Pleasant Point was originally administered conjointly by the Geraldine County Council and the Levels Roads Board, rates being levied by each body. The County Council looked after the bridges and the Roads Board concerned itself with the roads.
The minutes of those meetings make interesting reading when one compares the basic needs of the pioneers with the demands of today’s ratepayers.
In 1868, one of the immediate requirements was the reservation of land suitable for a cemetery. About 35 acres was set aside on the hill and its perimeters soon planted with attractive trees. The area not yet required for plots was leased out for grazing and, in later years, has served as a car-park for funerals.
With the absence of fencing in the district, wandering stock were a constant worry to the Board so that the need for a Pound at Pleasant Point was the next priority. Land was purchased in Te Ngawai Road near the creek, (now access road to the sawmill), for ten pounds and a Pound was established in 1870 with T. Watkins in charge of the stockyard. John Worthington was then appointed Pound Keeper but it was not until 1874 that tenders were called for the erection of a public Pound as such. Three years later, permission was granted for the Pound to be used for holding stock sales.
The lot of the local Pound Keeper does not appear to have been a very happy one! Pound Keepers seem to have been for ever changing. “There was no money in it”, or they were dismissed for incompetence. Often, they were accused of picking up stock from its rightful grazing area and deliberately impounding it.
It would appear that the Pound Keeper leased the Public Pound and collected the fines from owners before their stock was released. This often resulted in unpleasant disputes.
In 1876, Henry Kee tendered successfully to build a Town Board Office at Pleasant Point for the sum of fifty-seven pounds five shillings. It was situated on Te Ngawai Road in front of the Pound.
Disputes over road and bridge building were common. Each farmer maintained that a road to his farm was a pressing priority so that a great deal of diplomacy was required from the Roads Board and the Geraldine County Council in order to try and please everyone.
In 1879 tenders were accepted for the Te Ngawai Bridge and then, in 1882, residents were demanding a road to the railway station which had been moved to the far side of the line.
Flocks of exotic birds, finding no predators, swarmed the district and played havoc with crops, causing constant worry to farmers. In attempts to lessen the destruction, the Board distributed poisoned wheat to farmers and a bounty was paid for birds’ heads and eggs. This was a welcome source of pocket money to local children and, as early as 1883, the overseer reported having collected 3,694 dozen birds’ eggs and 881 dozen young birds at a cost of fifty six pounds.
By 1904, the bounty was one shilling a dozen for blackbird and thrush heads and threepence a dozen for their eggs. Sparrows, linnets and larks brought four shillings a dozen for heads and twopence a dozen for eggs. Birds were described as being as destructive on arable farms as rabbits were on pastoral runs. This scheme continued until the mid 1930s.
In 1890, when two or three children died from diphtheria, water pollution and insanitary conditions caused concern in the township.
Complaints about a gravel pit being dug on a vacant section were made to the Board in 1891. It was between Harris Street and the Main Road near Russell Street and was described as “a great disfigurement to the area and injuring adjacent sections”. E. Acton of the School Committee stated that it would ultimately become a dangerous pit of stagnant water and a depot for refuse. The Board replied that they could not abandon the pit but would plant its surrounds with trees. This pit remained a source of complaint right up to 1954 when the Council sold it and it was filled with sawdust.
As the demands on the Board increased, it was found necessary to change the method of administration by separating from the Geraldine County and creating the Levels County Council to attend to the needs of the area.
The first meeting of the Council was held with A.E. Saunders as clerk and Wm. Annand as overseer and its concerns were much the same as those of its predecessor, roads and bridges being the major priority.
In 1895, they were asked to “lay planks over the creek on the Main Road near the park to enable sheep to be crossed with less difficulty”.
The siting of the bridge over the Opihi at the end of Halstead Road caused much heated discussion and the farmers on Waitohi Flat were accused of pressing for a bridge for their own financial gain. Their reason for wanting the bridge was to get stock to the Pleasant Point sales which were the biggest in South Canterbury and where sheep made a shilling a head more than elsewhere. It took until 1903 before the Levels and Geraldine County Councils could agree on its location. It was eventually built by Wm. Hopkinson of Temuka for 4328 pound 19 shillings, Levels C.C. paying a half share.
As the township was growing rapidly, a request for three kerosene lamps to be located in the village was approved in 1906.
Even in those days, the desire to live in attractive surroundings was evident. Residents in the Morton zone applied to have the portion of the road fronting the Creek set aside for beautifying purposes. This was, presumably, the area skirting Kumara and Runa Terraces.
