Friday, 8 January 2021

Rotorua New Year's Eve Parade


Today the Rotorua Santa or Christmas Parade is a highlight of the festive season calendar leading up to Christmas. Originally the parade was held as part of a summer carnival in the New Year.

According to historian Don Stafford, a committee was formed in 1902 to plan a week long summer carnival to be held in 1903 to attraction tourists to the region. The event was held in late February 1903.

Unfortunately not many records remain of the early parades.

New Year Parade - Arawa Street, 1920, photographer unknown,
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (2010.100.1254)


Government Tourist Bureau Decorated Float, 1937, photographer unknown,
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (2010.100.1254)

The Carnival later grew to become the Christmas and New Year Carnival. The parade became the New Year's Eve Street Parade and was traditionally held in the afternoon of New Year's Eve. In the 1950s and 1960s a second parade was also held in the evening.

The programme also often included a Children's Fancy Dress Parade, which was held in the morning.

The New Year's Eve Parade was held for the last time on December 31, 1980, to end the year of the Centennial celebrations.

In 1981 the parade was held on December 19th and became the Santa or Christmas Parade that we know today.

Enjoy some memories of past New Year's Eve Parades. Thank you to the Rotorua Museum, Daily Post, and Don Stafford Collection for photos and information. This post was written by Graeme.

New Year Parade, 1957, photograph by Robert Crocker,
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (2016.50.2)


New Year Parade, 1953, photograph unknown,
 Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (2010.100.1254)


Clown Float, Christmas/New Year Parade Rotorua, 1965, photograph by Gil Couper,
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (2020.21.85)


New Year Parade, 1953, photograph supplied by Public Relations Office,
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (Op-4374)


Centennial New Year Parade, 1980, photograph by Jack Lang,
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (2020.23.81)



 

Friday, 4 December 2020

Celebrating the Rotorua Musical Theatre

 A Musical History in their own words

"The Society has been in existence for 75 Years. The Rotorua Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society began with performing  "The Gypsy Rover" in 1945 as an all male cast. 

Standing : Ivor Gainsford ; unknown ; Cyril Bowden and S. Oscar Parkinson
Seated : John Alexander; Percy Anaru ; Jim Ellis ; Unknown and Phil Steele


In time the name changed to the Rotorua Operatic Society, then in 1996 this became the Rotorua Musical Theatre Society.  Most major productions were staged at the then Majestic Theatre. "Hello Dolly" was the final production at the Majestic in 1971.  

Major shows then moved to the newly renovated and enlarged  Civic Theatre with "Funny Girl" being the first in 1972.

In 1981 the Operatic Society opened it's own theatre home in Riri Street, called Casa Blanca. The first show here being "On Stage Review" 

1980s  at Riri Street, Rotorua.


In 1994 improvements and major construction of a new back-stage area was completed. 

La Cagelles 1994


"With 182 shows 'from glamour to drama' to our credit so far, we aim to give Rotorua audiences pleasure for many more years to come" 

Below are posters of a few of those memorable shows : 

August 1980




May 1990


June 1991


January 2019




With thanks to Ursula Schraa and the Committee of the Rotorua Musical Theatre for the information and images supplied.  

Copyright of all images belongs to the Rotorua Musical Theatre.

Friday, 6 November 2020

The Rotorua Township Agreement 1880-2020

1980 was a busy year for the City of Rotorua.

It was the year that the city chose to celebrate its founding on 25 November 1880. The year-long centennial celebration kicked off in style in November 1979 when the Morrison Quartet briefly reunited for a special concert at the Rotorua Civic Theatre. Rotorua District Council, local businesses and community groups sponsored and organised conferences, rallies, sporting events and cultural events. A logo was designed and used throughout the year on shirts, books, banners and rubbish bags. Special medallions were minted and a stamp launched.  Celebrations reached its climax in November 1980, with three major events which included a massive float parade that showcased the evolution of Rotorua; its environment, its people and various industries. Following this, three great waka landed in Ōhinemutu and were greeted by a 200 strong haka as well as hundreds of onlookers in the crowd. The year of celebration culminated with a re-enactment of the signing of the Rotorua Township Agreement, often called the Fenton Agreement. (Stafford, 1988, p. 390-391).


