As cities grew and suburbs developed, green spaces followed. City dwellers began to have more leisure time, so open spaces for outdoor recreation became increasingly important. The 20th century saw local councils taking an active approach to the development of new urban parks. More parks appeared in central areas, while suburban parks popped up in the newer parts of town. Suburban parks are now dotted through all New Zealand cities and are an important part of the local landscape, providing space for amenities such as sports fields and children’s playgrounds.
Sweet, sweet music
Band rotundas were built in many parks in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and brass-band performances often accompanied a Sunday stroll through the park. Today, musical events such as Opera in the Park in Nelson, or Summer City concerts in Wellington’s Botanic Garden, bring large crowds to urban green spaces.
More green spaces
In Auckland, the number of green spaces increased significantly from the early 20th century. In the first few decades a number of sports fields, such as Victoria Park in Freemans Bay, were established, and land in the Waitākere Ranges was purchased for a reserve. In 1911 parks enthusiast Christopher Parr was elected mayor. Under his tenure new parks appeared throughout the city, including Point Erin Park in Ponsonby, Myers Park off Queen Street, and Parnell Park (now Dove-Myer Robinson Park) in Parnell.
In the early 20th century, a number of parks were built or extended in Wellington suburbs, including Kelburn, Berhampore, Brooklyn and Kilbirnie.
From the 1970s, small ‘pocket parks’ began appearing in the central city. These spaces, such as Midland Park off Lambton Quay, are popular with workers at lunchtime and with apartment dwellers, as is the waterfront Waitangi Park, constructed in the early 2000s.
In Christchurch, the older inner-city suburbs were initially not well provided with parks, but this was later remedied. Parks were created from old homesteads in St Albans (Abberly Park in 1940), Opawa (Risingholme in 1943) and Fendalton (Mona Vale in 1968). As Christchurch expanded beyond this early core, new parks were created, such as Fendalton Park (1944), Burnside Park (1955) and Jellie Park (1960).
The big guns
During the Second World War, United States army and marine forces were stationed in New Zealand. Some were housed in temporary barracks and camping grounds in city parks, such as Cornwall Park in Auckland, and Anderson and Central parks in Wellington. After Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, a collection of historic cannons in Auckland’s Albert Park was buried in case the Japanese mistook them for modern weaponry and bombed the central city. They were not dug up until 1977.
Central government included green spaces in state housing schemes. In the Savage Crescent settlement in Palmerston North, built between 1938 and 1945, houses were situated around a large, oval park where children could play safely. Naenae in Lower Hutt, built in 1945, was well-supplied with parks and green ‘corridors’ which allowed children to walk to school without using roads.
These spaces did not always work. Like Savage Crescent, Talbot Park in Glen Innes, Auckland, was constructed around a central park. The park’s enclosed nature made it unsafe, and when the area was redeveloped by Housing New Zealand from 2006 to 2008, two new parks were created next to main roads.