By 1908 the township had grown to such an extent that it was gazetted as a Town District. John Crawford, local bootmaker, was elected first Chairman of the Town Board and members were B. Butcher, E. Halstead, F. Dossett, W.B. Oborn, Wm. McKibben, Wm. Halstead, Frank Nelligan and C. Smith, clerk.
It became the Town Board‘s responsibility to attend to the welfare of the township with boundaries extending from the Domain to the Police station, to the end of Te Ngawai Road and just beyond the northern saleyards boundary. As with the Council, roadworks and footpaths seem to have been one of the first priorities of the Town Board.
When it took over from the council, the Main Road, then known as Dominion Street, was a rough track on either side of an ugly gully. In wet weather, the gully filled with water and the street and footpath became almost impassable with pedestrians ‘up to their knees in mud’.
It is said that Mary Lambert from the Chemist’s would throw pennies into the gully when the water level was high, for boys to dive after and claim for themselves. Thousands of tons of metal were carted from the shingle pit at Sutherlands and railed to Pleasant Point where it was dumped by the railway to be scooped into the gully by Town Board employees and railwaymen.
As happens with all such elected bodies, the Town Board received its share of criticism from the ratepayers. The following ‘Letter to the Editor” of 1914 is an amusing example:
To the Editor Timaru Herald, “Sir The annual election of the Pleasant Point Town Board Commissioners drawing near I beg through the medium of your valuable paper to urge the ratepayers of this township to ‘wake up’ and look around for some intelligent and progressive minded citizens to fill the coming vacant seats on the Board. We all know that some of our esteemed residents love to imagine themselves as living in an English village that their cup of joy would be filled if only the working men would go round in smocks pulling their forelocks and their womenfolk bob- courtseying in cotton gowns and sun bonnets, and that these good people have no wish to see the town advance and laugh at all suggested improvements. But surely we have a sufficient number of intelligent and independent members in our community to outnumber the voting powers of these antediluvians. Therefore, I say ‘Pleasant Point, wake up!’ and make your town worthy of its name.
The following matters need urgent attention:
(1) The efficient and punctual lighting of the Lux Monument Lamp. (2) the efficient and punctual lighting of existing street lamps and the procuring and erecting of a dozen more. (3) The clearing of ground round the Coronation Memorial and fencing in of the same. (4) The opening of all closed roads in the Town Borough. (5) The demolition of several rotting and dilapidated empty shanties which are hideous eyesores and a menace to the public health. (6) The completing and forming and asphalting certain footpaths undertaken but not finished by the late contractor. (7) The appointment of a local sanitary inspector. — I am. etc..
PROGRESS. 27th March 1914.”
Sanitation was a major concern of the Town Board. Most local residents had a ‘privy’ down the garden path and relied on the ‘night cart’ to empty the bucket at a fee set by the Board. This task and the rating for same were constantly under discussion.
In 1932 at the height of the depression it was proposed that the Sanitary Scheme be discontinued as owing to many ratepayers defaulting on payments, the Board was unable to carry on. Consequently, the duties of the ‘night man’ were confined to the inner area of the township and the outskirts were made voluntary.
Payment of Board employees became so difficult that one man was dispensed with and the sanitary and road works were combined at 14/6 per day.
At that time, unemployment was rife and the Board was constantly being asked to create work of a development nature. At one time, there were as many as twenty-six men seeking jobs with the Board. Poverty was so severe that rates were reduced to 7/8d in the pound,general funds, and 1/4d in the pound for special Hall rate to try and alleviate the financial problems of the ratepayers.
As a consequence, the Board was limited in the amount of men they could afford to employ under any scheme they might undertake. Under the Scheme in 1938, ten men were allocated to maintaining the footpaths, the Creek and drains, screening shingle for side streets, gardening, fencing and control of noxious weeds.
Another responsibility befalling the Town Board was the annual appointment of a Dog Tax Collector whose duty it was to go from house to house registering dogs at the set fee and issuing collars made under contract by the local saddler.
The appointment of an ‘examiner’ for traffic licences was also made by the Town Board and for many years, the office was held by the proprietor of Pleasant Point Motors, C. Smith and, later, H. Blissett. The Board was so irate when, in 1936, it was notified that, in future, the Transport Department would take over the task, that an objection was lodged with the Department. In expressing their disapproval, the Board stated that Local Bodies would suffer a serious loss of revenue as a result of this move. They had issued 180 traffic licences that year.
