Alf Rendell – Recorder of History and Change


Alf’s spent his life photographing and recording the land and development of Tauranga. Now a spritely 96 years, he’s the featured speaker at the Tauranga Historical Society.

A friend asked me if I would like to come along to this meeting and presentation to be held in a meeting room behind the Brain Watkins House on Cameron Road. I’m early so I have a look around the outside of the house. It’s like a piece of Ponsonby and it’s definitely standing still in the face of the new wave of development around it. The paths are tiled – blue, brown and cream. The house looks a little cold and sad in this mid-winter weather. During the meeting there’s a call for more volunteer guides – the house is open for visitors.

Alf Rendell shows us how he used to take his early aerial photographs from a Tiger Moth, facing backwards with a folding camera! Alf photographed Tauranga at a time (1945) there were only 3,000 people in the Tauranga region. They show a predominantly rural area with little windy roads. Rows of orchards and shelter belts – not kiwifruit at this time but citrus. Matua in the 1950,s is farmland. There’s a photograph of the ‘James Cook’ at the Dive Crescent wharf taking on the first load of export timber.

Members of the audience, long time Tauranga residents, assist Alf in pointing out features and naming roads and activities. This is the place they grew up in and know each farmhouse, orchard and turn of the road – “I used to keep my horse….”

The nature of Tauranga’s development and housing infill is clearly shown because Alf went round in 2006 and took coloured photographs of the areas photographed earlier in black and white. Nowhere is the change more dramatic than Omokoroa Point where in 1947 there were 12 dairy farms and trees hide a major homestead.
There’s a discussion about the change of the street names to extend the Avenues when State Housing was built in 19th Avenue. People know the names of the streets. They talk about the development of the Tauranga Hospital. There’s comment about the development of the Port of Tauranga – “it’s been on steroids over the past 15-16 years..”.

Afterwards, we’re having tea and biscuits. Alf Rendell is surrounded by the interested and purchasers of his beautiful, black and white aerial photographs. Alf is happy for me to call to interview him.

When I’m talking with Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell of Creative Tauranga I find that Alf is to be a featured exhibition in the Community Gallery. We’ll put details of that in Coming Up (and going on) and I’ll see if I can talk to Alf about his work and that exhibition.


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