The Rise of the Motor Vehicle in Richmond


In 1923, John Warring (known as Jack) opened a bicycle shop near Queen Street’s intersection with Gladstone Road. Just three years later the growing popularity of motor vehicles led Jack to expand and move the business to a new site on Queen Street, opposite the Star and Garter Hotel, in order to open Richmond’s first petrol station.

Warrings Garage

Warring's Garage in the 1920s. Photo from Tasman Heritage.

In the late 1890s the Government had legalised the operation of motor vehicles as long as they were lit at night and did not travel faster than 20 kilometres an hour. In the early 1900s, cars cost more than senior public servants earned in a year, so most early vehicle owners in New Zealand were professionals such as doctors, and wealthy sheep farmers.1

Vehicles were evident in the Nelson-Tasman area in the early 1900s, and in 1905 the Waimea County Council enacted several bylaws governing their use, including a speed limit on country roads of 24 kilometres an hour. On 10 February 1905 the Nelson Evening Mail reported that the non-motoring public was not thrilled to see the rise of cars on the streets.

“…the new carriage encounters a measure of hostility, because the present generation of horse is not accustomed to it. In the course of a few years the training of young horses with probably include familiarity with the motor car and the latter’s sounds…  “In a few years every horse not an incorrigible shier will be as used to the car as it has become used to the bicycle and the railway train.”2

Florence Warring and her daughter Zena Williams in Queen Street

Florence Warring and her daughter Zena Williams. Photo from Tasman Heritage.

Warring’s Garage did a steady trade, selling new bicycles, and petrol in four-gallon tins. Later, a hand-operated pump was installed and a mechanic hired so the garage could also offer servicing and repairs.

Health and safety was a concern for the local Council even in the 1920s, and Jack was required to install a large wooden turntable so vehicles did not have to back out onto Queen Street, which was considered dangerous.3

In 1934, Warring’s Garage was joined by a competitor when Cromie’s garage opened on the corner of Cambridge and Queen streets, and in 1946 Cambridge Motors opened in Cambridge Street opposite the Town Hall. The owner of Cambridge Motors, Raymond Win, held the franchise for Bradford Motors, giving Richmond its first new motor vehicle sales outlet.

Motorised Public Transport

Taxis and buses were popular in the 1920s when fewer people owned cars of their own. Five taxi operators are listed in records for 1921, as well as five operators of cars and buses under the Newman Brothers banner. Crouchers (later to become the Suburban Bus Company) bus driver Ian Wilson recalled stiff competition between bus companies.4

Public transport on Queen Street

Early public transport in Queen Street, Richmond. Photo from Tasman Heritage.

 “There used to be a bit of a scrabble for passengers. Russells’ used to start from Appleby and they’d try and pick up your passengers. And Burnses’ (sic) from Wakefield – Black and White – they used to do the same. And also all adjust their times to take advantage. And then the bus company – Crouchers – bought out Russells’ and Russells became part of the bus company. That became Nelson Suburban Bus Company.” Ian Wilson.5

“I remember the first bus line. It was run by a Mr Russell and he had a walking stick, and viewing it from now I can see that he was merely trying to be friendly with the kids, but he used to chase us with this walking stick and he’d have the crooked end out and he’d catch us with the crooked end. We were all scared of him... He had the first buses that I can remember and it would be the first reliable service – like it ran to a timetable from Richmond to Nelson and back. “ Geoff Tuffnell.6

Text taken from The Rise of the Motor Vehicle -  Queen Street Heritage Board 2018

Updated August 16, 2022

Sources used in this story

  1. Eric Pawson, 'Cars and the motor industry - A motorised society', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 November 2017).
  2. Motor car traffic. (1905, February 10).  Nelson Evening Mail, p. 2. Retrieved from
  3. Kearns, P. ( 2010, October 6).  Waimea Weekly, p. 12-13.
  4. Sutton, Jean. (1992). How Richmond grew. Richmond, New Zealand: Jean Sutton, p.199-200.
  5. Wilson, I. (1984, August 6). Interview with Les Slater. [Transcript of tape recording]. Richmond Oral History Project, Richmond Borough Council. Richmond, New Zealand: p.6-7. Retrieved from
  6. Tuffnell, G. (1984, June 29). Interview with Lisa Van Wessel. [Transcript of tape recording]. Richmond Oral History Project, Richmond Borough Council. Richmond, New Zealand: p.14. Retrieved from

Want to find out more about the The Rise of the Motor Vehicle in Richmond ? View Further Sources here.

Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.

Comment on this story

Post your comment


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments

Further sources - The Rise of the Motor Vehicle in Richmond



  • Johnston, J ( 2017, Apr 26). End of an era for Richmond shop. Waimea Weekly, p. 15.
  • Kearns, P. ( 2010, October 6).  Waimea Weekly, p. 12-13.
  • Pioneers of Richmond Business development: Richmond Centennial Sale supplement. (1991, July 22). Nelson Evening Mail, p. 6.

Web Resources