Like the major centres, many of New Zealand’s smaller settlements reserved land for green spaces early on. It seems that no self-respecting small town or city went for long without acquiring a public park of some sort.
Queen Elizabeth Park in Masterton was reserved when the town was first surveyed in 1854. Like many such reserves, it was grazed for a number of years before becoming an official public park in 1875. Originally known as Masterton Park, its name was changed in 1952 to commemorate the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.
New Plymouth meets Mayfair
In 2007, New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park beat Palmerston North’s Square to win the top ‘Mayfair’ slot on the updated New Zealand version of the board game Monopoly. The winner was decided by popular vote.
New Plymouth’s 1841 city plan provided for a town belt, but the land was then allocated to settlers for farms. Conflict with Māori was brewing over land, and the governor limited the expansion of European settlement to areas close to the town. The belt was too valuable a resource to remain untouched.
Pukekura Park was created in 1875, when conflict over land had largely ceased. By this time, most of the site’s trees had been felled and it was covered with gorse and ferns. Over time, however, the 52-hectare park has become lush and tree-filled. It is home to the annual Festival of Lights, and the adjacent Brooklands Bowl hosts the annual WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival.
Lawn mowers, Nelson style
The Nelson City Council uses hundreds of sheep and cattle to keep the grass down on its parks and reserves. The ‘four-legged mowers’1 also control pest plants such as old man’s beard, broom and ragwort, so chemical sprays are not needed.
The Queenstown Gardens, now a tree-filled park on a peninsula in Lake Wakatipu, became a public reserve in 1866, three years after the township sprang up during the Otago gold rush. Exotic trees such as English oaks and Australian eucalyptus were planted there from 1866. Unlike most city parks, the reserve has been owned and managed by various government departments for most of its life. In the 2000s, the land was owned by the Department of Conservation but managed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
When Invercargill was formed in 1857, 80 hectares of bush was set aside for a public park. For a number of years the reserve, now known as Queen’s Park, was leased for grazing, and the trees were cut down and grass sown in their place. In 1911 the Invercargill and Suburban Beautifying Society lobbied for – and soon got – improvements to the park.