Four West Auckland parks have been added to a small but growing number of public green spaces to have been awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award. One of them, Waikumete Cemetery, is the first cemetery in Australasia to be so honoured.
The other parks were Taipari Strand in Te Atatu, Parrs Park in Oratia and Olympic Park in New Lynn.
The Green Flag Award was set up in 1996 in the United Kingdom, to create what has become the international benchmark for how parks and green spaces should be developed and run.
Sites receiving a Green Flag Award must be welcoming, healthy, safe and secure, clean and well maintained, sustainable, embody conservation and heritage, have community involvement and good management.
Cemetery manager Roscoe Webb paid tribute to his staff and contractors at Waikumete, when he and deputy mayor Penny Hulse raised the Green Flag outside the offices and chapel for the first time.
Mr Webb said that the judges had flown across from Australia and were very thorough; closely examining the cemetery grounds themselves and also the office procedures. He said winning the judges’ good opinion was a team effort by the staff, contractors, the council, and groups such as Friends of Waikumete.
After a blessing by kaumatua, the Reverend Papa Holloway, tributes to the cemetery were paid on behalf of the Friends of Waikumete by former Mayoress Lady Barbara Harvey, Sandra Coney who is chair of the Waitakere Ranges Community Board and deputy mayor Penny Hulse.
Ms Coney and Lady Harvey spoke of the love that local people had for Waikumete which is the second largest park in Auckland and a place of very great historical significance.
Mrs Hulse noted the huge advances the cemetery had made in the years since amalgamation, with roads paved and wilderness areas tamed.
Opened in the 1870s, Waikumete is the second largest cemetery in Australasia, and holds one of the country’s most valuable and extensive genealogical databases. It encompasses New Zealand’s largest war graves cemetery as well as the graves from the 1918 Flu epidemic and the Erebus disaster. Some of our most notable New Zealanders are buried here, along with some of our most notorious criminals. But for all its association with death and tragedy, it is treasured by many for its magnificent wildflowers and its stunningly beautiful and tranquil walks.