12. Green Mount/ Matanginui

Visited on January 28 2013

When is a green mountain not a Green Mountain? When the greenery no longer shrouds a volcano but a rubbish dump. Sad, I know, but at least it looks nice and will look even better in the future.

From the air, Green Mount IS greener than the surrounding area (Thanks Google Maps)

From the air, Green Mount IS greener than the surrounding area (Thanks Google Maps)

Apparently, there is still part of the tuff ring remaining to the east. I didn’t see it, then again we didn’t actually get to walk around this one or even on it. So what follows are some photos of what could be seen.

Closed to public especially on a public holiday

Closed to public especially on a public holiday

The reason? All the scoria from the cone and basalt from the extensive lava flows was quarried away leaving a dirty great hole in the ground that would function as a landfill for a few decades. The landfill accepted it’s last load of refuse in 2005 and since then the process of capping has begun. Looking at it from the ground level most of it actually does appear green!

Not quite an alpine meadow

Not quite an alpine meadow

Bessy Bell was the first European name given to the then 60 metre tall volcano. The current 54 Hectare plot was once part of a ‘well known dairy farm‘ as an advertisement from the NZ Herald in 1914 proclaims:

“TO LEASE BY TENDER FOR 5 YEARS. On account of MRS. S. J. Lushington. THE WELL-KNOWN DAIRY FARM, GREEN MOUNT, EAST TAMAKI. ALFRED BUCKLAND AND SONS Have been instructed to call Tenders for the above property, about 214 acres, all in grass, subdivided 6 paddocks, well watered; three dwellings; cowshed, 16 bails, concrete floor, and other out buildings; town supply; close to creamery; school on the property; three road frontages; 3.5 miles from Papatoetoe Railway Station. Possession immediately…”

In her will Mrs S. J. Lushington wanted the property to be used for public recreation purposes. Instead quarrying began around 1870 and 120 years later all the rock was gone. It will never be the same but at least we will have a Green Mount. Nothing can be done to bring back the pa site of Matanginui though.

We went up to the front gates for a bit of a look-see but were obviously not suposed to go any further so we decided the best we could do was stick to the tree line on Smales Road and see if we could take photos of anything interesting. We saw quite a few signs reiterating the DANGER.

Deep Ponds

Deep Ponds

Danger

Danger

Deep Excavations

Deep Excavations

We saw a way to get closer and turned in to the service station which backs right on to Greenmount.

Unofficial dumping at the back of the Mobil service station on Smales Road

Unofficial dumping at the back of the Mobil service station on Smales Road

Nice, wild fennel-filled view from here though

Nice, wild fennel-filled view from here though

She’s looking through a chicken wire fence to a pond with pukekos happily going about their daily business.

Yeah, that fence wont stop much

Yeah, that fence wont stop much

To show you how the re-styling of Greenmount is likely to proceed I will quote from this resource consent application. Firstly it looks like the completed open space project will be called Styak-Lushington Park (which also acknowledges the obliterated crater to the North: Styak Swamp).

Some features included in the preliminary concept are: “A plateau park area with an increased elevation of 72 metres and views to both the Manukau and Waitemata Harbours and to the city; A plaza feature at the corner of Harris road and Smales road for potential lunchtime recreation; A relocated main entrance, to achieve safer access away from the busy Harris/Smales road intersection, that is more formal and based on surrounding amenity including stonewalls; Existing/enhanced stormwater treatment ponds to be recognised as part of the overall amenity to the site also providing an opportunity for wildlife; Priority to recreational walking/running activities through the site.”

I encourage you to take a look at the complete document yourself to see the concept drawings and to visualise the extra 1.5 million cubic metres yet needed to bring the height up to the proposed 72 metres. In case you missed the significance of that number it’s 12 metres higher than the original volcano stood. This new landmark will literally rise from the rubble.

This is all very exciting but, at the same time, I have to say it rather reminds me of a certain 1995 film starring Hugh Grant: The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (which in turn was based on another true story).

I recommend you visit this park about 25 years in the future when all the earthworks have settled down and it’s a prominent, well known place of recreation. Maybe fly a kite or something to take advantage of any strong winds that may sweep up the hill just as they once used to when it was first given the Maori name Matanginui meaning ‘big wind’ or ‘breeze’.

