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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 60

Paper Read at the Auckland Institute, 27th October, 1884 On the Establishment of A Grand Hotel and Sanatorium In the Rotorua District

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Paper Read at the Auckland Institute,

Auckland: Wilsons & Horton, General Printers, Queen and Wyndham Streets. MDCCCLXXXIV.

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The purpose of this paper is to endeavour to draw attention to what may be done by the initiation, on a grand scale, of a combined sanatorium and hotel for tourists in the Rotorua district, comprising, also, the management of detached residences and boarding establishments suitable to the tastes of all invalids and travellers.

It is a subject which has engaged the writer's attention during the last five or six years. In that period he has been more or less engaged in the work rendering the Lake Country directly accessible to Auckland, and he has had many opportunities of studying the wondrous sources of health and profit placed ready to our hands by Nature, and of the operations necessary for their utilization by Art.

It is not the purpose of this paper to enter into arguments for or against any of the possible methods for effecting this end, but to sketch an outline of the particular scheme which the writer believes would realize to the utmost the results which ought to follow the systematic adaptation of the gifts of Nature which are here placed within our reach.

Both the hydropathic and tourist branches of the establishment should be on a magnificent scale as regards amount and variety of accommodation, so as to be suitable for all tastes or requirements. The poorest invalid or most frugal pleasure-seeker would find appropriate accommodation, attendance, and welcome; and, at the same time, luxury and refinement in the use of the waters and enjoyment of residence would be within the call of all who so desired. The natural features of the locality are almost unique, and the design and scope of the undertaking should be worthy of them. Therefore, nothing less than the scale of a first-class Continental Spa should be aimed at, and the result should be worthy of being advertised in the language of every civilised country. The attractions can well be made irresistible to the thousands who now yearly crowd the famous spas and watering-places of the old world. A very small share of these would affect page 4 most favourably, and at once, the Auckland Provincial District; but it would not long continue to be merely a small share, for soon the yearly influx of visitors would be a matter of great importance to the Colony at large.

The locality which the writer believes is most eminently suitable as a site for this great establishment is Whakarewarewa, near Ohinemutu, Rotorua.

A full comparison of all the advantageous points belonging to this place with other situations need not here be entered into. It is sufficient to say that if any other place can be shown to be better, let such be selected. The present object is to sketch the scheme, and fill in a few details where necessary. These will be nothing more than are essential to success, and being adapted to Whakarewarewa, and possible there, the inference is, that that place possesses all the features necessary.

The leading features, then, which, in the writer's opinion, must be found in any site fit for this scheme are as follow:—
1.A great variety and abundance of thermal springs, varying from almost pure hot and boiling water, to the strongest mineral and medicinal wells, hot and tepid.
2.A variety of jets of dry sulphurous vapour, for use in obtaining vapour baths, or for increasing the strength of sulphurous waters, will probably be an important feature, and prove of great value in the hands of a skilful medical superintendent.
3.All springs and waters for use ought to be at a good elevation above drainage level, sufficient to allow of the waters being led by gravitation to any point suitable for the bath buildings, and used as plunge, douche, shower, or swimming baths, and to facilitate them being mixed, cooled, increased or reduced in strength as may be found advisable.
4.It is necessary to have an abundance of clear cold water, also at an elevation sufficient to command by gravitation all the bathing places. A good command of water power page 5 is also of great value, and an important feature in this scheme.
5.The situation must be easily accessible, beautiful and diversified in landscape. It must afford superior sites for all sorts of residences, some close to the thermal waters, and others as far from these as will ensure the purest air at all times. The soil ought to be good, and fit for the formation of extensive orchards, gardens, and pleasure grounds. All the most wonderful features of the Lake Country must be within easy distance.
6.The situation must be near to, and within easy reach of, agricultural and pastoral supplies of all kinds. The consumption of these would be very large, and such a thing as scarcity of any one article—as sometimes occurs now in that country—must not be possible in an establishment like this.

