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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Pioneer Motorists' Ordeals

Pioneer Motorists' Ordeals

Bishop Lenihan (Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland) caused a stir in Gisborne on 25 Novemeber, 1903, by landing the steam-driven locomobile which had been presented to him by his parishioners. He was accompanied by G. Henning, an engineer. Horse traffic gave the noisy vehicle a wide berth. Accompanied by Father Mulvihill, the Bishop paid a visit to Patutahi. As it was found impossible to re-start the vehicle, “Paddy” McLoughlin had to tow it back to town behind his spring trap.

Donned in overalls, the Bishop set off on 7 December to negotiate the terrible road between Gisborne and Napier. Whenever the car got stuck he assisted Mr. Henning to extricate it. On Parikanapa, however, it got badly bogged. When George H. Lysnar came along and said that he would get it out with the aid of his hack, the Bishop was greatly intrigued. Mr. Lysnar tied one end of a rope to the horse's tail and the other on to the vehicle, remounted, and drove in his spurs. In a few moments the car was once again on terra firma. Wairoa was reached next evening, and the car was shipped to Napier. Shortly afterwards W. R. Barker bought a similar car; it was the first to be owned in Poverty Bay.

The first motor car journey between Gisborne and Napier was undertaken by Philip Thornton Kenway (a pioneer Waimata settler) in 1905 in a 6 h.p. single-cylinder De Dion car which he had bought in England in 1904. He was the first resident of Poverty Bay to own a benzine-operated vehicle. No settler living on the road leading to his home would risk riding, or driving, on it without ringing him up to make certain that he did not intend to be out that day with his “chuffer.” Mr. Kenway's “luggage” always included block and tackle, a wide-blade anchor fashioned from a pick, ropes, axe and spade. (Incidentally, he was the first Poverty Bay motorist to be fined for speeding—exceeding 10 m.p.h.!) On the journey to Napier he and his companion had to wade waist deep into some creeks to remove boulders, and, when night came on, precipitous slopes on a narrow, winding road had to be skirted with the aid of one miserable headlight. Mr. Kenway, who returned to England in 1907, wrote Pioneering in Poverty Bay (1928) and, when he was in his 86th year, Quondam Quaker (1947).

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Among the East Coast residents, W. F. Sinclair, of Tolaga Bay, was the first to own a motor car. He bought an Oldsmobile in Gisborne in 1906, and, with the aid of horses over some stretches, got it home. However, on account of the lack of good roads in his district, he got very little use out of it. Len. Wilkinson took a car, via the Arakihi Road, to Tokomaru Bay on Boxing Day, 1912. An Overland car which George Kirk, of Port Awanui, bought in Gisborne early in 1914 was the first to make a journey to Waiapu. It was driven as far as Tolaga Bay by J. H. Ormond, and his mechanic drove it the rest of the journey, with Mr. and Mrs. Kirk and a lady friend as passengers. Long distance taxi services preceded regular motor services in Poverty Bay. By the early 1920's keen competition on all routes proved much more to the advantage of the passengers than to the operators. In 1946 the remaining main road services were absorbed in the State transport system.