The Great Gulf News Trolley Derby first thundered through Oneroa in 1989. It was originally part of a huge community carnival, seeing the Waiheke County Council off in style with ‘The Late Great Waiheke County Fair’. 

In a controversial move, the Local Government Commission had announced the amalgamation of Auckland local authorities into the first version of the supercity. This meant Waiheke County, which had grown out of the Waiheke Roads Board, was being abolished. David and Liz Waters, with the other four Gulf News shareholders and the paper’s editorial team, decided to mark the transition with a celebration and organised the fair. 

Right from the beginning the derby was deeply competitive, with businesses taping over workshop windows to prevent prying eyes. Secrets abounded and industrial espionage was rife. Teams ran clandestine time trials in the dusk.

Back then, trolleys and their drivers had a steep and fast start from where the  police station now stands and there was no roundabout for the racers to avoid. The speeds reached in the first part of the course are a thing of legend.

The first Gulf News trolley was aptly named The Press Gang, a reference to the year before when the paper went ‘pirate’ and printed on a barge in Te Huruhi Bay after Waiheke County Council ordered the paper to stop printing in the Blackpool barn of shareholders Liz and David Waters because it was in a rural zoning area.

Full story in this week’s Gulf News… Out Now!!!

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