Harry Ell

Henry George (Harry) Ell was raised on the family farm at Halswell near Christchurch. From 1881 to 1884 he served at Parihaka as a volunteer in the armed constabulary. He  also worked in the printing trade, then as a salesman and surveyor. Ell began his involvement in politics in 1884. He was a Liberal Member of Parliament for 20 years and briefly a Cabinet minister in 1912. He had a strong interest in welfare and labour issues. An enthusiastic naturalist, he wanted to preserve forests to conserve soil and water, and create reserves and afforestation programmes to ensure adequate timber supplies and to provide better training for scientific foresters. His visionary campaign to develop reserves on a systematic basis during land settlement was influential in the passing of the Scenery Preservation Act. Following his parliamentary defeat in 1919, he became passionately devoted to his Summit Road scheme on the Port Hills above Christchurch. This was a grandiose plan for a network of reserves linked by a specially constructed road with regularly spaced rest houses made of the local stone and modelled on English inns. Three rest houses, the Sign of the Kiwi, Sign of the Packhorse and Sign of the Bellbird, as well as a substantial length of road were completed. His last years were fanatically devoted to construction of the fourth rest house, the Sign of the Takahe, but it was not completed until 1949, 15 years after his death.

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