23 October 2019

All aboard flight NZ1 to London

Sad news today with the announcement by Air New Zealand that the Los Angeles to London leg of the famous Auckland to London route will cease in October 2020. The service was first introduced in 1982 using 747s and 38 years is an eternity in the cutthroat world of air travel: in fact it's a seismic change for Air New Zealand and the many thousands of New Zealanders and UK citizens with ties in both countries.

While a new 787 direct service from Auckland to Newark New Jersey (EWR) for New York will get New Zealanders most of the way to the UK, there's a great sense of tradition in being able to travel all the way from Auckland to Heathrow on New Zealand-crewed airliners. The LAX to LHR leg was also special because it afforded marvelous views of Greenland as the aircraft skirts near the polar regions on its way to the UK. And from a cultural perspective, it was always cheering to see a ZK-registered Air New Zealand aircraft banking over the grey London skies on approach to Heathrow, and know that in a pinch you could be back in New Zealand in a little over 24 hours.

The airline sees greater growth potential in the North American market, which ties in quite nicely with the Prime Minister's recent entente cordiale with the Late Show's Stephen Colbert. And as Air New Zealand places greater emphasis on the capabilities of its Dreamliner fleet, long-range direct services like Auckland to Newark become more feasible. It does beg the question, however: can the airline sustain direct services to seven North American cities? Are there sufficient passengers to and from Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Houston, Chicago and New York to make these services viable?

Air New Zealand aircraft at LAX, 18 November 2009
One can speculate why Air New Zealand has finally pulled the plug on its UK presence after nearly four decades. The London to Los Angeles service is clearly well regarded, and the services are usually full, so presumably the seat revenue is insufficiently high to justify the running costs. Perhaps the legendarily high landing costs at Heathrow are up for renegotiation or have been traded to another airline? And perhaps the negative impact on passenger experience of having to transit through the famously unwelcoming LAX has eroded the viability of the service too. Certainly the two-hour dash through a pointless US border check that seems unwilling to acknowledge the existence of transit passengers makes the stopover stressful and tiring, in the midst of an already wearisome double-longhaul journey.

Jetsetting New Zealanders and expats will adjust their travel patterns as they always do, and will take this retreat by Air New Zealand in their stride. Personally, I've not flown all the way to London on Air New Zealand for around five years, chiefly to avoid the grim LAX experience. I also discovered that the return leg from Singapore to Auckland is around 90 minutes shorter than the equivalent leg from LAX to Auckland, which is an eternity when you're trapped in economy class for a full day. But it still seems a great pity that Air New Zealand is abandoning the UK market after such a long history of service, which has started and ended so many tales of intercontinental adventure over the years.

08 October 2019

The rise of the New Zealand daily press

The advent of the daily press was accompanied by far-reaching changes in the nature of journalism. Prior to 1853 the New Zealand press was a few newspapers which were mainly advocates for the resident landowners and through which was coordinated the agitation for self-government. It was a colonial press united by its attempt to replace the Crown Colony Government with local government. From 1853 to the start of the commercial press, which can be dated as beginning with the Otago Daily Times in 1861, the New Zealand press remained a small number of newspapers. They shared a dominant concern with being partisan political discussion forums within each province. No longer with the shared task of winning self-government to unite them, the management of the various newspapers did not maintain the contact of pre-independence days. But a similarity of size of circulation, of upper class-biased readership, and of concentration on provincial political affairs remained. The provincial focus of newspapers was not total. All newspapers were also interested in the national political arena. Many provincial debates were conducted on the national stage. All newspapers had orientations towards the status and policies of the General Government which were largely dictated by provincial considerations. The various newspapers' various positions in regard to national politics were by no means the same but all newspapers, although taking different debating positions, were at the debate. They showed a similarity of concern and interest, if not of policy.

In the 1860s this similarity lessened. The sheer increase in the number of publications made dissimilarity more likely. But the increase was also accompanied by an increase in the types of publication. Many of the new publications were not general newspapers but were journals oriented to specific audiences. Religious and temperance publications were the first of this type but they were followed by others. Even the newspaper press became a diverse group. Many of the new newspapers, particularly those away from the main centres, were small circulation weekly publications printed on the iron-framed fixed presses of the type used in the 1840s and 1850s. The main centre newspapers, at the other extreme, were rapidly becoming large scale businesses. Differences of circulation, technology, capital investment, staff and revenue quickly grew.

- Patrick Day, The Making of the New Zealand Press 1840-1880, Wellington, 1990, p.164-5.

See also:
BlogWellington Anniversary Day 1850, 22 January 2015
Blog: Hold the front page, 20 May 2012
Blog: The lifeblood of a young colony, 12 June 2009

30 September 2019

An Onehunga institution

The gold-etched window art at 171 Onehunga Mall marks the former shop of local legend Gordon Sai Louie, whose family operated the fruit shop on the site from the 1940s until 1988. From 1988 until 2018 the building housed the Legendary Hard To Find But Worth The Effort Second-Hand Bookshop, which now operates from two locations, one in Newton and one in Dunedin. The Onehunga Mall building is currently still vacant, and it would be wonderful if the owner undertook long-deferred maintenance and preserved this historic shop for future customers.

