Topic: Robbins Park (Tauranga)
The land along Cliff Road was originally used as living quarters and gardens by Maori. In 1828 the Otamataha pa was attacked by a war party from the Coromandel. The inhabitants of the pa who were not killed fled to other settlements, leaving the area unoccupied. Story by Jinty Rorke.
View of land developed as Robbins Park, from the Redoubt
A fortified position at the southern end of the cliff, the Taumatakahawai pa, was strengthened by the British troops in 1864. This position was taken over by the Armed Constabulary, who used the land to the north for their gymnasium and mess room buildings. In 1886 the newly-formed police force took over the area, the buildings were removed and the land was used as a paddock for grazing the police horses until the Tauranga Borough Council took it over about 1940. Notable among these was Constable Arthur Skinner’s splendid white horse.
The borough glasshouse, which was built there, was converted into a begonia house by Parks Superintendent E.J. Holland and his wife. It opened in 1954.
In 1958 the Bay of Plenty Floral Festival Society asked the council for permission to develop the area into a rose garden. The lily pond, with a statue of Ceres, the Greek goddess of plenty, was part of the original design. The statue was made of cast stone by Mr Rauby, an Auckland sculptor. The completed garden was handed over in February 1960. The Floral Festival retained an interest in the park and, in 1963, the year we became a city for the first time, built a colonnade along the eastern and northern sides.
Robbins Park Rose gardens c.1970
A statue of a small boy holding the name plaque was added at that time. Unfortunately this statue was damaged some years ago, and although the intention was to repair it, the original has disappeared. If a good photo of the statue could be found, it may be possible to replace it. Can you help? It would also be interesting to know just when the statue was taken away. Any information would be welcome.
The park was named in honour of Benjamin Conrad (Cockie) Robbins, mayor of Tauranga from 1912 to 1915 and again from 1929 to 1933. The formal naming of the park took place in 1946, the year he celebrated his 90th birthday.
Robbins arrived in Tauranga in 1911 at the age of 54 with an impressive history of business acumen and public service. His interest in local politics began in Hawera, where he was a member of the borough council and mayor for seven years.
An active member of the Liberal party and later, the Labour party, Robbins stood for parliament, but was never elected. However, in 1936, at the age of 80, he was appointed to the Legislative Council by Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage, serving two terms.
Tauranga Borough Council, 1914
B.C. Robbinson front row, third from left
Robbins came to Tauranga from Wellington, where he had been in business, to take up partnership as a land agent. During his first period as mayor of Tauranga Robbins was responsible for the Omanawa Falls electricity scheme, water reticulation, and the building of the Town Hall. It is most appropriate that his major contribution to the development of the borough of Tauranga is commemorated by this lovely rose garden.
Further information is available through the Tauranga City Libraries’ New Zealand Room.