Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ken Maunder Park, by Phil Hanson

My thanks to guest contributor Phil Hanson for the following piece he put together on Ken Maunder Park in New Lynn, and the story behind the name.

One of my dog’s preferred walks is around Ken Maunder Park on the eastern edge of New Lynn where it meets Avondale, and surrounded on three sides by the Whau River. The park has for years been a well-known sports ground but lately, as Georgie sniffs from tree to tree, I’ve become curious about its history.

And what an interesting past this unremarkable-looking park turns out to have. It’s also had something of an identity crisis; Ken Maunder Park is its third name. Originally Binsted Road Reserve, it later became Rewa Park before assuming the present name in 1970.

The park enjoys a small connection to New Zealand’s early aviation history. In 1911 the syndicate backing the brothers Leo and Vivian Walsh and their American Howard Wright biplane Manurewa handed the aircraft after a disagreement to Australian pilot Frederick Sandford and his kiwi “business manager” Billy Miller. The pair substantially modified the aircraft and began trials at Avondale racecourse, where it promptly hit a fence on Feb 29, 1913. The book, The History of New Zealand Aviation (Ewing and MacPherson, 1986) reports, “ The second [flight] several weeks later, was even more short lived when a dog leapt into the propeller blades.”

The Sandford-Miller biplane above Avondale Racecourse. Photo from Weekly News, 6 November 1913,
p. 40, via Special Collections, Auckland City Libraries (N.Z.)

A number of successful flights were made, as covered in the Timespanner post of Sept 29, 2008. On August 31 (but said by the History of NZ Aviation to be August 20), with Miller on board as passenger, the engine failed at about 250 feet and the biplane made a forced landing at the paddock “against Binsted’s slaughterhouse”. (This from The New Lynn Reserves Management Plan 2004, pp.71-73) I’m not sure of the exact location of the slaughterhouse but it seems likely to have been on or very near the land that now comprises the park. After repairing the motor, Sandford successfully took off. Although this has been credited as the first “cross-country” flight in New Zealand, research in more recent times has cast doubt on the claim, according to The History of NZ Aviation.

There was another brush with aviation 54 years later when the park was considered as a possible heliport location. The proposal was rejected because, as the Western Leader reported in May 1967, “sports activities would have to be adjourned to allow landings and takeoffs.” Life was so much simpler in the days before OSH!

Not all of the park’s history has been as glamorous. In 1927, the trustees of the Binsted Estate were complaining to the council about the continued use of the site as a nightsoil dump. From at least the 1940s it was a council rubbish tip. In October 1951, the Binsted estate sold land to the council that allowed the area’s gradual transformation into a recreational reserve. The trustees wrote: “As the property has been in the Binsted family for over 60 years they would be pleased if your council could see their way to call the property Binsted Park.”

However, in October 1956 for a reason I have not been able to uncover, the name changed to Rewa Park. By then, the transformation to reserve was well underway, the New Lynn Municipal Election Supplement 1956 reporting levelling was being done for two football fields, and a mangrove gully was being reclaimed by dumping rubbish into it. By 1963, the now-closed bridge to Queen Mary Avenue was built. The bridge is due for replacement this year.

A three-stage development was proposed in 1968; construction of a soccer field; alternations to the main playing area and extra soccer fields; and roading and drainage. Two years later, the name was changed for the third time to Ken Maunder Park.
Photo: Ken Maunder – from the Western Leader via Waitakere Libraries.

So who was Ken Maunder? An obituary in the Western Leader 18.11.69 said he was a member of New Lynn Borough Council from 1955 to 1962 and from 1955 until his death in Middlemore Hospital, aged 57. He was president of the Auckland Local Bodies Association 1960-62 and the borough’s deputy mayor from 1959 to 1962. In addition to membership of the New Lynn branch of the Labour Party, he was widely active in the community, particularly sport and especially rugby and bowls. Mr Maunder was a president of the New Lynn Bowling Club, a supporter of the Suburbs Rugby Club, a rugby coach and a member of the New Lynn primary school.

1 comment:

  1. Pity about the mangrove gully but at least the bridge is being replaced.
    Great post!