AN EIGHT-ACRE DOMAIN.
feW GREY STREET VAIiLEY.
MAGNIFICENT GIFT TO CITY.
SCHEME FOR BOTANIC GARDENS.
The gift of a new park to the City of Auckland was announced in yesterday's "Star." The name of the donor was not divulged until last evening, when a special meeting of the City Council was held to consider the offer. It was then announced by the Mayor (Mr C. J. Parr) that the citizen making the generous offer was Mr Arthur M. Myers, M.P. for Auckland East, and that the land which he was willing to give for the purpose, at a cost of £9,000, involved an area of eight acres, extending for a quarter of a mile, from behind the Town Hall to vrithin a few chains of Karangahape Road, running practically the whole length of the Grey Street valley. Mr. Myers was present at last night's meeting of the Council, and the proceedings were marked by the keenest enthusiasm on the part of the councillors and visitors present. A FORWARD MOVE. The Mayor, in announcing the business of the meeting, said that last year the Council adopted a scheme for the rebuilding and improvement of the Old Market quarter, and in a few weeks it was hoped that that scheme would receive the sanction of Parliament. The time was now opportune for another move forward in this district. For many years Grey Street Gully had been a veritable eyesore. Nature here provided a beautiful valley, and they had made of it a quarter of slum shanties and rubbish tips. Its present character depreciated the whole neighbourhood. There was no doubt the Town Hall was affected by its unfavourable environment. In any welldesigned scheme of town-planning, a road or drive would have been put along the foot of the valley, and on each of the slopes, for a width of at least 50 yards there would have been grass lawn and shrubs. The Grey Street and Queen Street frontages would have had a park instead of a slum for their back yard. NECESSITY FOR OPEN SPACES. Various schemes for the improvement of this area, continued the Mayor, had from time to time been propounded, but had come to naught. The price of the land seemeo* prohibitive. Moreover, while a gully could easily be made a beauty spot, it was an awkward proposition to handle for a more utilitarian purpose. However, thanks to the noble generosity of one of their citizens, they could now do- something to reclaim this unlovely spot to better uses. In a large city where thousands "of people were herded together on a few hundred acres they could not have too many open spaces/or lungs. The best way to make good citizens was to see to it as a primal necessity that they did not have to live in mean, ugly, and insanitary surroundings. Even'the most utilitarian person must admit that Grey Street was a thousand times better as a park than a slum. AN IDEA AND AN OFFER. "On my return last month from Australia/ said Mr. Parr, "I saw Mr. (Arthur Myers, M.P., at Wellington. We had several talks about Grey Street. I brought before him the idea of a Grey Street Pa.rk. and told him that our difficulty viae one of finance —of finding the money. To my moat agreeable surprise, Mr. Myers said he would like to do something for the city of which he •had been Mayor for many years, and where he had lived practically his whule life. He then informed mc that if I would place a definite plan before him, he would be prepared to find the money required to purchase the land—in other words, he would present Grey Street Valley as a park to the city. (Loud applause.). I immediately set to work. As I had to deal with 25 different owners, I took the responsibility of keeping the negotiations absolutely confidential. Once a project of this character leaks out prematurely, prices go up, and the city is asked an exorbitant figure. As a preliminary step, I felt it necessary, in the interests of the city and Mr. Myers, to employ some gentleman to get into touch with the various owners, and to get options over as many properties as possible. Necessarily, in euch a person I had to repose complete trust. I eelected Mr. H. E. Vaile for the work, and the result proved that 1 could not have made a better choice." PUBLIC-SPIRITED OWNERS. Proceedinsr. the Mayor said that after Mr. Vaile had procured many options, he decided to interview the owners individually, and reveal to them under a pledge of mutual confidence and secrecy what it was proposed to do. Mr. Vaile accordingly brought some 20 different owners separately to him. He was pleased to say that in nearly every lease he was met in a most excellent spirit. Where only the back portions of allotments were wanted nearly all the owners, recognising, no doubt, the benefit that must accrue to the remainder of their properties from the proposed park, acceded to his appeal, end gave the city the land free of cost. He desired to specially mention Messrs. Garland, J. D. Webster, Bertram Dawson, Mrs. Potter. Mise Fulton, Adams Trustee*, T. MoMaster, H. Freidlander, L. (VDonnell and Milbank as worthy of gratitude and thanks in this respect. In i three cases only did proprietors demand quite unreasonable sums for backyard areas. He proposed that the Council i should take their back lands under the ' Public Works Act, and a Compensation Court would say what was a fair price, i having regard to the undoubted better-1 ment their frontajje lands would reap from the park. In three