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“Tait’s

Playground”

Tait Park, Avondale


Lisa J Truttman
June 2009
The original 1927 plan drafted by Avondale Borough Council for development
of Tait Park.

AKC 033—7022-1, Auckland City Archives.


Tait Park is officially given the address of 103-109 Rosebank Road.
Originally, this was part of the 1880s Rosebank Estate, part of a
19th century sheep farm. In 1882, it was purchased by Frederick
George Ewington, along with other parts of the estate, and sold to
David and Eliza Ann Kerr of Avondale in 1892. The Kerrs sold the
property to Avondale butcher and businessman Charles Fearon in
1921. It was Fearon who eventually sold the site of today’s Tait
Park to another Avondale businessman, W. J. Tait.

William John Tait was the longest serving of Avondale's Mayors


(1923-1927). He served many years on the Avondale Road Board
before the Borough period, and in 1937 spearheaded the creation of
the Avondale Businessmen's Association (which still continues
today, after some changes of name and constitution). He ran a land agent's business, and built the Unity
Buildings on the corner of Rosebank and Great North Roads in 1932.

In March 1927, he announced that he would not seek re-election. He stated, according to the Borough
Council’s minutes, that “he had no intention of offering himself as a candidate for the Mayoralty at the
forthcoming election, and wished to make a personal statement. In the first place he reminded the coun-
cillors present that when it had been decided to grant an honorarium to the Mayor he had stated at the
time that he would refund the money to the Borough in some shape or form. His first idea had been to
erect a shelter shed on the Great North Road near the Post Office [at that time, this was the old Avondale
Hotel, today the ASB Bank], but had now
decided to present to the Borough a Chil-
dren’s playground. With this object in view
Lot 1 added 1928 Mr. Tait had purchased a piece of land at the
corner of Rosebank Road and High Street
which he intended to equip and hand over
the titles to the council.” The original corner
Original 1927 gift
(lot 2) section (Lot 2) cost Tait £200, with swings,
slide and sandpit costing a further £200, the

The land purchased by William J. Tait from


Charles Fearon, which became Tait Park.

From NA 383/285, Land Information NZ


From the Avondale Borough
Council Plan, on page 2

Borough Council paying half the cost of


the latter.

The Borough drew up a plan for setting


up the park and the grounds. In the last
months of Avondale’s status as an inde-
pendent municipal authority, a plan was
drawn up to improve the corner site; filling One of the remaining 1927 scoria posts to the wall which once
to bring it up to a level, light concrete went the length of two sides of the park.

kerbing between tarred and sanded paths and areas for the swings, and grassy areas, all set out with a
central circle, and entrances from both Rosebank Road and High Street (later Highbury Street, and now
Community Lane.) The only part of this initial landscaping to have survived are what remains of the
scoria boulder walls and posts.

In September 1927, Avondale Borough amalgamated with Auckland City Council. In December that
year, the Council agreed to purchase the remainder of the park (Lot 1) from Tait for £200.

Councillor H. P. Burton put forward a request in March 1930 for the City’s Parks Committee to consider
the necessity of the installation of a “bubble fountain” at Tait Park. The City Engineer thought it would
be a convenience to those who visited the park, and allowed £7 10/- for the installation. The Town Clerk
advised the City Engineer that the Council approved the plan in April, with the addition of a concrete
base, putting the total cost up to £13 10/-. This was duly installed.
Tait Park, c.1959.

Auckland Regional Council website


The park was thought to be, right from its beginnings, in a very good position with relation to the
residential development proceeding around it. During the park’s existence, it has seen housing develop-
ments at Ash Street, Canal and Riversdale Roads, all within relative walking distance of the park. It was
also Avondale’s first municipal playing ground. The one at the Avondale Central Reserve behind the
shopping centre wouldn’t become available until after World War II.

But, it also had its problems, chief among them was vandalism. By 1938, the Council records note that
swings needed repairs and the original roundabout had to be entirely removed, due to “larrikins”, and it
was hoped that signs put up reminding the general public that the swings were to be used by children
only might help. It didn’t. The swings were still being roughly treated, as at 1943, and needed to be
renovated. The equipment was completely renewed in 1959.

