Friday, 11 October 2019

Rotorua Mile Stones & random news events recorded in Rotorua and other NZ Newspapers c1889-1980.

Rotorua as seen in the News

October 1889 & 1890 Bay of Plenty Times (BPT)

Local talks and negotiations with Government continue as they seek to purchase the new Town.  See the Fenton Agreement.

BPT 12 October 1891: The Town Board offers a £5 reward for information on the person or persons who destroyed recently planted willow trees on the Esplanade.

BPT 26 Oct 1891: Many applications are being received for business and residential sections in the new Town. Minister of Lands assures them he will arrange matters to the gratification of the applicants.

BPT 26 Oct 1894: An Auckland builder W.H. Holman’s tender to build the Rotorua Court House is accepted.

Hot Lakes Chronicle 2 October 1895 : 
 ‘The Town Board calls for tenders for the formation of Pukuatua & Hinemoa Streets between Fenton and Tutanekai Streets, and for grubbing the extension of Hinemoa Street’

 ‘Town Board has estimated that the cost of water pipes to be extended along Tutanekai and various cross-streets would cost £972 and a further sum of £500 would be required to extend the Postmaster’s Bath’

‘Stray cattle & horses might still be seen at large about the streets, in spite of the ‘stringent’ instructions to the Poundkeeper. He recently manifested his zeal in impounding the [Town Board] chairman and secretary’s horses and it was gratifying to see that he showed not fear nor favour’

‘Mr Dansey proposed a ‘Fire Brigade’ for the town and asks for funding from the Town Board. The Chairman, Mr Malfroy, said “that in the meantime it was only a moral support that could be given, but he believed that in a measure now before the House [Parliament], power would be given whereby the Board could aid them financially.”   Mr Corlett one of a deputation for the Fire Brigade, stated that some work had already begun to form a Brigade and would like assistance from the Board in “obtaining a site for a fire station in the new town” in the conversation that ensued, it was suggested that there would be plenty of room in the Courthouse enclosure and it was not likely that the Dept. of Justice would make any objection’ [This did eventually occur in c1905 after the Grand Hotel burned to the ground on October 24th 1904] 

Fire brigade outside station, Haupapa Street, Rotorua; Circa 1921; OP-864
Owner of Photograph : Rotorua Museum 

Hot Lakes Chronicle 7 Oct 1896 the Local news includes the following:

‘The Native Land Court has been engaged during the week in dealing with succession orders, and the partition of the Paeroa Block, Waiotapu. The Horohoro cases will be taken on the 15th.’

‘The Whakatane-Te Teko road is now advanced to within five miles of the Tarawera River. The construction party is now working about two miles to the westward of Rotorua and Rotoiti-paku, between which lakes the road will pass’

‘The highly mineralised atmosphere in this locality has a most deleterious effect on the delicate mechanism of watches and enquiries are frequently made as to which watch is best adapted to withstand the sulphur fumes. Mr Kohn a watchmaker of Auckland… supplies a particular make of stem-winding watches… which are warrented impervious to the influences in question’   

‘The Prospecting Association held a meeting to receive reports from the prospectors who have been at work at Horohoro and in the neighbourhood of Tapuaeharuru on Lake Rotoiti. In regard to the former a Mr Macdonald stated that he had found nothing which would indicate the presence of gold.’

‘A highly successful tea and social took place in the Schoolhouse on Wednesday evening last in aid of the funds for the erection of the Presbyterian church’

In the Hot Lakes Chronicle 21 Oct 1896 an article appeared on ‘Work at Whakarewarewa’

The Geyser Area at Whakarewarewa as surveyed by Mr Baber, work had already begun and further work planned to open up the area by road and footpaths. The article mentions a rickety bridge by which access is currently gained to the area and it was expected that a new bridge, ‘strong and wide enough for vehicular traffic’ would be built. The article goes on to say ‘In regard to Pohutu, Mr Malfroy informed us [the people in this entourage] that he intends to do something which will cause it to play regularly every day at a certain hour.’

In the Hot Lakes Chronicle 28th October 1896 a report was published outlining the Library and Reading Room Annual Report.

One of the income items was listed as ‘Sales of Waste Paper’ and they received a sum of £1 and 8 pence.

The listed expenses included Newspapers, Magazines, Kerosene, Insurance, concerts expenses, coal, solicitor’s fee’s and stamps. This all came to the grand sum of £59.  The Library and Reading Room at this time was in a small building next to the Comet Store, as seen in a photo published in our October 2018 blog post.

Auckland Star 3 October 1912: Lands for selection ‘Certain areas of town and village will be offered for sale or lease by public auction by the Crown Lands Department at the Assembly Hall…the greater portion of the land is situated in the town and suburbs of Rotorua.’

Lyttelton Times 7 November 1914: Rotorua Tenures Commission formed. “It has been ascertained that under the ‘Thermal Springs Act, 1881 there were 386 leases’ a further 429 leases were issued under subsequent acts in 1892 and 1908… the ‘Commissioners are of the opinion that it would be in the interests of  the State that any holder of leasehold Crown lands other than the occupiers of the Education Reserve desiring to obtain freehold should be afforded the opportunity’

Rotorua Chronicle 9th October 1920: Rotorua Town Lands Act is passed. 

Evening Star 31st October 1922: Rotorua Borough Act is passed, this enables the first Councillors and Mayor of Rotorua to be elected. This also is when the Tourist Department ceases to administer the affairs of the town.

