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Life in Early Poverty Bay

His Home Site — Mr. Ezra Smith's Problem in '72. — Fossicking for the Pegs Amongst the Ti-Tree

page 182

His Home Site
Mr. Ezra Smith's Problem in '72.
Fossicking for the Pegs Amongst the Ti-Tree.

When buying a section of land in Gisborne these days of pampering civilisation, it is merely a question of getting the address from the land agent, starting up a car, and you are deposited at the spot within a few minutes. Fifty-five years ago, however, when Mr. Ezra Smith first landed in Gisborne, land buying was a very different proposition. Mr. Smith applied to the right and proper official whose duty it was to allot sections to would-be residents and was informed: “You'll see the pegs with numbers so and so on them in the manuka away up there,' and he was directed up Gladstone Road. Mr. Smith waded through several inches of mud for nearly a mile and then hunted through manuka as tall as himself for signs of the surveyors. After nearly an hour's search he located one peg with one of the required numbers on it and a further twenty minutes were required before he had learned the definite boundaries of his new home. And to-day Mr. Smith still occupies that same piece of land

Simple Method of Filling a Section.

On the section adjoining Mr. Smith's, there settled, a little later, a painter named Mr Freyer At the back of Mr. Freyer's home was a patch of raupo, growing in a pool of swampy water. Heavy rain fell one night and, in the morning, Mr. Fryer got up, picked up his kettle, intending to fill it at a well in his back yard, and opened his back door. A stretch of water, a foot deep and extending to the standing manuka behind his section, met his gaze. Had the water risen half an inch higher it would have flowed into the house. That morning, Mr. Fryer filled his kettle at his back door without stepping a pace outside. In order to fill in the swampy ground about this raupo clump, this Mr. Fryer helpea himself to parts of Gisbone's thoroughfares, going round the streets and roads with a wheel-barrow and scraping up all the loose surface. Possibly, in these days, such a course of action might not be tolerated! Fortunately for Mr. Smith, his section was on slightly higher ground than that of Mr Fryer and he was never flooded out.

Formation of Gladstone Rd

“Gladstone Road was largely a tangle of ti-tree and fern,” related Mr. Smith to a “Times” representative, “and the first real move for its improvement was made when the Road Board let a contract, to form it properly, to a Mr. Owen Kelly. Mr. Kelly's tools consisted of nothing so elaborate as a bitumen plant—nor even a simple roller—let alone a steam one. He went to work with axes, slashers and shovels solely, and really made a very good job indeed. His men were set first to cut down all the standing scrub and this was thrown into the centre of the road. Then the shovels came into the operation and the earth was thrown from the sides of the road on to the pile of scrub in the centre. That was all the work required to be done as far as Mr. Kelly was concerned and the traffic and rains did all the rolling-in of the surface required. “Yet, I can tell you,” he said, “that road was then perfect compared with what it had been before.”

The Perils of Open Drains.

Mr. Smith recalls some of the early Borough Council work with a great deal of amusement. “Soon after being formed,” he remarked, “the Council set to work to improve Gladstone Road. The first requirement appeared to be efficient drainage and so the Council had a deep drain dug along the roadside from Roebuck Road to Carnarvon Street. This certainly helped to draw off a great part of the surface water, but, in those days, we had nothing in the nature of street lights. In conseouence people using the road were continually stumbling into the drain and even the cushion of water at the bottom for them to fall on did not alleviate their indignation at all. Finally, so many protests came into the Council that these authorities were compelled to take the only possible course and have the drain filled up.