Alert : Playgrounds Closed
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that the country is now at level three alert and will go to level 4 alert at 11:59pm Wednesday (25 March) our number one priority is the well being of our communities and staff. The announcement means that our playgrounds are closed, however people are still allowed to go out, on their own, for fresh air and exercise.
The Paeroa Domain is the key recreational facility in Paeroa and one of Council’s premier reserves.
The main entrance to the Paeroa Domain is located on Willoughby Street. Access is also available from the bordering streets, Arney Street and King Street.
The domain includes a children’s playground, public toilets, two full sized rugby fields, five netball courts, a netball pavilion, two croquet greens, a croquet pavilion, numerous clubrooms, and a grandstand with showering and changing facilities.
Frequent sporting events as well as annual community events, including the Paeroa Games and Highland Tattoo, the Paeroa Wine & Food Festival and the Lion's Fireworks Display, are held at the picturesque domain throughout the year. It's also a great picnic spot, whether you are a resident or passing through.
Also included below are a couple of newspaper articles about the Paeroa Domain that recently appeared in the Hauraki Herald.
Paeroa Domain – the jewel in the ‘town’
“Paeroa may be lacking in a few things which go to make a good place to live in but it is singularly fortunate in its main public breathing-space, the Domain.” Ohinemuri Gazette, 02 November 1921.
Today of course, Paeroa is a great place to live in - in fact it was Community of the Year in 2012 - but at the time the above article was written the town may well have been overshadowed by the Domain which, among other things, was home to a wider range of rare trees and shrubs than any similar reserves in the country.
How they got there makes for an interesting story.
When the Ohinemuri County Council first set the area aside as a Recreation Reserve in 1900, the Domain was little more than a sludgy wasteland. Stock destined for the Arney St Butchery grazed down one damp end of it in an area known as ‘Earl’s paddock’, although it was really more of a swamp with a small creek draining into a marshy lagoon.
In early 1904 the Paeroa Domain Board was appointed by the Council to manage the Reserve. Soon afterwards the Board employed, William Hamilton, as Domain superintendant. By 1906 the lagoon had been drained and tennis courts and bowling greens had been laid. A croquet lawn and rugby fields had been developed, 92 chains of fence had been installed, and an artificial pond had been created. A band rotunda had also been constructed and more than 300 ornamental trees and shrubs had been planted.
In those days finding exotic seedlings wasn’t as simple as whipping down to your nearest nursery. So where did Mr Hamilton get such a diverse range of plants from? There is still speculation as to where the seedlings were sourced but there are plenty of specimens in the Domain that suggest he had access to exclusive, overseas sources. These may remain a mystery today but his vision was clear; to see the Paeroa Domain become an arboretum, second to none, with the greatest possible variety of trees.
“The town (Paeroa) is equally fortunate in having for the caretaker of the Domain such an able and conscientious enthusiast as Mr W.A Hamilton,” reported the Ohinemuri Gazette in 1921, “To anyone having practical experience of the labour involved in keeping the average gentleman’s private garden and lawns in order, it is surprising that one man is able to keep so spacious and thickly planted an area as the Domain in the condition it is now in. None but an enthusiast could, or would, do the work required.”
Unfortunately subsequent Councils didn’t follow Mr Hamilton’s lead, and although many of the trees he planted are still standing and listed as significant trees in the Paeroa Domain today, further development and promotion of the area as an arboretum didn’t take root. But it has grown and branched out in plenty of other just as important ways.
Still Paeroa’s key recreational facility, the Domain now sports a children’s playground, public toilets, and plenty of leafy picnic areas and open spaces to exercise your dog or throw a cricket ball. For the sporting fraternity there are two full sized rugby fields; five netball courts; a netball pavilion; two croquet greens; a croquet pavilion; numerous clubrooms; and a grandstand with showering and changing facilities.
Most days the Domain is well-used by picnickers, dog walkers, frisbee throwers, joggers, school groups, and sports clubs. Once a year it lights up with the Paeroa Lions Annual Fireworks Display and in February it vibrates to the sound of bagpipes during the annual Paeroa Highland Games and Tattoo.
Although written almost 100 years ago, the finishing paragraph penned in the Ohinemuri Gazette in November 1921 seems just as appropriate today.
“It (Domain) is certainly a delightful place in which to spend leisure hours and is well worthy of greater expenditure on it, for it is an asset that the great majority of Dominion townspeople might well envy Paeroa the possession of.”
Pick of the Park – Band Rotunda
On a moonlit night on Friday 30 November 1906, the first ever concert was held in Paeroa’s newly built, Band Rotunda, to celebrate its official opening.
Thames bowlers were also visiting the Paeroa Domain that day to play against their Paeroa counterparts, so the usual retailer’s half-day holiday on a Wednesday was shifted to the Friday, to cater for both events.
Who won the bowls game is unclear (although our guess is Paeroa!) but the evening’s entertainment included a haka performed by local Maori, the Paeroa Brass Band, and other local performers. The Rotunda was officially opened by Ohinemuri Member of the House of Representatives, Mr H. Poland.
Access to the Victorian style Rotunda at that time, which had been built on a special site in the centre of a pond, was by two bridges over the resulting moat. In 1926 the moat was filled with soil.
In its ‘play day’ the Rotunda hosted plenty of band concerts, official functions and early Anzac day commemorations. Now a category two registered historic place with the Historic Places Trust, it’s an important part of Paeroa’s history and a pleasing backdrop for local wedding parties and picnics in the park.
Article Sources – Paeroa Domain, John Jensen (Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 4, September 1965) Paeroa’s Band Rotundas, Graham Watton (Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 50, September 2006) Ohinemuri Gazette issue 4337, 02 November 1921.