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Kauri logging in Waitākere Ranges

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Long ago the Waitākere Ranges were covered in ancient forests of huge kauri trees. Māori valued kauri because of its size and for its gum.

Kauri are tall and straight and the giant trees were perfect for building waka, boats and settlers’ homes. The work involved in the logging of the kauri forests was documented by photographers, both professional and amateur. By 1900 most of the kauri forests had been cut down. Only a few patches remained.

In more recent times, the incurable and fatal kauri dieback disease has severly impacted kauri forests. Te Kawerau ā Maki, the tangata whenua (people of the land) of Waitākere in Auckland, have placed a rāhui over the entire Waitākere forest (Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa). For the health of the forest, they are asking people to stay away from the bush. The rāhui gives scientists time to develop a solution, and time for the forest to heal.

A large part of Jack Diamond’s extensive research on all things West was focused on the logging industry in the Ranges…

The Baxter Collection and the C1 Men of Tauherenikau Camp

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Raymond Leslie Baxter's photograph album came to Auckland Libraries as the result of a donation to the old Waitakere City Council. This donation might have been made after the tragic death of the album's owner, Miss Beverley Price, in the 1979 Air New Zealand crash at Mt Erebus in Antarctica.

The photographs were taken by Beverley Price’s uncle, Raymond Leslie Baxter. They document his brief military career at Featherston Camp between July and December 1917. The details of this can be traced by consulting his army personnel file on Archway, Archives New Zealand’s system for government records. Baxter was a 28-year-old clerk from Newton who worked for the Auckland Education Board. In early 1917 he was called up and, along with his fellow recruits, transported by train to Featherston Camp in the South Wairarapa. His album includes three images of the troop train winding its way along the Wairarapa line across the Rimutaka Range.


Featherston Camp had been opened in January 1916. …

Hiding in plain sight

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The Auckland Library Heritage Trust has completed long overdue restoration work on two tables in Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library. The tables were presented to the Auckland Free Library which opened on 26 March 1887. Auckland was library mad in the 1880s with the gift of former Governor Sir George Grey’s extraordinary library in 1882 and the promise of a building to house the collection. To mark the historic library opening in 1887 the New Zealand Insurance Company presented:

“... two chess tables, with full sets, and two draughts boards and men." 
(CITY COUNCIL., New Zealand Herald, Volume XXIV, Issue 7947, 13 May 1887).

The chessmen are long gone but one chess table survives after 131 years, along with one of the draughts boards now inset into a twentieth century table. The Auckland Library Heritage Trust recognised the significance of the furniture in the history of Auckland Libraries. Chair Colin Davis notes that the original chess table is significant as part of th…

'But I Changed All That'

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Finding photos for my book on New Zealand’s ‘first’ women, But I Changed All That, I did not expect to choose the photos of our first two female prime ministers from Auckland Libraries collection.


Jenny Shipley planting trees with Auckland children on Arbour Day was a winner for my book, which covers 1893 to 2018 – Kate Sheppard to Jacinda Ardern. Jenny Shipley became New Zealand’s first female prime minister in 1997, having won enough support to oust Jim Bolger. She started her working life as a primary school teacher. You can tell that she and the children are enjoying themselves. The 1999 election saw her go head to head with Helen Clark – who became our first elected female prime minister as leader of the parliamentary Labour Party.


Here too, Auckland Libraries came up trumps, with a really nice photo of Helen Clark on election night. She is wearing a smart bob haircut and a sharp suit – all the better for an appearance on television. But this photo was taken later in the night: s…

Women's Suffrage and Local Government

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2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. On 19 September 1893, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed, giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. However, it would not be until 1919 that women were able to stand for election to become Members of Parliament.

To mark this anniversary, Auckland Council Archives has compiled an online exhibition which includes a timeline and photographs of the female elected representatives of the former borough, city, county, regional and district councils of the Auckland region.
On 29 November 1893, Elizabeth Yates was elected mayor of the borough of Onehunga – the first woman in the British Empire to hold such an office. The Municipal Corporations Act 1876 had given all property owners and ratepayers the right to vote and to stand for election in local government. This law made no distinction between male and female property owners, thus Elizabeth Yates chose to exercise this right and stand for office believing that she …

Acknowledging Armistice Day

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On 11 November 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, and the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Armistice Day has been commemorated in New Zealand ever since, not only to celebrate peace but also to acknowledge the sacrifices of those who made peace possible.

The depth of this sacrifice is exemplified by the experience of one small town, Manurewa. At the outbreak of the First World War, there were about 500 people living in the area. Few if any of them were to remain unaffected by the war.

The photograph below was proudly taken on the opening day of Manurewa School, 3 September 1906. Little could it be imagined at the time that in less than a decade the ranks of the children assembled here would be significantly thinned by bullets, bayonets, sickness and bombs.


Seven of the older boys in the back row would see active service during the First World War: Walter Burton (fourth from left), Bert Ralls (sixth from left), Ted Mills (eighth), George Coxhead (tenth)…

Heritage Talks go live!

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Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library is pleased to announce that our popular Heritage Talks programme will now be available as part of Auckland Libraries’ content on SoundCloud and YouTube.

Heritage Talks are a regular event run by Research Central and focus on topics of interest in the areas of local, family and world history. Talks are presented by a range of researchers and historians whose enthusiasm for their subjects is contagious. And now you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to share in the stories. Grab a cup of tea, sit back, and relax!

Each SoundCloud podcast will give a brief introduction to the speaker and topic including a talk teaser before proceeding to the talk itself. If the talk contains a significant amount of visual material then we will endeavour to make these available through YouTube. Available now is Keith Giles’ Crazy Cameramen and Profligate Photographers. As the title implies, this popular talk captures some of the colour of colonial …