Chief Judge Francis Dart Fenton (or Penetana as he was known by Māori) of the Native Land Court is usually credited with establishing Rotorua township, however this was of course accomplished hand in hand with iwi. Fenton originally discussed the proposal with local iwi in 1877 and by direction of the Government he returned for detailed negotiations in 1880. From the Crown’s point of view, there were two main objectives behind the establishment of a township at Rotorua: preserve access to the natural thermal wonders of the district and to halt problems and arguments regarding land.

Francis Dart Fenton. Ref: PAColl-7489-01. Alexander Turnbull Library,
Wellington, New Zealand. 
/records/22424556

The proposed township would also have the added benefit of opening up the area to further settlement and improving accommodation, supplies and transport to the burgeoning tourist trade. Up until this time this was reliant upon a haphazard collection of European style hotels and shops that had developed in and around the old Ngāti Whakaue settlement of Ōhinemutu.

In late November 1880, negotiations were held over a number of days with Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Ngāti Uenukukopako, ultimately culminating in the signing of the agreement document at Ōhinemutu on 25 November 1880 between 47 persons of the three iwi and Chief Judge Fenton on behalf of the Crown. Not all iwi were happy with this development being led by the three iwi, including Tūhourangi who claimed interests in the area proposed for the township.

Group of men, possibly at a Land Court meeting, inside Tamatekapua meeting house at Ohinemutu.
Ref: 1/2-043266-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 
/records/22557733

For the Māori owners, the proposed township would see an increase in visitors into the area, and a major source of income, without the need to permanently sell land.  As iwi at the time refused to sell land in the Lakes District to anyone, including the Crown, it was instead agreed that the Crown would lease lots in the township out to the public for 99 years on behalf of the owners. The agreement was split into 16 clauses which set out the area for the township, how ownership would be determined, reserves that were gifted by the owners to the Crown for both races, survey costs, rates and composition of the town board.

Up until the Agreement, iwi had refused to allow the Native Land Court sit in the district knowing that to do so would likely result in the eventual loss of land through sale. However Fenton convinced iwi that for the township scheme to be successful the Court would need to decide the ownership of the township land. Following a protracted Court hearing, the Native Land Court awarded the majority of the town block, taking in the area between the Utuhina and Puarenga Streams from the lake front to Tihiotonga and called Pukeroa-Oruawhata, to Ngāti Whakaue with a section of the block called Tarewa being awarded to Ngāti Tuara and Ngāti Kearoa. This award had a number of consequences. It excluded Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Ngāti Uenukukopako from participating further in the township scheme and it saw iwi resistance to the Native Land Court in the Lakes District erode as a cascade of land claims to other land blocks were received by the Court.


While the township scheme was widely publicised, and initially successful in attracting leasees, the delay in the establishment of the promised railway, a national economic downturn, the Tarawera eruption in 1886 and a string of defaulting leasees all contributed to an enormous loss in expected revenue. 

Starting in 1889, the Crown sought to purchase shares from owners in the block. The Crown and the Ngāti Whakaue were co-owners in the Pukeroa-Oruawhata Block at the time. The alienation of the block from the last few owners, and vesting of the township block (Pukeroa-Oruawhata Block) in the Crown, was completed through the compulsorily acquirement of shares via the Thermal Springs Act of 1910. The Crown later sold these interests between 1930 and 1950, opening up the township lands to private ownership. Over the next few decades, Over the next few decades, Ngāti Whakaue sought answers from the Crown over the failure of the township scheme and care of the gifted reserves (Rose, 2004).

Meanwhile the Agreement had established the first governing body of the Rotorua Township, being the Rotorua Town Board, which was originally made up of the local Doctor, resident magistrate and a Ngāti Whakaue representative, all appointed by Central Government.

