Situated on the Heretaunga Plain, about twelve miles south of Napier, Hastings is one of the most thriving inland towns in the North Island of New Zealand, with an assured prosperous future as the population of the colony increases. The Havelock hills slope down almost to the borough boundary on the east, while forty miles away the lofty Ruahines present a serrated horizon, leaving Hastings with “ample scope and verge enough,” to expand in all directions.
The early history of Hastings is fraught with interest. In 1864 or 1865, the Heretaunga block, a portion of which now constitutes the borough of Hastings, was first leased from the natives by Messrs Thomas Tanner and William Rich. This block comprised that portion of the plains between the Ngaruroro river and what was then known as the Waitio creek, but which has now become the ordinary bed of the Ngaruroro, owing to the great floods of 1867 causing the river to alter its course from one side of the block to the other. After the lease had been in force for some years, the lessees formed a syndicate of twelve persons (who became commonly known in Hawke's Bay as the “Twelve Apostles”), and purchased the freehold from the natives. Among those admitted into this partnership were Messrs Gordon Hill, J. N. Williams, J. D. Ormond, A. H. Russell, W. R. Russell and the Rev. Samuel (afterwards Archdeacon) Williams. It has been said that these early settlers acquired their property for the proverbial song, and, if the thirty shillings an acre they paid for it be compared with the present value of land in Hastings, the statement would seem to have
Brown and Ross, photo.
Seddon Memorial Service: Volunteers Marching In Heretaunga Street.
some foundation; when, however, it is remembered that the greater portion of Hastings situated below the racecourse and the old Ngaruroro river was then a swamp, and that the site of the present Carlton Club Hotel, and other portions of that side of the main street were in a similar condition, and that the population of the entire province was scanty and scattered, it will be seen that the price was not so meagre as it seems now, looking back from the prosperous borough of to-day, to its modest birth over forty years ago. The demand for land in the district did not readily increase. About six or seven years later Mr. Thomas Tanner offered an acre of the best land in the present borough for every three acres ploughed. That is to say, calculating on the value of labour at that period, he was offering land in Hastings for £3 an acre, and accepting payment in labour. Yet he could find very few to take advantage of these liberal terms. Among those who availed themselves of the offer were Messrs James Boyle, Francis Hicks, Guy Hamilton, and Samuel Lowe. In 1871, Mr. Tanner endeavoured to dispose of his land at £5 an acre, and even at less, for he offered a block of 640 acres (in its entirety), extending on one side from the corner on which the present Union Bank stands, to the Havelock Bridge, and on the other side along the Karamu road to the site now occupied by Mr. C. A. Fitzroy's residence at £4 an acre, but could not get a buyer.
Shortly after this, the idea of carrying the railway through the district was mooted, and in the year 1873 Mr. F. Hicks cut up a hundred acres into town lots. The first business place was started in a small two-roomed building on the present Union Bank corner, in which Mr. Hicks opened a store and post office. Mr. F. Sutton bought a site and erected the Railway Hotel, which has since been rebuilt in brick. On the 17th of April, 1897, the Ngaruroro river burst the embankments—that had stood for twenty years—near Ray's Hill, and occasioned the loss of several lives, and great loss in stock and property to the settlers in the low-lying district. The River Board, subsidised by the Hastings Borough Council, have erected new protective works on the Hastings side of the river. Under the impetus given to the district by the advent of the railway, the town gradually grew and prospered, the swamps were drained, population increased, places of business sprang up, and Hastings grew from its unpromising beginning into a busy borough, the centre of a flourishing agricultural, pastoral, fruit, and vine-growing country.
The Heretaunga riding was formerly included in the Hawke's Bay county, and was governed by a road board, responsible to the county council. This body existed for several years, until, towards the end of 1883, Hastings was constituted a town district, and the first meeting of the town board was held on the 4th of February, 1884. The town further progressed, and was formed into a borough in 1886.
The first school was established in the old Masonic Hall, which is now used as a private school for infants. The building was erected and the school maintained by private subscriptions, supplemented by a Government subsidy. This was continued until the present system of education came into operation. When Mr. Thomas Tanner sold that portion of his property known as East Hastings, he reserved a site, which he presented for the erection of a school house and residence, and upon these grounds the present large schools stand.
Hastings has a daily evening newspaper, “The Hastings Standard;” three banks, namely, the Bank of New Zealand, the Union Bank, and the Bank of New South Wales; several public buildings, a drill hall, a theatre, Masonic hall, public library, a large number of fine business premises, and several handsome private residences. There are four churches—Anglican, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, and Presbyterian. Hastings' industries include a sash-and-door factory, a coach factory, an agricultural implement factory, wool-scouring works, a bacon-curing establishment, a brewery, and a butter factory. There are also two extensive freezing works near the town, that of Messrs Nelson Brothers, established in the year 1880, and the works of Messrs Borthwick, and Son, Limited, opened in 1906. Accommodation is provided in Hastings by six hotels and a number of private boarding houses. The racecourse of the Hawke's Bay Jockey Club is situated near the centre of the borough, and is one of the best appointed and most up-to-date in the colony. It possesses an artificial lake, overhung with willows, a
Brown and Ross, photo.
Hastings, Showing Market Street.
grand stand, together, with nicely-laid-out walks and avenues of trees, and is used as a recreation ground and public park.
Brown and Ross, photo,
Heretaunga Street West.
Fruit growing has become an important industry in the district, and hops are also cultivated. Besides the famous Frimley orchards, which support a large canning factory, there are extensive vineyards at Te Mata. The Hawke's Bay Fruit Growers' Company, which deal largely in the products of the orchards and vineyards, has its head-quarters in Hastings.