Rotorua Morning Post 14th October 1937: The First State Houses are built (next to Council Housing Project)

Rotorua Morning Post 14th October 1940: The new Library was officially opened (in the Municipal Building)

Rotorua Morning Post 5th October 1942 : The avenue of Gum trees lining both sides of Fenton Street are to be felled because the Electricity Dept. says they are too tall and are encroaching on the lines.

Rotorua Morning Post 29th October 1945: The Dedication of the Bell Shrine at Ohinemutu takes place. This is a memorial to Mr Tai Mitchell.

Rotorua Post 11th October 1955: Mr Ed Hillary is in town to raise funds for his NZ Team to Antarctica.

Rotorua Post 13th October 1956: The Rotorua branch of the National Council of Women is inaugurated.

Daily Post 3rd October 1964: The new Rotorua Airport is officially opened.

Daily Post 14th October 1966: The premier of Howard Morrison’s film “Don’t let it get to you” is shown.

Daily Post 4th October 1967: Alfred Hitchcock visits Rotorua.

Daily Post 13th October 1969: The new Kiwanis Club receives their Charter.

Daily Post 6th October 1971: The Rotorua Association of Paraplegic and Disabled Persons is formed.

Daily Post 15th October 1973: The Rotorua Supreme Court is officially opened by the Chief Justice of New Zealand Sir Richard Wild.

Daily Post 3rd October 1978: The Citizen’s Advice Bureau officially opens in Arawa Street, with a trained volunteer staff of 44. They will be open 6 days a week.

Daily Post 1st October 1980: The Ritz Hall on the Cnr of Fenton & Amohau Streets is demolished.

This Blog Post by Alison with thanks to Papers Past for access to the online copies of the Hot Lakes Chronicle and other New Zealand Newspapers, Rotorua Museum and the Rotorua Library Don Stafford Collection.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Plane events in Rotorua in Octobers past

This week's blog topic is quirky. I began looking for events that had happened in October over the decades and discovered three separate incidents involving aircraft. The first snippet which I found in Don Stafford's chronology stated Aeroplane crashes on Fenton Street. That piqued my interest...


What's interesting is the way the 1941 headline is structured giving information in pieces as the image below shows.

Rotorua Morning Post 20 October 1941, p 4

So what happened? First of all, the plane was a Moth bi-plane owned by the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Aero Club. Apparently, when the petrol tap was checked, it was turned past on, to the off position so as the aircraft took off the petrol flow to the engine failed. The pilot, Mr H. Boucher, having lifted off the runway, tried to land on a vacant section over the road from the aerodrome but fell short. So when he landed he caught part of the road edge, which wrenched the undercarriage off. Both the pilot, Mr Boucher and his passenger, Mr E. Shaw were able to extricate themselves without much difficulty the newspaper stated.


The headline in 1965 is much more sobering.

Daily Post 2 October 1965, p 1

The light plane, a two-seater Victa air tourer, clipped high tension power lines at about 10.15 am and crashed in shrub very near to Western Heights High School. As in the 1941 incident, the plane belonged to the Rotorua Aero Club.

The fuselage of the plan where it ended up with wings broken off
. Daily Post 2 October 1965 p 1

The engine was thrown clear of the wreckage.
 Daily Post 2 October 1965, p 1.

Within minutes of the crash nearby residents, ambulance and fire brigade staff were on the scene. The pilot, John Murdoch was pulled from the plane but was dead on arrival at Rotorua Hospital.

John Murdoch (39)  had only been in Rotorua for seven weeks, and was a Rotorua radio announcer. He had come to Rotorua from North Rhodesia where he had also been involved in broadcasting. During WW2 he had served with the Royal Air Force. The N.Z.B.C. team at Rotorua had been testing an idea of doing a programme from the air. It is believed Mr Murdoch, the only staff member to have a pilot's license, was testing this out at the time of the crash.

The crash into the power lines caused a power outage all over the city. Homes as far south as Reporoa and as far north as Mamaku were affected for about eight hours.


The final event is a bit bizarre and the headline says it all!

Daily Post 2 October  1974, p 1

A helicopter flying over Mt Ngongotaha was hit on a rotor blade by a high velocity object, possibly a bullet. The Hughes 500 helicopter was operated by Wishart Helicopters Ltd. When the rotar blade was initially inspected a 10c piece sized gash was found on the surface, not something that would have been done by a stone. A scientific examination would need to be undertaken to establish the cause of the damage according to Detective Sergeant D.W.I. Beck, who was in charge of the inquiry.

This blog was written by Trish. Thanks to Don Stafford Collection and the Daily Post.

Friday, 27 September 2019

An Adventure with a Purpose

I took part in a programme in 2013-2014 that brought falcons into the CBD of Rotorua, New Zealand. The programme was called 'On the Wing' an urban release of the endemic New Zealand Falcon or karearea. I was so excited to play a part in protecting this majestic creature. I am going to use the word karearea in this post, because it sounds beautiful when pronounced in Maori.

Tama Snacking
Image Supplied

In 2013 we had a bit of training, and this was done as a group at the Rotorua Museum. One of the speakers at that training session was Debbie Stewart, the director of Wingspan, and I was amazed at her dedication to the conservation of birds of prey in New Zealand. The roster was explained and I chose the first shift of the day from 6.00 to 8.00am every Thursday. At each shift we were paired up with another person. Our tasks were to put food out for the karearea on the feeding platforms, fill in data sheets and monitor the karearea.