The Rotorua Town Board first meet in April 1883 however besides the administration of certain government services and hotel license fees, the Board was restricted on what it could do and achieve. Hamuera Pango, who died in 1893, was the last Ngāti Whakaue representative on the board.

Source: The Founding Years in Rotorua by D.M.Stafford

The Rotorua Town Council Act was passed in 1900 which altered the constitution of the Rotorua Town Board so that it became a Council with a membership of seven; three locally elected representatives with the other four being appointed by Central Government.

The Town Board was disestablished in 1907 at which point the Tourist Department took over the administration of the township. The Rotorua Borough Council was established by the Rotorua Town Lands Act 1920, and the first election was undertaken in 1923 although Central Government would still appoint two of the seven positions. In fact, it would not be until 1950 that a mayor and Council would take office without Central Government appointees.

The Rotorua Borough Council became the Rotorua City Council upon Rotorua achieving City status in 1962. The Rotorua City Council and the Rotorua County Council amalgamated in 1979 to form the Rotorua District Council.

In late November 1980, Ngāti Whakaue hosted all of Rotorua and Te Arawa at Te Papaiouru Marae for the re-enactment of the Fenton Agreement signing. 400 members of Te Arawa gathered on the steps of Tamatekapua Meeting House, they sung and chanted as Judge Fenton (Played by Mervyn Julian) and his interpreter (played by Sam Gardiner)emerged from St Faiths Church dressed in period costume. They crossed over to a table set up in front of Tamatekapua where the descendants of the original land owners again placed their signatures. As was befitting such an occasion, amongst the many official guests in attendance was Tennant Fenton, grandson of Chief Judge Fenton.

Rotorua Centennial Celebrations. 1980. Photograph by Jack Lang (1915 – 1986).
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (CP-2868)

It is interesting to remember that our city’s foundation was built upon a unique relationship between the Crown and local tāngata whenua. The Rotorua Township Agreement should be remembered as being an integral part of our shared, communal history as a city, an example of great generosity by iwi and a forward thinking willingness to work together. Rotorua’s 130 year anniversary passed quietly and largely unnoticed, with Rotorua perhaps still mourning the loss of local historian Don Stafford.

Let us hope then that Rotorua 2020 is a little different, that we will choose to remember, discuss, debate, commiserate, celebrate and reflect on our Cities past 140 years; the good, the bad, and everything in-between.

B T Manley 
Pūkenga Rangahau, Rotorua Lakes Council

References

Rose, K. (2004). The Fenton Agreement and Land Alienation in the Rotorua District in the Nineteenth Century. Wellington: Crown Forestry Rental Trust.

Stafford, Donald Murray. (1988). The New Century in Rotorua. Rotorua: Rotorua District Council.



Saturday, 3 October 2020

Te Wairoa Village

This post is about the Village of Te Wairoa (now the Buried Village). Te Wairoa was located in Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. This story of Te Wairoa is told from the perspective of the visitors to Te Wairoa. 

Chapman's map of the Bay of Plenty and Lake District 1872,
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection

To get to the village of Te Wairoa in 1880, Sir William Herries said that you “travelled along the side of Lake Tikitapu and past the head of another larger one, then into the little village of Wairoa, about 12 miles from Ohinemutu (Don Stafford File)”. If you ‘took a buggy it would take about an hour and a half and cost 10s each way (Bay of Plenty Times, 27 December 1881)’. This was considered a quick and inexpensive trip at the time.

Te Wairoa before the eruption,
Photo from The Buried Village,Rotorua, New Zealand

Thorpe Talbot described the settlement of Te Wairoa as consisting “almost entirely of Māoris. Scarce half-a-dozen white families live at Wairoa (Talbot 1882)”. Alfred Warbrick described the village of Te Wairoa as ‘a pretty place in the period before the great eruption. There were houses of Māori and Pakeha type scattered over a considerable area between the outlet of Rotokakahi Lake and the edge of the high land overlooking Lake Tarawera. A carved house, “Hinemihi” stood by the wayside near the entrance to the principal part of the settlement, where the two hotels and the store were situated. On a commanding terrace called Te Mu, just above the village, was the Māori mission church, with a stained-glass window at the end overlooking the lake. 

