Long journey celebrated

22:42, Feb 13 2014

The Automobile Association today celebrates 110 years of being the Nelson motorists' champion with the launch of a book that traverses that journey.

Nelson AA councillor Denis Le Cren has spent 18 months researching its history, reading the minutes that date back to its formation in 1904, discovering historic photographs and increasing his respect for the organisation's relevance.

"The major thing I took from the whole project is the average person has no inkling of the impact that the AA has had in Nelson and on the community as a whole," he said.

It was significant that the organisation had not only survived 110 years but was still just as relevant today.

It began as the Nelson Motor Club when there were no garages and car owners joined as a self-help group.

The book, Celebrating 110 years of the AA in Nelson, features a photo of Nelson's first car, a 1903 Conrad Steamer owned by the Bisley family.


That initial group of 19 enthusiasts has grown to 22,618 members in Nelson.

In the early days there were no road signs and Automobile Association councillors erected them, he said. By 1963 the AA had put up 8000 road signs.

Volunteers over the years had put in thousands of hours of work in the interests of the AA and motorists.

Mr Le Cren, who has been on the AA council for 43 years, is an Austin fan and owns a 1929 Austin 12/4 Tourer. He edits the Vintage Austin Register, a national magazine, useful experience for the AA book.

NZAA Nelson district council chairman Paul Heywood said it was not just a history of the AA but a significant document of early Nelson motoring.

"Looking back at our records you can see that the most common callouts in the AA's early days were for people locking their keys in their car, running out of fuel, or battery problems.

"This year the AA will come to the assistance of close to 9000 motorists in Nelson and the major reasons will still be the same.

Just as importantly, the AA continues to speak out on our members' behalf in Nelson, focusing on improving road safety, being the motorist's champion and pushing for better roads and infrastructure."

AA Nelson launches the book at a celebration, attended by NZAA president Bruno Petrenas, Nelson leaders and representations of organisations the AA has worked with, at the AA Centre in Halifax St this evening.