As Hawke's Bay Today celebrates its 20th birthday, senior reporter Doug Laing looks back over the newsmakers of the past two decades.


2000: New era, new millennium

Just eight months after Hawke's Bay Today was launched, New Zealand was the first country to wave goodbye to the 1900s and welcome in Y2K, the year 2000.

Well over 20,000 crowded New Year celebrations on Napier's Marine Parade, which would revive and set the scene for family-based public New Year's Eve celebration to replace the alcohol-plagued disorder of the 1960s and 1970s.

Advertisement

Huge numbers would try to catch the first sunrise of the new millennium. With cloud along much of the East Coast, parts of Hawke's Bay were among the first in the world to catch the moment.

2001: Horse of the Year Show

Hastings Stunt rider Sonia Duncan entertains between main events at the 2001 Horse of the Year Show.
Hastings Stunt rider Sonia Duncan entertains between main events at the 2001 Horse of the Year Show.

It had to have been one of the greatest coups in New Zealand sport when Hastings secured the Horse of the Year Show, first held at the Showgrounds in March.

It quickly became the biggest annual event in Hastings which is now established as the near permanent home, going a 20th year in a row on March 10-15, 2020.

More than 1400 riders and 1800 horses competed this year in the dozens of events, which include premier attraction the Olympic Cup. New Zealand's best horse riders of the last two decades and more have competed, including Olympic Games gold medallists Sir Mark Todd and Blyth Tait.

2002: The Mayor's a lady

This was the first full year of the first female Mayor in Napier or Hastings.

Barbara Arnott was elected in the 2001 local body elections, beating sole opponent and male hope Tony Reid by 8347 of the 19,299 valid votes.

Advertisement

Alan Dick had decided not to stand again after 12 years in the chair. He remained in local government in 2019, on the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, and the only local body politician in Hawke's Bay to serve throughout the first 20 years of Hawke's Bay Today.

After a few months as acting mayor, Sandra Hazlehurst two years ago won a byelection to become Hastings' first female mayor, succeeding long-time Mayor Lawrence Yule who had been elected a Member of Parliament.

2003: Right Royal show

The Hawke's Bay A and P Show was the Royal Show, by its five-yearly rotation with other shows around the country.

It was the last time by this method, the A and P Show each October remaining Hawke's Bay's biggest annual event. In 2013 it would mark its 150th anniversary and since 2015 Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana in Hastings has been the home of the Royal Show.

In its heyday the show attracted more than 70,000 people each year, and its prominence in Hawke's Bay Culture is recognised by its last day being a public holiday.

2004: Golden twins

Golden twins Georgina Evers-Swindell and Caroline Evers-Swindell.
Golden twins Georgina Evers-Swindell and Caroline Evers-Swindell.

This was the year that rowing twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell won the first of their two Olympic Games double sculls gold medals, on their way to becoming among Hawke's Bay's most successful international sports stars.

Unbeaten in the double sculls at world championships and other events in the previous three years, they won on August 21 at the Athens Olympics.

More than 10,000 people packed the centre of Hastings for a welcome home, they would also win three world championships, win again at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, be the only New Zealanders to receive their sport's highest international honour, receive the ONZM, and have named in their honour the Evers-Swindell Reserve, alongside the Clive River where they trained.

2005: Tragedy on the roads

While fortunately well away from the highs of the 1970s, tragedies on the roads have been a common feature, mainly on highways and rural roads.

The three worst crashes in Hawke's Bay in the past 20 years each killed four males, adults or teens. The worst urban crash in Hawke's Bay was on July 29, 2005, when four male teenagers died when a car hit a tree at high speed in Windsor Ave, Hastings.

It was part of the highest annual road toll in Hawke's Bay in the past 20 years — 37 killed. The lowest was six in 2013. The other two were between Napier and Wairoa and just over five months each killed four men in 2012.

2006: Rocket boost

Mahia Peninsula as a site for rocket-launching might have seemed light-years away, as Aucklander Peter Beck formed ambitious company Rocket Lab, and near-immediately moved the company to the US.

Even as recently as mid-2015 the notion of rockets pitching over the Pacific from the coastline of Northern Hawke's Bay seemed a bit pie-in-the-sky.

