ANZAC Park was established in 1916 amidst the middle of WWI, the Palmerston North City Council intending to dedicate the area to those who had fallen at Gallipoli and those who were serving on the Western Front. With these unremitting battles and the displays of heroism fresh in the minds of all New Zealanders, an area ceremoniously named after the combined Australian and New Zealand armed forces was an easy decision for the Council to make. In order to further help the war effort, a mutual agreement between the authority owning the land, Kairanga County Council, and the authority buying, Palmerston Borough Council, was made to donate the proceeds from the land sale to the Manawatu Patriotic Society. A special group of the Council, The ANZAC Park Committee, agreed to the purchase the land for £250, with the transfer being adopted on 21 October 1916.
ANZAC Park lies along the south bank of the Manawatu River and is accessible via Cliff Road, off Tennent Drive after travelling over the Fitzherbert Bridge from Palmerston North. It overlooks the Manawatu Golf Course and is bordered on its northern and eastern side by large cliffs which mark the ancient flows of the Manawatu River. The southern end is bordered by Vaucluse Heights, a currently bare subdivision project. On a clear day, one can view far-off mounts Ruapehu and Taranaki.
History of ANZAC Park
The first mention of the area around ANZAC Park was made by early European settlers in reference to a Rangitane fighting pā named Te Motu-a-Poutoa which had been abandoned. It is likely that the pā was attacked about 1820 when Ngatiapa from Rangitikei were raiding the area. The name of the chief of this pā, Te Aokautere, was adopted in the late 19th century for the rural area extending along the southern end of the Manawatu River to the Ashhurst end of the Manawatu Gorge. This area was included in the Te Ahuaturanga Block sold to the Crown in 1864, forming the core part of the Palmerston North district.
In the 1880s, the area formed part of the farm owned by Mr J O Batchelar, a well-known settler of Fitzherbert. Batchelar sold the site to the Fitzherbert Road Board (later the Kairanga County Council) and that board constructed Cliff Road through the property in the 1890s. This road originally extended along the riverbank to Aokautere, but river erosion destroyed part of the road, which was never repaired, resulting in a dead-end road which has been retained to this day.
After WWI and the naming of the Park, activity in the area was mainly confined to the clearing of gorse and tending of gardens. In 1962, large amounts of spoil were removed to make way for a carpark and picnic area. A proposal to build an observatory on the hill was accepted in 1971, although viewings to the public were stopped in 1990 due to encroaching buildings and light pollution. Since the area has significance to iwi, the natural setting of the Park remains mostly unchanged to this day.
Research by Evan Greensides, Research Assistant – Archives, Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services
Ian Matheson City Archives: PNCC Series 1/1/1, Volume 7, Committee Minute Book, 1915-1917. Palmerston North City Library. Pataka Ipurangi: Manawatu Memory Online
Ian Matheson City Archives. Research file A175/61/6, ANZAC Park. Unpublished files.
Matheson, Ian. ‘ANZAC Park as a “Maori Reserve”. Unpublished, 15 August 1975.
Matheson, Ian. Council and Community: 125 Years of Local Government in Palmerston North, 1877 – 2002. Palmerston North City Library, 2003.
Palmerston North City Council. “ANZAC Park”. Updated 15 September 2014. URL: http://www.pncc.govt.nz/facilitiesandparks/parksandreserves/anzac-park/