Old Mission Church, Wairoa, 1880s, New Zealand, by Charles Spencer.
Te Papa (O.006936)

Cultivations extended over the level ground adjoining the lake and the gentler slopes, and there were many fertile fruit orchards. In the early years much wheat was grown on the flat, and it was ground in a small mill driven by a water-wheel in the stream which flowed out of Rotor-Kakahi (Warbrick 1934)’. “Wairoa is hemmed in by mountains. Moerangi lifts itself in lofty grandeur over against Rotokakahi, Tokinihau (big hill) rears his majestic head opposite, and the ranges, of which these mountains are a part extend clear down to Tarawera (Talbot 1882)”.

Tarawera Lake and Mountain from Wairoa Mission Station
before the Eruption, circa 1880, Tarawera by Charles Spencer.
Te Papa (0.002095)

Te Wairoa was known as a staging place where visitors would leave to see the Pink and White Terraces. There were a couple of hotels including the Terrace Hotel. 

The Terrace Hotel after the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption. Image courtesy 
 of the Buried Village, Rotorua, New Zealand

Thorpe Talbot described the Terrace Hotel as an 'edifice that was by no means imposing but very pleasant and comfortable and ably managed by Mr and Mrs Moncrieff. He adds that the ‘pretty church and the mission station, is in the midst of a beautiful plantation, on the top of a hill overlooking Tarawera and the site is admirable, the view superb. There is a waterfall well worth more than one visit, in the surrounding bush (Talbot 1882)'. 

Te Wairoa waterfall, circa 1900, New Zealand,
by Robert Marsh. Te Papa (O.044227)

In a Bay of Plenty Times article, 1881 The Terrace Hotel was a temperance hotel. A temperance society was set up by ‘Messr’s, Snow, Davis, Hazard and others and 150 natives signed the pledge (Bay of Plenty Times 18 September 1880)’. In another article another hotel was mentioned, "…..in addition to the Terrace Hotel, at Wairoa there is another house, called the Rotomahana, owned by Macrae; but the disadvantage of going there is that you cannot procure the services of Sophia, who is the guide of guides to the Terraces (Bay of Plenty Times, 27 December 1881)”. However, The Rotomahana Hotel is, “…a very comfortable little hostelry…(Don Stafford File)”. 

Rotomahana Hotel, Te Wairoa. Ref: PA7-60-02. Alexander Turnbull Library,
Wellington, New Zealand.

Alfred Warbrick described an annual event held in Te Wairoa. Māori would catch wild duck, torea and pukeko. Special permission was given to hunt at the end of February. No guns were allowed. Snares were set at night or some were caught by “hand with the help of specially trained dogs”. The hunt lasted for a few days and nights and not a shot was fired. “The catches were cooked in many steam holed and hot springs along the lake edge, and were rendered down in their own fat and potted in bark containers and other receptacles, in which they would keep for many months. Then the lake would be closed for another year (Warbrick, 1934)”. 

South Island Pied Oystercatcher/Torea, Haematopus finschi,
collected Canterbury, New Zealand. CC BY 4.0. Te Papa 
(OR.000646)

The Tarawera eruption of 10 June, 1886 decimated the village of Te Wairoa, the people of Tuhourangi were displaced and many died from falling debris. “The majority of the buildings were destroyed including 2 hotels, 2 stores, a school, a blacksmith and bakery. All of the village houses were destroyed. Guide Sophia’s house survived and gave shelter to about 60 people during the eruption (Don Stafford File)”. Some of the people of Tuhourangi were re-settled in Ohinemutu and Whakarewarewa. 