But the dream was realised on May 25, 2017, when the first rocket was launched. There've now been four launches, a fifth is imminent, less than two months since the last, and the site is licensed to launch a rocket from Mahia every 72 hours for the next 30 years.

2007: Racing Big-time

2007: Hawke's Bay Racing's Kelt Capital Stakes was New Zealand's first $2 million horse race. The winner was Princess Coup.
2007: Hawke's Bay Racing's Kelt Capital Stakes was New Zealand's first $2 million horse race. The winner was Princess Coup.

Hawke's Bay Racing's Kelt Capital Stakes became New Zealand's first $2 million horse race.

Held on October 7, the last day of a three-day spring racing carnival in Hastings, it was a four-way finish, with South Island horse Princess Coup getting the nod, as it did again a year later when the stakes again totalled $2m.

Now known as the Livamol Classic, it last year became the first New Zealand race to be named one of the top 100 weight-for-age races in the world, although the stakes were just $250,000.

Formerly known as the Hawke's Bay Challenge Stakes it was rebranded in 1991 and has been won by three Hawke's Bay-trained horses — Moss Downs in 1997, Jimmy Choux in 2011 and Wait A Sec in 2017.

2008: A changing work force

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme had been through its first year, bringing hundreds then thousands into New Zealand to plug the workforce gaps in the horticulture and viticulture industries, with workers recruited from mainly Pacific nations to help pick our apples at the peak of the harvest.

It was initially capped at 5000 nationwide but is now capped at 12,850, coming from such places as Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu and creating a new culture in Hawke's Bay.

2009 : Napier Siege

2009: Armed Offenders Squad and police pictured in Napier after Senior Constable Len Snee was shot and killed. Two colleagues Bruce Miller and Grant Diver were also shot, and survived.
2009: Armed Offenders Squad and police pictured in Napier after Senior Constable Len Snee was shot and killed. Two colleagues Bruce Miller and Grant Diver were also shot, and survived.

On May 7, three long-serving Napier police officers were shot on a mid-morning drugs raid at the home of cannabis grower Jan Molenaar in Chaucer Rd, Hospital Hill.

Arriving home to find the officers talking with partner Delwyn Keefe and friend Lenny Holmwood, Molenaar took a gun from his room, ordered the officers out and opened fire as they retreated.

Senior Constable Len Snee died, and colleagues Bruce Miller and Grant Diver and civilian Holmwood seriously wounded. Napier's biggest ever armed police operation ended two days later when Molenaar was found dead in the house from a self-inflicted gunshot.

2010: Newspaper of the Year

On May 11, Hawke's Bay Today was named Newspaper of the Year for publications with circulations up to 30,000 daily.

The acclaim came at the Qantas Media Awards in Auckland and largely recognised the coverage of the Napier siege 12 months earlier.

It was eight years later that Hawke's Bay Today won the best front page at the rebranded Voyager Awards, for an effort that focused on the 2016 Havelock North water crisis at the time of the inquiry in 2017.

2011: Rugby World Cup

2011: Japan wins the lineout against Canada at McLean Park during a Rugby World Cup Pool A match in September, 2011.
2011: Japan wins the lineout against Canada at McLean Park during a Rugby World Cup Pool A match in September, 2011.

Hawke's Bay's part in the Rugby World Cup, the biggest sports competition ever held in New Zealand and attracting more than 130,000 people from overseas, and won by the All Blacks, was played out in two games at McLean Park, Napier.

On September 18 France beat Canada 46-19 and nine days later Canada and Japan drew 23-all, the only draw in the 48-match, six-week tournament.

2012: Mission Concert

2012: The year of the Rod Stewart Mission Concert.
2012: The year of the Rod Stewart Mission Concert.

On February 25, Rod Stewart became the first and still the only two-time star-billing at Napier's big concert held at the Mission Estate winery and vineyards annually since 1993.

He was even more popular than first-time around in 2005 and attracted a record "Mission" crowd reported to be about 27,000, possibly also a record for any paid entertainment or sports event in New Zealand outside the main centres.

2013: Ranfurly Shield reign

2013: Fans like Dannevirke's Mathew Finnimore rejoiced in being able to get their hands on the Ranfurly Shield in 2013, even if it wasn't the team's longest reign.
2013: Fans like Dannevirke's Mathew Finnimore rejoiced in being able to get their hands on the Ranfurly Shield in 2013, even if it wasn't the team's longest reign.

