Lure of the Trail – Programme 12 – Lewis Pass

Lewis Pass Canvas Art Print, Linelle Stacey.

In the late 1930s the New Zealand Department of Tourist and Publicity produced a series of radio programmes to encourage New Zealanders to holiday within New Zealand rather than travelling overseas.

This series, entitled “Lure of the Trail”, was produced by Radio Features Ltd and aired on the National Commercial Broadcasting Service stations 1ZB (Auckland), 2ZB (Wellington), 3ZB (Christchurch) and 4ZB (Dunedin).

In this episode our narrator gets somewhat lost in Europe, travelling the Brenner Pass from Austria to Italy, via the Gotthard railway tunnel (which links Switzerland to Italy)…

Luckily his New Zealand geographic skills are better once he returns us to the South Island, and the route from Reefton, on the West Coast, to Hanmer Springs, in North Canterbury, the Lewis Pass.

The modern road would only just have been completed at the time this programme was recorded.

These photos show the rugged country the road builders had to contend with in the 1930s.

Lewis Pass road under construction in the 1930s. Canterbury Museum
The Public Works Department Camp where workers building the Lewis Pass road were housed. Canterbury Museum

Our journey starts in Reefton, then travels via Springs Junction to a stop at the Maruia Hot Springs, at the western base of the pass, before tackling the pass itself.

Maruia Hot Springs. thisNZlife

Made it!

Top of the Lewis Pass 4th Sept 1940. West Coast Recollect

The Lewis Pass could be (and still can be!) a challenge to motorists, even in summer.

Lewis Pass summer snow, Feb 1939. West Coast Recollect
“All roads lead to home, and the Government Tourist Bureau knows all the roads”

These records were found in a library sale in New York by one of our supporters, who donated them by hand during a cruise to New Zealand!

The recordings are 12″ 33⅓ rpm records that play from the inside out.

In the 1980s a similar media campaign was run using the catchphrase, “Don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country”, a slogan which is still part of the Kiwi vernacular today.

Transfer docket between the ZB stations © Radio Heritage Foundation
Some of the well-travelled packaging originally use to ship these records around NZ © Radio Heritage Foundation
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