Te Wairoa after eruption June 10, 1886, 1901-1913, Dunedin, by Muir & 
Moodie studio, Burton Brothers studio, Frederick Muir. Te Papa (LS.004508)

Te Wairoa, McRae's Hotel, Sophia's whare and Terrace Hotel after the eruption, 
1886, Tarawera, by George Valentine. Purchased 2007. Te Papa (O.030859)

This post was written by Ani. With thanks to newspaper articles from Papers Past, images from Te Papa Tongarewa and The National Library of New Zealand. Material for this post was from The Rotorua Library Heritage Collections and the Don Stafford Files. Thank you to the staff at The Buried Village, for allowing me to visit and letting me wander through the history of Te Wairoa.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Tulips in Rotorua

History of tulips

The tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia. It was first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000AD. 

The Turkish word for tulip is lale. It is believed that the botanical name tulipa is derived from the Turkish word for turban. Although it is not known if this is reference to the flower's shape or because Turks often wore the flower tucked into their turban.

Tulips were introduced to Western Europe and the Netherlands in the late 16th century. Today tulips are largely associated with Holland. Tulip festivals are well known in Holland and Holland is often called the 'flower shop of the world'.

Settlers introduced flowers to New Zealand and tulips were being advertised for sale as early as 1850. The Christchurch Horticultural Society highlighted tulips at a flower show in 1883.

Wellington Independent, 5 June 1850. Courtesy of Papers Past.
Wellington Independent. 5 June 1850. Source: Papers Past.

Tulips in Rotorua

When Governor-General, Sir Cyril Newall and Lady Newall visited Rotorua in October 1941 Lady Newell was presented a bouquet of tulips by the Mayoress.

Rotorua has always had great displays of tulips blooming around the inner city, Government Gardens, and Kuirau Park.

Tulips in Kuirau Park. Source: Rotorua Photo News, Oct 24, 1970.


Government Gardens opening day of croquet season. Source: Rotorua Photo News, Dec 14 1963


Rotorua hosted a Tulip Festival in 2014. The event was hosted annually for another 3 years. The festival saw over 100,000 tulips planted throughout the city and series of public events held.

Below are a selection of photos from the Rotorua Tulip Festival. To see more visit the library to see our September 2020 display.

Photo: Alison Leigh


Photo: Rachael Reid

Photo: Rachael Reid

Photo: Rachael Reid

Photo: Alison Leigh


This blog was written by Graeme. With thanks to the Rotorua Library Heritage Collections and Archives. Also thank you to Abigail Hartevelt, Alison Leigh, Dave Moulden, Kowhai Epapara, Kathy Nicholls, Rachael Reid (thecuriouskiwi.co.nz), and Trish Brown.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Family History Month 2020

The Kusabs family of Rotorua

August is known as Family History Month so this year I thought, why not select a family that had deep and wide connections in Rotorua. I'd noted the Kusab building on the corner of Arawa and Tutanakei Street, and of course the beautiful big house at the top of Fenton Street, once the Landmark Restaurant, that had connections to the Kusabs family. Then there are the street names, Kusabs, Edmund, Nairn, etc. So I began searching and looking to see what I could uncover about this family. And isn't that the way it is with even your own family research - certain things jump out at you, and then it draws you on. My apologies to the present day Kusabs family members for any mistakes and gaps, and thanks to Andrew Kusabs who filled in some of my gaps and provided interesting snippets of the family. So, let's begin our journey back in the 1800s. 

I'm starting with Henry and Emily Kusabs. Born in the 1830's, Henry Edmund Kusabs was from Eastern Prussia. Part of the German Navy, Henry traveled to China where he left the navy and sometime in 1858 came to New Zealand. Naturalised in 1863, for some years he was involved in coastal shipping. Henry settled in Ohaupo where he milked 50 cows and established sawmills where he processed local trees and sold the timber. He was involved in local body matters, business, education and the Anglican Church. 

