Government gardens in South Auckland

70 years ago the Patumahoe State Gardens were established in the Franklin District. Bountiful supplies of vegetables were to be grown there for the remainder of the war years.

From the early to mid 1940s parts of the NZ countryside were acquisitioned by the Department of Agriculture and used for the purpose of increasing large scale vegetable production. The department implemented its Services Vegetable Production Scheme in 1942. These farms were established to address the need to feed US troops stationed here during WW2. The gardens became known as 'State Farms' or 'Government Gardens'. Within six months the NZ government had established 7 state farms totalling 663 acres; the total later grew to 27 farms covering 5,200 acres. A significant number of these were based in the South Auckland region from Mangere to Pukekohe and Waiuku. By the end of 1945 all of state farms had closed down.

Ref: AWNS-19431222-15-1, American and NZ soldiers at the wedding and harvesting at Patumahoe, 1943, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The first farms included one 165-acre farm at Ihumatao, near Mangere, which was later enlarged to 500 acres. The farm was worked largely by farm workers, including a number of 'land girls', although at peak season extra labour was needed. During the summer vacation, university and training college students and, in some cases, even secondary school pupils, were also involved.

Land Girls
During the WW2 many girls and women worked on farms as many of the men were away fighting.

Ref: AWNS-19411105-34-19, NZ's land army girls at work, 1941, Sir George Grey Special Collections
By mid-1943 the state farm roster included one at Patumahoe, near Pukekohe, sometimes known as the 'Patumahoe Government Gardens'. Although the work was often hard and monotonous, at least some of those who had worked on the farms had happy memories of the time (Manukau’s Journey, Auckland Libraries, 2013).

Reference: Footprints 04396, Land girls, Mangere, c. 1942, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Mangere Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre
Mary Prescott worked on the state vegetable farm at Patumahoe: "We were collected every day from Pukeoware and transported on the back of an open flat-top truck, no matter the weather…They were actually great days, in spite of the work. We made lots of friends. There was a sense of comradeship – we felt we were doing something worthwhile" (Waiuku Post, 14 March 2006, p14).

In late1944 a cannery, dehydration and quick-freezing plant was established at Pukekohe as part of the state farm operations. The aim was to supply vegetables ready for transportation to the troops in the Pacific. The plant continued to operate as a commercial food processing enterprise after the war until 1975.

Ref: Footprints 04877, office staff, Pukekohe, 1948, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Pukekohe Library, South Auckland Research Centre
During their time in NZ American servicemen stayed in military camps - a significant number of these camps were in the Auckland region.
Ref: Footprints 03744, American servicemen, Otahuhu, c. 1943, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Otahuhu Historical Society, 1.2.1 (donated by B. Whitmore), South Auckland Research Centre
In the photo above, Charles Nicholson (in the singlet), the proprietor of the Star Hotel, Otahuhu, is surrounded by a group of American servicemen, beer glasses in hand, circa 1943. The men probably come from the nearby military camp, Camp Euart, at Mangere Crossing.

Ref: Footprints 02152, aerial view of Camp Euart, Mangere, 1944, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre
In the last few months of 1945 the government run gardens were closed down.

State Gardens
The Waiuku News on 9 October 1945 (p.6) had the following story entitle "Papamahoe Closing Down: Reinstating Properties".

"The war having ended, and the need for large supplies of vegetables for the United States Forces in the Pacific having largely disappeared, a number of State vegetable projects are closing down, Patumahoe being one of them. Already a large number of manpowered girls have been “demobilised,” but a team is being retained to harvest crops which are making splendid growth. When these are harvested it is understood the project will finish. Properties taken for the purpose are being reinstated preparatory to turning them back to their owners. When the scheme was at its peak about 800 acres atPatumahoe were under cultivation. Recently the garden employees had a farewell dance at which there was a large attendance and an enjoyable time was spent".

Author: Sharon Smith, South Auckland Research Centre


  1. Interesting article, I grew up around the Patumahoe/Mauku and these places have a lot of history. Do you have any maps of where these old farms used to be? I am involved with a group trying who are trying to organise a viewing platform to be retained on top of Patumahoe Hill, which is both an old volcano and a market garden, as part of a compromise for the subdivision that is taking place on it.

    1. Hi Sam,
      Glad that you liked the post and that it sparked off memories of the area for you. I've passed your enquiry onto the author of the post and will get back to you with an answer.

      Cheers, NB

    2. Hello Sam my name is Lady I grew up Pukekohe - Patumahoe, lived on the Market Gardens above the Springs coming into Patumahoe. The gardens were by a Chinese family call A. J. Szeto beside them was the Carter family and the Waishing family. I attended Patumahoe school. until High School and eventually leaving home. I too am looking for memories of the past as I have no memories of the present

  2. Hello Sam,
    Thank you for your inquiry regarding the Patumahoe State Gardens.
    There are a number of places that you can find further information about gardens which may hold the details that you are looking for.

    Government records
    There are records on the New Zealand Archives website “Archway” pertaining to vegetable growing and the armed forces. Conduct an Advanced Search and enter “Patumahoe and vegetable”.

    Another place to look is in the AJHRs (Appendices to the House of Representatives), take a look here at the Department of Agriculture Reports for the years 1942-1943.

    The Waiuku News was in print during this time and is held in our collection on microfilm for viewing and is well worth a look.
    Papers Past is a database which searches early newspapers and provides digital images of the original articles, there is some material there.

    “Franklin remembers the war years, 1939-1845 Pukekohe.”, (1992) by Keith and Nona Morris. pp106-112 details life at the gardens, there is reference in the caption of a photograph included here, “The dining room for staff at Johnstone’s farm, Patumahoe Government Gardens”.

    Shing. Pamela Wai, “Locational and structural change of market gardening in Pukekohe-Bombay-Patumahoe” (1977), University of Auckland Library. It may contain some geographical/historical information of the area during the wartime period.

    Auckland Libraries Local History Database
    Manukau’s Journey

    Has extensive references to material published on the local history of the South Auckland area.

    Alexander Turnbull Library
    Search their catalogue for photographs, maps, ephemera and many other published and unpublished items


    [Please copy & past all links into your browser].

  3. Do you have a record of all the workers at the gardens in the 1940s I am trying to trace the movements of a relative at this time. Thank you

  4. Do you have the names of the workers who worked at the gardens in the 1940s We have a possible family link we would like to check out.
    Thank you


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