Friday, August 14, 2009

Domain stories - a note from John Adam

John Adam, a noted landscape and horticultural historian, and someone who has done considerable research over some years, emailed me today with the following information to add to the bits and pieces I've been able to piece together from the early newspapers. He's given me permission to post the following. Many thanks, John.

"Just a couple of points about the Auckland Domain history as it has received some bad press over the years including a recent University of Auckland Masters student who has written out the Auckland Domain Board (1860-1893) from the history and thus a key point that the place was Crown Land (and still is like Albert Park as against Western Park that in Municipal land) from 1840 with professional staff appointed to manage the place from that time onwards.

"These appointments were first recorded in the New Zealand Government ‘Blue Book’ (IA 12, 1841, P12. ANZ,W) with Alexander Dalziel (a flax merchant from the Manukau Harbour - and who had flax interests at Waiuku et al) first Superintendent of Domain followed in close succession by Edinburgh born and professional gardener, Thomas Cleghorn, (Appointed on September 1841 on 130 pounds 17 shillings and five pence. Architect William Mason was paid 180 pounds.) and who died at Honolulu in 1854 and was the ‘father in law’ of Princess Kaiulani. Thomas Cleghorn was the second and the last ‘Supt. of Domain’.

"There were three tiers of Domain land management. The high status ‘Superintendents' (1840-1843) (and again from 1893 to 1940s when Auckland City took control), a ‘government gardener’ [John Lynch (1842-1868)] and a Domain Ranger/Keeper - many in succession from 1840-1860s – the first was George Easton; then James Lochead; J. Shepherd and H Briggs, and they all looked after insitu and planted trees, animals and there containment and protection. The squared pattern the Government Gardens took was constructed about the western side of the Doman Ponds from 1840 and the garden contained a tree nursery, vegetable gardens and a public garden [hours of public access was controlled from late 1850s] that were called a ‘botanic garden’ from 1856 onwards. This is what the New Zealand Colonial Botanic Gardens were – they had a public recreation space with gardens and secure nurseries. Plants were dispersed from the Government Garden nurseries to the public from 1840 onwards and past 1868 and into 1890s.

"The Auckland Acclimatisation Society sought a place in the Domain as early as 1861 (being the first in New Zealand to be established) but the Colonial Government was not about to let them control a state activity while Auckland was the Capital and the plants were used by Colonial Government politicians for patronising friends in the same Colonial Government. After 1868 the political power moved to Wellington and Prime Minister Edward Stafford then allowed the Acclimatisation Society to occupy a small corner of the Domain – they sought the Government Gardens but Governor George Grey wasn’t about to give that site up and his Government Gardener John Lynch was not about to roll over and let the society take over his patch. Lynch wrote a series of letters to protect his job and garden that sit in IA 1 series (Archives New Zealand, Wellington). So by 1864-65 the aging Lynch, with son John Lynch Junior, taking over from retired father, was joined by a new appointment called John Chalmers as the energised Domain Board’s new ‘Domain Forester’. He had established additional nurseries near the Domain Ponds and near the new railway line near Parnell.

"So in 1868 there was the Acclimatisation Society, Domain Board and the Government Gardens lands that were leased to various individuals with ‘conservation’ policies written into the Deed for GG to preserve all the ornamental trees that had formed the ‘botanic gardens’ within the
Acclimatisation Society leased site. The 1890s square form garden drawn in historic plans was one of the last four squares that previously formed a large four square form garden. Basalt walls protected these gardens.

"Economic plants were being dispersed from the Wellington Colonial Botanic Gardens (established 1868) to and from those (managed at most times by the Crown) in Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Westport, New Plymouth and Nelson and the Auckland Government Gardens through to 1893 when Auckland City was given authority under Crown legislation and continued to grow a wide range of economic plants for a diverse range for public institutions that during the 1880s formed formal links to the agriculture/forestry nurseries about Whangarei called Maunu, Kioreoreroa and Kamo into the 1900s.

"This political decision to supply ‘free’ trees began post Waitangi Treaty origin (before 1840 it was the Church Missionary Society (Marsden and Williams lot) and British Resident James Busby who had a brief in the 1830s with plants exchanged from Sydney, NSW, (to supply free plants to the New Zealand public) that was unbroken into the 1920s with the State Forestry nurseries in Rotorua (established in 1896) and the source of countless trees and professional advice for afforestation schemes in the Waitakere Ranges and the Waikumete Cemetery in 1920s, just two local examples."

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