Maungaturoto will be celebrating 150 Years in 2013

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Scandalous Maungaturoto Hotel

Few would ever suspect the local Maungaturoto Hotel could have caused such a scandal. Back in 1902 though it was a hot topic. It started off with the transfer of a license when it was brought by the colourful Moss Davis then owner of the Captain Cook Brewery from Mrs Margaret .J Sarah of the Cornish Arms Hotel at Kaiwaka. As the law stood then, no licence could be transferred between licensed hotels more that a quarter of a mile away. Moss Davis must have had friends in the Waitemata Licensing Committee. Despite strong protests from some of the local Maungaturoto temperance movement the license was summarily granted by Stipend Magistrate Mr T. Hutchinson.

An article appeared in the Evening Post 18 July 1902
BY TELEGRAPH—Auckland Press Association)
AUCKLAND, 17th June 1902.

A crowded meeting was held in the Foresters Hall tonight to protest against the granting of a license at Maungaturoto. Mr George Fowlds M.H.R., the Rev. R. N. Davidson (Maungaturoto), the Rev. Mr Gittos (Wesleyan Missionary), Mr Wesley Spragg, The Rev. Mr Garland, Mr A. C. Caughey, and the Rev. Hugh Kelly spoke in favour of a resolution calling for enquiry into the declaration charging Mr. Hutchinson, S.M., with exhibiting bias in the conduct of the case. This was carried by a large majority.

The statutory declaration made by Mr. Fowlds, M.H.R., the Rev. Messrs Davidson (Congregational), and Gittos (Wesleyan), and Messrs H. Cullen and W. Spragg, states that they were present at the sitting of the Waitemata Licensing Committee, which was presided over by Mr. T. Hutchinson, Stipendiary Magistrate.

They then declare—that at that sitting an application was made in the name of Mrs Margaret Sarah for an accommodation license, to be issued for a new hotel building, at Maungaturoto, in lieu of one which was being allowed to lapse at Hakaru, over eight miles distant, Mr Moss Davis, brewer, being the declared beneficiary owner of the new house. That Maungaturoto is a Non-conformist settlement, with a history of nearly forty years, and hitherto taken pride in excluding the sale of liquor from its neighbourhood. That during the hearing of the application referred to Mr Hutchinson exhibited marked bias and unfairness in his treatment of witnesses.

Bias was shown by his complete failure to condemn a false description given by five carpenters, who were taken to Maungaturoto for the purpose of erecting the hotel building, and who would be leaving shortly after the building was completed, who signed the petition in favour of a license, describing themselves as “settlers, Maungaturoto,” the falsity of this description having been sworn to by a witness named Harrison, who had collected the signatures to the petition in favour of the license. That when the same witness for the applicant admitted, upon cross-examination, that at least four-fifths of the adult bona-fide residents of the whole of the Wairau Riding, which contains the settlement of Maungaturoto, were opposed to the granting of the License, the Magistrate again showed his bias by severely reprimanding the witness because he could not say that he had personally canvassed and carefully counted the numbers for and against the license, himself repeated a rumour which he said he had heard at Maungaturoto, “That many who had signed against the license would be very glad to see an hotel there, and would be the first to go for a nip when it was opened.” That during the examination of the Rev. Mr. Davidson Mr. Hutchinson asked of him from the Bench if he drank lager beer, and being told by the witness that he did not drink lager beer and did not know what it was, retorted, “You do not know what life is if you do not know what lager beer is.”

That from the beginning and throughout the hearing of the case, it was manifested that as far as the Chairman was concerned , the case was prejudged, and his influence was being used to discredit evidence from whatever source which was adverse to the application for the license. That it was given on sworn Testimony that the opposition of the residents of the district immediately concerned to the establishment of a house licensed to sell intoxicants was so strong that settlers had refused to sell sections for its accommodation, notwithstanding that high and tempting prices were offered. It was further proven before than Licensing Bench that 88 bona fide adult residents within the Wairau Riding (including a radius of 4½ miles from the proposed hotel) had petitioned against the granting of the license, while only about 20 similar residents had petitioned in favour of it. That the Magistrate, in giving his judgement, said that people living outside the Wairau Riding, but within a nine mile radius, of the proposed licensed house, had a right to an equal voice in locating the hotel with the bona fide residents with the affected settlement. That the Magistrate then declared that a majority of the settlers of this extended area had petitioned in favour of the license (a statement which we believe to be contradicted by the petitions then before the Court). That finally he did, in violation of the Act, which expressly provides that licenses may not be transferred from house to house when such houses are separated by a distance of more than a quarter of a mile, and against the petition of an overwhelming majority of the settlers of Maungaturoto proper, and to the grievous annoyance of many within the district, announce the license granted.

