Viceregal visiting

Page 4 – Some say yes; some say no

Hokitika makes a day of it

Like his predecessors, Sir Denis Blundell (1972–7) travelled widely throughout New Zealand. As these following examples show, people went to great trouble to host him, although one small town was relieved to evade the burden.

In May 1972 a Sunday Times reporter covered Hokitika's preparations for a viceregal visit, all 55 minutes of it.

The town clerk had everything in hand. Since borough and county had each invited 24 official guests, they agreed to split the $3-a-head cost of lunch at the Hotel Westland. In 1972, $3 bought chicken, curry and rice, and whitebait, naturally.

To ward off accusations of extravagance, the town clerk reminded the reporter that in these less formal times they no longer prepared an illuminated loyal address.

Government House had also been doing its work. A fortnight earlier, Inspector Lance Bradwell drove the proposed route, confirming it could be covered in the time allotted. He also called on schools to remind teachers the visit was imminent.

The night before the big event, Wigram's Royal New Zealand Air Force liaison officer arrived to check final arrangements, and the Government House head chauffeur, 'Mac' McDonald, brought the Daimler.

Not everyone in this rugged, Labour-voting town liked the pomp as the reporter discovered at the bar of the Club Hotel. 'He's a bloody waste of money if you ask me,' one young West Coaster muttered.

Others seemed to agree. At the airport just 'two elderly men and one family group' were watching when Sir Denis and Lady Blundell touched down. But later in town, a clutch of middle-aged women gathered to stare at the car and the visitors from a safe distance.

Raglan respectfully declines

Communities very rarely passed up the honour of a visit, but in December 1973 the Raglan County Council respectfully declined to host Sir Denis Blundell for half a day during his visit to the Waikato.

But this decision was not made without a fair bit of discussion.

Some blamed the local roads, arguing that they would not let him do justice to the county's delights in a mere half-day. 'Given the Raglan county roads, Governors-General usually come by helicopter or not at all,' one councillor admitted.

Others used Raglan's function centres as an excuse. 'Councillors decided the Raglan hall was out,' the Evening Post reported 'because of the blowflies that came in through the side doors at the last viceregal reception there'.

Some councillors suggested holding the event in a woolshed or in the council cafeteria, before wiser counsel prevailed.

Saying no also got them off the hook of compiling the guest list. 'If we invited the 40 people who wrote saying that they weren't invited to the last reception as well as the usual guests, we'll have to cater for more than 100,' one councillor fretted. Think of the rates!

How to cite this page

'Some say yes; some say no', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/vice-regal-visiting/some-say-yes-some-say-no, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2014