Maureen & Hatupatu
Image supplied

I liked monitoring the birds. My partner and I would walk around the Government Gardens and sometimes beyond, armed with an aerial, a telemetry receiver, a pair of binoculars, a camera and data sheets. During this time (often half in darkness) we were able to see the birds in action. At that time of the morning there wasn't a great deal of movement, and often it came from the top of the museum. It was one of the best times of the day to take photos. I felt like David Attenborough.

Image supplied

At first the karearea didn't have names and we called them by the colour of the bands on their legs, orange (who was later called Te Rangi Rere I Waho aka Maureen), green (Tamatekapua aka Tama) and white (Hatupatu).

Maureen Snacking
Image supplied

The karearea found it hard to get from the ground back up to the roof of the museum when they were learning to fly, but they would try again and again until they did. They would fly back up in stages, from the ground to a low window ledge, then to a higher window ledge, to a turrett and over to their box.

Image supplied

One particular time, I was standing in front of the museum when two of the karearea flew past me at about the level of my knees. It was amazing. They flew by so closely and quickly that I could feel the wind displacement as they beat their wings. They fly so close to the ground and their wing beat is fast. They play quite a bit and once they looked like they were playing a game similar to the human game of tag.

Maureen and Hatupatu Hanging Out
Image supplied

Their favourite places are playing on the bowling green, sitting in the palm trees in front of the museum and watching from the trees at the back of the museum and in front of the nursery.

Keeping Watch
Image supplied

This is the most fascinating project I have been involved in. Watching these awesome creatures develop and grow has been a privilege.

Hatupatu and Maureen on one of the Feeding Platforms
Image supplied

This post was written by Ani Sharland

Friday, 20 September 2019

Operation Nest Egg at Rainbow Springs

In 1995 Rainbow and Fairy Springs joined the Operation Nest Egg programme, which is designed to protect and grow the kiwi population. Kiwi eggs and chicks are removed from the wild by Department of Conservation staff and are hatched and/or raised in captivity until they are big enough to fend for themselves.

The first egg came to Rainbow Springs from the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary in November 1995.

The egg hatched on 2nd January 1996 and was named Te Aukaha. The chick was released on 20th January 1997.

About 95 percent of newly hatched chicks do no survive in the wild due to attacks from predators, which is why the work carried out by Operation Nest Egg is crucial.

Carole Harvey with new kiwi chick. Source: Rotorua Daily Post, Friday 14 December 2001, p. 3. Photographer: Tracey Scott

Hatching an egg

Firstly it is important to remove the egg at the right time. If the egg is collected too soon it may not hatch. Eggs should be at least 25 days old. If the egg is less than 10 days old, it has only a 1 percent chance of hatching. If the egg is between 10 and 20 days old the chance of a successful hatching is 20 percent. If the the egg is 30 days old, success is 75 percent, and by 70 days the chance of hatching is 90 percent.

The issue though is that if the egg is left too late predators or environment factors, such as flooding may have got the egg, which is why timing is so important.

Once collected the eggs are artificially incubated and once hatched the chicks are hand-raised. The chick spend approximately 3 weeks indoors in a brooder box before being placed in an outdoor enclosure that resembles a forest environment. At this point the kiwi will begin to learn to look after themselves.

Kiwis were usually returned to the wild after 6 to 10 months when they weighed around 1.2 kg. Once a chick reaches 1 kg they are usually large enough to defend themselves against predators.

Predator - a stoat on display at Rotorua Library, September 2019

A success story

Last year the 1800th kiwi chick hatched at Rainbow Springs was born on October 6th. There have been many success stories over the years.

In 2004, Kiwi Encounter opened at Rainbow Springs, which was an extension of the Operation Nest Egg Programme. Today the National Kiwi Hatchery operates at Rainbow Springs, it is the largest kiwi hatching facility in New Zealand.

Click here to learn more about the National Kiwi Hatchery located at Rainbow Springs.

To learn more about the Operation Nest Egg programme visit the Kiwis for Kiwi website.

This post was written by Graeme. Thanks to National Kiwi Hatchery, Kiwis for kiwi (The Kiwi Trust), and the Rotorua Daily Post.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Conservation Week series #2 featuring the North Island Kokako

Kaharoa Kokako Trust  (KKT) 1996-

The trust was initiated by Kaharoa residents, Peter Davey and Rachel Vellinga after learning of the declining population of Kokako in the area. Ecologist Carmel Richardson studied the Kaharoa Conservation Area, also known as Aislabie’s Block, Rotoehu and Mapara on contract from Dept. of Conservation.  Her work showed a marked decline in Kokako numbers due to introduced predators.

A Dept. of Conservation bid for funding to restart management in the area failed, this led to Peter and Rachel investigating options to assist. A group of interested people put together a proposal for volunteers to carry out pest control. This group decided to form a charitable trust as a guarantee that any donations would be used wisely and would be tax deductible. Thus the Kaharoa Kokako Trust was born.

Aislabie’s block is accessed off Kapukapu Road, via Kaharoa Road, it is bounded by three streams.   It was purchased by the Crown in 1984 to set aside as a reserve.  A Research by Management Experiment took place between 1990-1997 of Kokako populations at Kaharoa, Rotoehu and Mapara.

