Log In

Reset Password

From ‘unsightly swamp’ to reserve

A 1958 article in the New Zealand Gardener magazine tells about the rise of a half acre plot in the Botanical Gardens from an “unsightly swamp” to the reserve of native bush it is today.

The article was provided to the Gisborne Herald by Marie Moffat, whose grandfather Roy Andrew was one of the pivotal people who helped establish the reserve.

Mrs Moffat said her grandfather would be “chuffed” to see all the children who still enjoy this part of the Botanical Gardens today.

The Botanical Gardens, on the corner of Aberdeen Road and Carnarvon Street, are 5.1 hectares of mature trees, paths, gardens, a duck pond and a new playground for children.

There is also a large free-flying bird aviary, developed in 1972, which provides a home to a variety of birds and keeps many people entertained.

The Gardens were set aside in 1908 making it Gisborne’s oldest reserve.

But back in 1928, when the gardens were still in their infancy, there was a half acre plot that bordered the road and was an “unsightly swamp”.

“A row of pinus insignis was removed from the roadside boundary and a plantation of bamboo came up in the wet ground, which soon became a rubbish dump.”

The article says Jack Clark, a yardman employed by the local mill at the time, asked for permission from the council to remove the bamboo and clear up the area so he could plant some native trees.

“The task of clearing the ground was a tedious one for at that time bulldozers had not come to replace a man’s strong arms, but Jack Clark set out to beautify an unsightly spot and he worked long hours on his task.”

Then in 1948, Superintendent of Parks and Reserves Mr T R Andrew (known as Roy) followed up on this hard work.

The area was not thriving, owing to the wet and extremely sour condition of the ground, the article states.

“The first thing to be done was improve the drainage. Ditches were dug and the stagnant water gradually drained away.

“The ground was then heavily dressed with sawdust”

It took several years before much improvement was seen.

“The cutting of fresh ditches resulted in the growth of ferns that were not previously found in the reserve, so it is thought that the spores must have been well down in the original swamp.”

Every year Mr Andrew continued the treatment of placing three to four inches of sawdust on the area.

This also resulted in “unexpected treasures” as seeds and spores from the bark of milled trees also began to germinate.

Mr Andrew collected seedlings for this reserve from around New Zealand, and was also a regular speaker at schools.

He was described as “only too willing to impart some of his knowledge and love of nature to those who are anxious to learn”.

The New Zealand Gardener article finished off by saying Mr Andrew had plans for further additions to this native gem which he hoped would be a source of joy and inspiration to many more generations of nature lovers.”

It’s safe to say, he has.

Born in 1894, Mr Andrew passed away in 1971, aged 77.

HARD WORK: Superintendent of Parks and Reserves Roy Andrew is pictured in this undated photo working in a glasshouse at the Botanical Gardens. Mr Andrew was one of the pivotal people who helped to transform a half acre plot in the Gardens from an ‘unslightly swamp’ to a native bush reserve. The picture was taken by Mr Andrew’s son Colin. Picture supplied