Ōamaru Showgrounds

Oamaru Showgrounds Oamaru Showgrounds

Ōamaru Showgrounds (1907)

‘Show Day’ in colonial New Zealand

‘Show Day’ is still a highpoint of provincial calendars and few regions have been holding shows for as long as North Otago. Its ‘A&P’ story began in 1863 when a few big farmers formed the Northern Otago Agricultural and Pastoral Association. Their aims, ‘incitement to improvement in husbandry and stock breeding; the drawing together periodically of the agricultural and pastoral classes, thereby promoting a friendly feeling between them and fostering fellowship amongst the members of each class; and the affording of opportunity to buyers and sellers of stock for ascertaining the work of each other’, still hold good each February. The North Otago A&P, as it became in 1878, has missed a few shows because of war and the 1918 influenza pandemic, but in most years it has staged a one- or two-day show that has brought in people, stock and machinery from far afield.

This is the A&P’s third showground. The first shows were held on ‘the Esplanade’, a euphemism for the wasteland between Tyne Street and the sea, now covered by the buildings of the Tyne/Harbour Street historic precinct. The Association moved here in 1907 from a site on South Hill. J.M. Forrester (son of Thomas, Ōamaru’s foremost architect) designed this grandstand to seat 1200; it also housed a press room, office, lunchroom, kitchen and storage facilities. The grandstand was the centrepiece of rows of cattle pens, sheep yards and pigsties that even today seem to march on forever towards the railway line. A gale blew the roof off in 1951 and shattered a lot of glass, but the old stand retains a sense of timelessness, its old wooden seats showing the traces of generations of feet and backsides. In 2012, the year before the association celebrated its 150th anniversary, Dulux donated paint which volunteers applied to parts of the complex that that had not seen it since the day it was built.

Further information

This site is item number 76 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.

Websites

Article

  • Harry Steenson, ‘100 Years of Shows’, in John Wilson (ed.), Parallel 45, North Otago Branch Committee, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Oamaru, 1997

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