Predator control took place for 3 years at Kaharoa, no controls in Rotoehu then the pest controls were rotated for a further 3 years, and during this time the Mapara Block was not touched.  The study showed that the introduced predators of rats and possums were the greatest threat to the Kokako birds in these areas.  Pest eradication was proven to be the best method of ensuring Kokako do not become extinct in the region.

The KKT then sought funding to purchase 130 bait stations which volunteers would place throughout the Kaharoa Reserve. Monitoring of the bait stations would be handled jointly by volunteers and DoC workers. 

Free Shutterstock Photo from Pixabay

Highlights of the next 20 years : 
  • In 1997 180 Bait stations are distributed throughout Kaharoa Reserve with help from Department of Conservation (DoC).
  • Trustees for the KKT were appointed. A Trust Deed was formalised and sponsorship sought.
  • Funding is sourced from a State Insurance funding pool. A Census of  the Kokako population shows encouraging results.
  • New tracks are constructed to extend the area for the bait network.  
  • DoC gets funding towards an adult bird census in the reserve.
  • Trust thanks major sponsors Fletcher Challenge Forests Ltd. Environment Bay of Plenty (EBOP) , J & K Mathis, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust (RECT) , DoC through a Threatened Species Trust.
  • A new area added to the control programme at Onaia Ecological Area.
  • A shelter & Interpretation panels are installed at the end of Kapukapu Road.
  • Kokako chicks were translocated from Kaharoa to the Hamilton Zoo for rearing and from there released on Maumia (Lady Alice Island) a predator free island. 
  • A five year plan is formalised with help from DoC.
  • In 2005 the Trust wins an award at the 2nd Annual Bay of Plenty DoC environment awards.
  • In 2006 the Trust wins awards from the Rotorua District Council Community Awards, Trustpower spirit of Rotorua Award and a Green Ribbon Award.
  • More funding is received from the EBOP Environment Enhancement Fund. A new census of adult birds is planned.
  • In 2007 the census shows a substantial increase in adult bird numbers in the Kaharoa Reserve.
  • 10 Years Anniversary of the Trust is celebrated.
  • Kokako Nest Egg investment fund is set up to manage fund raising efforts.
  • Translocation of Kokako to Mokoia Island is planned.
  • A Kokako banner is installed opposite the police station on Fenton Street. 
  • In 2008 DoC agrees to handle all training for Controlled Substances Licences so that volunteers can handle the bait’s
  • Funding is received with gratitude from the ‘Birdlife International’ fund and a grant from the NZ  Royal Forest and Bird Soc.
  • A new gazebo is funded for the Trust by RECT. Local business Essential Nutrition Ltd offers bags of fertiliser VEGEMIN for a fundraiser.
  • A 4x4 Bike is loaned to the Trust from DoC making access into the reserve easier.
  • After 10 years work in the Kaharoa Reserve a survey of bordering private properties shows the Kokako are moving into those areas as well.  The Trust willingly works with property owners to manage pest control.
  • Funding from the Lion Foundation is received which enables the Trust to employ a pest control contractor to work in the Onaia East Block.
  • Trust thanks regular sponsors and new sponsors First Sovereign Trust and Epro Ltd.
  • Conservation Minister, Mrs Steve Chadwick visits the reserve. A special bush walk & BBQ is held to celebrate the 10th Year of the Trust and it’s achievements.
  • New easy to follow GPS maps of the tracks and bait lines, is done by GIS expert Damien Jones with thanks to First Sovereign Trust for the funding.
  • P.F. Olsen removes pines in the area to allow the native bush to regenerate.
  • DoC translocated Kaharoa Kokako to Fiordland’s Secretary Island in an effort to restore Kokako to the South Island. Kokako have been extinct there for many years.
  • Kaharoa School students provide Weta Motels in the reserve; this is a special project which will benefit the ecosystem and give an indication of how it is functioning.
  • In 2010 the national Kokako Recovery Group willingly offer advice on pest eradication measures that have proved successful elsewhere in NZ.
  • Trust wins the Supreme Award in The Green Ribbon Awards round in 2010.
  • Kokako are translocated to the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust from both Kaharoa and Rotoehu populations.
  • Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith makes time to visit the Kaharoa Reserve.
  • In 2011 a new supporter Blacktop Construction Ltd provides gravel for track maintenance.
  • RECT funds a Kokako Display at the Kaharoa School. A giant Kokako Nest designed by Bruno Schlatter is installed with help from local families.
  • P.F. Olsen signs on as a major sponsor.
  • Call of the Kokako” a children’s book by Maria Gill is released.
  • Christchurch based clothing company Chalkydigits, designed a beautiful heart shaped Kokako badge from which the proceeds of the sales will be given to the Trust’s Kokako Nest Egg Fund. They raised $17,000 over the year.
  • Designer Sid Marsh crafts a Kokako image, to be printed on t-shirts for sale through the Trust.
  • A regional commendation is received from the TrustPower Awards, in the Heritage and Enviroment category.
  • Kokako continue to spread across the region and new populations have been sighted at a Mangorewa Private Bush Area.
  • The Trust launches a Facebook page.
  • Biosecurity managers from Regional Council’s across NZ make a visit to the Kaharoa Reserve.
  • HeliPro joins in the fight to save the Kokako.
  • A Kapukapu Reserve draft pest control initiative is mooted.
  • HeliResources a Murupara based business offers to deliver bait into the operation sites.
  • Rotorua YHA loyal supporters visit Kaharoa Reserve.
  • A new look website is designed for the Trust with thanks to P.F. Olsen, EBOP Regional Council and the designers Fineline Creative.
  • In 2014 a new census of the reserves begins. Local Sunrise Rotary Club donates to the cause.
  • In 2014 the national Conservation Week focuses on the Kokako and the efforts of locals with a display in the Rotorua Library and a Trustee Tim Day slot on MoreFM programme.
  • In 2016 the Trust celebrated the results of the latest Kokako census.
  • New Zealand’s new $50 note has the Kokako on it.
  • More Kaharoa birds are translocated to Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust. 

