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

Town Of Wanganui

page 589

Town Of Wanganui.

Wanganui is situated on the north bank of the noble river from which it takes its name, and about four miles from the sea. It is 151 miles north from Wellington, and 102 miles by water, and is the depot and port for a large extent of agricultural and pastoral country. The borough is surrounded by the Waitotara County, and the town gives its name to the electoral district of which it forms the larger part.

In the early days the settlement was the scene of numerous conflicts and troubles with the Maoris. The first attempt at settlement was made in 1840 by the New Zealand Land Company, whose right the Maoris disputed; and for several years the colonists were subjected to frequent disturbances and persecutions. In 1847 a severe skirmish took place at St. John's Bush, when both sides suffered a number of casualties. From that time, however, the rebellion gradually died out, and the settlement has since steadily advanced.

The municipality of Wanganui was constituted in 1872, and its government by the Borough Council has been creditably conducted. The Wanganui Harbour Board, another important public body, controls all matters pertaining to the port, and has jurisdiction to the limit of tidal water, fourteen miles from the mouth of the river. The Waitotara and Wanganui County Councils have their head-quarters in the town. Other public bodies are the Hospital Board, the Wanganui Board of Education, Board of Governors of the Wanganui Girls' College, and the Trust Board of the Wanganui Collegiate School.

The more important educational institutions of Wanganui are the District High School, Queen's Park School, the Technical School, Wanganui Girls' College, Wanganui Collegiate School, and the Convent High School. The religious denominations are represented by the Anglican, Roman
Denton, photoWanganui.

Denton, photo

page 590 Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist persuasions. The social organisations include clubs for racing, trotting, golf, cricket, football, bowling, tennis, cycling and aquatics. In the latter connection Wanganui had the distinction, in 1907, of sending forth a prominent sculler, Mr. W. Webb, who competed for and won the rowing championship of the world, which honour he was the first to bring to New Zealand. Another organisation of which the town is justly proud is the Wanganui Garrison Band, the winners of the bands' contest at the New Zealand International Exhibition, 1906–7.

Five recreation grounds, aggregating sixty acres in area, are maintained by the corporation. In the Moutoa Gardens, situated on the river bank, are a statue of the late Hon. John Ballance and a monument erected to the memory of the Friendly Natives who defeated the Hauhaus at Moutoa Island. Queen's Park occupies a central position, and is the site of the famous Rutland Stockade. Within its borders is a monument to the soldiers who fell in the Maori war. Cook's Gardens are situated on St. John's Hill; in Victoria Park, in the same locality, and in the Recreation Grounds, near the racecourse, most of the cricket and football matches are played.

The Borough Council has also under its control the municipal abattoirs, opera house, gas works, and swimming baths, while electric tramways have been authorised. The town possesses a splendid water supply, there is good drainage, and the streets and footpaths are maintained in excellent order.

Wanganui is an important commercial and industrial centre, the large commercial institutions doing business throughout the Dominion are represented there, and the chief industries include meat freezing and preserving works, an iron pipe manufactory, sash and door, and furniture establishments, a biscuit and confectionery factory, soap works, engineering and coach building establishments, and breweries. The five banks doing business in New Zealand are each represented in the town. There are two papers, the “Wanganui Chronicle,” a morning daily, and the “Wanganui Herald,” which is published every evening. These journals, which are each of eight pages, and are well conducted, date from 1856 and 1867 respectively.

As a desirable place of residence, a health resort, and the starting point of excursions which have earned for Wanganui the name of the Bingen of the New Zealand Rhine, the town is noted. For the river traffic specially-designed steamers were built in England, and the first river boat started running in 1891. Considerable outlay in removing snags and otherwise preparing the way for the light-draught river vessels was involved. For several years communication was maintained only as far as Pipiriki, sixty miles up the river. The traffic has steadily increased, and in 1907 fully a dozen steamers and launches were engaged in it. For the convenience of visitors a large hotel, containing 100 rooms, was built at Pipiriki. Successful attempts were then made to render the upper reaches of the river navigable, with the result that the boats now ply as far as Taumarunui, sixty miles from Pipiriki, where a large floating house boat is moored for the accommodation of tourists.

Wanganui has participated in the general increase of the population of New Zealand. At the census of 1901 the borough proper contained 7,329 inhabitants. This number had increased to 8,175 at the census of 1906. At the same date, within the borough boundaries, there were 1,618 houses, of which only ninety-two were unoccupied. The suburbs of Wanganui are considerably populated. On the south, across the river, and within the county of Wanganui are Durietown and Taylorville, whose inhabitants numbered 351 and eighty-two respectively. At the Heads the Maori suburb of Castleclif had 380. Three miles up the river is the thriving settlement of Aramoho, with its 1,018 inhabitants. To the north-east, St. John's Hill, partly in the Brunswick and partly in the Westmere riding of the County of Waitotara, contains an additional 361. There are also Gonville and vicinity, with 490, and Mosstown and Springvale with 180 and 169 more. These numbers show a total of 3,031 for the above suburbs, which, added to the number of residents in the borough, brings the total population of Wanganui up to 11,206