Whakarewarewa presents all these points in a high degree of excellence, and in some is unapproached by any other place. It is situated two and a-half miles southward of Ohinemutu. The new township and suburbs of Rotorua extend within a few hundred yards of it. The thermal and medicinal springs extend from Ture Kore (the famous Spout Bath) to nearly the Taupo Road, about three-quarters of a mile along the south-east bank of the Puarenga, at elevations from the level of, to say twenty feet above, the stream. This river—the name of which, Puarenga, means Lily Flower—is a considerable volume of water, forming cascades, rapids, and deep pools, on a rocky bod. There is probably more than one hundred horse-power available, and easily obtained by placing wheels in picturesque positions, for the purposes to be hereafter noted.

The situation cannot be surpassed in the Lake District for beauty. The hills, part of the range enclosing the Rotorua Basin, and through which the Puarenga has cut a narrow gorge, give shelter on the south-west and south, leaving the aspect open to the north-east, north, and north-west. On the north bank of the river are a few low hills, from which extends an almost level plain page 6 to the Lake; on this plain is situated the new township of Rotorua, and that part of it, between the suburbs and the Puarenga, would form an admirable position for the hothouses, and portions of the recreation grounds.

On a plateau-looking depression in the hills to the southwards, elevated about 250 feet above the plain, and commanding a most magnificent view of the whole basin of Rotorua, is an admirable site for the main sanatorium buildings and hotel residences, with an atmosphere ever clear, and free from the vapours inseparable from the vicinity of medicinal springs. This plateau, and adjacent bills, with the slopes to the level of the plain, and extending between the Taupo and Wairoa roads, would form the area on which the art of the landscape gardener would be chiefly employed. It is now quite open and fern covered, but exhibits a combination of features favourable to landscape improvement, which would be difficult to find surpassed.

Towards the north-east of the general situation are two picturesque headlands extending into the lake, called Owhata and Owhatiura, whereon could be located a number of detached villas in variety of design, giving accommodation for the large number of visitors, who, desiring to remain a few weeks or months, would prefer to live close to the Lake. Near Obinemutu, there are two other beautiful headlands called Koutu and Kawaha, and on all these places private enterprise would soon furnish abundance of detached accommodation, the initiation or nucleus of which is only required to be provided by the sanatorium.

To the eastward of Whakarewarewa is the road to the great attraction to tourists, Rotomahana, and to the west, the road to Taupo. The soil on the hills, and the slopes at their base, is all that can be desired; while that of the plain, though light and sandy, is all the more suitable for the higher horticultural operations invited by the abundance of natural heat flowing to waste; and apropos, the writer's attention has been drawn to an account in the journal of the Society of Arts, of date 27th June, 1884, of the utilization of a hot spring, at the Baths of Acqui, in a hothouse, by means of which semi-tropical vegetables were ripened in spring season. This application of the natural heat of page 7 the Lake District has long been a favourite idea with many besides the writer. Its extent of adaptability is almost unbounded where a natural fall of hot water exists, or where it can be economically raised, and circulated by water power.

The waste water at Whakarewarewa, at a moderate computation of its volume, and an average of 700 units of heat available from every gallon, would furnish per diem heat equal to that derived from the combustion of six tons of coal in the same time.

The facility with which refrigerating operations can now be carried on, and the abundance of water power in the Puarenga, suggests a further application of the forcing system in horticulture—viz., the possibility of obtaining a perfect winter crop of tropical fruits, by resting the plants during the summer by means of an artificial winter. This would be easily produced in any degree of severity by circulating cold air under the glass, and iced water in the ground pipes.

The general character of the Whakarewarewa waters are pretty well known; anyhow, a detail description of them here would be superfluous. It may suffice to say that of all places in the district, they have been most resorted to by invalids for residence at the baths, and numbers of very wonderful cures have been effected. It would be easy to compile a large and authenticated list of these, extending over the last seven or eight years.

The supply of agricultural and pastoral produce will be abundant as soon as wanted. It is not so now however, but the necessary and indispensable prelude to this establishment is the completion of railway communication between Auckland and Rotorua. That means the settlement of many thousands of acres of admirable agricultural land, with a population of small farmers, who, with steady markets at both ends of the lino of railway, will form a prosperous community.

