Few now likely know where the suburb of Victoria Park was in Devonport. Nevertheless, that name was well known a hundred years ago.
On August 3rd 1915 the Victoria Park and North Devonport Ratepayers’ Association was formed, with Captain Albert Duder as its first President. Duder had previously been Auckland’s Harbour Master from 1895 to 1913, and died in 1936.
In October 1882, 140 sections of varying sizes had been put up for sale on Albert’s father Thomas’s Victoria Park estate, near the brickworks. That estate included present day Kawerau and Aramoana Avenues, Ngataringa Road, and Wesley and Regent Streets. However, sales appear to have been slow and there was still a large number of empty sections available for purchase into the twentieth century. As examples, there were still 61 available in 1907 and 40 in 1914, the latter made more attractive by the advent of the nearby steam tram from Bayswater through nearby Belmont.
The Ratepayers’ Association’s geographic area of interest also stretched to what is now Hanlon and Achilles Crescents, Seabreeze Road, Morrison Avenue and Vauxhall School. In the 1920s, nearby associations included those in the suburb of Melrose (including the Abbotsford Terrace, Mozeley Avenue and Owens Road area), Stanley Bay and the Devonport Property Holders’ Association. In July 1923, the Victoria Park and North Devonport Ratepayers’ Association had over 130 financial members.
Nevertheless, the Association also concerned itself with matters outside of Devonport Borough. In February 1916, the Association approached the Takapuna Borough Council for monetary assistance from that Council to help build a tram shelter shed at Belmont, along with also seeking similar financial assistance from the Tramway Company. From 1925, there was also a separate Bayswater-Belmont Progressive Association.
Although described as a ‘ratepayers’ association’, residents’ needs were also important. From 1910, all adults 21 years of age and older and now both either residents or ratepayers could vote in local City and Borough elections, so long as they met the three months residential qualification. However, as noted in my previous article, this widening of the franchise wasn’t extended to Counties until 1944.
Unfortunately, the Association’s surviving two minute books only start on 4 March 1926, which are held at Auckland Council North Archives. Nevertheless, from time to time their activities and concerns were also noted in the two main Auckland newspapers. Those concerns included noxious weeds, the state of the footpaths and local roads, street lighting, drainage, the bus service (the tram service in Bayswater and Belmont was replaced by buses in 1927) and the condition of the bathing sheds at the end of Aramoana Avenue. In June 1924 straying cattle was a concern and an additional ranger was sought by the Devonport Borough Council.
The Association also formed two sub-committees, Improvement and Social (including picnics), and on 30 April 1936 renamed itself the North Devonport Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, to better reflect the fact that it spoke for all residents. The second Minute Book finishes on 22 September 1938 and after that I’m not sure when the Association wound up. Certainly, there are no newspaper reports concerning the Association from the late 1930s or early to mid-1940s
It should also be noted that the first ‘state house’ on the North Shore was opened by the government on 24 September 1938 at 27 Niccol Avenue, in the middle of North Devonport. Eventually there were to be 46 state houses on that avenue, along with others in the Old Lake Road area and in nearby Bayswater and Belmont.
Unlike with Victoria Park, the North Devonport name remains. As an example, the North Devonport Bowling Club was incorporated 10 October 1945, and ran to 2000. Those Club records are now held at Devonport Museum.
By David Verran