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Some Interesting Occurrences in Early Auckland: City and Provinces

Chapter 23 — Depressions

Chapter 23

It must not be supposed that Auckland has had a fair weather passage all along. There have been many depressions — the worst between 1887 and 1893. Things were very bad at the time, and the discovery of the great alluvial goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia greatly intensified the depression. The fact was that thousands left the dullness of New Zealand to pick up lumps of gold in Australia. The result was that many streets in Auckland became entirely deserted, not a soul remaining in them. Hundreds of houses were let rent free to keep the insurance alive. The best of houses would not make more than £2 per week. Hundreds of four– and five–roomed houses with freehold sections 33 by 99 feet were on the market at £50 each. Ultimate cheapness was reached when a five–roomed cottage with freehold section 44 by 100 feet, in a good part of Second Avenue, Kingsland, was sold by public auction for £10. The buyer sold the house for removal for £10, and had the land for nothing; but had he pursued a policy of masterly inactivity he could have got £250 to £300 for it about a couple of years later. Ships were leaving Auckland crowded with young men. Many of the emigrants had only enough money to pay their passage to Perth, and tried to walk to the goldfields. On this little stroll of about 300 miles many perished from heat and hunger.

A house in Richmond Road, only about 200 yards from Pon–sonby Road, absolutely disappeared. First the fences were pulled up to keep the home fires burning. Then the verandah was pulled down; then the jack studs were taken, and the whole building collapsed and every stick was removed. Finally the thieves retired and the Government came forward and stole the land under the “Unclaimed Lands Act”.

In the early 'thirties there was another severe depression. The population did not depart, but there was widespread and intense unemployment. It was then that I gave 1,000 acres of good grazing country for the relief of the unemployed, but the Government contended I had given the land to them and charged, and are still charging, the settlers a ground rent for, the land I gave “Free, gracious and for nothing”! !

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