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Simon Gundry is a Devonport and North Shore identity, and character, who is known for calling a spade a spade. He is a director of contracting company Gill & Gundry, is an enthusiastic and active sailor (past crew-member of Ceramco New Zealand, Lion New Zealand and Shockwave) and is a life member of the North Shore Rugby Football Club.
I see, a couple of days ago, the talk about a Stadium on the waterfront may actually come to fruition. I wrote about this many, many months ago in one of my columns, that we would be mad not to take the opportunity to build a 35,000 – 45,000 seat stadium on our harbour edge adjacent to the Viaduct precinct. Surely to God, this must happen.
I have been very fortunate to spend many nights watching the San Francisco Giants play in their beautiful stadium in the San Francisco Bay, very close to the main downtown central area. It is indeed the most perfect place for a stadium. This city is not big enough to have all these stupid stadiums around the place, we should have one central stadium where the Warriors, the Blues and the All Blacks could play and where one could buy a Season ticket for all events. It is a no brainer. The ferry boats are there from the North Shore, the trains are there from the other suburbs and the huge parking buildings are there, and mostly empty at night. All the restaurants and bars in the Viaduct area are there for the pre and after match functions. The new Auckland Convention Centre would be a short stroll away. The current stadiums are getting old and hard to get to, and I personally hate the journey to Eden Park on a Friday night to watch a Blues game.
I think we need some driving party to get this plan together and get it built. I saw recently that it takes four years to build a stadium, the new stadium for the San Francisco 49’ers built down in the Santa Clara Valley, or more commonly known as Silicone Valley, took under a year to build and it seats 65,000 people. We can build one in a year in this country, mind you it might take four years to get approval, the way we run things.
I see the old Masonic Hotel development in Devonport, after it was agreed that part of it would be a café, it has now been changed to offices. Just another tweak from the original conditions, like the inside of the wonderful old hotel is now an empty void of concrete block walls, except maybe for a corner front door, this is the only thing left of the original building. I don’t know why we bother going through all these consents and approvals, that no one adheres to, and no one enforces, so why bother. The whole site has now been running for over two years, and another two years before it is all completed. What a shambles, and what a damned shame. A wonderful iconic old pub that was so much a part of Devonport.
After my rambles around Devonport with a couple of young kids over Christmas, I wandered up on a recent beautiful Saturday morning to North Head and watched the sun come up, sitting on the old gun emplacement and looking down towards Browns’ Island, the bottom end of Waiheke Island and further out the outline of Coromandel. Watching the sun’s rays, the dawning of a brand new day. My mind imagined all the shipping movements that had happened between North Head and Bastion Point over the history of the Harbour. There would have been millions of people and thousands of ships pass by this headland I was sitting on over the years. The first early Maori in their wakas, finding the Waitemata as a safe haven from the ocean. The early settler ships, full of expectant settlers arriving on unknown shores, full of trepidation for their first days in a new land. Trading ships, the early whalers, looking for supplies, fur traders, fishing boats, the early pioneers – all passed by this small hand fist of a headland.
The 1905 All Blacks arriving back into the Harbour after their year away, the first official NZ touring team, and greeted by thousands of people in downtown Auckland. WW1 soldiers leaving on the great adventure of war, with so many never seeing the blue waters and green lands of NZ again. Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet lay dormant in the harbour for many days on its Round the World tour starting in 1907, over 14,000 American sailors on board the fleet of ships.
In the 1930’s, during the Depression years, Johnny Wray built “Ngataki” from timber he had found around the Hauraki Gulf, and was made famous when he wrote his book “South Sea Vagabonds” – if you haven’t read it, you should.
Then again in 1939, soldiers leaving for another World War and in 1942 the mysterious arrival of an entire American fleet one morning, the first invasion of the Americans into NZ, their stopping off stage in the Pacific on their way to Japan, and then, hundreds of movements of American warships and Liberty boats bringing much needed supplies to NZ and for the forward operations of the fleet to the Pacific Islands.
The 1950’s and 60’s immigrant boats came along, bringing the Ten Pound Poms to NZ, the “Oriana” the “Southern Star” and the same ships some years later taking young New Zealanders off on their OE’s.
In the 1960’s I can remember half of Auckland going down to Princes Wharf to look at a huge yacht called the “Nam Sang” which sat there for many weeks. No-one had ever seen a yacht that big, goodness me, it was some 60 odd feet long. The NZ started to stamp its own authority on yacht racing with “Fidelis” winning the 1966 Sydney Hobart Race, the first NZ yacht to do so, and then the “Rainbow II” winning it on handicap a year or so later.
Then after the “Nam Sang” came a flurry of ocean going racing yachts, “Kialoa”; “Windward Passage”; “Ondine” and “Ragamuffin”, ocean racing greyhounds of the day.
Then the Whitbread around the World Race arrived here in the 1970’s with the magnificent “Condor of Bermuda” with it’s yellow spinnaker pumping adrenaline into young men’s hearts. Those fabulous Whitbread send offs, with NZ yachts taking part, “Ceramco”, “Lion”; “NZ Endeavour”; “Steinlager II” and “Outward Bound” taking NZ crews around the world in a great endurance event.
Now we have the endless line of car carriers, cruise ships and container boats trooping up and down the channel day and night. I walked down the side of North Head, with the sun now bright in the sky, with the absolute knowledge that I had been sitting on a truly great world headland. We live in an absolutely beautiful city.
Channel Magazine: Issuu 64 April 2016