About the paper
The Wanganui Chronicle as New Zealand's oldest newspaper, celebrated 150 years of proud publishing history in Sept 2006.
Local resident Henry Stokes projected the notion of a newspaper for Petre as the town was called in those days, but having no printing press available in the town at the time approached the technical master at Wanganui Collegiate School, and together they constructed of maire wood and iron a make shift printing press, on which the first edition of the Wanganui Chronicle and Rangitikei Messenger was printed on the 18th Sept 1856.
Initially the paper was fortnightly, selling for 6d. In 1866 the paper went tri-weekly, and in 1871 the Wanganui Chronicle published daily and has done so ever since.
On the 4th June 1867, a local businessman with political aspirations, John Ballance [later to become Prime Minister], published The Wanganui Herald in opposition to the Wanganui Chronicle, which lasted until 1986 when it ceased publication as a daily and was converted into the community newspaper, Wanganui Midweek, now a sister publication, and published by the Wanganui Chronicle.
Today the Wanganui Chronicle is the one of the most successful and vibrant regional dailies in Australasia, having won 16 PANPA awards since 2000.
The Whanganui River area was first settled by Maori descendants of the Aotea Canoe (part of the great migration from eastern Polynesia), several hundred years before the first European settlers arrived.
The first European sailed into the Whanganui River on January 14, 1831. He came to barter for supplies of smoke-dried human heads which were a speciality of the area - but ended up as one of those objects he had come to buy.
But settlers still came. Ten years later, 40,000 acres of the best land were purchased from the local Maoris for a miscellaneous collection of muskets, hatchets, blankets, red night caps, looking glasses, pipes, beads etc.
Still more European settlers arrived. Ill feeling grew when the Maori saw his tribal lands being taken from him. This soon developed into open warfare as the two cultures clashed.
In 1846 the Government sent military forces to Wanganui to protect the settlement from the threat of invasion from the North and West.
Several military stockades were erected in and around Wanganui. An armed militia was formed from local citizens to bolster the defence of the city, and many local Maori fought alongside the Govt troops under the renowned Maori military leader, Major Kemp.
The NZ Company had named the town Petre after one of its directors, but in 1854 the name was changed to Wanganui after the Whanganui River, and even today debate continues as to whether the city should be named Wanganui or Whanganui.
By the early 1900's Wanganui was flourishing, with the port facilitating international trade and exports of flax rope, flour, meat, tallow and other produce.
One high profile entrepreneur was trans-Tasman trader Alexander Hatrick, who built up a tourist trade on the Whanganui river with his fleet of river steamers, promoting the river trip internationally as the "Rhine of the Antipodes". One of his paddlesteamers, the 102ft PS Waimarie, first launched on the river in 1900, still plys the waters of the Whanganui today, successfully relaunched, after being rebuilt, in 2000.
Today Wanganui still attracts tourists and settlers from all over the world, who find the River City an attractive place to live, with a temperate climate, sports, arts and cultural facilities second to none, without the hustle and bustle of the larger cities.