We may now proceed to sketch the outline of the several features forming the scheme in contemplation, with only such details as are necessary to explain the working and purposes of some of them.


A very faint outline only can be sketched of the variety page 8 possible to be obtained in baths at Whakarewarewa. The subject expands in capacity every time it is considered. The waters would be collected into suitable reservoirs having a natural appearance given to them. Pipes, chiefly earthenware, would lead to baths situated along both sides of the stream, wherever convenient, taking care to have ample room for extension and improvement as experience would be gained of the direction of popular favour. Bathers would have a choice, not only of the kind of water, but the temperature and manner of use. Tepid and cold swimming baths ought to be attached to each set, and separate sets enclosed and set apart for ladies.

These bath buildings must be designed with great care, and present the most thorough ventilation and, at the same time, freedom from draughts. The architecture of the whole bathing arrangements, including reservoirs and conduits, should harmonize with the volcanic and eruptive surroundings.

The general bathing arrangements should be open to visitors and invalids from any part and not confined to those living at the sanatorium, but the more medicinal and highly curative of the springs should be under the control of the Medical Superintendent. A certain class also of accommodation of all the waters should be ensured to all at a very low minimum fee.


Probably two sets of block buildings would be required, one at the foot of the hills and the other on the high-level plateau before referred to. These would comprise the usual accommodation of a first-class hotel, with the assembly rooms and social arrangements usual at fashionable watering places. The residences on the hills would be connected with the low grounds and baths by cable tramways and winding drives and paths through the ornamental grounds on the slopes.

At suitable places on the hills and lake headlands, detached villas and gardens would be built, having from three or four to six or eight rooms. These could be erected as the demand increased, and let furnished, with board and attendance if necessary; but, as before mentioned, nothing in the way of monopolising the page 9 residential amenities of the district should be attempted. The object of connecting villa residences with the scheme is to ensure a certain amount of that accommodation being available under known rules and management.

As a matter of course, the buildings would vary in architectural design with their situation and purpose, but a few points must be observed in construction to ensure stability and permanence when situated near the sulphurous vapours always arising from the waters in most repute in any locality. The foundations and basement floors must be of concrete. All doors and windows must have galvanized hangings and fastenings. All nails must be well punched in and stopped. All paint must be silicious. All roofs slated, and nailed with galvanized nails. But on the high levels and on the borders of the lake, and a short distance away from the hot springs generally no such precautions are necessary.

Another point of extreme importance may be noted, viz., the disposal of sewage. Here we must begin as all towns in England are being compelled to end, and no sewerage should ever be discharged into the lake. From the first, all the well-known and generally practised arrangements must be enforced, to preserve the purity of the waters.

Gardens and Recreation Grounds.

These ought to be made one of the most attractive features in the whole regions of travel. First-class soil exists on the hills and on the slopes extending from the base to the river. The plain is sandy and light in soil, but well suited for gardens, lawns, and hot-houses, being under command of easy irrigation; and the inexpensive method of obtaining tropical heats or frigid winters, above alluded to, it seems that everything that can be desired, in the way of horticulture and floriculture, may be produced in perfection and great abundance.

Water Power and Applications.

Frequent allusion has above been made to water power. The Puarenga, in its course from the gorge to the lower level of Whakarewarewa, furnishes means of obtaining probably 100 page break horse-power. This can be developed by several wheels or turbines placed in convenient situations and treated picturesquely in design. This power would be applied to various purposes, some of which have been already alluded to. These are:
1.The circulation of hot water in the hot-houses. This need not be further dwelt on.
2.Refrigerating Machinery.—This would be applied principally to the production of ice, the preservation of meats and fruits, the cooling of air and water for sanitary purposes. Skating and curling rinks of ice could be always at command, and, as before mentioned, an artificial winter obtained for horticulture.
3.Electric Light.—This would be easily obtained by dynamos driven by water power, and storage in secondary batteries. A system of are lights for the grounds and incandescent lamps for the interiors of the whole establishment, would cost only the maintenance of dynamos and lamps.
4.The working of cable tramways connecting the upper and lower establishments, and on other routes having much traffic.
5.Pumping cold water to reservoirs situated above the level to which it would flow by gravitation, and also supplying the residences with hot water for house baths in special cases.