With thanks to the Rotorua Library, Community Newsletter Collection for the above information.
For more community news and group newsletters visit the Don Stafford Room Heritage Collection on the 2nd Floor.

For more information, recent updates, and opportunities to support the Kaharoa Kokako Trust go to their website here  There is also a useful and detailed article in the New Zealand Geographic magazine site here 

This blog post is by Alison.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Conservation Week 14 - 22 September 2019

History of Conservation Week

Conservation Week was originally launched by the New Zealand Scout Association in 1969. This was done with the goal of promoting interest in the environment and encouraging the public to be able to learn practical ways in which they could participate.

Later the Nature Conservation Council took over the campaigns with educational resources provided  by Post Office Savings Bank, Caltex Oil New Zealand and the Todd Foundation.

In 1987 the Department of Conservation was formed and they then took over the promotion of Conservation Week, working with groups, businesses and councils. Many poster, badges and bookmarks were produced over these years. See here for more information about the history of Conservation Week 

Community Events in Rotorua 

Kiwi aversion training for dogs 

This will be held at the Blue Lake, Saturday 14 September, 9-4, $25

Thanks to Department of Conservation and photographer Erin Patterson

Small efforts worthwhile results

Steve is restoring the native bush reserve behind his property at Millar Road, Lake Okareka, Saturday 14 September, 9-11.30

Let's get planting

Department of Conservation Office, 99 Sala Street, Monday 16, Tuesday 17 and Thursday 19 September, 8-3.30

Thanks to Department of Conservation

Sulphur Point Lakeside Clean-Up

Sudima Hotel, Wednesday 18 September 1 - 3 pm

Thanks to Sudima Hotel

Te Arawa Catfish Killas and Bay of Plenty Regional Council

A talk about the Arawa project to rid the lakes of catfish will be held at the Library, Thursday 19 September, 6.30-7.15 pm

Thanks to Abby Tozer and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Nocturnal by nature

Looking and listening for nocturnal creatures at Okere Falls Scenic Reserve Trout Pool Road, Saturday 14 September, 6.30-8.30 pm

Thanks to Department of Conservation and photographer Catherine Noble

Photo Competition

This is open to all living or studying in the Bay of Plenty. There are 3 categories; Scenery, NZ creatures and critters, and People in the outdoors

Thanks to Department of Conservation

Further details and reservation for any of the above events may be found here

Events in the Library


Displays in the Library

There will be displays in two areas of Te Akara Mauri, Rotorua Library. On the ground floor will be a display of endangered birds. and on the 2nd floor the display will consist of pests that threaten our native species of both birds and small animals.

This blog was written by Trish. With thanks to Department of Conservation,  Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Sudima Hotel.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Runaway Millionaires

Last night Runaway Millionaires screened on TVNZ 1. The Sunday Night Theatre telefeature told the true story of former Rotorua couple Leo Gao and Kara Hurring who fled the country after accidentally receiving a $10 million overdraft.

The TVNZ drama written by Pip Hall and directed by Danny Mulheron starred Australian actor George Zhao as Gao and Jess Sayer as Hurring. Joel Tobeck also starred as Rotorua Detective Inspector Mark Loper.

While the majority of the production was filmed in Auckland the cast and crew were in Rotorua last November shooting location scenes for the production.

Accidental millionaires

On April 19th 2009 Gao applied for an overdraft of $100,000 for his BP service station business, which was located on the corner of Old Taupo and Otonga Roads. Two days later a Westpac employee made an error with a decimal point providing an overdraft of $10 million.

Between April 24th and May 4th funds totalling $6.7 million were withdrawn from the business account. Gao left New Zealand on April 29th and Hurring followed on May 3rd.

On May 5th Westpac learnt of their mistake. At the time Westpac was able to recover $2.9 million but around $3.8 million was missing. At the time of trial $3.3 million had not been recovered.

After the Rotorua Daily Post broke the story it was an event that received national and international media attention and spanned three years.

Rotorua Daily Post, Friday 22 May 2009, p. 1.

On February 25th 2011 Hurring returned to New Zealand voluntarily and was arrested at Auckland International Airport.

Gao was stopped in September 2011 by the Hong Kong border patrol when he tried to cross from mainland China to Hong Kong. He was arrested by members of Interpol. Gao did not oppose extradition and returned to New Zealand in December of that year.

In May 2012 Hurring plead not guilty to 25 counts of theft, three counts of attempting to dishonestly use a document and two counts of money laundering.

It took the jury less than an hour to find Hurring guilty of all charges after a 4 day trial at Rotorua District Court.

On June 12th Gao plead guilty to seven charges of theft.

On August 24th Gao was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison and Hurring served nine months home detention. Gao was released from prison after serving sixteen months.

Rotorua Daily Post, Saturday 19 May 2012, p. 1.

Rotorua Daily Post, Wednesday 13 June 2012, p. 5.

