Park a popular spot since the 1920s
More Historical Discoveries of Waihı¯ Beach, Bowentown and Athenree Exhibition will feature at Waihı¯ Beach in January. Organiser Marilyn Roberts is supplying stories of local information in the lead-up to the historical exhibition, which has been postpon
Joe Anderson in the hinemuri Regional History Journal 10, October 1968, wrote: “On 18-9-41 Mrs. Shaw gave the northern part of her property as a domain. This area of 655 acres is known to-day as the Orakawa Domain, and what a lovely Domain it is, mostly covered with native bush, which includes Kauri, Rimu, Puriri and some of the biggest white teatree to be seen. At the head of a gully that runs from Shark Bay there is a puriri tree that is reputed to be one of the biggest in N.Z. When I last saw it the lower limbs had grown so big that they had shorn off the trunk and the tree looked as though it might die. If we take a walk to the top of the Orakawa Hill in December, we can look down on that bay with its coarse white sand and a fringe of Pohutukawa trees in bloom and see a very pretty sight. We are well served with reserves and domains at the beach and the ratepayers have reason to be grateful to Mrs. Shaw for her great gift.”
Orakawa Reserve is well known as a place for hikes, walks and enjoyment of native bush. Fringed to the west and south are two areas managed by Bay of Plenty parks and reserves; one is where the Trigg Walk is and the other Po¯hutukawa Park.
Po¯hutukawa Park has been a popular place for recreation since the 1920s.
The shoreline to the north end was quite different a hundred or more years ago to that today. Shifting sands change shorelines. The trees on the slope of the park seen on photos of the 1920s to 40s have been largely removed over the years, and a native forest planted at the back.
In the early days Po¯hutukawa Park was used for grazing. Mrs Shaw grazed her pigs there, and later Snow and Pearl Majors’ famous 1950s donkeys. In the 1940s and later Arthur Leech grazed his sheep there.
The most public use the park had in the 1920s and 30s were the picnics. Possibly this was because it provided shelter. In the 30s and 40s people would dress in their best, park their cars under the trees and relax.
In the 1930s the tennis club and the bowling green were developed in the left-hand southern corner. And it was in the 1950s that the auditorium Soundshell was moved there.
The original soundshell was behind the original surf club. Crowds sat on wooden planks beneath the po¯hutukawa trees and were “privy to some of the best bands of the day”.
The soundshell was relocated to Po¯hutukawa Park in 1957 when the roller-skating rink was built. The skating-rink concrete later became the base for the new surf club building in 1971.
Onemuri Council records show consent for the building in November 29, 1974 but records prior to 1974 are missing. The application was made for a “permanent Soundshell”, which possibly means that the earlier structure in the 50s and 60s may not have been considered permanent.
The building was at that point owned by the Progressive Association which later disbanded and roles of the association merged into the Waihı¯ Beach Events and Promotions Inc which took over the guardianship of the building.
Over the decades it provided for local entertainment, bands, Christmas festivities, Miss Waihı¯ Beach, tag wrestling, fundraisers and others which, when asked, evoke memories for those who were there,
It was always a simple structure — a concrete block shell with a roof over the top and two changing rooms out the back — but the years haven’t been kind and it’s in need of a renovation today.
The Waihı¯ Beach Tennis Courts Club was built in one corner in 1948 and the Waihı¯ Beach Bowling Club beside. When the Waihı¯ Beach Bowling Club was moved to the RSA in 2000, the tennis club bought the land and created two more courts.
Behind the tennis courts is a piece of bush planted by Arthur Leech. Archibald Leech was a Waihı¯ conservationist whose plantings are evident today. Archibald Leech (1880 — 1972) was a Cantabrian who moved to Waihı¯ in 1921 after he served in World War I. He married in 1922 and worked initially as a bush worker, but for most of his years he was a gold miner who bought and sold land, and propagated plants. He retired at Waihı¯ Beach in his later years to live with his daughter.
In the 1940s he leased the land behind the tennis courts to run his sheep, using the grazing land from there across to Orakawa. A resident remembers him offloading the sheep from the back of a truck and off they went. There were no trees there then.
Arthur Leech planted the first set, kauri in the 1940s, and every year another set of natives were added, until it was no longer a grazing area but a native forest.
Some remember sheep grazing among the immature trees.
There is a plaque to the left of the forest fringe behind the tennis club which commemorates his work. It is a large stone set on a base which is inscribed, “Leech Grove: This fine collection of native trees was planted by the late Archie Leach to whom we are indebted”.
His Johnny Appleseed passion is evident in other plantings he instigated. He planted hydrangea arborium in a small area to the right above Po¯hutukawa Park, whose descendants are still visible today.
He also planted hydrangeas above Cave Baby at Anzac Bay which are less conspicuous.
He had a hand in the scattering of Norfolk pine along the shores on the central part of the beach, the palm trees in Waihı¯, and also the circular set of po¯hutukawa at Anzac Bay that picnickers park under today.
The Vestry of the Whangamata Anglican Church on behalf of the Anglican Op Shop recently approved the following donations: Whangamata Scouts $500, Whangamata Area School Principals Fund $500, Fire Service Social Club $500, Community Gardens $300, Dotterel Group $300, Westpac Coromandel Helicopter fund $500 Community Health (X-ray facility) $500 and the Drop in Centre $300.
These donations were made possible by the support of the
Whangamata Community who have donated generously to the Anglican Op Shop in Ocean Rd, Whangamata. So thank you to the people of our town for their continuing donations of saleable goods to the Op Shop. We are indeed fortunate in Whangamata to have such support.
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Po¯hutukawa Park in the 1900s.