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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885



Both Wellington and Auckland are interested in the ship Platina, 350 tons, Captain Michael Wycherley, one of the New Zealand Company's chartered vessels which brought out a number of emigrants, and also the first Government House. Sailing from Gravesend on February 24th, 1840, the ship entered Port Nicholson on July 6th. She brought a certain amount of stores, and would have brought much more if the British Government had not required a good deal of space for the residence they were sending out to Captain Hobson, Lieutenant Governor. Known as a "Manning frame house," the various sections were made ready to re-erect, but it was not an easy cargo to stow, and took up a considerable amount of space.

When this strange consignment left England there was nothing definite as to where Hobson was likely to set up the centre of Government, and so instructions were sent out by the London Board of Directors of the Company that its representatives in New Zealand were to see that the house was delivered to whatever place His Excellency should decide upon. Wellington was so easily first in importance in the matter of settlement that it was confidently thought by interested people that the Governor would live there, or at any rate somewhere on the shores of Cook Strait, but Hobson had fixed on the Waitemata as the seat of Government, and so the Wellington people—reluctantly, no doubt—had to dispatch the Platina to Auckland after she had disembarked her passengers. This must have been a rather leisurely business, for she did not sail again until early in September.

She entered the Waitemata by the Eastern, or Motuihi, Passage, and in doing so very nearly left her bones on Bean Rock reef. Running right out in the mouth of the harbour, this reef was always a source of anxiety to incoming shipmasters. The Platina was the first English merchant vessel to enter the Waitemata, and so it is not surprising to find that she ran on the inconveniently situated obstacle. Fortunately the rocks are not of the hardest, nor particularly jagged, and still more fortunately for the Platina she went on at low water, and the flood tide floated her off safely.

In considering this matter of the seat of Government we must remember that although "Hobson's choice" was undoubtedly sound according to his views of the affairs of the very infant colony, there was good reason why Cook Strait people should have expected the frame house to be unloaded down their way instead of being sent up to the ferny wastes of the Waitemata. When Hobson first arrived in New Zealand there were only 300 white people at the Bay of Islands, and at that time the New Zealand Company was pouring its settlers into the country further south. Auckland was not at that stage even thought of. In the middle of 1842 we find that there were 2000 people in Auckland, 5000 at Wellington, 2000 at Nelson, and 800 at Taranaki—all, with the exception of the Auckland people, brought out either directly or indirectly by the Company.