It was the site of Petone that was originally destined to be Wellington city – or where the New Zealand Company planned to build their new settlement, Britannia.
“The first few settler ships arrived at ‘Britannia’ in 1840, but even before they had arrived, advanced guards who came out on two company ships (the Cuba and Tory) to get everything ready realised very quickly that the site they had chosen was not suitable. It was prone to flooding and it would have taken a huge amount of work to clear it of forest.”
Gábor says the Company rapidly negotiated an underhanded purchase of land from local iwi, taking ownership of the land situated from Thorndon Quay to Berhampore.
“Having already pre-sold about 1000 sections, with another 100 set aside for mana whenua, they needed to squeeze all of those town acres into the land area that had been purchased. One of the results was very narrow roads, particularly around the CBD.
“The layout was really confined and dictated by the topography. There was a limited amount of flat land in a bowl-type surrounding of hills that were really steep, so you could only go so far up them before going any further was no longer possible. There’s a definite line where the streets stop – you can see where this is in Mount Victoria.
“Lambton Quay is very narrow and that was because the eastern side was beach. When they started reclamation of the harbour, they would have had the option of making Lambton Quay much wider. Why they didn’t, who knows.”