The Akaroa Domain
The Garden of Tāne Scenic Reserve started in July 1874 when the Canterbury Provincial Council set aside a five acre area adjacent to the cemetery reserves as Akaroa Domain, managed by a local board. At this time the reserve covered approximately five acres of pasture grassland and forest remnants in the gullies. It was extended to its present size in 1940. The Domain Board planted many exotic tree species including oaks, elms, ashes, pines, cedars and cypresses set within grasslands, creating a veritable arboretum. There was a network of broad well surfaced paths, a summer house, rustic bridge, grotto, fountain and pool, tennis courts, croquet lawn and seating. Faint evidence of some of these structures remains, but much has been lost.
The vegetation within the reserve began to change at the end of the First World War when a lack of manpower meant maintenance decreased and natives began to establish beneath the mature exotic tree canopy, along with many weeds.
Becoming Garden of Tane
In 1964, farmer and environmentalist Arthur Ericson retired to Akaroa and over a period of 25 years instigated the clearance of the invasive pest plant species, opened up the forgotten footpaths and planted over 200 species of native plants to complement the mature exotic tree specimens within the park. During this period, Arthur also successfully formed and levelled a children’s playground and with funds donated by local Akaroa businesses purchased play equipment for the playground including the ‘iron’ rocking horse. He also renamed the reserve Garden of Tāne. Arthur’s work was not without controversy, as some people wanted the former Domain to continue, with its focus on exotic plants, while others supported the move to a more natural place with more native bush.
A time of neglect and disrepair
When Arthur Ericson ceased to maintain the Garden of Tane, it fell into disrepair once again, with paths becoming muddy and overgrown, and it was less well used. For many years it was loved by some locals of Akaroa, but little used by visitors.
Reserve Management Committee
In 2010, Christchurch City Council, now the territorial authority with responsibility for Akaroa, developed a Reserve Management Plan for the Garden of Tane. In 2012 it appointed a local Reserve Management Committee to oversee the implementation of the plan, but without any funds to do so!
The Reserve Management Committee is well underway to tackling the daunting task of restoring the Garden of Tane to a well used and loved park. Our approach is to work systematically through the garden area by area, carrying out arborist work to make the area safe and trees in good health, carry out track work to improve tracks to an easy walking standard, and then to augment the environment with planting, information, ceremonial trees and other assets. The overall objective is to retain the overall character of the Garden as a mysterious wilderness, but a place that is clearly cared for rather than neglected. Our priority has been the northern half of the Garden, starting at the main entrance at the top of Rue Jolie, which we refer to collectively as the Domain. Once this is in order, and this is well underway, attention will turn to the southern half, currently the wilder area of predominately native trees. The exception to this has been the track linking the two cemeteries which we also had as an early priority.
Achievements in the Domain area to date include:
- Entrance panels with maps of the tracks
- Arborist work along the main tracks in this area
- Extensive weed control of periwinkle and old man’s beard
- Substantial improvements to these tracks raising them from muddy, slippery and poorly drained to easy walking standard
- Substantial improvements to the main entrance and playground area including:
- planting of an interpretative garden explaining our historical bi-cultural story with plants and panels at the entrance
- clearing and opening up the playground area
- installation of picnic tables made of timber salvaged from the Garden
- Planting of ferns to create a Fern Gully feature area
- Reticulating water to newly planted areas
- Planting of two additional ceremonial trees marking significant historic events and a rare Wollemi pine added to the arboretum collection
- Improvements to the car park off Onuku road.
Projects currently in progress are:
- Focus on the “Nikau Gully” area between the playground, Onuku Road and the Onuku car park
- Arborist and track work
- Design and installation of a nature based play area utilising logs from the Garden
- Tree labelling
Future projects include:
- Drainage work to improve drainage through Garden of Tane
- Archaeological work at former fountain site near main track, with potential restoration of fountain and interpretation panel
- Interpretation panel near entrance explaining rotting log
- Removal of wilding trees from cliffs above Beach Road and replanting with bird food species
- Arborist work and track improvements in wild wood area
- Continued and improved weed eradication and control
- Sculpture exhibition leading to some permanent sculptures (natural, low key and in keeping with forest setting)