“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 councillors 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 Children’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 Original 1927 gift (lot 2) the titles to the council.” The original corner 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 independent municipal authority, a plan was drawn up to improve the corner site; filling to bring it up to a level, light concrete
One of the remaining 1927 scoria posts to the wall which once 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 developments 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 exarmy 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, especially 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 purchased 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, alongside 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 accessway 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 transformed 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 history 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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