Water supply for domestic purposes cannot be obtained in sufficient purity from the Puarenga, and would depend on one or more of remarkably pure and clear streams of spring water. One of these, flowing perhaps one million of gallons per diem, is very conveniently situated for supplying Whakarewarewa. Another group of these streams, at the foot of Ngongotaha Mountain, on the north-west of the lake, will form the water supply of the large Rotorua population in the immediate future.

Branch Establishments.

It may be found necessary to have branches, or outlying lodges, at various points of interest, such as at the Pink Terrace, Rotoiti, Orakeikorako, &c.

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Hiring Department.

This might with advantage be attached to the scheme, and would comprise the management of all omnibuses, tramways, carriages of all kinds, hire of horses, donkeys, sailing and rowing boats, guides, and the conduct of all excursions by land or water, and also sports, would be under this department.

Extent of Grounds Necessary.

On the township side of the Puarenga, the grounds should include the area of the flats and downs extending to the line from Tangatarua to the crossing of the Puarenga by the Wairoa Road; on the south of the stream, the grounds should extend from the Taupo Road on the west, to the Wairoa Road on the east; and southward, as far as Rotokakahi, taking in the Waipa Plains for the purpose of forming a park. And, in order to conserve most beautiful natural New Zealand scenery in a domain, Moerangi Mountain and Tiki Tapu Bush and Lake should be included. These hills and forests should by every possible means be preserved, as specimens of native grandeur, to all time. Probably 6,000 acres would be required for all purposes.

Promotion of the Scheme.

This will require very careful study. The Whakarewarewa Springs have lately been passed through the Native Lands Court, and are vested in two hapus of the Ngatiwhakaue and Tuhorangi Tribes; but the Court must settle many subdivisions before the lands could be purchased. The ownership of all the other lands necessary has been determined, and can be dealt with under the Thermal Springs Act, or special legislation.

An Association should be formed with a small capital sufficient to promote the scheme, by conducting all the necessary negociations for concessions of rights to waters, and purchase of lands, obtaining surveys, and detail information relating to all the springs, such as volume, analysis, known curative results, etc. An Act of Legislature would be necessary in order to consolidate the working of the scheme, and, while conferring the necessary compulsory powers, preserve the interests of the native owners and the public.

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When all this is done, and the exact cost of land and water rights ascertained, the Association ought to promote a company in England, with a capital sufficient for the whole scheme as finally decided on.

Judging from the numbers of tourists from many parts of the world, whose names are registered in the books of the three hotels now at Ohinemutu, it cannot be deemed extravagant to put the number who would patronise such an establishment as herein sketched, within two or three years after its opening, and connected with Auckland by eight or nine hours railway journey, at an average occupancy of 500 persons. Taking the gross receipts from this number, exclusive of wines and returns from hiring business, at only 10s. per diem each, the daily revenue would be £250, and the net profit say one-third of that, or more than £30,000 per annum.

And when it is considered that the season which in Old World Continental spas has so short a duration, and is within limits sharply defined, would here practically extend round all the year; also that even now we in New Zealand are in accessibility nearly on a par with what not many years ago Germany and Switzerland could boast of, we may reasonably predict that in point of favour and patronage the Rotorua Spa will, in a very few years, hold the premier position in the world.

The Association for the promotion of this should be formed as soon as the railway to Rotorua is a certainty, and a certain amount of planting of fruit and ornamental trees ought to be undertaken at the earliest possible date. Not an hour that can be saved should be lost in furthering this project, and the writer commends it to the careful consideration of all his fellow colonists desiring in any way to promote the prosperity of the country at large, and our own Provincial District in particular.