There’s a sign board in Myers Park that says that in the early 1900s it was “an unwholeseome spot” in an “unsightly gully”. This less than flattering description stuck to the park like mud for years and it is only recently, after a good clean up, that Myers Park has become an inner city green spot worthy of a look. It’s still a surprise waiting to be discovered by many native Aucklanders.
I have lived in Auckland for more than 20 years and I visited Myers Park only for the first time in 2011 when I joined the fan trail from downtown Auckland to Eden Park during the Rugby World Cup. Myers Park sits in a gully wedged between Queen Street, Greys Avenue, Pitt Street and Karangahape Road. Walking through the park northwards to St Kevin’s Arcade on Karagahape Road certainly beats the concrete, traffic filled route along Upper Queen Street.
The entrance to Myers Park from the Queen Street end is easy to miss. There’s a sign post on Mayoral Drive where it intersects Queen Street which immediately leads to a flight of wooden steps shaded by mature trees. This is a very busy and noisy intersection but by the time I’d reached the bottom of the steps the traffic noise was gone and everything was quiet.
The park feels ancient. Giant palm trees tower overhead and create odd shadows on the grassy slopes. There are benches to sit on and acres of space for playing and an old caretaker’s cottage, one of only two Kauri buildings on Queen Street that are more than 100 years old. It’s just the right place for selling ice creams or coffee but sadly today it’s boarded up and deserted.
The transformation of Myers Park started with a donation of £9000 from Arthur Myers, businessman and former mayor of the city, in the early 1900s. In 1915 Myers extended his philanthropy and funded the building of the Myers Free Kindergarten for the benefit the mostly poor families in the area. Children playing there can look down over the park and the sounds of their games are the only thing to break the silence.
The most surprising thing in the park sits at the bottom of the wide flight of steps that climb out of the park and connect with St Kevin’s Arcade on Karangahape Road. It’s a copy of Michelangelo’s sculpture ‘Moses’ made from marble quarried from the same quarry as the original. It’s a worthy replica and a totally unexpected find in an unlikely location. During the Rugby World Cup Moses became part of the fan scene and on the day I walked the trail he was wearing a red, white and blue stetson donated by a French fan.
Moses was presented to Auckland in 1971 by the Milne & Choyce department store as the centrepiece of their 100 year celebrations. All in all quite an odd choice for the occasion but it adds a certain grandeur to the park.
The other statue in the park is a granite carving of five goats. The statue represents a traditional Chinese story which tells of a herd of goats discovering a bleak valley. The goats survive by eating the rough vegetation and as their droppings fertilise the ground new seeds grow. As time passes, the desolate valley is transformed into a fertile place due to the quiet and diligent activity of the goats. ‘The Five Goats’ was presented by Canton (now Guangzhou) to Auckland in 1999 in recognition of the contribution made by the Chinese community to New Zealand.
St Kevin’s Arcade sits at the top of Myers Park with an entrance onto Karangahape Road (or just K Road). The arcade is elegant with high ceilings, dramatic windows and plenty of potted palms. It is so cool that it has its own page on Facebook. There are plenty of shops to browse in for vintage and designer clothing and jewellery, books, gifts and knick knacks. There’s a corseterie, and The Cruelty Free Shop where, as you’d expect, all products are free from animal testing and contain no animal based ingredients. You can even have your hair cut at Mo’Stylish Crew. K Road is famous for its after-dark activity, and loved for its vibrant mix of cultures, eclectic stores and great spots for coffee and food. There are free heritage walks all year round along K Road. I’m planning to do one soon and I’ll let you know what I find.
Categories: New Zealand