Whangarei City turns 50 years old today. On 21 May 1964, Governor General Sir Bernard Fergusson officially declared the Borough of Whangarei to have achieved ‘city status’, meaning its population had passed 20,000.
20/05/2014 2:24 p.m.
Council records actually show 1 October 1964 as the date set for the official proclamation, to allow time to organise a startling 60 commemorative events.
However, for some reason the ceremony didn’t occur until over a month later, perhaps because that date was the only diary space for the most significant dignitary attending, then Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, or because communication wasn’t quite as instant as it is now and such things took longer to arrange.
The formal declaration took place in Laurie Hall Park, followed by a civic dinner in the Town Hall and a performance of the historical play, ‘Pageant of the Years’, written by three Whangarei citizens: Florence Keene, W.R. Vallance and Eric Blow.
An intense week of ‘City Celebrations’ followed, including parades, flower shows, balls and even a Miss Whangarei City competition. A year of commemorative tournaments, carnivals, exhibitions and shows followed that.
At this stage, our golden anniversary celebrations will take the form of a small ceremony in the Council Chambers today and a much bigger community event in early November, possibly linking with another event already planned for that time.
We’ll be lighting the Canopy Bridge and Te Matau a Pohe gold for a week, and hope to make a special fuss of the first baby born at Whangarei hospital today.
We want to make our 50th anniversary a whole-community occasion with contribution and participation by everyone. As Mayor Jack Johnson said in May 1964, “... the occasion will be an important milestone in the history of Whangarei.” Fifty years on, that hasn’t changed.