 

Here is the time line of events according to this NZ Herald article:

FARM TO PARK

1932: gifted for public park.
1964: leased as a quarry.
1979: becomes regional landfill.
2005: rubbish dump closed.
2015: proposed landfill “cap”completion.
2040: possible developed park.

15. O Huiarangi/Pigeon Mountain

Pigeon mountain

Pigeon Mountain, Pakuranga Domain (Thanks Google)

At 55 metres this is Auckland’s easternmost volcano but before I started this journey I didn’t even know it existed. I think we saw a few blackbirds but ironically, no native wood pigeons for which the mountain was named in early European times. We parked in the shade of a tree on Gills road then pointed ourselves in the direction of the mountain and just walked up the side of it -there are no real paths until near the top, where you’ll want to use the steps.

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Ascending the southern slope

It was a baking hot Auckland Anniversary day this year and this was our last volcano for the day. We started out following the tree line but that didn’t last very long. At least there is some shade on the summit -that made for a very pleasant rest.

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Exposed shells halfway up the mount

This was a former pa site so some of the earthworks and terracing can still be seen. Some Pakuranga College students found artefacts, including skulls, in the 1960’s. All I found were these shells that seem to decorate all the maunga still remaining in Auckland.

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Facing west overlooking the go-kart track

I didn’t know what I was looking at far out at sea as I hadn’t yet been to Motukorea/Brown’s Island. From here it just looks like 4 groups of trees with 2 brown humps on the right.

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Looking north from the summit (Brown’s Island in distance)

See that fence? That protects walkers from an almost sheer drop of 30 metres. You might recall from the first image that Pakuranga Domain looks to be roughly triangular with half a cone of scoria part way along the longest side. Well, that’s no illusion. That’s because the southern sideĀ  was set aside to be a domain in 1881 but the northern half was left private ownership and as such succumbed to the ravages of quarrying. This started out in a small way at first but then excavation ramped up in the 1950’s as the area became more urbanised. By the 1970’s the northern half was no more.

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Looking east along Gills road

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View south from the summit (there’s a tree in that pit)

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Resting near the summit

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Small hollow area near the top (rocks are pretty loose here)

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Ashy dirt just lying on the surface of the ground

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This is not a cow pat

 

13. Hampton Park (Church Cone)

Visited on January 28

An oasis of green amidst a sea of industry.

An oasis of green amidst a sea of industry.

Ok, I’ll be honest, this is my favourite so far. I can’t quite tell why but maybe because it’s a gorgeous, miniature, well-preserved cone, obviously steeped in so much history yet completely surrounded by industrialization. It was enormously pleasant to explore, somehow stepping back in time in a time-warp of isolation. Or maybe I’m still buzzing from the adrenalin of being chased by cows (steers?).

Buildings on the Southern side of Lady Ruby Drive, where the multi-coned Otara volcano once stood, back onto Hampton Park and with such close proximity it’s easy to see why geologists in the 1800’s thought the Hampton Park cone was a part of that volcanic event. We at least know that Hampton Park erupted first as lava from Te Puke o Tara flowed around the West side of this cone.

Crater in cone (upper left), sunken garden in moat (centre), tuff ridge has old stables (right) and historic church (lower centre). (Thanks Google Maps)

Crater in cone (upper left), sunken garden in moat (centre), tuff ridge has old stables (right) and historic church (lower centre). (Thanks Google Maps)

We pulled up at the first available stopping place on East Tamaki road and entered by the gate shown below. The ground may look smooth and flat but I was surprised to find it rather rubblely and unstable underfoot. I wondered if it was just discarded bricks/stones or did buildings once stand here?

View from East Tamaki Road where we started our journey (thanks Google Streetview)

View from East Tamaki Road where we started our journey (thanks Google Streetview)

Our destination, the cone beyond the restored drystone wall.

Our destination, the cone beyond the restored drystone wall.

Approaching Hampton Park Crater

Approaching Hampton Park Crater

We came to a nice new gate and followed the wall to that tree in the distance under which we found the first evidence that “cows” had been here.

Will the real cow-pat please stand up?

Will the real cow-pat please stand up?

We found a low place in the wall where it was possible to virtually just step over into the cone paddock. We made sure we didn’t dislodge any more stones though.

Partially collapsed wall

Partially collapsed wall

Made it!

Made it!

It’s a dinky wee thing. Only 35 metres above sea level.

