Story: Public gardens

New Zealand cities and towns usually have at least one public garden. They are enjoyed for their attractive plants, or as pleasant places to relax and play. Some were designed to recreate English parks, but others celebrate New Zealand’s native bush.

Story by Maggy Wassilieff
Main image: Indian garden, Hamilton Gardens

Story summary

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New Zealand towns and cities usually have at least one public park or garden. Popular reasons for visiting public gardens are walking, recreation, having picnics and feeding ducks, as well as admiring the plants.

The oldest public gardens

Dunedin Botanic Garden opened in 1863. It has formal gardens, native bush, a large glasshouse and an aviary of exotic birds.

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens also opened in 1863. It was designed to look like an English park, with formal gardens and European trees.

When the Wellington Botanic Garden was created in 1869, it was a place to trial overseas plants to see if they could adapt to New Zealand conditions. Now it has formal gardens, native bush and many walking paths.

Auckland Domain was set aside for public recreation in 1841. It has sports grounds, gardens, duck ponds and winter gardens. It is also the site of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Provincial gardens

Many smaller towns developed public gardens:

  • In Rotorua, the Government Gardens are on the land surrounding the historic bathhouse.
  • New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park is a bush garden, rather than being formally laid out.
  • In Palmerston North, Victoria Esplanade contains new breeds of roses.
  • Invercargill’s Queens Park is also the site of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

Modern public gardens

Bason Botanic Gardens in Wanganui were created after Stanley Bason gave land to the city council in 1966.

Auckland Botanic Gardens opened near Manurewa in 1982. Staff breed and trial plants that grow well in Auckland, and help conserve native plants.

Hamilton Gardens has several themed gardens, including an Italian renaissance garden, a Chinese garden, a Japanese garden and an Indian garden.

How to cite this page:

Maggy Wassilieff, 'Public gardens', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 28 February 2024)

Story by Maggy Wassilieff, published 24 November 2008