Rotorua Library staff member and former journalist Abigail Hartevelt broke the story for the Rotorua Daily Post. Abigail kindly shared her memories covering the story with us.

How did you first become aware of the story?
As a journalist and now a former journalist I can't possibly reveal my sources. I remember the first week or two after the story broke was absolutely crazy trying to get a story every day with a new angle.

When you first reported the story in May 2009 both Westpac and the Police were not forthcoming with information. How did this affect you and your colleagues reporting?
I guess as a journalist it was frustrating but they were there to do their jobs and we were there to do ours.

After the Rotorua Daily Post reported the story other media organisation would have descended on Rotorua. Can you describe this experience?
Descend on Rotorua they certainly did. Oh my word it was pretty full on but how could they not. Have you ever heard of anyone getting $10 million accidentally deposited into their bank account? This story attracted local, national and international media attention.

What were your memories of covering the court cases for Leo Gao and Kara Hurring?
I remember there was a lot of media. Media sat at the press bench but also in the public gallery and even the jury box during Leo Gao's court appearances. I might add there was no jury needed in Leo's case as he pleaded guilty to the charges. I remember having to go live to be interviewed on BBC World after the pair were sentenced and thinking I was going to be sick. I hate being on TV. I have been caught up in a number of media scrums and I remember nearly falling over a sandwich board outside the Pig and Whistle as we followed Kara Hurring during her trial. At least I didn't actually fall over like I did at the end of another high profile court case. But that's a whole other story.

The Editor of the Rotorua Daily Post published an editorial on the Saturday after the story broke leading with the line: 'It's the kind of story that Hollywood movies are made of.' Did you ever think that this story would make it to the screen?
I'm surprised it has taken this long to be made into a movie.

This blog post was written by Graeme. Thanks to Abigail Hartevelt and the Daily Post.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Recommended Reads - Family History Month 2019

I'm Adopted / by Alex Gilbert

Alex Gilbert was born in Arkhangelsk, Russia. At the age of two he was adopted from an orphanage by Janice and Mark Gilbert and brought to New Zealand.

This book tells of Alex's childhood growing up in Whangarei with his brother Andrei, who was also adopted at the same time. It focuses on Alex's decision to search for his birth parents and the process. He describes finally meeting them at the end of 2013.

He also covers other significant events in a young person's life, such as moving from small-town Whangarei to big-city Auckland, his grandfather's passing, his relationship and break-up with his girlfriend, and pursuing his career in the television industry.

The book also includes a section in the middle with colour photographs from Alex's childhood. At the back of the book there are photographs from his visits to Russia in 2013, 2015, and 2017, and from the I'm Adopted meet ups and events.

Alex writes with simple prose that is easy to read. It is as if he is speaking directly to the reader telling his story.

This book can be found on the 1st Floor,
Adult Non-Fiction at 762.734 GIL NZ.

This book review is written by Graeme.

Our tree leaves, Book 1: how to create a family treasure with a new and less complex approach / by Catherine Pacheco

This book can be found on the 2nd Floor,
Genealogy Lending at 920.1072 PAC
This interesting new book encourages the recording of stories and details of family members. Once upon a time, the family Bible recorded the births, deaths and marriages of a family but that happens less and less today.  This book helps those who have been gathering snippets of information from all over to begin transferring that information into files. The book contains templates, steps and encouragement to put all the information into a logical format.

This book review written by Trish

This book can be found on the 2nd Floor,
Genealogy Lending at 929.1 SAS

Keeping chronicles: preserving history through written memorabilia / by Rosemary Sassoon.

This book highlights the importance of keeping letters, diaries, travel records, memoirs, professional or personal scrapbooks and more. 
The author writes in her introduction ‘genealogists trace the dates of their ancestors, the written trace, of itself, illuminates the character of past generations, as much as the letters, diaries and other lists chronicle their daily life’.

In keeping these items which may seem pointless to some family members, to others this is a link to the past for the elderly as their memories fade or disappear through illness. Diaries also give family an insight into why an ancestor did and said the things they did, often we wonder why a parent or grandparent says certain things or became a difficult person to deal with, maybe they were children during the Great War and lived through bomb raids or being shipped off to the countryside or worse to another country as those from England did.  

Handwriting also brings back a much loved, long dead relative as I discovered for myself recently when I found letters to my great grandmother from her mother. Those letters gave me an insight into life for my great great grandmother.  This means she is not just a name on the family tree, but a living breathing part of who I am.  

This book also has some great tips for what type of ephemera (newspaper cuttings, postcards, envelopes, travel records, maps, recipes etc.) to keep and how to preserve them for future generations.

For those who like to use scrap-booking techniques and those who want to keep stuff forever and those who would normally throw stuff away.

This book review written by Alison

This book can be found on the second
floor in the Rotorua Heritage Collection

Galvanised to succeed: a story of fortitude / Victoria Dansey, 1934

A story about Roger Delamere Dansey and his descendants. The story follows his arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand and the life he forges here. During his time in the armed and mounted constabulary he faced many challenges and taught himself to use the trigger of his carbine to produce morse code. He met his future wife Wikitoria, who saved his life. The story follows his descendants who also faced many challenges and faced them with fortitude. The story is moving, empathetic and gritty.

This book review is written by Ani

Friday, 23 August 2019

Family History & Ephemera

This post was written to illustrate and explain why I keep ephemera with my family history. I'm a librarian not a preservation specialist and some of the content of this post includes how I take care of my ephemera collection.

