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Design Review: Volume 2, Issue 6 (May-June 1950)

Here and There

page 129

Here and There

How many of the thousands of daily travellers between Wellington and its Hutt Valley take the journey along the edge of the harbour for granted? There is an ever-changing splendour and excitement with the rugged hills rising sheer from the road enclosing the lively sea—one day calm and glistening, and the next grey and lashing against the shore. It is sad to know that soon we shall be able to see our harbour only through a maze of poles and wire. The Railways Department, forerunner in squalor-creating “development”, is about to electrify the railway. We are all for electrification, but not for the poles and wire. And we could have both the view and the electrification if we followed overseas developments, where a third “live” rail is used in place of overhead wire. But the difficulties have been weighed up in terms of cost against the harbour, and the harbour has lost.


With their superb faith in engineering achievement, New Zealanders have always associated power poles with progress. We are prepared without a whimper of protest to have our streets flanked and our views blocked by pole after pole (see pages 126 and 127). Look, next time you walk down your street and you will see what I mean. And strange though it seems the poles are unnecessary. If we do not carry our water supply pipes, gas and sewerage on top of the ground, why our power and telephone lines? Because, say the engineers, there are “certain technical difficulties”. And it costs more. If it does cost more is it not worth it? I, for one would willingly pay a few extra shillings in rates each year if it meant the difference between my street resembling a burned-out forest as it does now, and being a pleasantly tree-lined avenue giving shade and beauty.

A visiting American hydro-electric engineer, discussing the Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Rapids power projects, is quoted as saying:

“The important scenic and fishing attractions of Lake Taupo and Huka Falls should be preserved as far as possible in planning the Huka Falls project.

“It is assumed that the power station would be operated without regard to scenic effects during all seasons of the year, except during the tourist season in the summer months. In these months special arrangements could be made to release all or part of the flow through the natural flow and over the falls at certain regular, designated times for scenic purposes.”

This advertisement seems appropriate:

If every New Zealander were to take a trip to the United States or Europe, or even Sydney, the accumulated shock of returning would be sufficient to effect a transformation of our cities and towns into reasonable looking places. What returning New Zealander does not feel a pang of surprise and disgust at the squalid and dull appearance that hits him on arrival? Auckland or Wellington looks no better than he thought Otaki or Otorohanga to be. Smallness is nothing to be sorry about, but untidiness, bad architecture and crude sign-writing, though not peculiar to this country, do strike one immediately on return. It is a pity that we can so easily fall back into our comfortable grooves and so conveniently forget or accept our daily surroundings.


Do you live in your kitchen and leave your living room for guests? The other night I walked around the streets of a new suburb and counted the number of houses with lights on in the kitchen and those with lights on in the “front room”. It was over two to one in favour of the kitchen. Was it the warmth and homely smells of cooking that kept the family in the kitchen, or the demands of the housewife to save her daily housekeeping? Or was it cosier in the kitchen? With square feet so scarce, it might be well for house designers to reconsider whether the 200 square feet or more needed for the “best room” could not be put to better use.