The grid system of roading had developed in modern-day Pakistan in 2600 BC and spread to Europe and adopted in New Zealand when cities were laid out here in the 19th Century.

For Thomas Tanner, the choice of the grid roading system for Hastings was easily made by him when he subdivided his Riverslea Estate in the late 1870s.

American landscape architect Frederick Olmsted (1822‒1903) noted that "by and large, ancient grid plans were expressions of military organisation, colonial conquest, or political/economic domination".

"Grids were most often used when there was a large amount of territory to occupy in a short time. They were also used to establish formal order and spatial focus on particular functions of urban life ‒ civic, religious, governmental, etc."


While the grid system posed no problems for horses and bicycles in the sparsely populated 19th century Hastings, by the 1960s it began to cause gridlock with the larger population and the biggest motor car ownership per head in New Zealand.

The solution was to create a ring road around the CBD, and the first discussions to progress this were held with town planning consultants Gabites and Beard in 1965.

Plans were also considered to elevate the railway line to avoid the railway crossings at Eastbourne, Heretaunga, Queen and St Aubyn Streets. But at a cost of around $26 million in today's terms, the idea was dropped fast.

Seven years after discussions were first held to create a ring road, it was finally opened in 1972.

As part of the ring road around the Hastings CBD, traffic was blocked from travelling over the railway line in Heretaunga St.

When the Heretaunga railway crossing was blocked, flower beds and seating were placed in the area west of the railway line. Ponds and a fountain were added in 1974.

At this time, Hastings still had the Spanish Mission, Mason Estate building, which was owned by the Eastern and Central Savings Bank. This building was demolished to make way for the Eastern and Central's five story building opened in 1979 (now the Westpac Bank building).

In the photo, to the right of the Eastern and Central Bank, can be seen Williams and Kettle's large feed and grain store. This building was pulled down in the late 1970s/early 1980s.


While the people of Hastings were seemingly enjoying the beautification of the town centre ‒ without warning in 1982, the ponds and fountains were removed by the council. This took many by surprise, and Hastings mayor J J O'Connor said the decision was not notified "due to an oversight".

The reasons for removing the ponds and fountain were given by council as increasing vandalism and the pond being used as a rubbish bin. The ponds were apparently empty more than full, and the council said the "fountain had never really worked properly".

Flower beds replaced the water features, and some retailers expressed their disappointment.

Before local government amalgamation was to occur in 1989, merging Hastings City Council with Havelock North Borough Council and the Hawke's Bay County Council, a mall development in the CBD was fast-tracked.

Changes to the ring road were also planned, which consultants Beca, Carter, Hollings and Ferner said was confusing to visitors. But fearing the new entity of Hastings District Council might not proceed with the mall development, they dropped the ring road changes in favour of creating the new mall.

The west mall was created between Railway Rd and Market St in April 1989. Railway Rd then went into the CBD but was closed in 1989 on creation of the mall.

An east mall between Karamu Rd and Russell St was completed in 1990.

A third mall between Market and King Sts did not go ahead due to opposition from retailers, and the requirement to designate the block as pedestrian in the district plan.

In 1990 a water feature was again put in the railway crossing area in Heretaunga St and called Haukunui – which means life giving spring in Maori and named after the spring or mountain dew of Heretaunga

Additional car parks were added to compensate for the loss of street parking in the mall areas.

Social problems and vandalism began to occur in the malls, especially in the east mall. This resulted in some security being employed by the council between 10am and 6pm. Some problems also occurred at night for those leaving the picture theatre in the east mall being harassed.

By 1998 the east mall had become expensive to maintain and the site of social problems and resulted in the mall being opened to traffic once again in 2002, when the cobblestones were removed, and a road created.

Hastings District Council are soon to begin their $4.5 million vibrancy plan for the CBD.

*Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are only available from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell Street South, Hastings for $65.00 or by emailing

*Michael Fowler FCA ( is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.