See also:
BlogPublic transport comes to Onehunga, 10 February 2015
Blog: Avondale to Onehunga tramlink, 31 October 2010
BlogFrom sea to shining sea, 20 July 2009

22 September 2019

To the glory of God and in memory of Captain Williams

In the heart of the Lambton end of the Wellington central city a small, elegant building perches at a busy intersection a mere two blocks from Parliament. The Missions to Seamen Building was begun in 1903, and its dedication plaque at the corner of Stout and Whitmore Streets has been half-noticed but mostly ignored by Wellington pedestrians for generations. Its text reads:

To the Glory of God
And in memory of


This stone was laid by
The donor of the land & building
16th Dec 1903
James Moore, Missioner

The building is a distinctive feature in Wellington's north end, particularly as it is nestled within the heritage precinct with other architectural gems like the Old Government Building (1876) and the former Supreme Court House (1880). David Kernohan's 1994 book Wellington's Old Buildings describes the Mission building as follows:

The building occupies a conspicuous corner site, and, while small, has a scale and character which still provide a strong presence despite being surrounded by high-rise commercial buildings. It is essentially ecclesiastical in appearance with references to Dutch and English domestic, and Scottish baronial, architecture. At one time on its northern gable there was a model of a steamer which can now be seen in the Maritime Museum [p.60].
The Captain Williams memorialised on the building is William Robert Williams, born in Gravesend on 5 March 1832, who first arrived in New Zealand in the 1850s on barques trading from the Australian colonies. The Dunstan gold rush of 1858 saw him sailing more and more to New Zealand, often bringing coal from the New South Wales port of Newcastle and returning to Australia with timber and kauri gum. His New Zealand port in this trade was Wellington, which was the start of a long association for Williams.

Increasingly successful, Williams acquired a wide range of ships including the Heversham, the Australind, the Cyrus, the Edwin Bassett, and the Carlotta. He may not have been the luckiest proprietor, because his obituary lists all of the above vessels as being lost to shipwreck, although often after Williams had sold them to other owners. Clear signs of Williams' economic prowess came in 1876 when he purchased the steamer Grafton in Sydney and in 1881 when he returned to England for the first time in 27 years to buy the steamer Westport at Glasgow, and sailed on it direct from England to Westport in a speedy passage of 62 days. Later he sold his shipping interests to the Union Steamship Company and instead managed his West Coast coal business. His Evening Post obituary on 17 March 1890 reported:

The deceased was a shrewd man of business, and while he acquired a competence for himself he did much good for Wellington by his enterprise. At one time he was without doubt the largest employer of labour in the city, and he was always noted for fair dealling with those who were in his service. While running his line of steamers he had a shipbuilding yard on the Te Aro foreshore, and amongst the undertakings carried out in connection with the establishment may be noted the lengthening of the Moa, the construction of the Mana (which was his property up to his death) and the Ahuriri, and the fitting up of the Maitai, after her hull, &c, had been completed by Messrs. Luke and Sons.
It was the generous gift of £7000 from Williams' widow, Mrs Mary Anne Williams - totalling around $1.25m in today's money, allowing for inflation - that built the Mission in her husband's memory. The New Zealand Times of 30 July 1903 lavished praise on Mrs Williams for her generosity, in keeping with the popular sentiment of contemporary journalism:

Mrs Williams has set a noble example to people possessed of wealth in thus providing the means for brightening and humanising the lives of the thousands of sea-faring men who visit Wellington every year. Strangers in a strange laud these men—too often waifs and strays of the ocean—see no means of spending their leisure in a rational way, and it is only through some organised body in the community that an effort can be made to bring them into touch with their fellow-men ashore.

On its dedication day in 1904 the Mission was officially declared open by the new Governor, Lord Plunket:

Opening ceremony, 24 August 1904
Source: Terence Hodgson, Colonial Capital: Wellington 1865-1910, 1990, p.134.
Opening ceremony, 24 August 1904, source: Papers Past
The building was narrowly saved from demolition in the 1980s and converted into upscale apartments in 1994. I have heard that one of its prominent occupants was New Zealand's first woman Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jenny Shipley, who would have appreciated its proximity to her day job.

The Mission to Seamen still exists, although the name has changed to Mission to Seafarers. The Anglican mission was founded in England in 1856, and provides drop-in centres in ports around the world for seafarers to rest, with chapel services and cheap accommodation. The Mission now operates in eight New Zealand ports, with Wellington's service operating for around half the year from Shed 52 on Aotea Quay.

See also:
History: Pre-1840 European visitors to Wellington, 21 February 2016
History: Wellington 150, a capital anniversary, 26 July 2015
History: Wellington's first settler ship, 22 January 2014
History: The lifeblood of a young colony, 12 June 2009