Since the first days of European settlement in Dunedin, the Brighton Boat Hire Company has been operating on the gently flowing Otokia Creek leading from Brighton Beach near Dunedin to a mellow hinterland. Believed to have been established in the 1860s, it is by far the oldest business of its kind in New Zealand. After a period when the business was closed, it has now reopened with four of the original row boats again offering families a short trip on the water. These sturdy little vessels, maned Jane, Mabel, Alice and Betty are joined by a small number of canoes and kayaks. There have been times over the years when the business faced difficulties caused by the build up of sand bars at the creek’s entrance. During these times, the shed and boats were left high and dry but hard work and mother nature eventually allowed the water to flow again and the boats were back in business. I remember as a small child being taken, along with my sister, to Brighton to have a row. There was always a queue of people waiting for a boat to become available as it was a popular destination for Dunedin families to take their kids for the afternoon. A return trip up to the end of the creek can take up to 2 hours return, with natural bush, native birds and a wetlands to see along the way. It’s amazing to think with all the electronic attractions for kids these days that old fashioned wooden boats still have a fascination but I guess it’s a unique experience to actually use physical strength to move an object you sit in. It is also a pleasant way to get out into nature and enjoy a ride on water that is both safe and a rewarding experience as well.

Brighton Boat Hire


British settlers brought an appreciation of the performing arts with them to New Zealand. The first performance venue was Auckland’s Albert Theatre which was just a back room in Watson’s Hotel on High Street. It was there, on Christmas Eve 1841, that the colony’s first play: The Lawyer Outwitted was performed.

The first purpose-built theatre was Wellington’s Royal Victoria Theatre on Manners Street. In laying its foundation on the 31st of July 1843 William Lyon welcomed the new amenity, considering ‘a theatre a necessary concomitant of an advanced state of civilization.’ From the outside the Royal Victoria Theatre was a plain, rectangular wooden building with a gabled roof, a few windows along its side, and a street entrance beside the hotel. Little is known of its interior other than it had stall seating and a commodious dress gallery. It was also brightly lit by whale oil gas, a Wellington first.

In 1844, Auckland opened its first purpose-built theatre, the Fitzroy, in Shortland Street. A second Wellington theatre, the Britannia Saloon in Willis Street, opened in 1845. Such was its success that it forced the Royal Victoria to close until 1856, when it successfully reopened as the Royal Olympic.

A room in the Provincial Hotel became Dunedin’s first performance venue in 1861. To cash in on Dunedin’s gold-mining influx, the Provincial Hotel owner Shadrach Jones quickly converted his neighbouring horse bazaar into the ‘Princess Theatre’. At the end of the business day the horse stalls were closed off and covered with ornamental partitions. A fold-down stage was installed so the space could be quickly converted back to its daytime use. It proved so successful that Jones ended up banishing the horses and rebuilding the bazaar as a proper theatre. The town’s first purpose-built theatre, the Theatre Royal in Princes Street, opened in 1862. This and the makeshift Princess Theatre did a roaring trade putting on popular comedies and musical performances for the miners teeming to the Otago goldfields. The following year Christchurch opened its first theatre, the Canterbury Music Hall in Gloucester Street. It became the Theatre Royal in 1866.


H.E.Shacklock Limited was a Dunedin factory that can be classed as a first for NZ. In 1873, following requests from his clients and dissatisfaction with his own imported range, Henry Shacklock designed and manufactured a prototype cast iron coal range. He built a stove with specially designed grates and flues, that burned lignite coal, unlike the British and American kitset imports which were designed to run on bituminous coal. His design was continually improved and modified, becoming an appliance that warmed kitchens, heated water, baked scones and cooked porridge throughout thousands of New Zealand homes. Before patenting the range in 1882, Shacklock introduced many features to appeal to potential customers. The curves and angles were designed for aesthetics as well as strength. The fire doors would stay open by themselves, the chimney and flue damper could be removed for cleaning, and the door was also made with varying thicknesses to distribute the heat evenly. By the late 1880s, the Orion range grew to include many different models. Those included double ovens, and ones featuring a “destructor” firebox that was advertised as a safe and hygienic way of disposing of kitchen waste. The Orion oven became one of the most popular and best known home appliances in NZ history.

Ceidrik Heward

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