Monday, January 29, 2007

Let’s Go Slumming; More Auckland Facts

Auckland was not always the den of debauchery it is currently (in)famous for. It used to be much, much worse.

The suburb of Dedwood is a good example. In the 1800s, it was one of the least desirable places in Auckland to live. The area was heavily industrialised, and was home to the abattoir, the city morgue, and the 'nightsoil' dump.

Overcrowded slum-housing abounded on its swampy streets. Dedwood was considered synonymous with brothels and illegal beer halls.

A nearby bay once called Waiatarau ('Reflective Waters'), was renamed Waipiro ('Smelly Waters') by local Māori, due to the large amount of rum or 'smelly water' consumed by the drunk locals. This later became the site of the 'City Destructor,' Auckland's first rubbish furnaces. While the City Destructor is no longer used, it has been renamed Victoria Park Market, and still deals in rubbish, although now the rubbish is sold to tourists rather than thrown in a furnace.

When my mother was a child, a favourite family activity was going for a drive to this unappealing suburb. They called it "going slumming," and they would pile into the car, and drive around looking at the poor people.

In the 1930s, the city council set up "The Decadent Areas Committee," to deal with the area. It is still unknown as to whether they met with any success.

Incidentally, Dedwood was renamed Ponsonby in 1873.


llew said...

What were they thinking renaming it? I'd kill (ridiculous exageration) to have Kelburn renamed Dedwood.

Robyn said...

Dedwood Terrace still exists to this day. The area surrounding it, kind of bordered by P Road, Franklin Road, and a bit o' St Marys Bay, is the unofficial suburb of Ponsonby. I saw a pre-motorway map of Auckland from the early 1950s with Dedwood marked.

But Ponsonby's only got posh very recently. I'm not even that old not from Auckland originally, but I remember in the early '80s when Ponsonby was all run down and full of drunks and junkies and whores. Good times!

Cactus Kate said...


Can I submit that the only thing then that's changed about Ponsonby is that it is no longer run down. The drunks, junkies and whores remain.

God bless. Otherwise it would be like Parn...., Hern..... I am struggling here.

Mrs Smith said...

Quite, Cactus. The similarities to 'Dedwood', and the excellent television programme Deadwood cannot be overlooked (if you haven't seen it, you really should). It too has a cast of drunks, junkies and whores... It's modern-day Ponsonby set in the wild west.

miss_seph said...

Aah! This explains the big chimney at VPM.

Anonymous said...

"The drunks, junkies and whores remain."

Well, apparently I must be blind, because unlike on Queen Street, I have never seen any of these here.