Friday, 29 November 2013

Auckland Botanic Gardens

In May 1967 the Auckland Regional Authority (ARA which was succeeded by the Auckland Regional Council, ARC) and the Manukau City Council purchased land in Manurewa for the purpose of creating a regional botanic garden. Proposals for a garden had been discussed over many years, with Auckland sites having first been investigated as early as 1926. During the 1960s, sites were investigated at Cornwall Park, Tamaki and Cascades Park.

The ARA was formed in 1963, and in 1964 was approached by a number of organisations to consider purchase of the 82 hectare Nathan Farm at Manurewa prior to it being subdivided. The ARA ended up purchasing 42 hectares, with the Manukau City Council purchasing the remaining 40 hectares, half of which was set aside for open space, and the other half for a planned housing development. The photograph below shows Nathan Farm (to the right of the motorway), before to the purchase.

Ref: Footprints 02995, Southern motorway, Manurewa, ca 1964, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Trevor Penman and Mrs Gladys Penman, South Auckland Research Centre
Planning work for the garden started, and the first sod was turned by ARA Chairman Tom Pearce in February 1973. The photograph below shows newly built nursery buildings, and shrubs being grown ready for planting out.

Ref: Footprints 00205, 'A chance for keen gardeners', Manurewa, 1978, photograph reproduced by permission of Fairfax Media, South Auckland Research Centre
In 1982 another 23 hectares were added to the site by purchase and donation from Manukau City Council. Now totally 65 hectares, the Auckland Botanic Gardens were opened to the public in February 1982 by the Governor General Sir David Beattie. 98,000 people visited in the first year.

Ref: Footprints 00449, Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, Manurewa, 1982, photograph reproduced by permission of Fairfax Media, South Auckland Research Centre
A year after opening, the Friends of the Auckland Botanic Gardens was formed, and held its inaugural annual general meeting in April 1983. The Friends have given considerable support to the gardens since this time through horticultural work, manning the Visitor Centre, fundraising, establishing a reference library, and organising lecturers and events.

Ref: Footprints 00450, The men in charge, Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, Manurewa, 1982, photograph reproduced by permission of Fairfax Media, South Auckland Research Centre
The gardens contain one registered historic site - a flour mill, thought to have been established in the mid to late 1800s, adjacent to a tributary of the Puhinui Stream. The only visual remains on the surface are a depression where the mill once stood and a narrow trench at right angles to the stream where the mill wheel was housed. The restored mill wheel is on display at Howick Historical Village.

In the pasture land towards the north-eastern boundary there are the remains of some concrete floors. These are from the camp buildings used by American military units stationed here during 1942-44.

Ref: Footprints 02978, Wartime relics, Manurewa, 1990, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Manurewa Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre
In 1992 a monument was erected on the edge of the Rose Display Trial Garden to mark the 50th anniversary of this stay. The plaque was unveiled by US Ambassador Della Newman and Mayor of Manukau City Sir Barry Curtis.

Ref: Footprints 01288, Memorial stone and plaque, Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, 1992, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Manurewa Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre
While at the entrance of the gardens, there  is an 18th century couplet on a plaque which reads:

"Delight in scientific shade,
For knowledge as for pleasure made".


Want to find out more? The check out the Auckland Libraries heritage resources below relating to the gardens:
You can also search the Manukau’s Journey database/chronology using the search term: botanic gardens to bring up information and images relating to the site.

Author: Rachel, South Auckland Research Centre

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