The loving restoration of an old tram in Henderson is almost done but the lack of Auckland lines means it may soon have to roll elsewhere, writes Rowena Orejana.
David Harre is very proud of this baby. Behind his house is a 1924 tram he is lovingly restoring to its original splendour. "It was in shocking shape. There were big holes. It needed a whole restructure. It was in a shambles," he says, his eyes twinkling with relish as he remembers the initial challenge.
Because of the state it was in, the tram had to be taken apart and painstakingly reassembled. "I take apart and frantically try to remember where everything goes."
Mr Harre's renovation of the tram is as much a passion as it is a political statement. "There is no question that trams are the transportation of the future. It has no emissions. Its steel wheels run on steel tracks. It requires half the amount of energy you would require from rubber."
This is the second tram he has restored. The first he donated to Wanganui, where it is now a popular tourist attraction.
"There was a mock birthday for the Number 12 tram. The mayor of Wanganui came. Bob [Harvey, Waitakere Mayor] came and some councillors came. At that point, they told me, if I can do it for Wanganui, why can't I do it for Henderson?"
So Mr Harre rolled up his sleeves and set to work on one of the two trams he'd bought and brought from Aspen, Colorado, at a bargain price of US$50. Getting the trams here cost him a bit more. "It cost NZ$57,000 but I got a Lotto grant. Within New Zealand people transported it for free. I just got huge help from businesses," he says.
Three years later, the tram is almost finished.
"I'm very proud of this roof," Mr Harre remarks as he climbs up a metal ladder.
It is one of the hardest sections to reassemble because of its curves. "It turned out really well."
The floor has also been completed. What's left to be done? Everything in between.
"As it gets towards completion, the more volunteers you get. I'm going to pick up panels from a sheet-metal firm. I asked them how much and they said 'Nothing'."
The sad thing, however, is that Waitakere City can't take the tram out for a ride. Janet Clews, the councillor who chairs the long-term council community plan, says it doesn't have the money to lay down a track.
"Everybody thought it was a good idea but there is no way we can do that at the end of our existence," she says, explaining the feasibility study shows it would cost the city about $6 million to put tram tracks in Henderson.
Waitakere Community Board chairman Kubi Witten-Hannah has suggested a more manageable tramway between Corban Estate and Waitakere Central but it seems the council has decided to set the whole project aside.
Whatever happens, the tram is sure to go to a good home.
"Napier is fair bursting to have them," says Mr Harre.
Streetcars of desire
- Auckland City had horse trams from 1884.
- On November 17, 1902, the electric tram service was launched.
- Service commenced a week later and continued until December 29, 1956.