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Henry JACOBSEN and the New Zealand Government

Correspondance Between Henry and the Nelson Provincial Government


Henry Jacobsen appears to have made something of a nuisance of himself in dealings with the government. His first official correspondence referred to a bush license at the Buller in 1861, and renewal of the same in the following year. The next correspondence (dated 29 September 1869) seems to have riled the Provincial Secretary - or at least, the Harbour Master:

Sir, I am directed to inform you that you are to consider yourself an officer of the Westport Harbour Department and as such obey the orders of the Harbour Master.

This seems to have had the desired effect on Henry, as the next time he wrote to the Government, it was almost six years later - the 9th of June, 1875. He requested permission to board vessels entering Westport, in order to pilot them across the bar. This met with the following reply:

Sir, In reply to your letter of the 27th instant, applying for the appointment of Pilot at Westport, I have the honor to inform you that the Government are not prepared to comply with your request.

Undeterred, Henry wrote again in July of the same year, requesting permission to take possession of the house at the Signal Station. This tussle he appeared to win, as the letter from the Provincial Secretary shows:

Sir, You will please intimate to Mr I T Low, the second pilot that his services as Signalman will be no longer required and that he will give over all signals and other gear belonging to the Signal Station into the charge of Henry Jacobsen who has been appointed as Signalman.

The following month, however, Henry was in for another fight.

Sir, The harbourmaster having informed the government that you have declined to accept payment for your services as Signalman at the rate provided for in the Appropriations Act, namely 10 per month I have the honour to inform you that, as they cannot pay any officer in the service a salary higher than that voted by the Provincial Council, the Government will be compelled to demand your resignation if you persist in refusing to accept payment for such services at the rate provided for by law.

However, Henry was not prepared to give up without a fight. The following month he wrote again regarding his salary, and obviously having decided that the house he was occupying was not suitable for his new position, he requested permission to take possession of a new home. He was yet again unsuccessful:

The Harbourmaster informs the Government that this house is required for the crew of the Pilot boat. A house for the Signalman will be built at the Flagstaff as soon as the preliminary arrangements are concluded.

This compromise seems to have satisfied Henry, as it was the last of his correspondence with the Nelson Provincial Government.

Correspondance Between Henry and the New Zealand Government


In August 1890 Henry was back to his old tricks with the government, apparently extremely annoyed at his transfer from Nelson to Manukau North Head (south of Auckland). has been raining on 25 days last month, the rain that fell is 8 1/2 inches it keeps me pretty well employed to repair the footpath, everything is wet, sloppy and rotten. I suppose I shall be rotten before long if I have to stop here long. I don't know what I have done to be punished in this fashion.

Justifiably annoyed it seems as his work record has been exemplary, and his salary has been reduced!

I have been 24 years in the service, 10 years Signalman in Westport and nearly 15 the same in Nelson, I have always done my duty faithfully, never been reported for neglect or anything else in all that time. I have never been one day of duty not one holiday in all that time, nor a day of sickness, still my salary has been reduced from 192 to 172 to 140 now to 120. I realy don't know why my salary should get less instead of more like other officers. I took the first permanent settlers down to Westport and Greymouth and made the canoes to start them up the river, in so doing I lost my vessel "Ketch Jane"., for compensation I received the appointment of Signalman in Westport, and I had to act as Harbour Master and Signalman day and night I hardly ever had any rest, ten and twelve steamboats a day.

The response from the government was short, sharp and to the point:

I have to state that in sending you to your present station there was no intention to punish you. Your services at Nelson were no longer required there and it was considered that you would prefer such an appointment as your present one to having your services dispensed with, and you were sent to Manukau North Head as being the most suitable station for you. I would point out that, when at Nelson you received 120 a year and 20 for house allowance, and that you are still paid the same salary 120, but that as you are provided with a house, you can scarcely expect the house allowance in addition.

And until, in Henry's words

I received notice from the secretary of the Marine Department that he had the honour to inform me that on account of my old age, my services would no longer be required.

in 1902, this appears to be the last correspondance with the Government (found so far!).

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