other cases negotiations were still pending, but the areas here involved were inconsiderable. Perhaps it would he wise also to 7>roclaim these small lots, though hp was sanguine of an amicable settlement in each of these eases. After the proclamation, the negotiations could still fontinue. BOTANICAL GARDENS OF THE FUTURE. T<he area comprised in the new park is nearly eight acres in extent, said the Mayor,"and the cost of this was estimated at £!).nuo. As 'he had stated, Mr Mvers had rer.dily and generously agreed "to provide this sum. (Applause.) Included in this area were a dozen slum tenements, which the Council would now be able to demolish. The park would then extend from Neill's Lane, a few yards from the Town Hall, all the_ way up the Valley and to within a Cham or two of Karanga'hape Road. The length
of the park was just a quarter of a mile. The new park would have many advantages. There would be five entrances. Already there were some splendid young oaks and .shrubs, planted in the military days when tirey Street was a fashionable quarter. The old house still stood in Grey Street in which Sir George Grey lived. There was also some native bush. Sheltered from every wind, ■here, in days to come, they would be able to grow sub-tropical palms, pungas, tree- | ferns, etc. Smoke and heavy winds sadly interfered with Albert Pa-rk and its flower beds. Here in the new park would be the future botanical gardens of Auckland. On dts graesy slopes there would be lawns and shade trees and seats for the hundreds who would work in the city close by, and would u=e this sheltered shady spot in their luncheon hours | —as was done in Sydney. j It was often said, a-died the Mayor, that the Town Hall (iv which a cum of £150,000 was invested) rt-as set in rather unfavourable surroundings. This reproach would no longer be levelled at us. The Market Site Bill embodying the scheme put forward last year for the rebuilding of tha-t large area, would in a few weeks be law. Was not this park a fitting complement to that scheme? ! (Applause.) The two proposals would ' revolutionise the whole Town Hall area,! and this neighbourhood would soon take I on a new character. If the Council carried the proposal that night it meant t'ha-t in three months there would not be a slum cottage left in Grey Street area. A NAME FOR THE PAiRK. "Our good friend, Mr. Myers, d 3 (here to-night," concluded Mr. Parr, "to confirm my statement that we need not be ! in any anxiety regarding the purchase. | Mr. Myers will pay for the land required, j and so make possible this splendid re-'
serve for the people of Auckland. Another name is added to the roll of Auckland's princely benefactors. It is a great and noble gift. Realise for a moment that this splendid property will be ours for all time —and, believe mc, it will remain an everlasting monument to the generous heart and civic patriotism of Arthur Mielziner Myers. We shall most thankfully accept this great gift, nnd to commemorate it fittingly, I suggest tha-t the park shall be known henceforth and for ever as ' Myers Park.'" (Applause.) The Mayor then moved: " That the Auckland i'ity Council do hereby accept, with the greatest appreciation and gratitude, Mr. A. M. Myers' magnificent gift of a park in Grey Street to the people of Auckland, and thanks Mr. Myers for hie generous benefaction, and do now resolve to commemorate the gift bj' naming such park for all time ' Myers' Park.' " COUNCILLORS ENTHUSIASTIC. Mr. John Court, in seconding the reso? lution, said the benefit to future generations would be inestimable. Ever since he had entered the Council it had "been a problem to know wiiat to do with Grey ytreet Valley. Workmen's dwellings had been suggested, but the Council had always felt that the site was best suited for a park. Lack of finances had been the stumbling block, however, and it was indeed gratifying that the city wae to have this splendid gift from Mr. Myers. Mr. P. J. iN'erheny, in supporting the motion, said that his only regret was that 120 or 150 people would ihave to go elsewhere for places in which to live. At the same time, Mr. 'Myers' noble act was going to make glad the heart of the city. and°the example was one worthy -of emulation. Mr. R. Tudehope said that this was only one of many acts of generosity by Mr. 3lvens. Only that afternoon he had had to tihank Mr. Myere. in a semiprivate capacity, for a-nother very generous gift. Be was glad that this rnonu-me-nt Mr. Myers' generosity would always be known as Myers' Park. 'Mr. H. N. BagmaH said the citizens of Auckland owed'ltr. Myers a deep debt of gratitude. This valley ha-d always been the despair of the city. Tt would now become a plpnture ground. The speaker paid a tribute to the work the Mayor had done in carrying through negotiations for the acquisition of this land. Mr. R. •?• Brigg« said that such public.spiritediirs* would do more than anythino- else towards bringing about Greater Auckland. If. in the future, Mr. Mvers became Prime Minister, he would never l>e uMp to do anything that would more greatly ple:it?e the people of the city. Mr. J. M. Mennie remarked that Mr. Myers was a man of generous disposition whose heart was bound up in the welfare of the city. Mr. Myers was going to take a trip Home, and all would join in wishing him a pleasant time and a speedy return, .
