Napier Borough Council's plans for dual roadway causes controversy among Naperites.
While it's hard to believe now, an examination of Napier pre-1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake reveals how damaging rough seas were to the town.
In very strong storms, sea water would smash into the front of the now Department of Conservation building on Marine Parade. Shops in Hastings St would also be flooded.
The answer was to build a seawall – and the 1888 contract awarded to Glendinning and Griffin was in two parts – south of Edwardes St to initially Sale St, and north of Edwardes St to the courthouse (Department of Conservation building).
Prison labour was used to build the seawall from the courthouse to the breakwater port at the Bluff.
Even with the seawall waves pounded the wall during storms, and repairs were often needed. Buttresses, that is the support to the parapets on the footpath side of the Marine Parade, were added to give strength.
A gradual build up of shingle and the effect of the foreshore uplift in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake meant the seawall was no longer needed to keep the rough seas away from property.
Discussions at Napier Borough Council began in the early 1930s to create a dual roadway (two way road) along Marine Parade. This would involve demolishing the seawall and creating a new road over the location of the seawall and esplanade footpath.
It wasn't a popular move amongst the Napierites, and many justifications were used by the Napier Borough Council for the dual roadway, including that the present road was too narrow and a continual source of danger due to the large amount of traffic it carried.
The Hawke's Bay Automobile Association was enlisted for support for the dual roadway, and they stated many other towns had adopted one-way roads with a row of trees down the middle.
The trees, they argued, would act as a Venetian blind to cut off the rays of the sun and protect motorists' eyes from lights of the oncoming cars.
When discussing how far the dual roadway should be extended towards Awatoto, a Hastings committee member suggested it go right through to Hastings.
Noting the dual roadway was already causing some unrest in Napier, another Hastings member said, "I don't think we should enter into the controversy."
One thousand Napier ratepayers signed a petition to try and stop the roadway going ahead and the seawall from being demolished. Two borough councillors were also against the scheme.
Concerns were that it was unsafe for children and the elderly to cross the dual roadway, uprooting and damaging the Norfolk Island pine trees and that the road was not even necessary.
On the safety issue, an objecting councillor, Mr Mayne, was concerned the construction of a two-way drive "will immediately impel all motorists to drive at reckless speeds, as they always do in two-way drives, thereby imperiling the lives of old ladies and killing off our juvenile population in a very short time".
He also believed that "the dignified narrowness is to be utterly destroyed and all the Norfolk pines are to die, and the result that the tourist traffic will fall away completely".
Despite all the protests, an initial area of roadway from the Sound Shell to Albion St was completed around early 1938.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, the roadway was extended to its present termination point at Ellison St.
There was a brief flirtation in the 1970s to extend the dual roadway north of the Sound Shell – this would involve demolishing the Sound Shell – but this was a move too far for Napierites and was not allowed to occur.
When it was announced in 1951 that a fertiliser works was planned for Awatoto, this raised concern at Napier Borough Council due to the transportation of phosphate materials (up to 40 truck movements an hour at unloading times) by road from the wharves to the works and creating a nuisance to property owners and loose material falling upon tourists.
The council was not sure what to do, and tried to encourage them to set up elsewhere, in areas such as Bay View – which the fertiliser company had tried but couldn't find a good source of water.
At the end of 1951, the council "could not decide what to do". They didn't want to drive industry away but also didn't want the transport of materials along Marine Parade. They had gone as far as drafting a bylaw to stop the trucks, but it was never enacted.
The council decided to advise the fertiliser company that "they were far from happy at the idea of the Marine Parade being used for carting fertiliser".
The East Coast Fertiliser Works (now Ravensdown) established in 1954 at Awatoto.
In late 2017, the Napier City Council implemented the "traffic calming project", which returned two -way traffic to one side of the Norfolk pines from the Napier i-Site to Vautier St. Its main purpose was to improve connectivity with the waterfront, slow vehicles, possible reduction in heavy vehicles and improve pedestrian and business amenity.
- Michael Fowler's history of Marine Parade is due out in November 2019.
- Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are only available from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell St South, Hastings for $65.00.
- Michael Fowler FCA (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.