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New jewel in City’s crown

New jewel in City’s crown

Auckland City Council is celebrating the purchase of one of Auckland’s grandest early homes and its grounds for inclusion in a new premier park at Hillsborough with a public open day.

Visitors will be invited to explore the grounds and homestead and offer suggestions of future uses. An “Open Home” weekend is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday of Auckland Anniversary weekend between 10.00am and 3.00pm.

The completed purchase of the Pah Homestead – also known as the Monte Cecelia House and approximately five hectares of grounds will be amalgamated with land previously bought by the council for development as a public park.

The chairperson of the council’s Recreation and Events Committee, Councillor Scott Milne, says the council will buy more land as other already identified properties become available.

“The latest purchase means that a magnificent property is now in public ownership for the enjoyment of future generations of Aucklanders. It will become an icon of Auckland, with views and trees to rival Cornwall Park’s and the Auckland Domain’s.”

Councillor Milne says the purchase was initiated by the council in 1998 and has been preceded by long and complex negotiations. “The council acknowledges the willingness of the Catholic Diocese to share the vision of a superb park that can be enjoyed by all Aucklanders.”

The land now owned by Auckland City Council is understood to have been the site of the Whataroa Pa. It was part of a 162-hectare property bought from local Maori in 1847 by early Auckland settler and land dealer William Hart. The Pah Homestead was built between 1877 and 1879 as Auckland businessman James Williamson’s “gentleman’s residence” and was one of the largest and finest homes in Auckland at that time.

Councillor Milne says plenty of evidence remains of James Williamson’s intention to establish “The Pah”, as it was known, as a prestigious estate and of the labours of up to eight full-time gardeners he employed.

The tree-lined drive to Pah Road remains largely intact, although parts of it now run through private properties adjoining the proposed park. The grounds include some of the finest exotic trees in Auckland and there are views to the Manukau Harbour and to One Tree Hill.

The homestead itself remains as it was built, with almost all of its original door and window joinery, elaborate ceiling roses, parquet floors and marble fireplaces intact. It is better known today as the Monte Cecilia House and at various times has served as an orphanage, a novitiate house, boarding school and – more recently – to provide emergency housing.

Councillor Milne says Aucklanders will have an opportunity to see through the home for themselves at an open day being planned for December. About the same time, the council proposes calling for expressions of interest for the future use of the homestead.

He says the most frequent request received by the council’s Recreation and Events Committee is for more land to be set aside as public open space.

He says the council will also work with neighbours to resolve parking and access issues.

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