In 1945, the Avondale Free Kindergarten wrote to the Council, asking for permission to erect an ex-
army building on the top section of the park to serve as a kindergarten for the district. This top section,
the second part added to the park in 1928, had never been fully developed and was overgrown. The
Kindergarten organisers, with 28 children on their roll, felt that this would have been an ideal spot, espe-
cially as it would have been right alongside the playground. They had previously asked for part of the
Council’s land off Racecourse Parade, but on both that occasion and this one, their application was
declined. (The Racecourse Parade application was declined because Council were contemplating the
development of tennis courts.) The Council offered the Kindergarten the use of the old Avondale Roads
Board depot building/hall at the corner of St Judes Street and Geddes Terrace, but this wasn’t suitable.

The next community group asking to use part of the land was the Avondale Union Parish, who had plans
for a combined church and youth centre in 1966. By this time, the Council had started planning towards
the development of the Highbury Flats pensioner village. Although a church just across the road from
the new village might have been a convenience, the Council had no authority to give municipal parkland
to churches.

Then, in 1973 came the first indication of


dramatic changes to come for the park. The
Auckland Regional Council wrote to the
Council with their plans for a “Henderson
Motorway”, a regional road which was to

The area at the top of Tait Park purchased by


the ARA for the Ash Street extension, 1973.
From NA475/233, Land Information NZ
link Avondale directly with Henderson via a link from Ash Street straight through to New Lynn, and
beyond. This eventually, of course, only went as far as New Lynn and never reached Henderson, but the
regional road was to become the Ash Street Extension — and it meant that the top part of Tait Park was
required for roading purposes. 10 perches of Lot 1 was eventually sold to the ARA for $4000 (consider
the original purchase cost paid to W. J. Tait by Auckland City Council of £200, and that the ARA pur-
chased only a fraction of that part of the property in 1973).

Now, the neighbourhood around the park changed dramatically. The regional road cut through Highbury
Street, forming two new streets (both named Highbury, confusingly, until the southern portion, along-
side the park, was renamed Community Lane in 2006.) Ash Street itself was widened, and became a
highway, cutting off the park from the homes it once served as a playground. In 1976, the southern part
of Highbury was transformed into a “turning head”, closed as a through road and made into an access-
way and twelve car parks for visitors to the pensioner units. From 1979, it also formed the entry to the
car park for the Avondale Community Centre beside the units. The buildings at the Community Centre
were designed to form a curve facing the community library building. Any focus Tait Park once had was
now lost.

On the plus side, however, Tait Park didn’t lose land in the end when the regional road was constructed,
which I had thought, before now, it had. The end of the southern part of Highbury Street was trans-
formed into grass and parkland and added to the rest of Tait Park (as at June 2009, the Council sign for
the park is placed on this new section). The ARA agreed to build a paling fence along the Ash Street
boundary as a safety precaution, and Auckland City set to work remodeling the rest of Tait Park.

No longer was it to be a playground. All signs of the play equipment once enjoyed by two generations of
children were removed. Most of the original scoria wall and posts was removed completely. What wall
remained was reduced to near surface level. Asphalt was removed and topsoil brought in. None of the
parks trees today are older than 1959: the gum at the corner of Community Lane and Rosebank Road
may be from the 1960s, if that, but the rest are part of both the park renovation in the late 1970s, and the
ARA’s planting alongside the Ash Street extension. The red asphalt dates from this period. Tait Park
was transformed to a place of passive recreation, with large wooden seats installed, facing away from
the trees which blocked the park off from the intersection.

As at 2005, Tait Park was on a list of proposed “Neighbourhood Parks Projects” for the Avondale Ward,
and is also listed on Auckland City’s present Long Term Plan. This may mean a third phase in the his-
tory of one of Avondale’s smallest parks.
The redevelopment of Tait Park, late 1970s.
AKC033-12509-003,
Auckland City Archives

The redevelopment of southern Highbury Street,


late 1970s.
AKC033-12509-1, Auckland City Archives
Sources:

Auckland City Archives


Tait Park Files:
ACC 219/443d
ACC 208/V1-3-75/11b

Avondale Borough Council minutes

Plans:
ACC 015 /12509-3
ACC 015 /12509-1
ACC 015 /7022-1

Land Information NZ
DP 9849, 21092,
NA 30/15, 64/242, 331/276, 383/285, 475/233, 46A/901

Printed Sources
Heart of the Whau, 2003, Avondale-Waterview Historical Society
Tait Park, c.2001.

Auckland Regional Council website

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