The matter didn't end there. George Fowlds took the matter all the way to parliament charging the Stipendory Magistrate T. Hutchinson with bias and for his removal - stating Mr Hutchinson 'was unfitted to hold the office of Stipendory Magistrate."

The Minister for Justice, however, didn't seem so convinced the charges would stick:

On the first charge of Bias the Minister replied

"If the Petitioners are in a position to prove the charge of bias their proper remedy is by way of proceedings in the Supreme Court which has the power to quash the license if to be illegally granted."

On the second issue of Mr Hutchinson's removal the Minister had this to say

"The petitioners allege that they believe the Magistrate is unfitted to hold the position, but it must be obvious that the Government would not be justified in acting upon such an expression of belief unsupported by any concrete facts or specific instances."

And just when you figured that was the end of the scandalous Maungaturoto Hotel Saga the building itself had its own tale to tell. The hotel of course still stands today there right beside a now much improved road bridge coming into the Maungaturoto Township.

This excerpt comes from This Valley in the Hills 1963 compiled by Dick Butler for the Maungaturoto Centennial Committee. 

Hakaru Hotel (called the Cornish Arms Hotel) was brought by the brewery interests from Mrs N. J. Sarah, and was transferred to Maungaturoto. There was only a limited time to build a new hotel and have the licence in use again or it would lapse. All new buildings for the breweries were constructed at this time by Johnny Rowe, who was Mayor of Onehunga (the forerunner of prefabricated buildings today) and intended to ship them on the barquentine May from the Manukau onto the Kaipara, and up to Point Curtis. There it was to be transferred onto barges for the trip up the river to Maungaturoto.

 The scheme was a good one in theory, but not work out of practice.The May was weather-bound inside the Manukau Heads for a week and the bar conditions were so bad she had no chance of getting out. Back went the May to Onehunga. The hotel was unloaded and loaded on a train to Helensville. At Helensville Captain Cecil (Sandy) Vause waited with the tug Tangihua and a cattle punt, and every other boat in the Kaipara which could be engaged for the cartage of the remainder was pressed into service.Captain Vause, who served all of his life on the Kaipara until the boat traffic ceased altogether, and who died earlier this year (1963) at the age of 78, told the story of the race against time to get the building to Maungaturoto. 

The cattle punt, which the Tangihua was towing, developed a leak coming across the harbour entrance, and started to list badly. The Tangihua let go the tow-line about Tinopai, and went back to tie up beside the punt. It looked at one stage as if the whole lot was going to capsize.The punt, still leaking badly, was run aground on the hard alongside the old Batley wharf. When the tide had dropped the plugs were pulled out of the punt, the water drained out, and replaced. She was refloated on the next high tide. “We then went for our lives for Maungaturoto with the barge still leaking,” recalled Captain Vause. Then it was “flat out” back to Point Curtis to unload bricks and cement off the steamer, and the rest of the building from other boats which could not make it up the creek to Maungaturoto. 

When all the materials were landed at Maungaturoto, they had to be dragged up the hill to the hotel site in the pouring rain. The frame was up, a door hung, and the licence nailed to the door – the day the time limit expired. 

 “Every time I went past the Maungaturoto Hotel after that I always thought of the hard work connected with getting it there,” continued Captain Vause. He said it was lucky any of it got there, apart from the leaking barge. The builders travelled on the Tangihua, and had a “ dinkum” party to pass the time. Even the Tangihua’s engineer, one “Scot” McKenzie, was drunk, and Captain Vause did not know how he even kept the engines going.
The hotel still stands today as a reminder of those good old bad days of the scandal that made national headlines for a tiny rural Northland township.