Arthur Bates

"Obituary Arthur Palmer Bates", from the Wanganui Chronicle, 07 May 2002, pg.2: ... His [Arthur's] grandmother Jessie Maule (nee Robb) arrived in Wanganui from Scotland in 1865. Born in Ohakune and raised in Rangataua, he moved to Wanganui in the late 1940s to complete his schooling.
After a time in Palmerston North and overseas he qualified as a chartered accountant and returned to Wanganui in the 1950s; his father Cyril was headmaster at Queen's Park School.
"I never thought I'd stay", he recalled in an interview half a century later. "I ended up at the Wanganui Chronicle as its secretary".
That was because on the street he met the Chronicle secretary, Alan Burnet, who had just been promoted to manager.
"He asked if I'd like to become the secretary. The newspaper, which at that time was owned by a private company, was a very exciting thing to be involved with.
When I took the job I thought I'd stay about a year and then go to Wellington but I became so interested in newspapers as an industry.
At that stage the Chronicle and Herald were both family-owned, in strong competition with each other, neither making big profits.
There was a long term chance of both papers joining up, which made my job a challenge. I got involved with the life of the city, too."
He was instrumental in the Chronicle's takeover of the Herald about 30 years ago and the formation of Wanganui Newspapers. In 1978 he became general manager, succeeding the late Gary Mead.
It was his tramping and photography, however, which led to a fascination with the region's history. Photographing the back country, he became interested in abandoned homestead areas.
Mr Bates became secretary for the Whanganui Regional Museum at a time when it was essentially a hands-on amateur organisation. He credited its then curator Maxwell Smart with encouraging his appreciation of what he termed "the wonderful world of Wanganui history".
The two men wrote The Wanganui Story (1972), partly because of Mr Bates' frustration with the lack of reference books on Wanganui's European settlement.
His later publications included The Bridge to Nowhere (1981), A Wanganui Photo Album (1982), Focus on Wanganui (1984), A Pictorial History of the Wanganui River (1985) and The Wanganui River Today (1995). The bulk were printed and published by Wanganui Newspapers.
There was no more glowing testimonial to his talent than historian Athol Kirk's review of the 1982 publication. He wrote: "Arthur Bates has used his expertise as a distinguished photographer and as a historian of note in selecting the 200 photographs covering the social history of the Wanganui district from 1860 to 1920.
"This book is not only for the historian or the photographer. It is a book for every citizen of Wanganui who has a pride in his city."
Mr Bates retired from Wanganui Newspapers at the end of 1987 and was succeeded by Andy Jarden.
"He was a people person, " Mr Jarden said yesterday. "He was highly respected by staff and was a father figure to some. His passing is a big loss.
"He efficiently managed the Chronicle through difficult times in the merger with the Herald and the Herald's subsequent closure".
A life member of the Wanganui Tramping Club, Wanganui Camera Club and Whanganui Historical Society, he was particularly interested in the heritage, culture and conservation of the Whanganui River and surrounding areas.
He was a foundation member of Friends of the Whanganui River and a long serving member of the Forest and Bird Society, Bushy Park Trust Board, Whanganui Regional Museum Board, Wanganui Botanical Group and New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
The Historic Places Trust's Wanganui chairman, Norm Hubbard, yesterday acknowledged Mr Bates' 26-year service to the organisation. " He was a constant producer of heritage subjects and ideas for discussion," Mr Hubbard said. "And he was a regular attender at working bees".
Mr Hubbard spoke of his "deepest commitment to perfection".
As a young man working for Dalgety's Mr Bates was taken to Tongariro National Park one day.
"It was an eye-opener to see its beauty," he said later. "It also brought back memories of my early childhood at Rangataua - nature study walks, school picnis in the bush and Mt Ruapehu".
His tramping and photography went together nicely, leading to photographic awards in New Zealand and overseas. He was an associate member of the Royal Photographic Society of New Zealand.
Mr Bates' strongly held belief was "you've got to have a plan in life and accept inevitable changes to it".
This was reflected in his working life and his travels, sometimes to distant corners of the globe.
Kindly, self-effacing and slow to take umbrage, Arthur Bates invariably offered a ready smile and encouragement.
b.1926, d.2002


Works by this Artist