The Tourism Story

400x200 Historical treatments

Rotorua Tourism Story

Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward felt that more tourist traffic from overseas could be attracted if the country’s health resorts were promoted. He placed the administration of Rotorua, then a small settlement of just 2,000 people, in the hands of the newly created Department of Tourist and Health Resorts, and in 1907 that department assumed complete control of the town.

The creation of Rotorua as a tourist and health centre controlled by the Government was a unique, ambitious and costly project.

400x200 Medical treatment Greville hot air baths

Bath House Tourism Story

The story of the administration of the Bath House is also unusual. Although it was a medical facility until 1947, it was managed by the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. By 1922, the year the Government relinquished control and the town became a borough, Rotorua had grown into an important tourist town.

In its heyday the spa gave “from sixty to eighty thousand baths annually, and about thirty thousand special treatments”*. A Railways brochure of the day urged people to take a trip to “Cureland”. (Source: Better Health – a Better Holiday – Rotorua Railways Publicity Branch c. 1935).

Therape400x200 Bathing treatment medical

Bizarre Treatments

Dr Wohlmann describes the treatments available at the Bath House:

“In regard to the kind of baths suitable for different cases, there can be no hard-and-fast rules. Two cases of the same complaint may require two totally different kinds of treatment, but the following generalisations may be of service:

“Priest – Cases of general rheumatism and gout with fairly sound hearts; cases of lumbago and sciatica; cases of chronic dyspepsia, especially when associated with cold hands and feet.

“Rachel – Many cases of eczema and psoriasis; all cases mentioned under Priest not able to stand stronger waters; many cases of insomnia and nervous irritability; some forms of kidney mischief.

“Mud – Almost all forms of painful affections that require a soothing application; some forms of insomnia and nervous irritability.

“Complete vapour – Similar cases to those mentioned under Priest; certain forms of kidney-trouble.

“Local vapour – Obstinately stiff or painful single joints or limbs.

“Aix massage and other douches – Most cases of stiffness, weakness, and local wasting left as a result of gout, rheumatism, or injury – most cases, in fact, of gout, rheumatism, and rheumatoid arthritis when the acute stage is passed and only the results are left; certain forms of neuritis and neuralgia; nervous debility and hysteria; many forms of dyspepsia, especially with engorged liver; piles. In conjunction with gymnastics and movements – many cases of deformity due to muscular weakness; most cases of dyspepsia and constipation.

“The undercurrent douche is especially useful in sciatica and various neuralgias, also in pain and stiffness of the joints, and in certain forms of liver-disorder.

“The swimming baths have their use in enabling patients with stiff joints to take free exercise without bearing their weight on a limb.

“Electric baths – most cases of true rheumatoid arthritis in the acute and subacute stages; many forms of debility and nervous exhaustion; some forms of sciatica.

“High-frequency treatment is used where a general tonic or alternative effect is required, in neuralgia, in certain skin-affections, and in cases of high blood-pressure.

“X-ray – This is used for diagnostic purposes, and in some skin-diseases.

“Vibratory massage – This is a mechanical form of vibration, worked at varying speeds and amplitudes by an electric motor…..used more especially in cases of neuralgia, headache, and some forms of dyspepsia.

“Greville hot-air baths – In these a portion of the body, generally a limb or portion of a limb, is immersed in air heated by electricity up to 400 degrees or even 500 degrees F. The treatment is most effectual in cases of obstinate effusion into joints, as well as in stiff or painful joints generally.

“Plombieres douche – Chronic colitis and arthritic diseases of the intestinal colon.

“Bergonie treatment – Obesity, constipation.

“Orthopaedic apparatus – Stiff joints which are no longer inflamed.

“Radium emanation water – Gout, high-blood pressure, constipation, diabetes.”

AS Wohlmann, The Mineral Waters and Health Resorts of New Zealand, 1914.


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