Farnley Reserve Timeline

Timeline of the development of Farnley Reserve

For an enlarged view of any image/plan, click on it.

Before 1994

Prior to 1994, the area which is now Farnley Reserve was a grassed embankment, strewn with builder’s waste, through which a meandering track, steeply sloping in places, often muddy, linked Palatine Terrace with Centaurus Road behind a row of recently-built houses and the Centaurus Road shops. The CCC had made a start to forming a better track through the area, but looked for greater community involvement in any further development there given recent significant local opposition to the CCC permitting houses to be built on land behind the shops on Palatine Terrace.

How the reserve changed from that partly-formed track to its current form is a story of collaboration and community involvement.

It started with the Soroptimist Club of Christchurch awarding Christine Heremaia, a CCC Landscape Architect, a scholarship to complete her landscaping studies.

Looking at the area where the eel circle is now, 1994
The track leading up to the Scout Den & Plunket Rooms, 1994.
Looking towards the pub, lamp post in the distance by Scout Den, 1994


Christine Heremaia proposes to the Soroptimists that they become involved in the improvements that the CCC is planning for the unformed legal road behind the Centaurus Road shops.  After considering a proposal from Christine and Lousia Davies, a CCC landscape planner, the Soroptimists agree to provide community input, planting and a $1000 contribution towards a feature in the restoration area.

Louisa Davies indicates features of plan, 1994
Christine Heremaia presents proposal to Soroptimists, 1994

February, 1995

After a couple of meetings between the Soroptimists and members of the CCC Water Services Unit, a concept plan is agreed upon.

At this stage, there is no determination about the final look of the paved area or of the path through to the shops, these matters requiring further discussion with involved parties.

Concept Plan - page 1
Concept Plan - page 2

April, 1995

Water Services Unit of CCC reports on the project to the Spreydon Community Board and seeks its support.

The Soroptimists perform a leaflet drop to the neighbourhood seeking comment on the concept.  Largely favourable comments are received from seven locals.

The Spreydon Community Board…

  • approved the plan in principle
  • approved that it have both a Maori and European name with the European name being “Farnley Reserve”
  • requested that a Maori name be decided following further consultation with “Tangata Whenua”
  • approved a grant of $600 from its Discretionary Fund to be made for the provision of a seat on the Eastern Terrace riverbank overlooking the reserve.

Read the report to the Spreydon Community Board from Christine Heremaia of the CCC Water Services Unit,  and also the Community Board response.

Quote from one local who submitted on the proposal:

“…It all looks very exciting and lovely, but we are a little concerned about the “forest” of cabbage trees….Please tell us that it will not be the big, ugly type that drops dry leaves all year round!”

May – October, 1995

Water Services Unit of CCC draws up detailed plans of Farnley Reserve landscaping and planting.   CCC applies to ECAN for Resource Consent for alteration of land.

Certificate of Title
Excavation Plan
Jetty Plan
Planting Plan
Seating Plan

Feb – Aug, 1996

Staged construction commences with tree removal/pruning, earthworks, ducting for lights and construction of boardwalks, paths and waterfall feature by CCC and contractors. The paved area is not commenced due to prolonged negotiations with owners of the shopping area about the path.

Rock Water Feature plan
The posts for the jetty having been freshly driven. New boardwalks in the distance
The cut at the Scout Den end, Feb 1996. Note the power pole: still there.
Contractors working in the area in front of the pub

30 March, 1996

The Soroptimists hold their first planting day on 30th March with 1000 plants put in the ground by 36 people aged 11 – 60+ from Soroptimists (and husbands), local scout and guide groups, locals.

Christine Heremaia (in pink) on the track just before the boardwalk beside the kahikatea grove
Planting betwen the boardwalks. Note the height of the boardwalk above the ground.
Planting reeds in the area which is now the kahikatea grove
Planting in front of Unit 2 beside the track
The jetty posts awaiting the attention of contractors, March 1996
Planting between the two boardwalks beside the track
Christine Heremaia with the woman who funded her scholarship, Betty Loughead.

April – May, 1996

The Soroptimists held another planting day during April, followed by several events in May where helpers barrowed and spread mulch to cover almost the entire area, certainly all the areas that had been planted at this time.

The paved area remained unfinished, although Bing Dawe had been engaged to create a sculpture for it and had produced a proposal by June.

The embankment and grassed area towards the Scout Den also remained to be completed.

