Looking for gardens missing 'boy'

Robbins Park Rose gardens circa 1970.

It’s a mystery. Robbins Park Rose Gardens used to have a statue of a small boy holding the name plaque. Unfortunately, this statue was damaged some years ago.

And although the intention was to repair it, the original has disappeared. Local historians think if a good photograph of the statue could be found, it may be possible to replace it.

Can The Sun’s readers help? It would also be interesting to know just when the statue was taken away. 

“It’s been so long since the statue was there that even our longest-running staff don’t know why it was removed,” says Tauranga City Council parks and recreation manager Warren Aitken. “It’s a real mystery and we’d be interested to find out.”

Prior to 1830, the land along Cliff Rd was used as living quarters and gardens by Maori.

Since then, according to the late historian Jinty Rorke on the Tauranga Kete website, it’s been unoccupied, fortified, used for a gym, then for a police force who were stationed there, and later used to graze horses.

More recently a glass house was built around the 1940s and later converted into a begonia house.

According to the Tauranga Kete website in 1958 the Bay of Plenty Floral Festival Society asked the council for permission to develop the area into a rose garden.

“The lily pond, with a statue of Ceres, the Greek goddess of plenty, was part of the original design. 

“The statue was made of cast stone by Mr Rauby, an Auckland sculptor. The completed garden was handed over in February 1960. The Floral Festival retained an interest in the park and, in 1963, the year we became a city for the first time, built a colonnade along the eastern and northern sides.”

The Rose Gardens were named after Benjamin Cockie Robbins, who was Mayor of Tauranga twice, from 1912-1915, and again from 1929-1933.

He’s recorded to have been responsible for the Omanawa Falls electricity scheme, water reticulation, and the building of the Town Hall, which was demolished in 1987.

Robbins Park is a historic reserve and adjacent to the Historic Monmouth Redoubt and the new police station, site of the first Armed Constabulary.  It overlooks the railway, harbour, airport and has views to the Port of Tauranga and Mauao. Within Robbins Park are memorial trees, the tropical display house with begonias and orchids, and a 28-bed rose garden, which has been nominated as one of the best in NZ by Dr Sam McGredy IV.

An ivy colonnade in the renaissance Italian-style frames the gardens, and a noted camellia shrub is planted nearby in honour of Kate Shepherd, who first introduced voting for women in New Zealand.  The park offers free entry and the tropical display house is open every day during daylight hours.