Looking into Hampton Park Crater

Looking East into Hampton Park Crater and to the garden beyond

Looking across Hampton Park crater to

Looking across Hampton Park crater to “Green”mount beyond, unfortunately showing it’s true colours as a landfill.

Some skinny looking

Some skinny looking “cows”

At this point the cattle must’ve caught wind of us because before we knew what was happening there was one right in the crater blocking my path to the garden and looking pretty menacing/inquisitive. I turned and raced back down the slope and we made a run for it to the “safety” of the broken wall, not even stopping to check if they were following us. We skirted that paddock and got to the old garden by the cover of some trees and when we eventually turned around we saw a whole line of them trotting/galloping along the fence line to see us off. I’d never been so thankful for a little bit of electric fence and miniature stonewall in my life.

All was fairly tranquil in the old garden. We found remnants of a few small plants but mostly everything had either died or grown to massive proportions. I was fascinated with a certain holly tree which I’m more used to seeing as a bush or hedge but it had shot up nice and straight to some 20 metres tall.

Remnants of a well-planned, tranquil sunken garden.

Remnants of a well-planned, sunken garden.

This area in particular has potential to be revitalised to give a window back into the past of how special gardens used to be. Yes, there is definitely something special about this place.

Ripples in a lava rock

Ripples in a lava rock

Sweeping view along the moat from the sunken garden (left) to the stables (right)

Sweeping view along the moat from the sunken garden (left) to the stables (right)

Closer view of the old stables

Closer view of the old stables

Hordes of hungry cattle busily grazing right where we had been 10 minutes prior

Hordes of hungry cattle busily grazing right where we had been 10 minutes prior

Now we turned our attention to the stone church, which was built using basalt rock from the lava flows, and to the cemetery on the ridge. Many members of the Reverend Gideon Smales’ family were laid to rest in this tiny cemetery.

Beginning of a short walk along the tuff ridge from the church garden to (almost) the stables.

Beginning of a short walk along the tuff ridge from the church garden to (almost) the stables.

An underutilised public toilet frequented by the local arachnids. Great view from sitting here -you can watch all the traffic driving along East Tamaki Road

An underutilised public toilet frequented by the local arachnids. Great view from sitting here -you can watch all the traffic driving along East Tamaki Road

Found a bird's nest that had fallen out of a tree in high winds

Found a bird’s nest that had fallen out of a tree

The path back to the church

The path back to the church

Historic St John's church completed in 1862

Historic St John’s church completed in 1862

The historic stone church on the property was built between 1859 and 1862 by the Rev Gideon Smales, a Wesleyan missionary and pioneer Auckland farmer. It is one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand still in regular use. Church services are conducted at 9am on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month.

See more photos here and the inside here.

Part of Rev Gideon Smales’ death notice provides some history to the church “…Soon after his removal to the East Tamaki, Mr. Smales erected a small stone church on his property at his own cost and placed it at the disposal of the Anglican and Wesleyan church authorities. For a number of years this was the only church in the district and was attended regularly by members of all sections of the Christian church…”

And some history to the farm “…All through his life, it has been manifest to those who knew him, that Mr. Smales possessed a considerable amount of energy and perseverance. After purchasing the land at the East Tamaki, he was told that being so rough and covered with stones, it was not worth clearing. He however, was not easily deterred but set to work cleared and cultivated 100 acres each year for a period of three years, so that the rough run is now a good farm- the best in the district…”

And some measure of his character “…Mr. Smales was a man of broad views and laboured under the conviction that Christianity, with its universal principle of love, should predominate… He possessed superior mental gifts, had a well-cultivated mind, an easy and fluid style and always expressed himself in a lucid manner; his addresses were usually both [uplifting] and instructive…”

Shady, flowering-tree-lined drive from the church down to the road.

Shady, flowering-tree-lined drive from the church back down to the road.

According to this Scoop article, in the millennial year, a call was put out interested parties to discuss the restoration of Hampton Park. “Public input is needed to discuss such aspects as: areas for grazing, conserving and interpreting archaeological sites, redeveloping the sunken garden as a semi natural glade, replacing the historic plants, and the creation of a visitors/education centre where stories of the wider area can be told. Restoration of the reserve has begun with the rebuilding of stone walls, removal of weeds and rubbish, tree care and fencing however more work is needed to conserve and enhance the area as a quality historic park.”