Mike Oates

 1991 - 2001

During his curatorship, several new developments took place:

• the Centenary of Wellington City Council management of the Garden, including the Floriade Festival;
• the Cable Car lookout area was redeveloped in 1995;
• the Duck Pond area was redeveloped in 1997;
• the Botanic Gardens of Wellington Advisory Board, responsible to the Botanic Gardens Curator / Manager, was established in 1997.
• the Botanic Garden Playground was redeveloped in 2001

Cable Car precinct

The Cable Car precinct, the major entry point for many visitors, was significantly upgraded in 1995.  With improved signage and upgraded facilities,  it made for a  more welcoming experience.

The late Rob Bos as Guiding Co-ordinator at the time, noticed that when cruise ships were visiting Wellington there were many people in the garden. As far as I can ascertain in December 1997 he went up to the Cable Car entrance, and found many people, many not knowing what to do on their visit. He rapidly identified that a meet and greet service was required, with information on what to see, how to see it, and the services etc. provided in the garden in demand. After that Christmas a roster was established, and the guides commenced providing a service that has been, and still is, valued since then. Where possible initially 3 or 4 guides were roistered, and short tours around the garden provided on demand.

Duck Pond area redeveloment

The duck pond area has been a focus of the Main Garden from the earliest years. The issues were identified as- 
  • Poor spatial organisation.
  •  No botanical or horticultural theme.
  •  Poor relationship with the water.
  •  No sense of place or occasion.
  • No assign or visual cohesion.

The design concepts were identified as - 
■  To create a special and memorable place.
■  To create a setting for the establishment of a variety of water-related garden environments.
■  To enhance the connection between the water and the land.
■  To create an appropriate hierarchy of paths, walks and trails.


There is no doubt that this area remains one of the most popular places to visit, especially with children.

Playground redevelopment  2001

The 2000 development proposal

Children's playground, as finally developed (2012).  The playground in 1936 (below)

The provision of playgrounds in Wellington's reserves began in the days of George F Glen.   MacKenzie established the first supervised children's playgrounds in New Zealand.  This must have made available a certain level of free child care to those able to use these facilities.   At the Botanic Garden a new playground was built on Anderson Park in 1927 where it was more accessible than the existing one to children and parents from the adjacent suburbs.   This playground was dismantled in 1934 and its equipment re-erected at the older playground in the Botanic Garden.

There are many parts of the Garden that children have used probably ever since the first houses were built in the Thorndon area in the 1850's and 1860's.   Forts among the pines on the Glenmore hills and in the bush below the Weather Office can still be found today.  Once there were more streams to dam and they were rich in fresh water crayfish.  Many of these streams are now piped, and water run-off and effluent from the miles of surrounding city roads have put paid to the crayfish.   During the dry summers of the 1960's sliding down the grass banks around the Rose Garden and Salamanca Road lawns on sheets of cardboard left tracks of bare earth which niggled the horticultural sensitivities of the staff.   With the craze for skate boarding the sealed roadways in the Garden were wonderful places to develop and practice the skills of this sport.  Today grass skaters use the lawns above the Rose Garden and the fountain pools are not wasted as swimming holes during the summer.

In 2001 the earlier   Children's playground was redeveloped
The images above are part of the development propoasl documentation. 

Peace Flame

In 1971 the Norwood family provided a donation towards the installation of  the waterfall, pond, brick shelter and wall, and path access from the weather office.  This gift also made possible the construction of a sloping bank to the south of the waterfall, covering an unsightly cliff where the hill had been cut away.

In 1994 the Hiroshima - Nagasaki Peace Flame was installed. The lantern originally (1975) stood in wetlands area near the Duck Pond being  presented by the Japan Society of NZ. Subsequently the Japan Soceity of Wellington agreed to its relocation to the present site in 1994, and it was slightly altered to house the Peace Flame.

The flame was presented by the City of Hiroshima.

In 1997 a 200 kg stone from the Old City Hall of Hiroshima was placed here on an adjacent wall.

Also in the pond is a concrete tablet with an extract of `No Ordinary Sun` by Hone Tuwhare .

Peace Flame and plaque


The directors, keepers, managers, curators of the garden in order of appointment
Their titles have changed over the years