I enjoy writing my family history and illustrating certain parts of it with images and where I am able to, with ephemera because it adds interest for my children. For example, when they read a story that I wrote about my childhood and drinking Leed Lemonade as a treat, they have no idea what Leed Lemonade is. Yet those in my generation who remember Leed Lemonade, would know what the bottle looks like and any advertising material. When I added an advertising sticker & image of a bottle I had collected to the story, my children said, "Is that what it looked like?"

Leed Lemonade Bottle
Photograph by Ani Sharland

So, "Why would you keep ephemera with your family history?" Ephemera helps to illustrate and add another layer to a story behind a name on a family genealogical chart or a family tree. Material can also be quite eye-catching, as are these vintage cards that celebrate past events.

A collection of cards that celebrate past events
Photograph by Ani Sharland

Ephemera such as letters can also give details about a person that will confirm a date, place or event in that persons life. For example, my children have often asked about what I did as a young adult. Personal letters help to illustrate where I lived, who my friends were, where I worked and what I got up to. Letters also show the part that family played at certain stages of a person's life.

A collection of cards and letters
Photograph by Ani Sharland

Keeping ephemera does have it's challenges. Preservation and storage are just a couple of the issues that need to be considered when organising and storing ephemera. There are many ways to store ephemera where they will last longer and minimise any damage. First, I attach my ephemera for my family history with the story of a certain person. Some material such as letters and cards I put in envelopes and keep in a box with a journal or diary.

Box with diary and envelopes full of ephemera
Photograph by Ani Sharland

I will put smaller pieces of ephemera such as tickets, advertising stickers, receipts, brochures in custom-made pockets inside journals, diaries or scrapbooks.

An example of a scrapbook with pockets
Photograph by Ani Sharland

There are factors that contribute to paper based material deteriorating. Some of these factors include:
  • glue which turns brittle and yellows
  • sellotape which turns brittle and yellows
  • the quality of the paper that the material was printed on
  • the oils on your skin 

There are other formats that you can keep ephemera in that will last for longer. You can scan an item and create a digital file of it which will keep longer than in it's hard copy format. If you are more comfortable looking for and keeping information digitally, then maybe storing your digital files in an online space is an option.

From a diary with a pocket full of ephemera at the back
Photograph by Ani Sharland

There is a process of sorts that I follow when adding ephemera to a story. I start with a memory, then write the story and finally, add ephemera (from a single item to many items). Before starting I gather what ephemera I have on a person, and the amount of ephemera that I have gathered will determine the size of the container I store it in.  

Written by Ani Sharland

Friday, 16 August 2019

Interview with Alex Gilbert - author & founder, I'm Adopted

Alex Gilbert. Image courtesy of Alex Gilbert |

Sasha Alexander 'Alex' Gilbert, whose birth name was Gusovskoi Alexander Viktorovich, was born in Arkhangelsk, Russia and placed in a local orphanage. In 1994, at age two he was adopted by his New Zealand parents.

In 2013, Alex did a search for his birth parents using social media. He eventually found them and met his birth mother and father for the first time at the end of 2013. Since then Alex has formed I'm Adopted, an organisation that helps adoptees find their biological families, and connect with other adoptees for support and advice.

Alex has written two books My Russian Side (2014) and I'm Adopted (2018). He also produces a weekly podcast I'm Adopted: The Podcast.

Alex Gilbert signing his book I'm Adopted at Rotorua Library, 10 August 2019. Photo: Ani Sharland.

Rotorua Library Heritage and Research Specialist Graeme Cash spoke with Alex Gilbert about his search for his birth parents, publishing his story and forming I'm Adopted.

What led you to search for your birth parents?
I have always wanted to know about my birth parents in Russia. Growing up I have always had an interest in where I came from. My parents were always open and honest about it too with both my brother and I. It was never something that was a secret in our family. I am grateful for that. I wanted to do a search for them when I was 21. I felt like this would be a good time to do a search myself. I thought about doing a search back in High School which I did try, but I had no luck. The timing when I was 21 seemed to have worked perfectly with me.

How did you make contact with your birth parents?
At the start of 2013 I did some research on Russian social network websites, which I didn't really know about. After I pulled out my adoption documents, I was able to try and do a search. I managed to find information on my birth mother first. I found a contact of hers through a community group who had the same last name as hers. My birth mother herself doesn't use social media, but people who know her did and so I managed to get in touch with them. With my birth father I wasn't able to find information on him. I learnt later that he didn't know about me and the name on my adoption papers was not real. He only knew about me when I sent him a message for the first time when I did a search in 2013.

Can you talk about the use of social media and the Web as tools for one finding their birth parents?
For social media it is very useful. It's helpful with this day and age as there are contacts out there that might know someone. It is different for everyone of course, every story is different. With I'm Adopted its helpful because it's mostly run through social media. People that might want to do a search can reach out to the community or if they want to talk to other adoptees, they can also reach out. It's important for that. Social media and the internet plays a huge role.

