Queenstown Gardens – A Potted History of 150 Years, Part 1
Three cheers to the far-sighted colonists who in 1867 set aside the peninsula for a public park.
It was a shrub-covered area with a swampy tarn in 1862 when William Rees established his sheep station, ‘The Camp’ with the dwellings near the Gardens end of current Camp Street. The vegetation was probably bracken, matagouri, speargrass, tussock, coprosmas, flaxes and sedges. In the past few decades, such native bushes and low plants have become popular, and our Wakatipu Reforestation Trust has been potting and planting them throughout the district so that we can perhaps imagine what the vegetation was like when the colonists arrived and the gold-rush created a town.
A public meeting was held in 1864, appropriately in a pub – the Queen’s Arms Hotel which became Eichardt’s - with members of the Queenstown Improvement Society and the Otago Provincial Council, to discuss a site for a public recreation ground. Sounds very modern – consulting ‘stakeholders’ in bureaucrat-speak. Once the Queenstown Municipal Council was formed in 1866 it decided at its first meeting that the best location for a park was the peninsula, despite its barren scruffiness in homesick European eyes. Subsequently, the Council designated almost all the foreshore around to One Mile Creek as a reserve, for which we should be constantly grateful.
A plan of the gardens was drawn up by the District Mining Surveyor with a main gravelled walk from Park Street and meandering paths. Sounds familiar. A list of the first trees imported by the Council from Tasmania reveals the park of the people’s imaginations – oaks, poplars, chestnuts, larches, willows, hollies, sycamores - and blue gums and black wattles. This was Britain by way of Australia, as most of the early colonists themselves were. In 1868, 550 trees were planted. Some of these first trees remain for us to admire 150 years later.
There was outstanding ‘community buy-in’. The townspeople were gripped by what the Lake Wakatip Mail called ‘arbormania’ and set about donating and planting exotic trees. Apparently, they could plant them wherever they chose. (QLDC Parks and Reserves staff take note!) So many were planted that in later years considerable culling was needed – just as still happens in many home gardens.
And so began the Queenstown Gardens in 1867.
Our next blog will provide more pots of Gardens history through the years.
This is a selection of material from an article in the Queenstown Historical Society’s magazine, Queenstown Courier Issue 96 Winter 2017.
Acknowledgement: Dr Neil Clayton
For more information visit: www.queenstownhistoricalsociety.org.nz