Friday, 19 December 2014

1998 Millennium Series III - Urban Transformations.

Millennium Series II.                       Millennium Series IV.

          Millennium III, the third in a series of five issues leading up to the Year 2000, took New Zealand's changing cities as its theme. They all began with the first organised European settlement in 1840 and have been in a state of constant change ever since. All had a blueprint for their evolution, a plan for their establishment and growth, though in virtually every case the reality and the planning never quite matched.
          By the beginning of this century, the main centres at least – Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington - included substantial commercial and financial buildings, factories and, from around 1900, department stores. Transport systems such as buses and trams had also appeared.
         The late-Victorian classical/Gothic look of around 1900 would survive largely intact until the 1960s, when economic growth and modernist architecture prompted the erection of much larger office buildings. Meanwhile, increased interest in, and awareness, of public health and town planning issues saw many older houses in city centres demolished and replaced with new ferro-concrete and steel buildings.
         In the mid-1980s, another period of economic growth, prompted by financial deregulation, resulted in huge mirror glassed 'corporate' towers rising up to dominate parts of the skyline. That trend was checked by the stock market crash of 1987, only to be replaced over the next decade by another - the emergence of inner city apartments.

  The Stamps.
Nearly 160 years after cityscapes began in New Zealand, change is very much the only constant. Many factors drive change in a modern city but the two major ones are population growth and economic development. 
The six stamps in this issue feature an image from the late 19th or early 20th century and a photograph of approximately the same location in 1998. I like the way the stamps are designed so the older image appears to be peeling off to reveal the newer image underneath.
Wellington - 40c
The city of Wellington was meant to be built at Petone but was moved to Lambton Harbour in 1840 because the original site was too swampy. A huge reclamation programme to obtain flat land followed. The lack of flat land has always been a problem in Wellington and in some ways has effected the growth of the city. 

Economic expansion and reinforced concrete construction saw the central business district transformed from the 1920s on. Recent changes have included the new Civic Square and the re-development of the waterfront, including the erection of the imposing Museum of New Zealand. Since this stamp was issued that development has continued. I am amazed how they got a motorway right into the city centre like they have.

Auckland - 80c
Governor Hobson chose the fertile volcanic landscape of the Tamaki isthmus as the site for his capital, Auckland, in 1840. Some 50 years later, the 'dingy wooden structures' lining Queen Street had been replaced by substantial brick and stone structures with neo-classical or Gothic facades. Large department stores and entertainment venues were added. Residential suburbs sprawled across the isthmus, and Auckland de-centralised. More recently, the trend to apartment living has seen the inner city undergo something of a resurgence.

Today  (2014) Auckland has become so large that it stretches over a vast area. I live in the West of the city and it takes nearly an hour to drive to my friends house in the Eastern Suburbs.

Christchurch - $1.00
Christchurch's site was chosen for its closeness to Lyttelton and the fertile land of the Canterbury Plains. By the turn of the century, solid two and three-storey buildings were very much part of the city's business centre. Meanwhile, housing within the four founding avenues began to expand out from the 1880s. After the Second World War, there was further expansion to both the north-west and the east, while inner city redevelopment focused on apartments.

Since this issue Christchurch has under gone massive change forced upon it by the series of earthquakes that struck the city destroying many of the historic buildings.

Westport - $1.20
Gold rushes on the West Coast turned a small settlement at the mouth of the Buller River into New Zealand's fifth largest export port by 1867. Later, the development of large-scale mining to the north saw Westport become the country's major coal port. However, the town has continued to suffer at the hands of nature, with fire and earthquakes taking substantial tolls. Today, it is a port of call for tourists and retains a bustling frontier feel.

Tauranga - $1.50
The battle of Gate Pa in 1864 resulted in military settlement nearby, close to the Anglican mission station at Te Papa pa. By 1878, a township had been established on the beachfront. But by 1901, Tauranga's population was less than 1000. By the 1930s, it had only reached 3000. However, the decision in 1950 to develop overseas port facilities at nearby Mount Manganui, spurred exponential growth. The population doubled over the next decade, and by 1961 Tauranga was a city.

In 2014, The Port of Tauranga, that includes both the Mount Manganui and Tauranga ports is the biggest port in New Zealand. Over the years that decision to develop the port has paid off many times over.

Dunedin - $1.80
Sheltered Otago Harbour was chosen as the best site for the Free Church settlement of 1848. With the influx of goldrush money in the 1860s and 1870s, land was reclaimed, the commercial district expanded, and 'magnificent and costly buildings' constructed with 'marvellous rapidity'. By 1880, Dunedin was 'a city of consequence'. Many of these facades survived largely intact until the 1960s. Much of the 19th century terrace housing near the city centre survives to this day.

 The First Day Cover.
This is a well laid-out First Day Cover. On the left we see the modern city with its port, large building and even aircraft in the sky above. On the right, across the harbour is the city 160 years earlier, a small community on the beach with jetty running out into the bay. The cancelation appears to be two contrasting buildings. I would have liked to have seen more of this hand stamp without the stamps in the background.

Technical information.

          Date of Issue:
11th November, 1998.
Niki Hill, Duo Design, Auckland, New Zealand.
Southern Colour Print, New Zealand.
          Stamp Size:
44mm x 28mm; Miniature Sheet Size: 165mm x 90mm.
          Sheet Size:
50 stamps per sheet.
          Perforation Gauge:          
          Paper Type:
104 gsm red phosphor coated.

         Special acknowledgments to the Alexander Turnbull Library, the Hocken Library and the Canterbury Museum for the use of the historical images.

Millennium Series II.                       Millennium Series IV.

Some of the images in this post were used with permission from the illustrated catalogue of StampsNZ
You can visit their web site and On-line Catalogue at,

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