Hawke's Bay's prospects of Ranfurly Shield rugby heaven in Hawke's Bay had never been far from the thought of fans in the 44 years since a great era ended when the mighty Magpies of the 1960s lost the shield at Canterbury in 1969.

The euphoria arrived early on the Sunday evening of September 1 with a 20-19 win over holders Otago in the indoor arena of Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

Hundreds welcomed the team home, thousands lined the streets for Ranfurly Shield parades, and then it was gone, after a record short reign of just six days, lost to Counties Manukau.

2014: Lotto gold

In June, holders of a Lotto Powerball ticket sold at Pak'nSave in Hastings won more than $13 million. Hawke's Bay had, like much of the rest of the country, gone a bit bonkers when the Powerball stakes got high, especially when it got over $30m.

In 2011 a ticket sold in Dannevirke won more than $17m as one of two First Division winners, and there've been other eight-figure pots of gold delivered to Hawke's Bay, including more than $11m in March this year to a ticket bought at the country's luckiest Lotto shop, Unichem Pharmacy Stortford Lodge, or Peter Dunkerley Chemist as it was known.

2015: No merger

After a drawn-out and sometimes bitter public debate voters of Hawke's Bay soundly rejected a proposal to merger the Hawke's Bay Regional, Napier city, and Wairoa, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay District councils. In a referendum which ended on September 15, there were 69,985 votes.

While Hastings had a small majority in favour, the proposal was heavily defeated elsewhere, with 66.3 per cent across Hawke's Bay voting against.

2016: Water Crisis

2016: Walk for Water, a march from Havelock North to Hastings CBD, after the gastro outbreak in Havelock North, from a Hastings District Council water supply.
2016: Walk for Water, a march from Havelock North to Hastings CBD, after the gastro outbreak in Havelock North, from a Hastings District Council water supply.

New Zealand's clean, green image and Hawke's Bay's reputation for some of the purest public drinking water on the globe took a massive hit, as did local government in the region with the Havelock North Water Crisis — contamination of Havelock North's water was first reported publicly on August 14.

It resulted in New Zealand's biggest outbreak of water-borne illness, responsible for four deaths and sickness reported by more than 5000 people, closing schools and other facilities and establishments.

A full commission of inquiry was ordered, leading to changes in regulations and with impacts still being felt almost three years later.

2017: Cruise city

2017: The massive Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, at Napier Port.
2017: The massive Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, at Napier Port.

Traditionally a cargo port, Napier's emergence as a cruise destination was highlighted when the biggest liner plying the waters of Australasia, the Ovation of the Seas, berthed and let loose more than 4000 passengers in the city and environs for a few hours.

The first cruise liner to berth in Napier was the Marco Polo with 372 passengers in 1995. At 346m, Ovation set the record as the biggest, but there are still more records to be broken, with a one-day record number of cruise line passengers in town on March 4 this year, and next season a record 87 cruise line stops booked, rapidly increasing from 57 in the 2017-2018 season and 72 this season.

2018: Art Deco marks 30 years

2018: Art Deco clothes teamed with a mobile phone meld two very different eras, as spectators take in the vintage car parade along Emerson St, Napier at the 30th Art Deco Festival.
2018: Art Deco clothes teamed with a mobile phone meld two very different eras, as spectators take in the vintage car parade along Emerson St, Napier at the 30th Art Deco Festival.

One of the world's most unique community celebrations, Napier's Art Deco Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary on February 14-17.

Marking the era of architectural design featured widely in the city as a result of the reconstruction after the Hawke's Bay Earthquake of February 3, 1931, it draws huge crowds, including more than 30,000 each year to the Art Deco Parade.

Thousands of others visit Napier at other times of the year.

2019: Real estate records

Amid a housing crisis that had escalated nationwide during the eight years since Housing New Zealand began removing or demolishing hundreds of state houses and units, including more than 300 in Hawke's Bay, property values in the residential property market continued to soar in the region as investors started to turn their backs on their dreams in Auckland.

In April it was reported the median house sale price in Hawke's Bay had hit $493,000, representing a near 50 per cent increase over the past five years, but barely half the going rate in Auckland. In 2002 Hawke's Bay reported it had hit what was then also a record — $162,000.