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Symonds Street Cemetery enhancements showing good results

Published: 27 June 2019

Established in 1841, Symonds Street Cemetery is one of Aotearoa’s oldest cemeteries and has been a public park since 1908. 

The urban cemetery is benefitting from a long-term enhancement programme first initiated by Waitematā Local Board in 2012. 

Waitematā Local Board Deputy Chair Shale Chambers says the local board is continuing its work to restore the site as a park after decades of neglect.

“We’re supporting a variety of initiatives to achieve this including a monument conservation programme, ecological restoration and community and volunteer events in the cemetery,” he said. 

Monument Conservation 

Deputy Chair Chambers says the monument conservation programme has a focus on protection and preservation.

“We recently identified three monuments in need of major restoration work; the Nutting, Thorne and James monuments. All of these monuments were severely deteriorated and two were at risk of collapse,” he said.

Conservation work was completed on the Nutting, Thorne and James monuments in March. Planning is currently underway for restoration of the John Smith monument.

Preventative measures have also used to retain the inscriptions on three Maori monuments in the cemetery.

Ecological Restoration

Ongoing work is undertaken at the cemetery to remove invasive fauna and flora species like transcentia to make way for native plantings.

Cleaning up and restoring the Waipāruru Stream and gully adjacent to the cemetery has also been a priority.

A water quality monitoring programme has been developed and, earlier this year, shortfinned eels and a rare banded kōkopu were unexpectedly spotted by ecologists during the bat and fish survey funded by the local board.

“It’s quite amazing that a stream in the middle of the city centre is supporting native fish and eels,” said Deputy Chair Chambers.

Friends of Symonds Street Cemetery

Friends of Symonds Street Cemetery (FSSC) is a community-led group supported by the local board that aims to protect, preserve, enhance, restore and educate the public about the cemetery.

The group run regular working bees and heritage walks in the cemetery and also advise and advocate on behalf of the site. 

Chair of the FSSC Committee Tricia Read says without the support and funding from Waitematā Local Board, it would be hard for their group to exist. 

“The local board’s support has not only created new pathways and accessibility; it has also resulted in significant grave restorations.”

“We’re delighted that the local board remains a champion of the cemetery,” she said.

New pathways

In July 2018, the local board approved the development and installation of new formed pathways in the cemetery to improve public access and enjoyment.

Following consultation, the final pathway design was approved by the local board in February with work starting in May. 

The new pathway design activates the cemetery providing formed, accessible pathways along the Rose Trail on the western side of the cemetery. 

The pathways are expected to be completed later this year. 

Deputy Chair Chambers says Symonds Street Cemetery is a historical asset with a wealth of stories that must be protected, preserved and shared with modern Auckland.

“The work we’re doing at Symonds Street Cemetery will draw an increasing number of visitors to the site and will enhance their experience there,” he said.

You can find out more about Symonds Street Cemetery at the STQRY website or download the free app.

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