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Monday – Friday 10am-4pm, Weekends and public holidays 10am-2pm

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Cambridge Town

Learn about the history of town and its districts, schools and roads over the years.

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Cambridge in the 1980s

1980 saw Mark Todd win the Badminton Whitbread Trophy in the cross country horse jumping event in England. Throughout the 1980’s further wins included Olympic gold and Top Sportsman of the Year. By 1999 Todd had won his fifth title at the Burghley horse trials and was preparing for the Sydney Olympics.

27 February 1981 The New Edition (the current Cambridge newspaper) arrived on the scene. At that time daylight saving was ending, 100 Cambridge people were registered as unemployed and petrol prices reached an horrific 58c a litre. Carpooling was organised!

In June 1981 Te Awamutu and Cambridge Co-operative Dairy Companys amalgamated to become the Waikato Dairy Co-operative Ltd. The company was further enlarged when the Sunny Park – Hinuera Co-operative Dairy Co joined in 1982 and the Bruntwood Dairy Co Ltd closed its factory and joined in September 1983.

In March 1986 the Company (the sixth largest dairy company in New Zealand) celebrated 100 continuous years of manufacturing on the Hautapu site.

The ups and downs of Te Koutu Domain continued and in 1982 the lake was rated the worst of twelve in the Waikato. (Five years previously Te Koutu had won the Waikato Savings Bank Conservation Award.) In 1988 the New Zealand Institute of Park and Recreation Administration presented Cambridge with an award for the development project for Te Koutu Park, conceived by Parks’ Manager David Askin.

The ‘Olympia’ Flow Forms, which cascade down to Lake Te Koutu, were designed by Hastings sculptor Iain Trousdell and put in place in 1989 as part of an attempt to clean the lake water.

The old gasworks was bought by the Cambridge Repertory Society in 1982.  The introduction of electricity in 1921 from the Horahora power station curtailed expansions to the gas plant, and it had closed down in November 1954 having run at a loss for five years. For many years the old retort house was used as the borough depot.

The Repertory Society started transforming the building in 1985. By 1999 extra backstage space, new electrical wiring, gas heating, water and showers had transformed the old gasworks into the very popular ‘Gaslight Theatre’.

The Leamington band rotunda was again saved from destruction in 1983 when many people, mainly from Leamington, petitioned the Council for its restoration. Later in 1995 the rotunda was moved to the fore of the Domain facing Wordsworth Street.

The median strip up Victoria Street was added in 1984 much to the chagrin of the locals who relished the ultra wide street for U-turns. The Ministry of Works were upgrading the street lights and needed the strip to protect the poles, and make crossing safer for pedestrians.

A year later the through pass of State Highway One, cutting off the town at Queen Street and going through Carters Flat, was put in place. The noise and effluent from heavy vehicles in the main business area was not missed.

A route from Taupiri to Cambridge – by-passing Hamilton – was mooted at this time.

The Cambridge Society of Arts has been active since 1964 and their Gallery in Te Koutu Domain (in the former Ladies Bowling Club rooms) has been in operation since 1985.

The Cambridge Ladies Bowling Club had been established in 1951 and moved to join the men’s club in 1983.

In June 1983 Jazzercize came to Cambridge. In March 1985 the first motorcycle toy run in aid of Child Cancer took to the streets of Cambridge. In March 1985 Kemureti Kohanga Reo (based in a prefabricated classroom at Leamington School) got underway. Later in the year relocatable granny flats were sanctioned by Council and started popping up around town. Neighbourhood Watch was introduced by the Police and Blue Light Discos were popular with the young people.

Murmurings of district changes were reported from a Counties Association Conference in June 1982. In 1985 the thought was that if there had to be change then the new district would have to centre around Cambridge – if not, Cambridge would lose its identity.

The Cambridge Borough Council came into being on 7 September 1886 – twenty-two years after Cambridge was founded. It had been preceded by the Cambridge North Highway Board in 1871 and the Cambridge Town Board formed in 1882. The month of August 1986 was a whirl of celebrations and many projects were up for discussion as a fitting commemoration for the event – a multi purpose recreation centre, covering and heating the swimming pool, a gymnasium.

The Begonia House in Te Koutu Domain was decided upon; built in 1986 and opened during a very successful Autumn Festival in 1987.

Cambridge farewelled the Borough Council on Friday, 13 October 1989.

The PEP Scheme (Project Employment Programmes) was cancelled at the beginning of 1986. Aotearoa Meats Ltd merged to become Weddel Crown Corporation Ltd. Telephone party-lines disappeared as the new automatic phones were installed and GST (Goods and Services Tax) arrived in October 1986.

The Post Office became New Zealand Post in 1987 and a year later both the Leamington and Karapiro Post Offices fell victim to the reorganisation. State Electricity became Electrocorp.

The districts’ amalgamation in 1989 laid the Cambridge Borough Council to rest at the age of 103 years, leaving many residents to mourn in bewilderment.

“Change is here” said Mrs Pat Allan (Cambridge mayor since 1985), “and how we meet change and adapt as our forefathers did, to make the new Waipa District grow and prosper, is up to all of us in the future.”