Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The island to the North – rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

It’s not known widely enough but at the point that Australia finally ceased to be a rabble of competing colonies and instead became a nation comprising a rabble of competing states and territories, New Zealand was almost there at the party.

Travelling eastwards from the Bay of Fires in Tasmania would lead you directly to New Zealand

In 1912, when Walter Burley Griffin was designing Canberra, it still seemed possible that New Zealand might join the new Federation. Reflecting this Griffin envisaged a series of eight major avenues spreading out from Capital Hill, each named after a State capital, the capital of the Northern Territory and the capital of New Zealand.

Each avenue was to end in a park named after a distinctive native plant of the relevant state. After it became clear that New Zealand was not joining after all, the avenue to be called Wellington Avenue was renamed at the last minute as Canberra Avenue. It was an afterthought but someone forgot to tidy up and the area at the end of that forlorn avenue remained as Manuka, named after the New Zealand tree noteworthy for its superior honey.