The National Bank of New Zealand

The National Bank of New Zealand 

This is another of Dunedin’s wonderful historic buildings and like so many others there’s an interesting wee story to it. As a result of the Otago gold rush, the Bank of Otago was established in late 1863. The first chief executive of the bank was a 54-year old Scottish solicitor named John Bathgate who diligently set about his work with the bank in Otago and Southland upon arrival. That was until 1866 when a financial panic in London set in. Believing that banks might fail, and wanting to protect their funds, a large number of investors withdrew their money causing numerous banks to slump. One of which was the Bank of Otago. Needing a scapegoat for the failings of the bank, the London-based directors singled out John Bathgate who reluctantly agreed to resign.

Needing someone to take over the running of the bank, the directors turned to a person by the name of William Larnach. Who, at the time, was branch manager of the Bank of New South Wales in Geelong, Australia. Having moved his family to Dunedin from the Australia gold fields and needing somewhere to live, Larnach moved his family into the upstairs rooms of the bank where he worked. The Bank of Otago lasted under William Laranach until April 1873 when it was finally absorbed by the National Bank of New Zealand with the building becoming the main branch for the Bank. Originally only two stories, a new four story building was constructed on the site in 1911 and is the same one that graces Princes Street in Dunedin today. William Larnach eventually moved out of the banking business and among other things, went on to build a nice wee home on the Otago Peninsula and had a career in politics. As for John Bathgate, he too went on to become a politician, holding the position of Minister of Justice and was Commissioner of Stamps which I’m sure at the time was a very important position!

The Former Bank New Zealand Building

205 Princes Street

Dunedin really does have some wonderful heritage buildings when you stop to look at them. Personally, I don’t think I do that enough. I was talking to someone last week from Auckland who was spending a few days in the city on an IT mission and the first thing he commented on was all the buildings. I think his comment was “I wish we had more of them in Auckland.” This is one of the buildings he commented on, the former Bank of New Zealand Building at 205 Princes Street which if you go back far enough in time was once a hotel.

The Remarkables

The Remarkables

Alexander Garvie’s career as a surveyor wasn’t particularly long, however he did achieve one remarkable accomplishment in his lifetime. British-born, Alexander Garvie left the English port of Gravesend on the ship Blundell, arriving in New Zealand in September 1848. Initially working as a carpenter and builder, Garvie retrained as a surveyor in the early 1850’s and went on to obtain the position of Assistant Surveyor in the Otago Regional Council. Taking part in many surveying developments in Otago and Southland, his most notable legacy is in naming The Remarkable mountain range in Queenstown. The story goes that during a reconnaissance survey in 1857, Garvie came into view of a spectacular and stunning mountain range that he exclaimed was “Remarkable.” Unfortunately Garvie he died only four years later in Dunedin, in 1861. For Alexander Garvie, his surveying career lasted less than 10 years but within that time he named a spectacular piece of South Island scenery.

The Remutaka Road

The Remutaka Hill Road

The Remutaka Hill road is a narrow and winding 14km stretch of state highway, north of Wellington that snakes its way from Upper Hutt, over Remutaka Hill to the Wairapapa. Now, I can tell you that when you find yourself stuck on the Remutaka Road, in a very long line of traffic that isn’t moving, you have lots of time to ponder. So, that’s just what I did and within the great many things that crossed my mind, one question I kept coming back to. Who was the first person to drive over this road? That question ruminated in my mind for quite some time and while I didn’t discover the answer, I did find out the interesting tale of the Greytown to Wellington train from September 1880.

It seems that on the 11th September the train left Greytown at 8:30am bound for Wellington city. After stopping at Cross Creek where a second locomotive was added for preceding hill climb, the train set off over the Remutaka Hill. All was going well until about 1200m from the summit at a point called Siberia Curve when suddenly, a massive gust of wind hit the train. Estimated at nearly 200km/hour, the fierce wind swept three carriages off the tracks into the gully below, killing four people and leaving debris scattered across the hillside. Fortunately, following the accident the brake van remained gripped to the track enabling the rear brakesman to uncouple the van and coast back down the hill to Cross Creek to get help.