Mr. J. C. Gleeson said that the gift not only reflected , credit on Mr. Myere, hut upon iliis uncle, the late Mr. Ehren.fried, and 'hie late partner, Sir John Campbell. The citizens had shown their appreciation of Sir John Campbell's great gift of Corn-wall Park by erecting a etatue of that great man. When the time came he did not believe the citizens would be slow to chow a similar apprecia- . tion of 'Mr. Myers. ' Mr. R. T. Michaels was not surprised at the gift, because Mr. Myens was always looking to 6ee what he could do for Auckland. He had given money and brains .to the advancement of the city, and he hoped the example was one which would be widely emulated. Mr. M. Casey also thanked Mr. Myere for his splendid gift. The motion was carried with loud applause. MR MYERS SPEAKS. Mr Myers, on rising to speak, received an ovation. Auckland, said Mr Myers, was in many ways an up-to-date and proi gressive eit}-. Its growth and prosperity I had been remarkable even in a country lof such fertility and possessing such re- ! sources as New Zealand. There were ! many in Auckland not yet elderly who ' remembered seeing green fields and meadows where there were now miles of i streets. Indeed, it was only 15 months ago since there passed from our midst | . one of that noble band of pioneers who founded a small settlement on the shores of the Waitemata —a settlement which j was ultimately to become the leading city I of New Zealand, with the brightest pros- ' pects of futui - e progress before it—he i I referred to the late Sir John Logan j I Campbell. Under the present system of ■ I local government, however, when a city ' grew to any great extent, the disadvan-
tages might in some respects counteract the advantages. Much good work had been done for the city in the past, and that good work was still being continued by the present Mayor and Councillors; but until a proper system of town-plan-ning was introduced, the City Council and other local governing bodies must look on somewhat helplessly while estate after estate was being cut up and covered with buildings, without any adequate provision for open spaces, school sites, and other public needs. By means of by-laws they indeed secured a certain minimum standard of air space, light and ventilation, and in this respect they had laid a good foundation by securing the necessary elements for a healthy condition of life. They needed, however, to carry muoli further the good' work done by the j by-laws, but at the present time they had insufficient power. Aβ the city continued to expand, and the fields on the outskirts gave way to streets and dwellinghouees, the necessity of reserving open spaces in each new district became more apparent. LUNG SPACES ESSENTIAL. They would, continued Mr. Myers, all feel gratified that through the foresight of the 'Mayor and his Council a few more acres in the city had been saved from the builder, and would be laid out as a public park, or recreation ground; but it is very desirable that they should have the power to proceed on more systematic lines in the future. This wae the •more necessary in cities like our own, for the latest statistics for New Zealand stated that more than one-half of the people in this Dominion lived in .towns. Some declared that this constant stream of population into the towns was in the natural course of economic development, and could not be avoided; but without going into that aspect of the question, he desired to point out the gTeat necessity of open spaces and healthy surroundings -being provided for the everincreasing number of people in our cities. Nature should be brought as near to our citizens and their children as was possible in a town. Holding these views, he did not think it necessary to express the pleasure it had given turn to have this opportunity of assisting the City Council to acquire an open reserve 60 near the Town Hall. His pleasure in doing so had been all the greater because he recognised tha-t it brought them one step ■nearer the ideal which many had in view —the establishment of a civic centre in tihe environs of the Town Hail. It wae desirable to-day that there should be some centre where the public buildings of the city might be grouped together. Many of them believed that our city would nt nn distant date carry a population of nbout a-quarter of a million, and cherished the hope that they would yet see a true civic centre in the neighbourhood of the Town Hall, with wide streets and dignified architecture, and adorned with .trees and flowers. The securing of this land as an open reserve in a part of the city which might have ultimately become a congested area re-
