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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Mr. Frederick Alonzo Carrington

Mr. Frederick Alonzo Carrington, the fifth and last Superintendent of Taranaki, was elected to the position on the 15th of October, 1869. He was re-elected on the 22nd of November, 1873, and held the office until the provinces ceased to exist, on the 1st of November, 1876. Mr. Carrington was born in England in the year 1808, and when a young man he was appointed by the Duke of Wellington to a position in the Ordnance Survey Department. His ability in survey work and topographical delineation attracted the attention of the engineers of the day, and on the passing of the Reform Bill, in 1832, he was selected by the Parliamentary Commissioners to describe the boundaries of the boroughs from Bristol to Manchester; and for that service he received the thanks of the Commissioners. He was specially selected by the Plymouth Company as its chief surveyor to go to New Zealand, and choose a site for the new settlement. On his arrival at Wellington, Colonel Wakefield gave him every assistance, and after securing the services of “Dickey Barrett” (a well known whaler) as guide, Mr. F. Carrington and his family, with his brother, Mr. Octavius Carrington, as chief assistant, and the survey party, went to Taranaki in February, 1841. The country was then covered with fern and undergrowth, which made it difficult to select the site of the township; and after visiting Waitara to judge of its capabilities as a port, Mr. Carrington finally fixed on the present position of New Plymouth as a site for the proposed town. It was only with great trouble that the lines were cut through the dense vegetation, and the area laid out and surveyed. Mr. Carrington returned to England in 1843, when he found that the directors of the New Zealand Company (which had absorbed the Plymouth Company) were thinking of ceasing their functions for a time; and he retired from their service, after receiving a very complimentary testimonial from them. Mr. Carrington was next engaged in the formation of railways in England. He surveyed lines, and made models of engineering works where particular difficulties existed, and some of his models were sent to Buckingham Palace at the request of the Prince Consort, who personally thanked Mr. Carrington. During the time he was in England, between 1844–51, Mr. Carrington gave much time and attention to New Zealand affairs, particularly to Taranaki ironsand, a sample of which he took Home and had analysed by Messrs Dymond, of Holborn; but although the principal men of the day were impressed with the high quality and value of the samples, Mr. Carrington was unable to bring the matter to a successful result. He, however, sent to the great Exhibition of 1851, a bar of iron obtained from the sand, and the attention of the Quartermaster-General of the Ordnance Department was called to it. After visiting California several times in connection with mines, water-races and railways, Mr. Carrington returned to New Zealand, with the object of utilising the ironsand, and to prosecute other schemes affecting the district. The North Island was then in an unsettled state, owing to the native assuming a hostile attitude towards the Europeans; and war broke out in 1860, and lasted about ten years. About 1862, Mr. Carrington was appointed Government engineer and surveyor for Taranaki, and carried out, in connection with the military authorities, a large amount of road construction in the district. On peace being restored, he gave his attention to local affairs, was nominated as Superintendent of Taranaki, and returned by the electors, and continued to hold office until the abolition of the provinces in 1876. He also had a seat in the House of Representatives for several years, but owing to the great strain on his health he retired from politics in 1880. Mr. Carrington was always active in agitating for the formation of the protective harbour works, and it was chiefly through his exertions that a fourth of the land revenue page 44 of the district was set aside for harbour purposes, and a Harbour Board created. In February, 1881, he laid the first stone of the New Plymouth breakwater, which enables vessels to lie alongside the wharf in all weathers, Mr. Carrington, as a thorough colonist, naturally took a great interest in the welfare of the district, which he looked upon as a flower of his own rearing; and, almost up to the last, his well known, erect figure was to be seen daily in New Plymouth, where he was ever greeted by old and young with tokens of love and respect. He passed away in his sleep, on the morning of the 15th of July, 1901, and therefore lived to be ninety-three years of age. His brother, Octavius Carrington, who had assisted him to lay out the town of New Plymouth, died in September of the same year.