The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)
Highlights Of Hastings — The Hawke'S Bay Garden Of The Hesperides
It is an old saying that the wealth of a land is in its soil. If it is truth, then Hastings is built upon treasure trove. As a matter of fact, the inevitable and rapid growth of the town has its tragic side. Each extra increment of its population spreads over and hides a rich lode. Such is the inordinate, the abounding and extraordinary fertility of the land of the district, that it amounts to sheer extravagance to cover it with paved roads, footpaths, homes and buildings, however handsome they may be. For aeons, the wandering rivers have been bringing in this huge, spreading series of flats, the countless riches of their gatherings. In many places, there are six feet of this black opulence from which any growing thing will spring with vivid life and swift strength. In a land of sunshine and warm and friendly rains, this area rightly claims many leadership rights. Its actual hours of sunshine place it along with Nelson and Napier among the world leaders in the blue sky's greatest gift. Its rainfall, still, is ample for all purposes, but its rainy days might have been arranged on a limit fixed by tennis or cricket enthusiasts. It is an open air man's paradise.
The town itself is, as the Frenchman said “something to rave.” It is the youngest of our substantial county capitals, a red-haired beauty among so many splendid sisters. Its present population is 12,747, having grown since last counting by 2,599. I know of no place in New Zealand with such a spic and span air of freshness. Here, as in Napier and Gisborne, all earthquake traces have been obliterated. Hastings, in a different sense from all other of the cities in miniature of the Dominion, had no heritage of early carefree muddle, of lack of wise vision. It is almost a town planner's model; broad streets at right angles, ample wide spaces, and striking and lavish parks. Many of the new buildings are in, those delightful pastel shades of tinted concrete, and there is hardly an ugly edifice in the whole business section. The lighting is clear, fine, and efficient, and the noble main street is an avenue of lustre in the evening. I confess that I would like some more of those brilliant reds and blues of the Neon signs which make so many of our towns a fairyland at night time. As the town area is flat, symmetrically networked with streets in ordered series, comparison with Christchurch or Invercargill is inevitable. The ubiquity of the bicycle and their kerbside racks, and the slightly careworn faces of motorists as they watch these random little vehicles in wheeling flocks, are points of resemblance.
It is a busy, bustling, cheerful, thriving distributing centre, whose immediate task is to supply the needs of the happy dwellers on a hundred thousand acres or more of the richest land in the world. I went out with mine host of the pleasant Pacific Hotel at eleven o'clock in the morning, and the main street wore the air of a small metropolis. Motor cars lined the principal streets and were parked in every available side thoroughfare. People were coming in and out of the handsome shops, mostly wearing that indefinable, but easily recognisable, air of the “primary producer.”page 10
The business premises are modern in the last degree. Westerman's, for instance, pictured in our illustration, ranks with the drapery emporiums in its wide range of stock, the sumptuous fittings, and the up-to-date methods of display.
In Hastings, as in many other similar towns, anyone can shop to the same advantage as in any of our major four centres. I got into conversation with a pilgrim from well back in the hills while shaving one morning. The Pacific Hotel has that best of all men's comforts, a roomy toilet foyer with mirror-lined walls, where one can shave without monopolising the bathroom. This makes for conversation, and I found that my lathered acquaintance was getting the whole of his kit for a trip to the Old Land in Hastings. I wish New Zealanders would count their blessings in this regard, for no other country on the globe has country centres which give the same service.
Here in Hastings, too, I found an industry which was a complete surprise. The firm of Land and Highway make tents and camping equipment to meet orders from all parts of the Dominion. Their tents can be seen in the Eglinton Valley or the Hokianga camping grounds. It is just a case of skill and brains united to experience, in a locality where open air recreation is universal and easy. Their show of sports goods, too, was witness to the prosperity and the healthy habits of the people. It would do credit to any capital of Europe.
In this regard, however, Hastings simply asserts its parity with the rest of the provincial capitals of the Dominion. Its first eye-opening, distinctive possession, is Cornwall Park, of which we show pictures. This consists of twenty acres of formal and informal Garden of Eden. The soil makes the curator's job one of sheer joy. Mountain trees are there that I have never seen before on the flat. The gardens are apparently endless and riotous in their luxuriance. The ample water supply has been most ingeniously used. There are several sparkling sheets of ornamental waters, winding streams lined with roughcast edging interspersed with seats and novel bridges. The forest giants, the long avenue of tall palms, the vivid green velvet of the lawns, give this bowered retreat an atmosphere of centuries of age. For good measure, there are fine aviaries, monkey houses, playing apparatus for children, making a miniature zoo.
As one traverses the main thoroughfare, or any of its parallels, there stands at the far end a clean cut hill skyline. This is “The Peak” whose thirteen hundred feet of height stand in a park of two hundred and forty acres. It is a priceless and unique treasure. Winding roads of easy incline have been cut about its sides, and trees planted by a band of enthusiasts. From it, breath-taking views fill the eye. On the far side there is a colossal limestone face, dropping sheer for six hundred feet. The blue Pacific and the whole sweep of the “Bay” can be seen. The frontal view is the mighty panorama of the Hawke's Bay plains, with Hastings in the foreground. This double-sided vision of wonderland is only a few minutes from the town; it will be visited by increasing thousands year after year.
I visited the newly erected canning factory of Watties Ltd. It is a fine modern industrial plant, but should be ten times the size. It turns out tinned pears, peaches and apricots which are incomparable for flavour. It is natural that this should be so. This factory stands in the dead centre of its raw material. The transport problem is negligible. The sun-drenched fruit is glowing as it goes into the cans. I am tired to death of the story that we cannot build up an export trade. I have never been able to notice that it is farther from Wellington to San page 12 page 13 Francisco than it is from San Francisco to Wellington. Yet I walked out of that great plant, in the midst of a copious abundance of the finest fruit in the world, to see Californian tinned peaches in the Hastings stores. Could anything be more ridiculous! Watties Ltd. are starting asparagus canning this year, and I see no reason why this district and its active and industrious citizens should not, in company with other parts of our country, at least supply all the tinnned fruit and vegetables we need. Moreover, it should come about that epicures the world over from Vladivostock to Buenos Ayres should be demanding our goods because of their special excellence.
Here is an avenue of useful employment for thousands of our fellow citizens. All that is needed is logical development; the rich soil and sunny skies will do the rest.
Hastings ought to be happy. It has everything.