Note the area that has been mulched.
The wood is from the old Stanmore Road bridge.
Planting on the upper bank beside what is now the kahikatea grove.
At the Palatine Terrace entrance. The two willow trees that were removed in 2021 are in the foreground as is the large pipe that was removed to make the waterfall feature.

June – September, 1996

During this period, CCC Works Operations completed the water feature at the Palatine Terrace end of the reserve, sowed grass areas near the paved area-to-be and completed the jetty.

The Soroptimists and their helpers completed the mulching of the planted areas.

By the end of the year, only the paved area and the paving of the connection through the shops remainded to be completed.

The completed jetty.
Completed boardwalk near Palatine Terrace
Nearest the Scout Den
Competed boardwalk near kahikatea grove
Looking towards the Palatine Terrace
The unfinished paved area


During this period, the Soroptimists held a couple of low-key weeding events.

While much of the planting was complete, the eel circle remained unpaved and the section nearest the Scout Den had been grassed and remained unplanted.

These photographs were taken in July, 1997.

Proposals for the paving of the walkway through the shops to the reserve
The bank beside the jetty and eel circle
Looking towards the steps leading to the shops
The bridge at the Palatine Terrace entrance
The bank below Units 3 & 4

March – May, 1998

It was time for the installation of Bing Dawe’s sculpture, “Migrating Eels” which was closely supervised by Christine Heremaia and Louisa Davies.

In May, the final planting took place around the eel circle and up towards the Scout Den.  The path at that end was completed with compacted crusher dust finish.

The finished path up to the Scout Den
Contractors laying out the eel circle
The paving is laid
Christine and Louisa discuss the eel circle construction
The finished eel sculpture after final planting, May 1998
Another shot of the completed paved area, May 1998
Mike Pentecost discusses an aspect of the stair construction

26 September, 1998

Official Opening by Oscar Alpers, Chairman of the Spreydon/Heathcote Community Board assisted by Diana Broughton, President of Soroptimist International Christchurch Club and Elaine Moffat, NZ Soroptimists representative, Lesley Fursdon (Soroptimists) – M.C.

Playing with the eels.
Oscar Alpers officially unveils the sculpture and opens the reserve
Lesley Fursdon watches as Diana Broughton unveils the Soroptimists' plaque.
Ready for Opening Day
Official Party arrives by vintage car

September, 1999

By now, three years after the first plantings, the reserve was starting to look truly exceptional and was being mentioned in landscaping and gardening circles as an example of excellent urban park design.

Floods, 2000, 2014, 2017

And then, after decades of relatively mild winter weather, a succession of floods smothered the reserve with silt, each flood taking out more of the hebes and grasses particularly those on the flat areas and in the eel circle.

Each time, silt was scrapped from the paved area and paths cleared, but the loading of silt, as well as the grasses and weeds that it brought, added to the degradation of the plantings, particularly the native grasses and hebes.

Over time, with minimal deliberate maintenance of the plantings, convolvulus started to smother bigger hebes, ivy began to climb trees and spread, and the tradescantia smothered parts of the reserve floor.

October, 2000
October, 2000
Volunteer Army remove silt - July, 2017
Eel sculpture - July, 2017

September, 2019

After 19 years of minimal care and progressive growth, the reserve was a very different place from that of 1998.

22 September, 2019

Genevieve & Malcolm Long, members of OHRN, decided that Farnley Reserve should get some community love as part of World Rivers Day, 2019.  They worked in conjunction with CCC Urban Park Ranger Heidi Wilton to begin the restoration.

50 people, including some of the Soroptimists who had helped create the reserve in 1996,  turned out on 22 September, 2019 to remove tradescantia, ivy and convolvulus, and to plant about 50 new shrubs.  This was the beginning of the Friends of Farnley Reserve, an ad hoc group of locals that has met monthly to continue the restoration and re-planting process.

… and now!

With 26 years of growth, the trees that were planted in 1996 have grown considerably and have changed the reserve from what was a sort of planted garden park in 1998 to the beginnings of a bush remnant: this has largely been the fulfilment of the planting plan of Lousia Davies.  The shade of the larger trees has changed what will survive closer to the ground.  The more shade, the better it will be for the river water quality.  Now, the maintenance of this reserve is an on-going process of suppressing weed species and grasses, planting in-fill natives and allowing bird-dispersed seeds to take root and grow.

The Friends of Farnley Reserve meet at the reserve on the third Sunday of every month. We work 9.00am – 10.30am and then enjoy a cuppa.  Come and join us!  Just turn up – bring your gloves, maybe some gardening tools, wheelbarrow.