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Early record of Auckland democracy

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The Auckland Library Heritage Trust has recently acquired a printed, annotated burgess roll for the City of Auckland for 1887 to 1888 that is believed to be unique. They have kindly lent it to Auckland Libraries where it is currently on display in the Heritage Collections reading room at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero, the Central City Library. Stamped ‘Mayor’s Office’ in gilt on the binding, the roll is preceded by a manuscript list of 32 alterations authorised by council between May 1887 and April 1888. In most instances these correspond to amendments in the six individual ward rolls within the volume. No copy of this roll is held by the National Library or the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, nor by any other Auckland research library. Auckland Libraries, Council Archives and Auckland War Memorial Museum have the most comprehensive collections of rolls, though wards are missing for some years in what has survived. Council Archives’ rolls cover 1872 to 1899 (series ACC 396).


Of most …

The saga of Boyd’s Zoo

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Boyd’s Zoological Gardens was a commercial enterprise established by John James Boyd in Upper Aramoho, Whanganui in 1909 after he had imported a lion and lioness, a tigress, and breeding pairs of bears and black buck antelopes, together with four macaws, two vultures and two demoiselle cranes from a zoo in Hamburg, Germany. The New Zealand Graphic published the following photo of some of his animals in the recently opened zoo in their issue on 9 February 1910:


Soon he must have expanded his menagerie because a photo published by the Graphic of 13 July 1910 includes an emu. This photo also shows his vultures:


However Upper Aramoho did not prove to be a good location, with poor attendances at Boyd’s zoo. Early next year he decided to move to Auckland. On 17 May 1911 the New Zealand Graphic published the following photo of the animals, including a forlorn-looking bear, about to be moved to Auckland:


At this time there was no other zoo in Auckland, so naturally the local journals were a…

Snow in Northland

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On 30 July 1849, Richard Davis, an Anglican missionary in the Bay of Islands, made this surprising entry in his daily weather diary: “Hail storms. This morning the southern hills and Poutahi covered with snow.” The next day, he noted that the hills were “again covered with snow.”

The Davis family - Richard and Mary and their children - lived at the Church Missionary Society’s station at Waimate North, inland from Paihia, and the snow he referred to had just fallen on the hills behind the small mission settlement. It wasn’t the only extreme weather he would record in the nine years he documented Northland’s climate, but it was probably the most unexpected.
There are two weather registers by Richard Davis in Special Collections at the Central City Library, and together they cover the period from 1839-44 and 1848-51. The volumes are foolscap-sized notebooks, and in them he recorded the temperature at 9am and again at midday at Waimate North and later at Kaikohe after he and his family move…

Tactile Verse: Aotearoa Letterpress Poetry Books

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The three-dimensional bite of metal type into paper gives text a sculptural depth that brings new life to poetry. Who can resist the urge to run their finger along rows of impressed text - engaging with the words both physically, and as a reader? This union of 15th century printing technology and contemporary Aotearoa poetry and visual art has resulted in a range of beautiful hand crafted books, key examples of which can be viewed in the Angela Morton Room | Te Pātaka Toi Art Library.


Typographer Tara McLeod has said the printer’s challenge is to find the letterforms that are right for a given message. He and poet Riemke Ensing have collaborated on many collections, and Ensing has noted that “Not only is there an absolute commitment to retain the integrity of the work [by McLeod] and convey the feeling inherent in the poem, there is that sensitivity to the use of colour, light, space and form to capture the essence of the poems in these new and startling environments.”


The tactile let…

McCallum’s chip

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While walking in the city, I scan my environment like I do while walking on the beach. I actively look for interesting patterns and curiosities. One day my eye tuned into a ‘red stone’, I saw it everywhere: as loose stone chip, in concrete foundations, floors and small ready-mix concrete applications; The council uses it on road islands, in concrete for raised pedestrian crossings and down the shoulders of the motorway. Albert Park is completely paved in this loose red chip. The more I looked the more I saw it.


This red stone, I would argue, is as iconic as the Mt Eden basalt kerbstones seen around the city, and as easily identifiable. This ubiquitous stone has become part of the aesthetic of the Auckland streetscape, yet somehow it remains purely as a material commodity, and unlike the kerbstones, it has not yet transformed into a cultural object.

Commonly known as ‘McCallum’s chip’, this red chert gets its name from the McCallum family who have been mining and distributing this st…

Let the people decide: referendums in New Zealand History

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Normally, the task of writing, debating, and approving legislation is delegated to our elected members of parliament. In a referendum, though, the public are given the opportunity to vote directly for or against a proposal. As Nigel Roberts writes on Te Ara,referendums are a means for Parliament to avoid making decisions on controversial and divisive issues without public approval”. The issues at play in parliament-authorised referendums are inevitably highly contested.

The two referendums taking place during this year’s general election are no exception. In 2020, New Zealand voters will be given a chance to vote in favour or opposition of legalising recreational cannabis, and the End of Life Choice Act 2019. These referendums are the result of extended processes of political debate both inside and outside parliament, culminating in the poll of public opinion to authorise legalisation.

With that in mind, it is worth asking: when did we start holding referendums? We might look back …