiful effect. The wants of children and parents who are keeping holiday have been catered for with great success.
Facing the ocean is the facade of the new Masonic Hotel which bids fair to be one of the best provincial hostelries south of the line.
Needless to say, all the buildings erected are earthquake proof so that they would be safe if these parts were again visited by an upheaval.
Scientists, however, tell us that there is very little probability of such an occurrence, as earthquake history has shown page 37 that an upheaval is not to be expected in this neighbourhood again.
The wonderful achievement of rebuilding which has been carried out in the face of great difficulty reflects great credit upon the people of Napier. Money has been spent in millions of pounds sterling and this in itself was difficult to obtain. The great thing, however, that made the resurrection possible was the grit and firm purpose of the citizens who bravely supported their Commissioners in every possible way.
Napier is now a very pleasant town, and a walk through her spacious streets is a very pleasant pastime. Or, if your fancy takes you to wander over the hills outside the town you will get bright glimpses as you climb and eventually when you reach the summit will see the lovely view that I attempted to describe when I picked up my pen.
A blue sky, glorious sunshine, brilliant town, fruitful country and lovely sea.
Added to this a climate unequalled else-where in this world of ours. We are well blessed and we are content.