Grim description of Wellington slums

The main street of Clyde in 1876. In the left foreground are Messrs John Grindley (butcher) and James Samson (later an auctioneer). Beside the lamp-post is Mr George (surveyor and engraver) and the three men standing beyond are Mr Vincent Pyke (magistrate and warden), J. P. Armstrong (dentist) and Brough (lawyer). - Otago Witness, 20.11.1912. Copies of picture available from ODT front office, lower Stuart Street, or www.otagoimages.co.nz.
The main street of Clyde in 1876. In the left foreground are Messrs John Grindley (butcher) and James Samson (later an auctioneer). Beside the lamp-post is Mr George (surveyor and engraver) and the three men standing beyond are Mr Vincent Pyke (magistrate and warden), J. P. Armstrong (dentist) and Brough (lawyer). - Otago Witness, 20.11.1912. Copies of picture available from ODT front office, lower Stuart Street, or www.otagoimages.co.nz.
The New Zealand Times yesterday morning published a rather lurid article on Wellington slums.

The writer says: - "For a bedroom, a sitting room, and kitchen the rent exacted is 13s a week. One of these hovels is inhabited by a family of seven persons - a man, wife, and five children. The father, mother, two little children, and the baby all sleep together in one bed, and two small boys sleep in the back room.

The father earns 2 11s a week. Life is nothing but a hard, remorseless struggle against the pinch of poverty, and becomes merely an existence in a large box, amid crowded buildings that shut out sun and air and cheerfulness."

Of another locality he writes: - "Blind alleys abound, houses are huddled together promiscuously, backyards are scarce worth the name, and in some localities intrusion is resented. At night the blind lanes are simply warrens of swarming youngsters. Why are they not at home?

Because in many instances their mothers and fathers have gone to the picture shows and locked up the house lest the children should set the place on fire. Some of these localities are festering sinks of immorality and drunkenness, and what sort of object-lessons are provided the young boys and girls who are driven into the streets for companionship till their parents come home?

Brawls and fights are frequent, and some of the houses have an evil reputation. Here is our local Chinatown, but those who know the Chinaman best, especially in his treatment of women, do not condemn him. A poor European woman, with a besotted and callous husband, makes a fall and seeks asylum with one of these Asiatics.

Such a woman recently became ill, and had to be taken to the hospital. 'Good-bye, John,' she said; 'you have been very good to me - far better than my husband'." A social worker declared to the writer that the residents of Haining and Frederick streets were among the most law-abiding in Wellington.

The Chinese frequently offered their services for works of charity and subscribed liberally to relieve the sufferings even of afflicted and destitute Europeans.

The Mayor (Mr D. M'Laren) told the writer that the Congested Areas Committee found that it would be a very expensive business to resume the land on which slums had developed, owing to the very high prices. In the present condition of the city's finances the undertaking would be too great.

In cases of non-compliance with the building regulations the council, instead of getting a nominal fine, now applies for injunctions from further operations till the by-laws are complied with. He thought it would be a wise policy to insist on some measure of town-planning in the suburbs .

- ODT, 18.11.1912.