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

Pioneer Civic Rulers and Their Problems

Pioneer Civic Rulers and Their Problems

Gisborne was incorporated as a borough under a proclamation issued on 12 May, 1877, by the Marquis of Normanby. Captain T. Chrisp had, within two hours, obtained the necessary 200 signatures that appeared on the petition which had been sent to the Government. The election for mayor (25/6/1877) resulted: W. F. Crawford, 95 votes; W. W. Wilson, 38 C. D. Berry, who had also been nominated, withdrew. Two days later nine councillors were elected: S. Stevenson, 116 votes; J. Townley, 111; Carlaw Smith, 94; William Teat, 88; W. Adair, 82; E. K. Brown, 79; T. Adams, 76; J. R. Morgan, 68; and H. Clayton, 66. The unsuccessful candidates were: A. Walker, 65; J. Tutchen, 63; R. Kelly, 56; J. H. Stubbs, 53; W. T. H. Best, 49; H. C. Boylan, 47; R. Cooper, 39; M. G. Nasmith, 38; Brooke-Taylor, 29; and A. Y. Ross, 18. C. D. Bennett was appointed Town Clerk (salary, £150 per annum) and J. Drummond, C.E., engineer (salary, £200 per annum). A rate of 1/- in the £ on the rental values was estimated to yield £1,657.

The Council lost no time in providing a punt for the Turanganui River. It brought in a rental of £100 per annum. The scale of charges which the first licensee (H. Brownlow) had to abide by was as under: Foot passengers, 3d. each way; a man and a horse, 2/-; a four-wheel trap and one horse, 2/6; ditto, with two horses, 3/6; dray and two bullocks, 2/6, with a further charge of 1/- for each additional pair in yoke; sheep, up to 20, 3d. each; cattle, goats and pigs, 3d. each; horses, 6d; foals and calves, free; goods per ton measurement, 1/6, but if they had to be loaded or unloaded by the ferryman, 3/6 per ton. Double rates were levied between sunset and 6 a.m.

Many of the residents probably did not welcome the appointment of Thomas Faram as inspector of nuisances. In April, 1878, he stressed the primitive conditions in which some of them were living. “It would,” he reported, “hardly be credited were I to specify the wretchedly dirty state of some of the premises, and I can only express my astonishment that, impregnated as the atmosphere is by such noisome and offensive smells, there has not been some great sickness during the present dry season. There are places much too dirty for pigs to live in …” Another bugbear which troubled this conscientious official was the fire hazard. He strongly page 391 condemned the practice of lighting fires to do washing in the backyards of business premises which were strewn with packing cases and straw.

On 17 June, 1878, it was decided, by 100 votes to 5, to borrow £10,000 for ten years at 6 per cent., with a sinking fund of 7 per cent. per annum, mainly to meet the cost of metalling Gladstone Road. During the lengthy interval that elapsed before the loan money became available but little work could be undertaken. When a new footpath was made, or an old one repaired, half the cost had to be met by the owners of the frontages. Under by-laws enacted in 1879, the outer walls (except the front wall) of every new structure in Gladstone Road were required to be constructed of brick, concrete or corrugated iron. No new premises in the main street could be roofed with shingles, and all new chimneys had to be built either in brick or stone. An earth closet had to be provided at every home.