THE Marine Parade as we know it began life as a dusty dirt road called Beach Rd and extended from Coote Rd to Emerson St.

In 1874 this was renamed as Marine Parade.

When mayor George Swan took office in 1885, the Marine Parade was run down and the wooden seawall had disintegrated, and the road almost washed away in parts.

Having returned from a trip to Scarborough, England, George had a vision to turn the Marine Parade into being the best promenade in New Zealand.


A new seawall was built, with the aid of prison labour, and he wanted a 20 foot (six metre) esplanade (pictured) between the seawall and the road.

Norfolk Island pines were not his first choice for trees, as George produced a list of native trees, however the pines were chosen for their hardiness.

The Napier Borough Council considered purchasing of the trees was not part of its core business so the mayor fundraised for their purchase.

When they were planted in August 1889 this was celebrated with a "quantity of liquid refreshment being consumed". (George Swan being a brewer, probably provided his product to avoid expense to ratepayers.)

Children's play equipment can be seen to the left of the photo around 1905, beyond the seawall.

A bigger development that took place in front of the seawall towards the Port of Napier was the saltwater swimming baths built in 1909.

Napier's Thirty Thousand Club was instrumental in raising some of the money to pay for lighting installed in 1914 after electricity came to Napier in 1913.

The Swan Memorial Paddling pool (now Ocean Spa) was completed in 1918, also funded by fundraising.

The 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake gave Napier a gift of land amidst its tragedy, and appointed commissioner John Barton outlined a plan for Napier to develop the reclaimed land on Marine Parade.

In April 1931 began the first infilling on the old foreshore near the now Ocean Spa with rubble from the Bluff Hill slip.

The Thirty Thousand Club got involved in fundraising for the Marine Parade's development, and its achievements included the Sound Shell (1935), Colonnade (1934), Pania statute (1954), and the open-air skating rink (circa 1960).

Most of the early development of the Marine Parade as shown was funded by public donations, and service groups - mostly The Thirty Thousand Club. The Napier City Council became more involved when larger infrastructural projects such as War Memorial Hall (1957), Aquarium (1957), Marineland (1965), and Sunken Gardens (1969) and Ocean Spa (2003), but most of these projects still contained some community support.

Over the life of the Marine Parade, as attractions become outdated, successive mayors and councillors have rejuvenated what many believe is one of the crowns in the jewel of Hawke's Bay.

-For more on the Marine Parade history please see A Collage of History: Hastings, Havelock North and Napier available at bookshops.