History repeats itself on Wellington street
DEVON STREET, which links Victoria University to Aro St, has barely changed since it was named by one of New Zealand’s early settlers in the late 19th century.
William Adams, a land speculator, named the street after his home county of Devon, in the south-west of England.
The notoriously narrow, twisting and steep Devon St has been a source of debate between Wellingtonians and the city council practically ever since.
For example, three letters to the editor of The Evening Post between 1928 and 1930 made the same sort of points about the street that people are still making today: it’s steep, too narrow and dangerous.
Two of the letter-writers questioned the council’s attitude to the street, which they said was a “main thoroughfare from the south end of the city to Kelburn”.
“The neglect of Devon Street, one of the most picturesque thoroughfares of Wellington city, is a serious matter,” wrote ‘Cow- tracker’.
Eighty years later, Wellington City Council is repaving the footpath along Devon St, making the road even narrower and angering residents who have virtually no room to park.
Devon St is still a main thoroughfare, especially handy for university students getting to their Aro Valley flats.
The street now bears the familiar signs of student living: a couch sitting on the footpath, bottle bins brimming with beer stubbies, and Victorian and Edwardian houses in need of a good paint.
An ongoing debate is whether it should become one-way. If so, which way?
Jen O’Connell, who has lived there for 14 years, said it was an interesting place to live, and thought it was manageable as a two-way street.
“I would hate them to make it one-way.”
She said it emptied out at this time of year when students went home.
Come January, she watches as her new neighbours try to navigate the steep street, thinking it’s one-way.
“There are a lot of near crashes.”
Another 1920s letter to The Evening Post drew attention to the dangerous hairpin corner that “a large motor-car or lorry cannot get around” without driving on to the footpath.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
An eight-wheeled truck got stuck on the same U-bend a couple of months ago after the driver followed his GPS too religiously.
A crane was eventually called in to remove it.
Charles Mabbett, who has lived in the street for nine years, said residents always knew when something had happened because the street was blocked off by police cars and “nothing can move”.
Earlier this year a man was killed when his digger rolled on the steep street.
Ms O’Connell said fire engines used to be sent to Devon St for practice, to see if the drivers could get them around the notorious hairpin bend.
Devon St is one of many sections of the Aro Valley that has gained a reputation for political radicalism and shady dealings.
“They say that about Aro Valley – that it was quite a lefty area,” said Mr Mabbett, who was inclined to agree.