Gardening volunteers Ross Hunter and Susan Haslam ensure the gardens are well kept
Image: DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


This June marks 10 years since a small group of dedicated Aucklanders started tending the heritage gardens surrounding Mansion House on Kawau Island.

Date:  23 June 2023

DOC recognised the gardening volunteers’ contribution to conserving the heritage site during National Volunteer Week (18-24 June).

Over 30 volunteers attended the June gardening day to mow lawns, prune, weed, collect debris and propagate new plants from specimens that link back to plants introduced over 150 years ago.

DOC Operations Manager Kat Lane, says volunteers play a vital role in protecting natural and heritage sites across the islands of Tīkapa Moana/the Hauraki Gulf.

“We’re very thankful for the support and expertise of the gardening group volunteers,” says Kat. “By the end of this year, we’re estimating volunteers will contribute around 60,000 hours to DOC projects across many islands in Tīkapa Moana.”

Established in the mid-1800s, the Mansion House gardens were the focus of former owner Governor George Grey’s experiments with the acclimatisation of exotic plants, especially those that had a potential economic value. Grey distributed plants and plant material throughout the country from Kawau island. Governor Grey is a controversial figure, and this site has a challenging colonial history.

Auckland local Jenny Hunter has been organising the Mansion House gardening group since it started. She’s one of a handful of volunteers who have clocked a decade of service – and built strong friendships along the way.

“Although our involvement stems from an interest in gardening and the unique collection of plants, we do recognise this is a site of historical significance. We can see that the site has benefitted from ongoing care and attention,” says Jenny.

“We love working in the valley and volunteering is a good way to experience some unique areas. Some of our group also volunteer for several day programmes on Tiritiri Matangi.”

On top of the gardening group, volunteers engage with the public on weekends, and clean and catalogue the historic interior and chattels of Mansion House.

Kat Lane says that there are many opportunities for Aucklanders to get involved with varied conservation efforts, including DOC-led programmes listed on the website.

“You can come work alongside a DOC ranger on an island for five days or you could sign up to help protect seals over winter. You can also join one of the many community and iwi groups doing amazing work for nature,” says Kat.

“Volunteering is a way that people can connect with their natural surroundings and take action on restoring the environment.”

DOC manages the largest heritage portfolio in Aotearoa with over 15,500 heritage sites nationwide. In Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland there are 1175 recorded archaeological sites and 90 actively conserved heritage places.


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