Story: City parks and green spaces

All New Zealand cities have green spaces where city dwellers can ramble, relax and enjoy themselves – ranging from huge regional parks to green roofs on city buildings. Wellington even has its own urban sanctuary for native wildlife.

Story by Kerryn Pollock
Main image: Auckland Domain, around 1890

Story summary

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At the time that Europeans settled in New Zealand, British and European cities were crowded and polluted. Green spaces were seen as important for health, allowing people to relax, walk, play sport and breathe fresh air. Most of New Zealand’s planned settlements set aside land for parks and town belts.

Town belts

Town belts are large, tree-filled areas that encircle cities and are protected from development. Town belts were set aside in Wellington and Dunedin, and still exist today. In the early years, they were used for grazing cattle and getting firewood as well as for recreation.

Parks and domains

Large parks were created in Auckland and Christchurch in the mid-19th century. Many smaller centres, such as Masterton, New Plymouth and Invercargill, also had parks early on.

In the 20th century, people in cities had more time for leisure. Local councils developed more parks in suburban areas. State housing schemes also included green spaces for residents and their children to play and relax in.

Regional parks

Regional parks are large open areas, mostly near cities. They are used for walking, farming, forestry and conservation.

New green spaces

New types of green space in cities include:

  • community gardens, where a group of people plant a garden together
  • roof gardens, which have plants growing in beds or pots, or on a special roof surface
  • wildlife sanctuaries, which protect native plants and animals.

Community involvement

From the late 19th century, people joined together to take care of green spaces in cities. They worked to protect native bush and to plant trees on bare land.

Today some groups look after green spaces by planting trees, removing weeds and pests, and running guided tours.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'City parks and green spaces', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 July 2024)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 11 March 2010