Some people are passionate about saving trees, whales, landscapes or, fill in the blank. It will not be a surprise to many, that my interest is heritage buildings, especially from the 1920s and 1930s era.

This week plans were revealed by the Hastings District Council to create a new walkway and car park to increase the vibrancy of the city. To do this they have purchased 206 Queen St West, which is the site of the former Hawke's Bay Farmers Co-op Garage.

Hawke's Bay Farmers Co-op, a stock and station agency, had taken over the property and business of A Jones and Sons in 1912 after they went into liquidation. This property had a small frontage of 11m to Market St and 80m to Queen St.

A Jones and Sons had begun business in the 1880s as agricultural implement makers in Waipukurau and established in Hastings.


In November 1902, from their property on Queen St, they assembled the shipped chassis and motor for the first motor vehicle in Hawke's Bay – an Oldsmobile. The purchaser was Bernard Chambers of Te Mata, Havelock North.

On W B Jones taking the car for its first ride to Te Mata, it was reported "the carriage skimming along noiselessly at the rate of about ten miles per hour [18km/h], and although the large number of traps were met or overtaken the horses exhibited no signs of nervousness at their strange competitor".

Engineer, D W Hursthouse, occupied the property at 206 Queen St during the early 1920s, and as part of this building, Hawke's Bay Farmers had an implement and benzine (vehicle fuel) store, together with a workshop.

This came to an end in 1925, when this building was demolished and a new building, which included a Buick showroom, workshop, offices and tanks for the fuel bowsers (petrol pumps).

The building erected showed the wealth that was generated by agriculture and horticulture in the rural surrounds of Hastings in the 1920s. Hasting was becoming very prosperous and wanted the rest of New Zealand (especially Napier) to hear about it.

To create the barrel vaulted roof structure, the top was created out of railway iron and the bottom out of round steel rods.

In 1934, the building was given an extension with a bay added on the western side.

The roof structure can only be seen from the back view. Over the years the front façade has been altered unsympathetically (as I see it) and still retains the colours of Briscoes from when it occupied it.


Creation of the proposed car park as part of the development will require the building on the western side to be demolished, therefore the three barrel vault effect will be lost. Some will say, quite correctly, that the effect is rarely seen as it is facing the inward service lanes.

A changing world of big box retailers and online shopping has meant change in retail is necessary. Creation of spaces to linger, creating throughways, and accessible parking space are solutions used successfully not only in New Zealand, but overseas.

In the 1920s and 1930s the requirements were obviously quite different, and when Hastings mayor George Roach, wanted Heretaunga St widened after the 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake to future-proof traffic and pedestrian requirements, it never succeeded. People never imagined this would be needed.

Hawke's Bay is fortunate to have developers such as Mackersey Development and Wallace Development Company, who I think have done an excellent job in preserving features of heritage into new developments.

To be fair to the Hastings District Council, it has kept me informed on developments at the Hawke's Opera House (I've been on tours during the construction phase) and the former Municipal Buildings. The council has also consulted well, I believe, on the former Municipal Buildings. It is also willing to talk to me, as it has done, about the latest development.

Many people will not even think this is an issue, and I understand and respect your opinion.

Someone once said to me – when you talk about heritage buildings it's like you are conversing about an old friend. I've spent a lot of time researching who owned the buildings, who worked in them and their stories.

So I'll be obviously disappointed if part of the building is demolished, but would like to see the Hastings District Council have some historical reference to the area on display in the new development.

*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.