New Zealand Company surveyor William Mein Smith laid out Wellington in a grid pattern, with a town belt encircling the city sections. In this plan the town belt is shown by the broken line that runs beyond the outermost sections.
A century and a half later, Lauris Edmond evoked this green space in her poem ‘Town Belt’, recording her own experience of the belt, and recalling Mein Smith’s efforts:
Where I live country is town, town
country. Walking beneath a green filigree
of ngaio, sticky-berry, birch, I see quite close
the angles of office block towers and roofs;
the same clear light encompasses both.
I can walk to Change Alley in half an hour,
above me a wax-eye spirals and darts.
Remember therefore the fighting surveyor,
Mein Smith, craggy-tempered, dogged, grumbling
that rain fell ‘in 14 places’ on to his plans
in the bush-bound shack that in 1840
passed for an office; think how he smiled
as he drew the lines of this green encirclement
that was to hold like a gentle hand his
little city. And among a thousand failures,
it remained. This shaded track with the earthy
musk of tree-bark and moss is redolent still
of an old humanity. Less than a mile
from the mammoths of concrete and steel
I breathe to the steady pulse of his dream.
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: MapColl 832.4799/1840/Acc.317
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Source: Lauris Edmond, Selected poems 1975–2000. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2001. First published by Daphne Brasell Associates, 1994. Permission granted by the literary estate of Lauris Edmond.