There will be very few people who know much about Queens Park – the oldest of Thorndon’s parks, developed in the 1890s from a bare area of Town Belt.

The Wellington City Council named this part of the Town Belt “Queens Park” to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond Jubilee in 1897. The Queen would now not be amused at the park’s state and the neglect that it has suffered over the past decades.

Queens Park

This could be an amenity area with its network of paths and park areas, for use by residents of Thorndon, workers in Thorndon and the CBD, plus those Wadestown/Wilton residents who walk into the city. At present it is neglected and, without signage, unknown and largely unused. It is time for the park to be restored and I seek support for this from Thorndon Society and Thorndon and Wadestown Residents Associations.

Queens Park is not just the planted corner of Wadestown Road and Grant Road. This area was developed as a garden in the early 1950s in conjunction with the installation of the Nathan Memorial Fountain and was named “Lady Macalister Garden” in 1961, after the wife of the former mayor Sir Robert Macalister.

Queens Park extends north from Lady Macalister Garden and runs between Wadestown Road and Grant Road/Grosvenor Terrace, from Park Street north to the properties on the south of Orchard Street. The park surrounds the properties occupying Town Acres 661, 662 and 663 on the western side of Grant Road.

The park area and original paths are shown in a 1915 map below:

In the 1890s this area was a Victorian promenading park, with planting of exotic trees, shrubs and hedges, with formed paths and entry gates. In the gorge below Wadestown Road and Orchard Street the stream and waterfall would have been a significant feature, reflecting the Victorian interest in wild landscapes. The park was originally planted with conifers and pine trees of various species as well as European deciduous trees, reflecting the ornamental and plantation planting fashions of the time. In the 1940s as some of the conifers matured, a number were removed and replaced with new planting – largely deciduous and native species.

The park still has some very notable deciduous trees – including oak, lime and silver birch trees, along with mature conifer and pine trees, but tree management has ceased so some of the trees are deteriorating and becoming crowded making the tracks through the park dark and unsafe feeling. Overcrowded, dead and fallen trees are readily visible from Grant Road.

Some elements of the reduction of Council attention to the park have been:

  • None of the entrances to the park or the paths are marked. The only sign is a single “Queens Park and Goldie’s Brae Reserve” on Lady Macalister Garden opposite Park Street. The maps on the Town Belt signboards do not distinguish Queens Park and show no paths south of Newman Terrace.
  • The path around the waterfall from Wadestown Road near Orchard Street had small bridges across the stream above and below the waterfall and a set of timber steps between. These deteriorated and were removed around the 1970s so the path around the waterfall is now very steep and can be dangerously slippery.
  • The park had a custodian’s cottage and work depot on Goldie’s Brae – the depot closed in 1993 and the cottage was removed in 1996.
  • A small playground with swings and a round-about near the steps between Grant Road and Wadestown Road was removed around the 1970s.
  • The annual bedding planting established for the Lady Macalister Garden in the 1960s was substantially reduced and replaced by shrub planting in 1995.
  • Lawn mowing of the grassed areas of the park along Grant Road has progressively reduced over the years and, as of 2015 was limited to a six monthly frequency. This has allowed the encroachment of pest weeds which have replaced a substantial proportion of the former lawn areas.
  • The spraying of Tradescantia (wandering willy) on the Te Ahumairangi Hill around 2014 excluded the parts of Queens Park with this pest weed, The park also has expanding patches of other pest weeds including asparagus weed and old man’s beard which the Council have not addressed.

It is time to seek a halt to this progressive decline and neglect of the Park. There is a model for the renewal of the park in the work undertaken since 2005 to Central Park in Brooklyn, which involved a Restoration Plan to set the vision for redevelopment and also involved the establishment of a community group – the Friends of Central Park.

The mature European trees and conifers in the park are a distinct feature which is very different to the wider Town Belt – a feature that is not mentioned in the current Town Belt Management Plan. The restoration of the park should recognise and support the retention of these, rather than seeking the regeneration of native forest which is being undertaken to replace the pine plantations on Te Ahumairangi Hill.

There are a number of forthcoming key anniversaries related to the establishment of the park which would reflect a revival of interest in the Park:

  • The 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria will be in 2019
  • The 125th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee will be in 2022.

I would appreciate it if the Residents Association would consider supporting this initiative and encourage the Council to restore Queens Park into the valuable community asset that it could be – something that we can use and enjoy.

Peter Steel
peter.steel@paradise.net.nz
021 244 1850
Sources – Wellington City Archives, Peter Young, Turnbull Library
March 2017