Dark side opened up

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

OPIUM dens, dis­ease and a ‘‘green lung’’ that would turn things around.

Cen­tral Auck­land has a dark and colour­ful his­tory which his­to­rian Ed­ward Ben­nett will be dis­cussing on tours across the city as part of the Auck­land Her­itage Fes­ti­val.

A free two-hour tour of My­ers Park and Greys Ave kicks things off to­mor­row from 1pm.

Greys Ave trans­formed from a street no­to­ri­ous for broth­els and opium dens into a res­i­den­tial area with the in­tro­duc­tion of state hous­ing projects in the 1930s and 50s, Ben­nett says.

‘‘At the be­gin­ning of the 19th cen­tury, it was an area with lots of prob­lems – dis­ease, gambling, pros­ti­tu­tion – and then ef­forts were made to turn it into a pleas­ant, safe en­vi­ron­ment for chil­dren.’’

My­ers Park was cre­ated as the ‘‘green lung that would dis­in­fect the cen­tre of town’’, he says.

Ben­nett has hosted the tours for the past seven years.

Of­ten peo­ple are sur­prised by what’s been right un­der their nose, he says.

‘‘They are also amused whether they ac­tu­ally live in this area or not.

‘‘I think it’s im­por­tant to know his­tory, to know your back­ground, know about the mis­takes that have been made so that you don’t make them again.’’

Ben­nett will also host tours of Pon­sonby and a tomb­stone rub­bing work­shop in Sy­monds St Ceme­tery.

The fes­ti­val will fea­ture more than 200 demon­stra­tions, exhibitions, film screen­ings and talks across Auck­land. It runs from to­mor­row un­til Oc­to­ber 12.

Go to her­itage­fes­ti­val. co.nz for a full list of the events.

Photo: JESS LEE

Look­ing back: His­to­rian Ed­ward Ben­nett will be lead­ing free tours and lec­tures on the his­tory of K Rd, Sy­monds St Ceme­tery and other cen­tral Auck­land spots as part of the Auck­land Her­itage Fes­ti­val.

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