Article supplied by Andrew Kusabs


His wife, Emily Prentice came to New Zealand with Bishop Selwyn. Whether to be governess to his children, or to teach at the school he established, I'm not sure. They met at the Cathedral, fell in love and eventually married. When she and Henry moved to Ohaupo, she taught her sons and other local children in her home. Eventually a school was built and she was appointed the head teacher.

Photo from Winds of change: a history of the European settlement of 
 Ohaupo by Valerie Millington for the Ohaupo School 125th Jubilee Committee


All the books I checked talked about the three sons they had, George Arthur, Andrew Ernest and Charles Edmund.  However, in the Historic Birth, Death and marriage records, I discovered the birth of a fourth son, born between Andrew and Charles, Michael Herbert. He died of tetanus aged 7. Then I discovered a fifth son, Frederick William, who died as a three year old.

Waikato Times 18 January 2014

Sons Andrew Ernest and Charles Edmund leased land in Mamaku where they had a saw-milling business. However, by 1901 the company had been sold with the tramway being sold in 1905. A timber yard was established in Hinemoa Street for genuine dry land timber. Henry and Emily followed their sons to Rotorua in about 1905.

Hot Lakes Chronicle, 13 November 1895, p 3
Papers Past

George Arthur, an accountant, married Phoebe Emmeline Hardwick had 3 daughters, and eventually moved to Auckland. One of his daughters, Lillian, married an American serviceman and moved to the States. When she died another daughter, Phyllis, went to the States and brought the children back to New Zealand where she raised them.

Andrew Ernest, timber merchant, married Lucy Ngamihi Dansey, daughter of Roger Delamere Dansey, who was the postmaster during the Tarawera eruption, 1886. When they married in 1898 Andrew presented Lucy with Moeranga Villa in Pukaki Street as a wedding dowry.  This building was added on to overtime, passing out of the family and eventually becoming the Regent Hotel.

Regent Hotel (original Kusabs house) north east corner Rangiuru/Pukaki streets, circa 1940,
Photographer unknown, Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (CP-2729) 

Unfortunately Lucy died in 1906. leaving two young boys, Roger and William (Billy). Andrew later remarried, Louisa Lillian Phipps who managed the tea rooms in the Government Gardens, and they had another son, Samuel. It was Andrew who built the Kusabs building on the corner of Tutanekai and Arawa Street. Andrew also owned a launch business, the Rotorua Oil Launch Company. 

Kusabs Building on corner of Tutanekai and Arawa Streets


Photo of launch on Lake Rotorua early 1900's, supplied by Andrew Kusabs

Charles Kusabs married Cora Amelia Penn, and they had one son. After Cora died, Charles married a widow, Mrs Dorothea Nairn (where Nairn Street comes from). Charles moved into the car business. He ran tours, taking tourists around the Hot Lakes district and also owned a garage. His son Arthur was one of his drivers and eventually took over the business. Charles was also responsible for building the beautiful house at the top of Fenton Street. His love of golf drove him to be involved in the establishment of the Golf Course, where he was practicing on the day he died. 

Charles Kusabs, wife Cora and son Prentice in car outside their house, south east
corner Fenton and Meade streets, circa 1906, photographer unknown, Rotoura
Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa (CP-2729)

During 1918 Prentice Arthur trained as a pilot but he did not go overseas. He expanded the car tourism business to include buses running from Rotorua to Opotiki.  Arthur, went on to become the Mayor of Rotorua during the war years, 1942-43.

Arthur Kusabs and mates. Arthur sitting on left side of plane
Photograph supplied by Andrew Kusabs




Rotorua Borough Council, 1946, Panora Studio (Moore & Thompson), 
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa(OP-6426)

Thank you for reading this brief blog about an early Rotorua family. I hope you'll come into the library, and visit the 2nd floor where we have a display on the Kusabs family, including a family tree which I know is incomplete. However, family stories are always growing, often waiting for another member to provide a link.  We also hope you will be able to attend some of our Family History Events during the month of August.

