Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 50, September 2006
(by Graham Watton)
WHILE MANY towns have one band rotunda, others have none, Paeroa is one of the very few rural towns which can boast that it was two rotundas—one was built in the picturesque domain, the other, originally from Karangahake, was moved to eventually end up at the Railway Reserve next to the Paeroa Information Centre.
The Paeroa recreational reserve was set aside by the Ohinemuri County Council in 1900 and it was a 26-acre (8.5ha) area covering Primrose Hill and Earl's Paddock, an area of swamp, with a small creek draining into a marshy lagoon. In 1902 the lagoon was drained and the flat area nearest Primrose Hill reclaimed.
The council appointed the Paeroa Domain Board early in 1904 to manage area and almost immediately two clubs, lawn bowls and tennis, were formed. Under the direction of the board a bowling green and tennis courts were develop next to Arney Street and were ready for play during the 1904-05 summer season.
The Board's 1905 annual report stated that over 300 ornamental trees had been planted, an artificial pond had been created, 92 chains of fences built and a bowling and tennis courts laid. By 1906 a croquet lawn and rugby field were also developed.
The suggestion of band rotunda was considered by the Board late in 1905. In July, 1906, the Board received a tender price from H. Carter for 142 pounds 7 shillings ($284.70) for the erection of band rotunda with an extra 3 pounds 3 shillings ($6.30) for a roof similar to the one on the Rotorua rotunda. The final contract price was modified to cost 130 pounds ($260) for the building and 3 pounds 3 shillings ($6.30) for the roof, to be the same the Rotorua rotunda.
In August, 1906, there was a dispute between the Board and another contractor, J. Tetley, who was developing a pond in the Domain. The pond would not hold water and the Board terminated the contract.
By November the same year the band rotunda was nearing completion on a special site developed in the middle pond which became a moat around the rotunda. Mr C. Olsen's offer to "seal" the puddle pond was accepted by the Board.
On November 17 a committee of 36 citizens and representatives of various interested groups was elected at a public meeting to organise a moonlight concert to open the band rotunda on Friday, November 30, 1906.
Owing to Thames outdoor bowlers visiting to play their Paeroa counterparts on the Domain on that day and the moonlight concert in the evening, the usual half-day Wednesday holiday for retailers was moved to Friday and was agreed to by almost all the business people.
After a closely contested inter-club bowls fixture, attention was then turned towards the evening activities. Admission to the Domain to attend the concert was one shilling (10 cents) each and for enclosed area around the pond another one shilling (10 cents).
The concert programme included a haka by local Maori and it was considered the first time many people will have seen it performed. The concert which comprised local performers and the Paeroa Brass Band was considered a great success.
During the evening Mr H. Poland, Ohinemuri Member of the House of Representatives, officially declared the band rotunda open. He noted that cost of the rotunda had been raised by the people of Paeroa.
The rotunda is a good example of the typical "Victorian" band rotunda. It is octagonal in plan and open in design. The octagonal curved roof is covered in corrugated gauge iron with a finial in the centre. The entrance is marked by newel posts and accessed via five semi-circular concrete steps. It is enclosed by a low turned wood filled baluster. The roof is supported by eight columns which have stripped classical features and which are topped by curved wooden brackets. Between the tops of these posts are connected by fretwork design consisting of two horizontal layers of circles separated by a third layer of rectangles.
Access to the rotunda when it was officially opened was by two bridges over the pond or moat. In 1926 the moat area filled with soil.
In the 1970s the Paeroa Borough Council refurbished the rotunda which had by then suffered at the hands of vandals and also "old age". The structure was completely refurbished to its original condition, although the finial was not replaced.
Many band concerts, official functions including welcoming Governor-Generals and the early Anzac Day commemoration services were held in the rotunda. It has also been the backdrop for many local wedding parties, and picnics in the park.
The tennis club moved from the Domain in the early 1920s to its present site and croquet took over the courts. The men's bowling club moved in 1954 to its Te Aroha Road complex and the green was occupied by the women's bowling club until they too moved to Te Aroha Road in 1964. The croquet club took over the green and developed additional croquet lawns.
The Karangahake Band Rotunda had its beginning in much the same way as at the Paeroa. There was a strong local brass band and the public came together to raise the funds needed while working closely with the Ohinemuri County Council. The rotunda was constructed in 1908 in the centre of the thriving town and was well used not only by the band but for other important occasion.
By early 1920s gold mining had virtually closed down, and the population of the district, which was around 3000 people at the height of the mining, had drifted away. The town was fast becoming a mining ghost town.
The Paeroa Beautifying Society in 1921 approached the Ohinemuri County Council with a proposal to purchase the town's band rotunda for 50 pounds ($100) and move it to Paeroa. Approval was received and the Society re-erected the rotunda on the triangular area at the junction of Normanby Road and Princes Street.
The rotunda was soon put to good use by the Paeroa Brass Band, being able to entertain the local citizens in the middle of the town. In 1926 when the present Post Office was built, it was previously on the corner of Willoughby Street and Victoria Street (empty section at present) and the Beautifying Society was called upon to move the rotunda.
After much discussion on the future of rotunda the Paeroa Borough Council gave approval to move the structure to its present site. It was lifted, put on rollers and hauled along Belmont Road and re-sited. This area was previously the first railway station, which was moved a further 1.5kms north in 1924 to provide an acceptable gradient for the railway over the stopbanks being constructed to protect the town against repeated flooding.
The Karangahake Band Rotunda has unfortunately over the years suffered at the hands of the vandals and "old age". It is in need of some TLC before it falls into total disrepair and becomes a real eyesore forcing public opinion to have it demolished. Hopefully this one remaining significant piece of Karangahake history will be preserved.