Thursday, 27 July 2017

Rotorua : our social history

Rotorua : Our Social Side 

Rotorua has from early in our history been a very social place, a place to visit but also a place to belong. 

Our Library has a collection of newsletters from clubs and organisations, the oldest of these being "The Waybill" Newsletter of the Rotorua Model Railway Club 1967-1969. Our earliest Rotorua Who's Who was published in 1961 and lists clubs and associations with contact information. 

The Rotorua Model Railway Club first appears in the 1964 edition.   This club still exists today and is a popular hobby for many.
This Rotorua Who's Who is available to peruse in the Heritage & Research Area.
Library has all copies for 1961-1988.

Another early enthusiasts club was the Rotorua Car Club, our sources show that this club goes back to 1957, but it may have been earlier.  
When did the club first begin? What are your memories and do you have photographs to share?

Air Scouts at opening of new Rotorua Airport 1964.
Published in Rotorua Photo News, Oct 24th edition, Photographer Michael Burton.

Rotorua Library has a Community Online Archive called Kete Rotorua, we would love to hear from anyone who was a member of a club that still exists today and ones that no longer exist, we would like to here from you too!     Join Kete Rotorua today and add to Rotorua's social history.

Rotorua's new Masonic Lodge in Rotorua Photo News Oct 23 1965 p.55 

Mobile Library outside the Fenton Street Library housed on
the ground floor of the Masonic Lodge 1987

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Rotorua's Agricultural Heritage

Rotorua Agricultural, Pastoral and Industrial Association.

This awesome association was formed out of  a suggestion and enthusiasm for all things farming and agricultural by Rotorua's Mr. T. H. Sloane in 1909, he was at that time a member of the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce. The Association was duly formed and the first summer show was held in February 1910 at the Lake Front, then known as Marine Parade.  The first show was such a success they continued with annual summer shows moving to Arawa Park as the preferred location.

Their fourth show was rained out and it was decided after the committee meeting they did not have enough money to continue and Mr Sloane had to step in again and along with Mr J. Banks to re-energise local enthusiasm and competitive spirit. Thus in 1917 a summer show was successfully held.

In 1923 their first Winter Show was held and was successful enough that these shows also started being an annual event.   Excerpt from Don Stafford File "Rotorua Motor Transport Co. building had been available for the Winter Show Exhibition, but room was not there to provide space for efficient display of exhibits or to provide the amusement attractions necessary to draw public attendance"

In 1930 the Rotorua A&P Assn. ran a joint event with Dannevirke A&P Assn. to raise funds for a dedicated building for the summer and winter shows.  This was an 'Art Union' event. Following this Mr E. La Trobe Hill (Rotorua Architect) was given the go ahead to prepare plans & specifications for our new facility. This was built on Old Taupo Road and cost £2,900.

The A&P Grounds are between Uta Street and the Utuhina Stream.
This  copy of  the 1935 Map is owned by Rotorua Library, copyright belongs to Wises Maps.
Rotorua Library would welcome any memories and photographs of this site and shows held there.  Please Email :

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Business in Rotorua : Timber Mills

Early Timber Mills c.1888-1915.

Book Review : Tall trees & tramways / by Bryon Somervell c2011.

Mr Somervell, local Rotorua resident until his death in 2013, wrote this book about the early mills of Mamaku, Rotoiti, Ngatira, Oropi, Te Whaiti, Urewera, Maungapohatu, Pukareao and Reporoa-Rerewhakaaitu, and the tram-ways built to transport the timber to sale yards.

Most of these mills are no longer in business, but in their heyday when native trees were plentiful, the owners employed many men in various jobs.  The earliest mill belonged to the Steele brothers who were able to purchase leases, from the government railways owners, of bush land in what is known as Mamaku, in 1888. The brothers continued in business until 1954, owning some land also in Tutanekai Street which bordered Amohia & Eruera Streets, of Rotorua where they sold the timber, built an Assembly Hall and a stately home.   Other early pioneers in this industry were the Kusabs brothers, A.W. Roe & Co., Arahiwi Timber Co., and a number of smaller mills.   The author has researched widely and in depth to bring us this fascinating look at Rotorua history and the founding industry that continues to this day.   Illustrated throughout with photographs and maps.

Steele's Assembly Hall, Tutanekai Street. Original photograph owned by Rotorua Museum