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Invercargill’s Dee St as it was in the Edwardian period. Auckland Professor Paul Moon researched this period in New Zealand’s history, including Invercargill, in his new book, Touring Edwardian New Zealand.Photo: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection 35-R613

WHAT was Invercargill like during the Edwardian period?

Auckland Professor Paul Moon found the answer while researching his new book, Touring Edwardian New Zealand, which features a section on Invercargill and the West Coast.

The book examines the rich period of New Zealand’s history, as the country stepped away from its colonial connections and began to establish its own identity.

In 1902, travel agency Thomas Cook published a guide for tourists in Aotearoa, painting the country as a tourist and health resort, which Moon said provided a rare insight into New Zealand’s Edwardian history.

“This book is a reminder of how the country was seen in the past. It acts as a sort of historical resuscitation, reviving experiences of travelling through the country that were forgotten for over a century,” he said.

An extract in Moon’s book is from the 1905 Cyclopedia of New Zealandin which it was recorded how Invercargill was noted for its remarkably pretty gardens, and its extensive reserves: “There are four small blocks, which are being gradually reclaimed from a state of nature, and brought into a high state of cultivation.”

Moon said Invercargill was regarded by Thomas Cook as a hub for tourism to Rakiura Stewart Island and Fiordland, rather than a destination in itself.

“How the [travel] system worked was most tourists arrived in Auckland, so by the time they arrived in Invercargill, these were the ones that generally had more money. They tried to make Invercargill look as attractive as possible to squeeze as much money as possible out of tourists.”

He said Invercargill was presented as a picturesque garden town, as opposed to established garden towns such as Cambridge in Waikato.

“Thomas Cook were quite restrictive in where they sent tourists, they basically sent tourists to where they thought they would be astonished by the country.

“If you read the description of Stewart Island the Thomas Cooke agents promoted, it’s almost like this sunny, tropical paradise.”

Tourists were often quite surprised that it was stormy and much colder than they anticipated, Moon said.

“On the other hand though, when they went to Fiordland, they were overwhelmed. They had no idea it would be as dramatic as it was.”

  • Touring Edwardian New Zealand by Professor Paul Moon will be released in bookstores on June 12.
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