Thursday, March 5, 2009

The might-have-been cemetery at Waterview

For a brief time in 1862, those in charge of Auckland Province’s affairs were seriously considering sites for a new cemetery to replace the one then at Symonds Street. This was because of real concerns had by many as to the risk of contamination of ground water, then an important commodity for the survival of the young town of Auckland. So -- options for other sites were suggested. One Tree Hill, Robert Graham’s estate at Ellerslie, Remuera … and Waterview.

Yes indeed, our Waterview. Michael Wood’s 1860 sale had gone very slowly and not all that successfully. There was a tract of his land of around 26 acres still unsold by February 1862, and Auckland Provincial Council member Daniel Pollen checked it out for the Council. Pollen, in reporting back to his fellow Council members, felt that the Waterview site (known as Oakley’s Creek then) could be suitable, “but I consider the price would prevent its being purchased.”

The Council’s Burial Grounds Committee recommended in March 1862 that in replacing Symonds Street, three cemeteries be created -- Oakley’s Creek in the west, another at Orakei Point, and one at the cemetery reserve, Three Kings. It all looked set to happen, but for one thing: it appears the Superintendent did not approve. Back then, the Superintendent was the Provincial Council’s CEO. While he was supposed to be the one to carry out the councillors’ orders, in reality if he didn’t agree with a project, it was quietly shelved. This happened with Auckland’s triple cemetery project -- it was quietly forgotten in the rush of new business. It wasn’t until the 1880s (and the Auckland City Council period) that Symonds Street cemetery would be replaced by a new site to the west -- Waikumete.

Had the Waterview cemetery gone ahead in the 1860s, by the time rail transport corridors were being surveyed in the 1870s there might have been a route along Great North Road via Newton Gully (which was a route supported by John Buchanan at the time) rather than via Mt Albert, to convey the coffins and the mourners. The railway station for Avondale might then have been closer to the mainstreet area and part of it, and the current problem with the St Judes Street crossing wouldn’t exist. However, the rail most likely would have created chaos at the five roads intersection (Avondale Roundabout), just as it does at New Lynn today.

Had that idea for a Waterview cemetery gone ahead, there may well have been no such suburb known as Waterview, a different railway line to the west, and the development of both Avondale and Pt Chevalier may well have accelerated much earlier than it did in reality. In this case, a “too hard basket” kept the history on track.

1 comment:

  1. Just watched an ep of Mark William's On The Rails and apparently they thought nothing of ripping through buried remains for London's Underground lol.
    So the railway network corridors might have still trundled through where they are now...albeit with a few more bodies on the tracks than were carrying valid tickets lol :P