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Restoration means tropical plants take holiday

8 September 2005

Restoration means tropical plants take summer holiday

A major operation to move around 2,000 plants out of the Domain’s Wintergarden Tropical House begins next week when the historic glasshouse will be closed for refurbishment.

The $1.3 million heritage project to restore the Tropical House is the final phase in a three-stage programme to return Auckland City’s Wintergarden complex to its former glory.

It will mean that the Tropical House is closed to the public for up to nine months while works are underway. The rest of the Wintergarden, including the Fernery, the Temperate House and the courtyard, will remain open.

Auckland City’s heritage manager, George Farrant, says the Wintergarden is a unique complex that has a special place in Auckland’s history.

“The Wintergarden is an iconic Auckland landmark and a hugely valuable heritage site. It was built to offer people the chance to enjoy plants from New Zealand and around the world.

“It’s important that we preserve it for future generations to enjoy. This project will see the somewhat run-down Tropical House restored to a standard that befits such a unique facility.”

Over the next month, the plants in the Tropical House will be transferred to a temporary home, where parks staff will recreate a hot and humid environment for them.

City Parks Services foreperson for premier parks, David Millward, says the move will be a major logistical operation.

“To move around 2,000 plants is a major feat and some of these plants are quite rare or unique so we need to be extra careful with them.

“We’ll have specialised staff on hand to assist with the move, so that the transition is as easy as possible for these tropical species.

“Fortunately the refurbishment will take place over the summer which means it will be easier for us to create a suitable environment for the plants in their temporary home,” Mr Millward says.

Some of the rare plants to be transferred include the endangered Australian grease nut tree Hernandia bivalvis; a Brazilian rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis; and a West Indian all spice tree Pimenta officinalis.

Mr Millward says some of the plants will be stored in two smaller tropical glasshouses, while the rest will be kept under cover at other sites.

“It will be exciting to move the plants into a newly restored venue so that the public can enjoy these amazing species in the kind of environment they were meant to be viewed in,” he says.

The refurbishment project follows a 2001 report, which found that the Wintergarden complex had deteriorated with age and needed to be restored.

The Fernery has already been upgraded and the Temperate House and the Wintergarden courtyard were refurbished in 2002 and 2003.

Auckland City’s heritage specialists and architects Salmond Reed have advised on the refurbishment of the Tropical House, which will involve:
- replacement of decayed or missing parts of the structure
- replacement of panes of glass
- repair and restoration of damaged parts of the structure
- repair to the retaining wall surrounding the complex.

The project will also include the removal of 14 Cypress trees, which are damaging the historic brick retaining wall.

Many of the trees have a fungal disease called Cypress Canker, which causes disfigurement and can lead to the trees dying.

The project team has determined that the best approach is to remove all of the trees and replace them with disease-free, smaller conifers in keeping with the original landscape design.

Contractors will begin work at the Wintergarden site in early October and will continue until early May, when the plants will be returned to the greenhouse.

ENDS

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