A source of wonder
The area where the Government Gardens are today was once known as the Sanatorium Reserve and before that Paepaehakumanu Motutara. It was a swampy wasteland, honey-combed with mud-holes and springs.
The gardens we see today were created on 50 acres gifted by Ngāti Whakaue “for the benefit of the people of the world”. The gift showed the generosity and goodwill of the original landowners.
The Government was keen to grow tourism, so they created a Victorian style garden on the site (learn about Victorian style using the link below). Government Overseer of Works, engineer Camille Malfroy, was responsible for the creation of the gardens. Work was started on the project in the early 1880s and was expensive and difficult.
Scrub had to be cleared, large amounts of topsoil brought in by horse and cart for the lawns gardens, paths, and drives. Ornamental lakelets were constructed/created and thousands of trees planted. Croquet and bowling greens were laid and tennis courts were added later.
Known as "The Sulphur Gardens," they were a source of wonder because they proved the predictions wrong, that nothing would grow in such a wilderness!
Vegetable gardens and an orchard supplied produce for the Sanitorium, and an aviary and monkey house were built (during Victorian times exotic and unusual things were very fashionable). Some of the trees planted then are still there today.
The wooden arches at the entrance to the Government Gardens once spanned the whole intersection of Fenton and Hinemoa Streets. Designed to look like a royal crown, they were built in 1901 and named the Prince’s Gate to honour the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary). After the visit, portions of the Prince's Gate were moved to their present position.
The Government Gardens are a place of war memorials. A World War 2 memorial stands near the Croquet Pavillion and the Wylie Memorial, commemorates Fred Wylie, a soldier from Galatea who was killed in the Boer War.
The Te Arawa Soldiers’ Memorial was built to commemorate the sons of the Arawa people who fought and died in World War I. The sculpture was unveiled in February 1927 by the Duke of York (later King George VI). Words, pictures and symbols tell the story of the arrival of the Arawa waka at Maketū. The memorial was once ringed with carvings of Rangitihi, who is remembered as the father of the people of the Lakes District, and his eight children. These carvings have been removed but it is intended to restore and replace them.
Qualities: innovation, identity, diligence
Did you know?
The Rotorua Lakes Council grows 420,000 bedding plants for the city’s 150 flower beds every year at their nursery based at the Government Gardens!
Here’s a tip:
Phillip Liu is an Auckland teenager who creates videos about his visits to special places in New Zealand. Check out his video about the Government Gardens:
More to watch:
A short video featuring Government Gardens:
More to read:
About Victorian style:
This entry is related to these other entries:
Once a howling wilderness: Sulphur Bay
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa