The Rotary Club of Napier was born at a meeting on the evening of Saturday 5 April 1924 at the Salisbury Tearooms on Hastings Street. Two Rotarians came from Auckland and one from Wellington with the mission of starting a Rotary Club in Napier. Toward that end, they canvassed the professional and business community, and twenty-two people at that first meeting expressed their interest in becoming foundation members of the Napier Club.

The first regular luncheon of the newly-formed club was held in the premises of the Napier YMCA on 14 April 1924. The Monday midday meetings continued here for sixteen and a half years. Rotary became established in the community and the Club was recognised as a body of highly reputable, responsible men (and now women) with a mission to serve.
Among those to receive Rotary assistance in those early years were underprivileged families, children’s homes, hospital patients, the blind, the aged, the scouts and guides, and other youth groups.

In late July 1930 meetings were moved to the Masonic Hotel on Marine Parade where the members sat at a long T-shaped table and enjoyed a three course meal. The licensee Pat Hanlon was such a genial and generous host that the Club made him a Rotarian, too!

The final Rotary luncheon at the Masonic Hotel was on Monday 2 February 1931. High on the agenda of that meeting was discussion of the programme of the Ninth New Zealand Rotary Conference to be held in Napier in just four weeks’ time.

Twenty-one hours later Napier suffered the worst natural disaster in New Zealand’s history – a catastrophic earthquake that reduced the Masonic Hotel to rubble and left the town reeling and ablaze.

The Napier City Council Chambers on Marine Parade and just outside the fire belt suffered comparatively little damage and it was here, on the evening of 19 February 1931, that an emergency meeting of the Rotary Club of Napier was held. Fifteen members were in attendance and it was decided to resume regular meetings within a week, using the Trocadero Restaurant which had been opened by a fellow Rotarian following destruction of his tearooms on Hastings Street.

To quote the Napier Rotary President at that meeting, “No Rotary Club ever had a better opportunity of rendering service to its community than that presented at the moment to the members of this organisation.”

Emergency operations were immediately set into motion. Rotary was responsible for setting up the Reconstruction Committee, assisting in bringing the town and townspeople back from the destruction and devastation, and helping to restore Napier to the now Art Deco Capitol of the World, due to its Art Deco architecture which replaced the buildings destroyed by the quake and fires.
Throughout its history, the Rotary Club of Napier has taken an active local role not only in the earthquake reconstruction, but also in helping establish the gannetry lookout where visitors can stand and watch a colony of gannets (sea birds) at Cape Kidnappers. This lookout is unique in the world.

Napier Rotary also helped establish Ravensdown fertiliser plant between Napier and Clive, and restore the Veronica Sun Bay on the Marine Parade ocean front, which honours the New Zealand Navy sailors who were instrumental in the rescue and recovery efforts in Napier after the 1931 earthquake.

With a Club as old as Napier’s (the seventh oldest in New Zealand), it is impossible to list all of the various projects accomplished through its members’ efforts, but we can say with authority that the Rotary Club of Napier has since its inception played a very active role in community service and shared its resources in a large variety of local ways.

The largest fundraising project of the Club currently is participation each year in the annual Mission Estate Winery Concert. Since the Mission Concerts began, the Club has managed the VIP car parking for the event in exchange for the opportunity to collect for one hour from the crowd, with funds going to local charities in the area. The Rotary Club of Napier has distributed over $300,000.00 locally through Mission Concert Collections, and it continues in an active role in this fund raiser every year.

The Club also has many other smaller projects throughout the year, both locally and overseas. The most recent overseas project involved Club members travelling to Fiji to assist in setting up their school library. Books were collected for this project, and Rotarians and partners were hosted by local Fijians in this joint Fellowship and Service venture.

Membership has ebbed and flowed since the original twenty-two members, to a high of 114 members in 1974. This was before the Rotary Club of Napier sponsored four other local Rotary branch Clubs – Ahuriri, Napier West, Taradale and Taupo. Since the inception of those Clubs, the membership of the Rotary Club of Napier has remained between twenty-five and forty.

The Club meeting place has made a number of moves throughout the years and now meets at The Hawke's Bay Club on Marine Parade, still on Mondays, still at midday.

The Club embodies Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self” and welcomes like-minded people to join us for a Monday lunchtime meeting in order to give back to this wonderful city of Napier.
Napier Rotary meets
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Napier Rotary
PO Box 635
Napier 4140
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