With thanks to Papers Past, Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa, Peggy Allen, Bryon Somervel and the Don Stafford Collection. Many thanks to Andrew and Hazel Kusabs for sharing some family stories and photographs with me. 

Written by Trish

Friday, 3 July 2020

Norma Mae Evans: Through the Decades

Norma and Bob Evans: Early Settlers of Rotomahana

Norma, and her husband Bob, arrived in the Rotorua area in 1955, from Kurow, North Otago, where they settled on a farm in Rotomahana.  The farm was a returned servicemen’s settlement. In Norma’s own words “Everyone worked very hard, coped with the mud, the deficiencies and lived on £7 per week.” 

Each dairy unit consisted of about 120 acres and 60 cows, the units had a ‘part house’ a shed and a walk through cow shed.   Norma describes the ‘part house’ they arrived at, ‘they consisted of one large and one small bedroom, a living room, kitchen and a bathroom come wash-house”  The first thing they bought on arrival was a pair of gumboots for all six of them!
They were to farm there for 27 years. Husband, Bob, was a farmer when they married in 1946, but Norma was a town girl, she much adjusting to do!


:Rerewhakaaitu 21st Jubilee Committee, 12th July 1975. Page 14

In Norma’s book ‘Rotomahana: Returned Servicemen’s farm settlement 1953, 1954, 1955’ published 2012, she gives a history of the area both the physical and the community of people that formed those early years. There are photographs that show what they arrived to and how they developed the ‘farm’ and their family grew up. Norma also recalls the early days of the Rotomahana WDFF, in which she was an active member, and in the 1960s, president. 

During her time in the district Norma was also involved in other community events and organisations, these being: the Rerewhakaaitu Youth Club started by Norma and Triss Hill; the Co-ordination Committee where she persuaded the Education Department to provide educational ‘day classes’ for rural women out in the Rotomahana, Lake Okaro area; Norma was on school, hall and church committees;  Anti-Litter Committee; Civil Defence; Road Safety Committee; A&P Association and in the 1980s was a Lakes Inspector.  

From : Rotomahana: returned servicemen’s farm settlement, 1953, 1954, 1955.
Written by Norma Evans

In 1981 Norma and Bob restored the ‘Hickey’s Flat farm cottage’ it was a cottage constructed of Kauri, and nearly 70 years old. This cottage they donated to the Te Amorangi Museum c.1981 and thus Evansville came into being. Norma donated much of her collection of memorabilia and reminiscences to the Museum and formed a long relationship with the trust.
Sadly, Norma was to lose ‘her dear Bob’ in 1984.  Norma wrote his biography and published it in 1998.

Norma has documented her life and many life experiences in 3 books entitled “Oh dear me” and a biographical publication on her parents.  In 2012 she wrote ‘Rotomahana: returned servicemen’s farm settlement’ and in 2016 published Rotomahana mud: farming it, coping with it, living on it, 1955”

In 1988 Norma was awarded for “a lifetime’s commitment to people” by the Rotorua North Rotary Club. She received a Service Award, presented by Grahame Hall.

In 1993, Norma was awarded a “Women’s Suffrage Award” and in 1997 she was awarded an M.N.Z.M. New Zealand Order of Merit, for her community work.

In 1995, Norma was awarded a Rotorua District Council Community Award.

But of course Norma did not stop there with her contributions to her community,  continuing…


Norma is pictured here with Council and Library staff and two of her daughters in 2010.

Norma donated her memoirs and some of her collection to the Rotorua Library, for which we are very grateful. She also donated much to the Te Amorangi Museum and the Rotorua Museum. 

Here Norma is at the Rotorua Library to launch her book on Rotomahana, c.2012

This is Norma on her 90th Birthday, at her final residence
Cantabria Home and Hospital.
Norma died on 18 April 2017. Wife of Bob. Mother and mother-in-law of Janice and Rob, Eleanor, Annette and Sandra.

To read her obituary click here


With thanks to The Rotorua Daily Post and Rotorua Library Heritage Collections for this blog post