fleeted great credit on Mayor and councillors, and he wae pleaeed indeed to have had the privilege of making a personal contribution to the scheme. AUCKLAND IN THE FOREFRONT. There was much to be done yet, however, continued Mr Myers, and a. vast amount of patience and perseverance, as well as capital and foresight, was required their ideal could be attained. Their first care must be to lay the foundations in such a manner that the work would be lasting, that it will not be outgrown and its cost wasted in a few years. At the present moment it was impossible to do this adequately, because in New Zealand they had no proper system of town-planning. The advantage of that area which would ultimately comprise Greater Auckland being laid out according to a plan prepared with forethought and care to provide for the practical and aesthetic needs of a growing community seemed selfevident; and yet it was only within the last few years that any attention hadv been given to the subject in our Dominion. But even if such powers were granted by statute, it was undeniable that the existence of numerous local bodies in Auckland and its environs would hamper the solution of this civic problem of town-planning. This was a! difficulty which was becoming easier to I solve each year as the outlying districts amalgamated with ' the ■ city, and he ! trusted that the time whs not far distant when they would see in Greater Auckland one large municipality with its boundaries extending from the Whau to Tamaki, and having but one aim— namely, the placing of Auckland City in the forefront of municipalities, with effi- , cient municipal services combined with ! economy of administration. Auckland :
had been so richly endowed by nature, and its citizens enjoyed such exceptional facilities for creating a city of ideal beauty, that when an efficient and comprehensive Town Planning Act was brought into operation in New Zealand, our city should be pre-eminent among those in the Southern Hemisphere, and should indeed be unsurpassed by any in the world. Meanwhile, however, it was the clear duty of the municipality to make the most of the powers conferred upon it, and the acquisition of this land for the purpose of creating an additional "lung" in the city was but another indication that our Mayor and Councillors were fully alive to their responsibilities. Although this area of land was somewhat near Albert Park, he believed it possessed several features which lent thetms'elves to special treatment, and which will give this reserve certain characteristics of its own. "In conclusion," said Mr Myers, "I can only say that if, during my occupancy of the Mayoral chair and also in my capacity as a private citizen, any efforts of mine have contributed towards the advance of our city, I am happy indeed to have had the opportunity of giving expression in some small measure to what I conceive to be my duties as a citizen, and to my desire for the progress and prosperity of Auckland City." At the conclusion of Mr Myers , speech, those present rose to their feet and cheered Mr Myers with vigour. OTHER RESOLUTIONS. The city solicitor (Mr. T. Cotter) assured the Council that in any proceedings under the Public Works Act the Court would be entitled to take into consideration appreciation of the lands retained by the owners. The following resolutions were then carried: — "That the various arrangements made with property-owners by the Mayor for the acquisition of lands be adopted and confirmed, and the city solicitor ibe instructed to prepare all necessary transfers and documents for vesting these lands in the corporation." "That the land required for the proposed park belonging to the Misses Hoffmann and Mr. M. Wi3enian (formerly Binney's) and Jeffreys be forthwith taken and proclaimed by the Auckland Oity Council under the provisions of the Public Works Act, 1908." "That power be given the Mayor, should he .think fit, to take under the Public Works Act the land of Messrs. Dadley. Laud and J. Adams for the above purpose, and after the proclamation is gazetted, if he thinks it expedient, to continue the negotiations and report to the Council." , "That the thanks of the citizens be conveyed by the Council to all owners who have given their lands free of cost for the fair and reasonable spirit and manner in which they have met the Council's proposals." It was also resolved, on the motion of Messrs. Jo>m Court and Gaudin that a special vote be recorded in the minute*
appreciative of the energy and foresight displayed by the Mayor in connection with the scheme., Afterwards those present gathered in the Mayor's room, where several toasts were honoured, including those of Mr. Myers, the Mayor, Mrs. Myers, sen., Mrs. Arthur Myers, and Mrs. Parr. Proceedings throughout were most enthusiastic.