Alex (far right) with his parents Mark and Janice Gilbert and brother Andrei (also adopted). Image courtesy of Alex Gilbert |

Can you describe the experience of meeting your birth parents for the first time?
I was extremely nervous. I got in touch with my birth parents at the start of 2013 to then going to Russia at the end of 2013. The year had a lot of planning involved and for me, I had never been back to Russia and so I didn't know what to expect. Meeting them for the first time was an incredible experience. I got to Moscow first, then driving to see my birth mother the next day. It all still feels like yesterday. We were both nervous about the entire meeting. Even though it was a lot of planning, it all went very fast. It was a life changing experience. Meeting my birth father was again another surreal experience. It was a special moment for me. He was soon meeting this son of his that he never knew existed. It changed his life and mine, not to forget his entire family.

How do you maintain contact and develop a relationship with your birth parents from New Zealand?
I don't keep in touch with my birth mother as much as I would like to, but I keep in contact all the time with my birth father. We use social media, phone call and skyping to keep in touch. It's incredible how much technology has improved over the last few years with communication. It has made things a lot faster in the way of reaching out to my birth family in Russia. I have also been learning the language as well as having friends who translate for me too which is useful.

Alex and his parents Janice and Mark Gilbert with his birth mother Tatiana and birth father Mihail. Image courtesy of Alex Gilbert | 

What inspired you to publish your story?
I had so much I wanted to write about from my story. A lot was all like a timeline in my head that I really wanted to put into a book. I wanted to write this book so that it can help others adopted or even parents who have adopted children themselves. Of course it talks about my own personal life and ups and downs that everyone gets from time to time. The book is me and its about my story of my adoption and how it really changed my life with meeting my birth parents to now creating I'm Adopted.

I'm Adopted (2018, Alex Gilbert)

Can you explain what the I'm Adopted project is and how it began?
In mid 2015 I wanted to create an online project that helps adopted people reach out to each other. Open a community online using social media so that we can all talk to each other with. It's all for anyone around the world who is adopted, inside their country or overseas, it's for all of us. I knew that if this project was around when I did my own search in 2013, I may have been able to prepare a little bit more before going to Russia. I didn't have a community like I'm Adopted around to reach out to. It's a support network and along with a beautiful community. People can share their stories or join private groups and reach out there. I also run a podcast weekly for the project that is published every Wednesday. It's overall an awesome project.

What have some of the challenges with running the project?
Where do I begin. I guess keeping it running is a big one. Keeping it going strong while I do have a full time job, I want to always keep helping with I'm Adopted. I enjoy doing what I do wit it but of course it's all my free time that I spend with it. But every moment is helping is important. I think it's most likely when I get the odd anonymous Facebook message from someone who is asking for my help but there is no information. I share the stories for people if they would like that or people can reach out to the group. Sometimes I also reach out to some of the contacts overseas who might be able to help specific people too. But it's a completely rewarding project and I would never change anything I have done with it. I am proud of what it has become.

Alex at first birthday celebration for I'm Adopted. Image courtesy of Alex Gilbert |

What has been the most rewarding moment for you?
The most rewarding moment is definitely when people reach out to me simply saying thank you. Or thank you to me for doing what I do. People who watch my YouTube channel reach out to me often, just thanking me. People have said that they have been able to find information with the help of I'm Adopted. I have a few adoption resources online that I have written that can help people with any searches that they might want to do. I have to keep the website and Facebook page running all the time, so I am always doing what I can with it. Overall I'm Adopted is a rewarding project.

Earlier this year you published a Russian version of your book I'm Adopted, can you tell me about that experience?
Back in 2017 I got to go to Russia to meet with an organisation in Moscow who help parents who have adopted children inside Russia. I know one of the organisations very well who actually let me to stay with their family in Moscow while I was there. I also revisited my orphanage for the first time at the end of 2018 (second time was at the end of 2018 for the gifts) too along with meeting the Children's Rights Minister in Moscow, who works with their President. I can say, it was a really productive visit to Russia. The organisation reached out to me who help parents and adopted teenagers when I got back from Russia. They asked if they could translate and publish my book inside Russia. It was more of a free giveaway for charities and organisations inside Russia, but overall, it was fully funded and printed. It was incredible. Took well over a year to plan, but seeing the finished translated version was something. I sent a signed thank you note to my birth mother with the book for them too.

Alex meeting Anna Kuznetsova, Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation. Image courtesy of  Alex Gilbert |

This year you have launched a podcast and currently have a TV show Reunited in development can you tell me about those projects.
I have always had an interest in podcasting and how that all works and so I wanted to create a Podcast for I'm Adopted. It's because with Spotify and music streaming services, it is a lot easier to create a podcast these days. I couldn't believe how easy it actually was. Of course I need to create the content, but I love what I do with this and so that was the least of my worries. It's called I'm Adopted: The Podcast. I interview adoptees and just talk about specific topics each week. It's an important podcast to listen to and what's great about Podcasts is, if you want to playback an old episode, you can at anytime!

For the TV show I can't talk too much about that unfortunately, but a small team of mine at work have been developing this new TV show that is based on the I'm Adopted project for awhile now and we will be starting production on it very soon. Something I would love to talk about more of course, but when we start the stories I can talk about that more.

What advice would you give to someone beginning their search for their birth parents?
Don't give up. Be patient and always prepared for anything. Be honest with your close friends and family and do it when you feel it's right in your heart. That is the advice I always give to those who want to search.

Alex speaking at Rotorua Library, 10 August 2019. Photo credit: Ani Sharland.

Alex Gilbert spoke at the library on Saturday 10th August 2019 as part of August Family History Month. A copy of his book I'm Adopted (now signed) can be found at 362.734 GIL NZ.

To learn more about Alex and I'm Adopted visit: