Regional park milestone celebrated at Wenderholm

Regional park milestone celebrated at Wenderholm

The official party was lead in by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and one of the founders of the Auckland regional parks network, Judge Arnold Turner.
About 100 people gathered at Wenderholm last month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Auckland’s first regional park.

Wenderholm was opened on Saturday December 18, 1965 and attracted 50,000 people in its first summer, spurring the Auckland Regional Authority (ARC), now Auckland Council, to develop the current network of 26 regional parks, which attract more than five million people a year.

One of the founders of the regional parks’ network, Judge Arnold Turner, attended the event. Mr Turner was the inaugural chair of the ARC Parks Committee and was at the 1965 opening of Wenderholm. He spoke about the events leading up to that day.

The park was acquired after plans to subdivide Wenderholm surfaced in the early 1960s, he said. The Rodney and Waitemata councils couldn’t afford to purchase the land, which lead Auckland Mayor Dove Myer Robinson to create the ARC in 1963.

The ARC Parks Committee was empowered to raise funds and purchase land to create a network of parks, which would benefit the region.

Wenderholm was purchased on March 31, 1965 for £230,000, with the exclusion of Couldrey House and Mr Turner pushed staff to prepare to open before Christmas.

The park’s popularity far exceeded expectations.

“It showed us there was huge public support for a regional parks network,” Mr Turner said.

“In 1965, none of us dreamed there would be 26 regional parks in 50 years time. I take great satisfaction in the part I had in initiating the process.”

Mayor Len Brown paid tribute to the 800-year human history of the site. He also recalled visiting Wenderholm shortly after it opened, after his family moved to Otara from Taranaki.

“Wenderholm is a very special experience,” Mayor Brown said. “So much of this is because of Mr Turner’s guidance and vision.”

Council Parks, Recreation and Sport Committee chair Christine Fletcher said the parks were valuable sanctuaries to protect endangered species and ecosystems, and ensure people have a connection to the coastline.

She said she was grateful to all the pioneers of the parks network and led the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the park’s 50th.

“Thank you all for being dreamers,” she said.

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