Life & people of the Port

The Port people during this period were a unique product of their time and place. A few generations from New Zealand’s first pioneering settlers, or even immigrants themselves trying to make ther way in their new country, the ‘Portites’ as they were known were a hard-working, tight knit community based around the working trades and industries of the Port, and common values. They identified themselves with their work – including fishing, dockside, transport, wool; their church – mainly Catholic or Protestant, and their ethnic groups and languages such as the Shetlanders, Scots, English, Italians or Norwegians; but even more, they saw themselves as being from, and part of the ‘Port’ community.

What that meant was living in a place that was obviously not wealthy, but where everyone knew everyone and looked out for each other, and where people felt rich in other ways. If on one level they knew they were looked down on by some in other parts of Napier as the ‘rough and tumble’ part of town, most didn’t care as they saw their world largely contained and insulated by the people in their own community, and most of the people around them were much like themselves – in the same boat. As one Portite said: “..we didn’t have to keep up with the Jones, as the Jones had nothing either.” The Portites celebrated together at times like the annual Port School Ball – the source of much local pride, and pulled together in hard times like the Depression, The 1931 Earthquake, The Doris Disaster, and the wars.