The 'Hataitai' sign

illustration
A drawing of the sign below the signal station on Mt Victoria, from FL Irvine-Smith's Streets of my City.

The Wairarapa Daily Times of 4 November 1902 reported that Wellington residents had awoken "and found emblazoned on the green hill above Oriental Bay the legend 'Hataitai'". The sign appeared on the same day that Richard Seddon arrived in Wellington, and there was a rumour or joke that he thought the sign was a Maori welcome for him. The sign was actually advertising the Hataitai Land Company's new subdivision. The paper congratulated the anonymous creators of the sign, saying "There is no getting away from it, for it stares you in the face."

The New Zealand Free Lance was less complimentary. They reported that the Scenery Beautification Society was on the war trail looking for the vandal who made the sign. The letters were said to be 40 feet high, with the cross-bars on the H and A each being 11 ft long. The paper said it took six barrels of lime and 20 barrels of water just to paint the first two letters. One Wellingtonian wrote to the Council about the 'disfigurement' of the hill, but the Council replied that the land was not part of the Town Belt and was not Council property.

The sign was probably visible for several years before becoming overgrown. It then briefly reappeared in March 1936. A correspondent wrote to the Evening Post that the word 'Hataitai' could clearly be seen in big green letters on the slopes below the 2YA building. The writer guessed that a scrub fire the previous year had burned away lime remaining on the white-washed letters and stimulated new growth of fresh green clover.

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