Speed limits in the township were set by the Town Board. A prosecution in 1920 reads:
The Inspector under the By-laws for the Pleasant Point Town Board has had a good deal of trouble in prosecuting motorists for exceeding the speed limit of 12 miles per hour on the Main Street. Tests were made on a stretch of 190 yards, including the most dangerous spots, by stop-watch! The marks were a gutter at the Railway Goods Shed and a dip in the Creek west of all the buildings. Apparently the test car’s speedometer or the stopwatch were not functioning accurately and there were many irate motorists as a result!
For some considerable time, the Board paid Mr Williams 5/- per week to wind the Town Clock. In those days it was weighted similar to a grandfather clock.
The Public Pound was also the responsibility of the Board and it would seem that the Poundekeepers’s job remained unpopular. Impounded stock not only included horses, cattle and sheep but also, on one occasion, a flock of ducks was seized following complaints from their owner’s neighbour that they were forever fouling his garden and the Creek Reserve.
Setting the day for the statutory half-closing day for the shops in the township was a constant headache for the Board in the 1930s. For many years, Thursday afternoon had been the customary half day but, in 1934, it was retained only by the casting vote of the chairman. From then on, it became a hot issue with the business men who even suggested that a poll be taken at the next Town Board election.
1936 brought two petitions to the Board from the business men. One asked for Saturday afternoon to be the weekly half holiday and the other “prayed that the Board see fit to still observe Thursday as the statutory half holiday”. The Thursday supporters won and that continued to be so until 1939 when closing time was changed to Saturday afternoon. At this, five local businessmen were so angry they asked the Board to write to the Minister of Labour to rescind the motion. But the battle was lost. The Minister replied that “nothing could be done”.
The main thoroughfare of Pleasant Point became a matter for concern in the 1930s because of the “tremendous amount of travelling over the area”. Application was made to the Highways Board in 1932 for a 300—Pound grant for roads maintenance and, in 1934, approval was given for the tar sealing of 1 1/2 miles of highway within the township, in 1934, fifteen chains of the highway was sealed for the full width but completion of the tar sealing of all roads in the township was a long, slow process continuing into the 1960s.
The war years brought added concerns to the Town Board. Fears of Japanese invasion in 1941 prompted the enforcement of ‘black-out’ regulations everywhere. Temporary extinction of street lights was enforced, all household lights had to be shrouded and wardens were appointed to see that this was carried out and adhered to.
Hall maintenance and water supply were other major concerns of the Town Board which are dealt with elsewhere in this book.
The suggestion that it should amalgamate with the Levels County Council, was put to the Board as early as 1937 but there was strong objection to this notion so that it did not eventuate until 1954. Since then, control of the township has been the responsibility of the County Council.
The development of a complete sewerage system throughout the township would be the biggest scheme undertaken by the County Council since it took control. The scheme was started in 1968 and was extended to cover the western side of the township in 1985. The project had a profound effect on Pleasant Point’s development as it stimulated a demand for building sections and more houses and permitted the subdivision of large sections.
In 1977 a Community Council of seven members was formed under the chairmanship of R. Malthus, to assist the County Council in the planning and control of the township Although not having complete autonomy, the Community Council is given a measure of freedom to estimate its own level of rating and authorise its own works within the approved estimates of the County Council. Generally, all money raised in the community is spent for its benefit.
A cost sharing arrangement does exist with respect to some facilities, e.g. Recreational reserves the Cemetery, Beck Road rubbish tip are met on a 50/50 basis and the Baths on a 30 per cent basis by the County Council, the balance being met by the Community Council.
The Community Council is levied by the County Council for administration charges as follows:
The basis of rating in the Strathallan County, including the community, is capital value. In addition, uniform charges are levied for water, sewers and refuse.
The current rateable capital value of the community is $31,544,900. It is interesting to compare the rates and charges levied for the current financial year with that of earlier times, viz:
|1989/90 General Rate||$114,846.68|
|Water Supply charges||$72,335.64|
1932/33 Rates: 400 pound from general rate at 1—1/8d in the pound.
Special Hall rate 100 pound from 14d in the pound.
Sanitary fees 200 pound.
Under the reorganisation of local government, the Community Council will go out of existence on 31 October, 1989. In its place will be the Pleasant Point Community Board with similar functions but covering a large rural district as well as the township.