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Showing posts from June, 2020

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 …

Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland: stories of change

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In Aotearoa / New Zealand, as in the rest of the world, we find ourselves facing a time of unprecedented and unsettling change. Our biggest city Auckland, economic powerhouse and largest population centre is currently engaged in a difficult task of re-calibrating for the new environment. While we as citizens of Auckland face this collective challenge, we are also presented with an unusual opportunity; a chance to decide what the next steps in the city’s journey will be.


The following podcasts have been drawn from across our collection, each reflecting on an aspect of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland's journey to date as we look toward the stories yet to be told.

“In 1900 Auckland was home to five hundred gas lamps and fifty thousand people. A city in name if not yet in earnest, it was barely past its frontier beginnings. A canyon of robust stone buildings now hinted at permanence astride a lumpy isthmus, lapped by the tides of two large harbours, this unpretentious outpost of Britain re…

Working from home: COVID-19 - A snapshot in time

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We would like to invite Aucklanders to take part in a contemporary archive collecting initiative designed to create a resource for researchers to use in the future.

We are currently collecting voices from communities across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in order to:

● Include the real voices and sounds from the communities.
● Include an accurate and true recording of our lives during this crisis - 'A snapshot in time'.
● Gather a good spread of material from communities across the region.
● Have a wide variety of voices represented, including different age groups.

What types of things?

Writing such as diary entries, thoughts, recollections of feelings, poems, photographs and drawings, collected screen shots of social media posts, sounds, a combination of things is also fine.

Who can I ask?

Yourself - thoughts, feelings, accounts about life at the moment, and how COVID-19 has impacted your day to day life over the past few months. What are your reflections, and your hopes for …

The Mackelvie book bequest at Auckland Libraries

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The book bequests from James Tannock Mackelvie are jewels in the Library’s Heritage Collections. Scottish-born James Mackelvie was already an experienced businessman when he arrived in Auckland in 1865 to take up a junior partnership and fifth share in the firm of Brown, Campbell & Company. Six years later he left New Zealand a wealthy man, and spent his life selecting works to send back to Auckland for the “cultural education of the young and the enjoyment of Aucklanders”. These well-chosen gifts continue to attract interest and scholarship at Auckland Libraries.


The books include five works featured in Real Gold: treasures of Auckland City Libraries. These items can be found in the online exhibition based on this book on the library website.

Since the publication of Real Gold in 2007 we have developed the Kura Tūturu Real Gold case in the Library’s Reading Room. This allows us to showcase the works in the book – a new treasure each month – to let visitors see the originals up cl…

Happy birthday Smith & Caughey’s

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Smith & Caughey’s is one of the few remaining old-style department stores that is still delivering quality goods and a touch of luxury to their customers. I walk past the Queen Street department store on my way to work and always pause to look at their artistic and imaginative window displays. Seeing that Smith & Caughey’s is celebrating their 140th year in business this year prompted me to take a look at what we have in the Auckland Council Archives collection about this venerable store.


Smith and Caughey’s building on Queen Street is in fact made up of two buildings that are joined together across the lower four levels to form the department store. Auckland Council Archives holds many beautifully detailed building permit plans for the buildings that make up the present-day store, including these drawings by architect Roy Lippincott for the extension to the store on Wellesley Street in 1929.



Roy Lippincott (1885-1969) was an American architect. In 1921, he entered a design co…