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Alister Bevin

Posted by SC Comments Off on Alister Bevin

Alister Bevin’s spade with swivelling head

Alister Bevin was Mr Entrepreneur and Inventor of Piha in the 1940s and 1950s. In town he had a firm with agricultural implements in Albert Street and every Piha bach had a Bevin Harrow spade with the unique swivelling head. Many also had Bevin’s nifty little door catches. We have them at the bach and also had them on all kitchen cupboards in Pt Chevalier (scroll down to bottom of this post to see one).

Bevin’s bach was at the beginning of Garden Road facing the lagoon and this was totally Bevin territory. Alister built a bridge so North Piha folk could get onto Piha beach over the Lagoon. It appeared from under tons of sand about 10 years ago after a big storm came raging down from the hills and scoured out the Lagoon. My recall is Rob Astley took it up to his place at North Piha.

Bevin spade frontal view

Across on the dunes on the Piha side he had changing sheds, swings, a dance floor and down on the sand a kiosk called Bevins’ Canteen which sold soft drinks and Eskimo Pies. The kiosk was managed by Alister’s son, Peter, from the tender age of 16. Alister advertised that Peter would be able to tell visitors everything about the surf, which he could because he was a great swimmer and surf life saver.

Alister saw the potential in promoting Piha as a tourism destination and one of his projects was to get people up to Tasman Lookout to enjoy the great view. The track he promoted was actually cut by Peter and his mate Buddy Lucas, and ascended steeply from by Pakiti Rock.

Alister was a feisty character and had a few rows around Piha. One of these resulted in his removing Peter from the Piha Surf Club and taking him up to North Piha club which was formed in the 1950s.

Alister Bevin from his letterhead

Alister Bevin from his letterhead

Bevin was also ahead of his time in his agricultural methods. In 1944, he self-published a book called The Awakening, which anticipated no-tillage cropping systems. In 2012, NZ’s John Baker was nominated for the 2012 World Food Prize for the cross-slot planting technology developed in NZ,  now used internationally for planting seed in no-till systems. That’s how far ahead of his time Alister was. You can read about no-tillage cropping systems here

What is also interesting is Alister’s comment in the book that the harrowing system he advocated seemed to prevent outbreaks of facial eczema in dairy cattle. His system, which is likely to have speeded the microbial breakdown of the dead rye grass which harbours the fungus which produces the toxin causing facial eczema, would have been a simpler, more healthy option than  the current practice of drenching with zinc oxide. Zinc oxide can cause pancreatic damage if used for prolonged periods.

Albert Street premises of Alister Bevin, 1960s, ACL

Albert Street premises of Alister Bevin, 1960s, ACL

Bevin cupboard catch

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