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A short history of Redwood Park

Redwood Park, or Swanson Park and Recreational Ground as it was known in years past, has always been a focal point in the history of our community. It was known throughout Auckland and most of New Zealand as a popular and picturesque venue for picnics and annual gatherings for thousands of people during the years from its formation in 1921, till the facility was sold and became known as Redwood Park Country Club Inc, in 1970.

The park land was purchased in 1921 by Mr Robertson Snr, and covered an area of 44 acres. It was known then as Swanson Park and Recreational Ground and the first picnic held there took place in 1929. In 1934, 3000 redwood trees were planted in the park grounds. In 1937 a severe cyclonic storm struck the area and most of the trees were badly burned by salt winds and died. 

The area became known as Redwood Park in 1934. It was two years later in 1936 that the largest picnic ever held in New Zealand took place at the park. Six special trains transported 7,500 to the park for the combined RSA picnic.


Hot water for tea making and washing up boiled outside in coppers heated by wood fibres. Titree was the fuel for the fires and was chopped in the park bush. It was transported from the chopping area on a 'flying fox' arrangement on a number eight wire across the creek to an area above the swimming pool. The bundles of Titree were tied with flax, and the flax tied to the wire with hooks was actually smoking as it hit the delivery spot by the coppers at a speed of 50 miles an hour. Here the flax ties would break and the bundles of wood kept on hurtling along for another 20 yards or so. Many tons of wood was sent down from the bush in this way.



The toilet system at the park was always a great problem in those days. Septic tanks and flush toilets were out of the question as there was no Town Water Supply then. Tins were used, and on many occasions on busy days these were simply emptied into holes not far from the picnic areas. A horrific thought today, but in those days it didn't worry anybody as they were too busy having a good time and thoroughly enjoying their picnic. Water for the park was obtained by means of a 300ft bore which was situated very close to where the Power Board has placed a concrete shed at the park. The water was raised by manual pump action, and was pumped to where the coppers for boiling the water were, situated close by the tennis courts, by underground pipes. Mr. Robertson tells that he had spent as much as four hours at a time when he was eight years old pumping water in this fashion. His brother would also help out and take a turn. In the summer heat, this would have been very hot and exhausting work for a young lad.


Clearing the park of gorse was a major job, and was done by means of axe and slasher. Gorse seedlings would appear by the thousands after the main clearing had been done. After school each night Mr Robertson and the young members of the family would be given a section of ground by their father, and had to hand weed all the young gorse seedling out. They pulled thousands and thousands of these seedlings out, and his father was right, they got them all out and they never came back.


The tennis courts were built in 1930, and the original swimming pool was built in the creek in 1932. This was 50 yards long and in parts 6ft deep. It was used by Swanson School teaching pupils to swim for several years, and many an exciting mud fight was held there from bank to bank across the creek.





In 1939 on Xmas Day an army car pulled up at the camp and four uniformed men got out. They marched around and about the camp, and then when they came back they told Mr Robertson Snr who was the camp owner that they (the army) were taking over the camp, and to have everything moveable moved by January 1st, as there were 1000 troops arriving.

It was a very busy week Mr Robertson recalls, and sure enough on January 1st, 1940 at 10.00 am the troops arrived by train, all 1000 of them from the National Military Reserve. The Army held occupancy of the park till 1943, when it was taken over by the RNZAF to train their personnel in bush war-fare training. They remained there till the end of the war in 1945.


The camp regained its old style and self, and began functioning again normally in 1946. It had become one of the largest inland motor camps at that time. On many occasions people had to be turned away, as it was filled to capacity with campers there for the holiday periods. The first concrete swimming pool was constructed there in 1947-48, and was finished just in time for a picnic of Uncle Toms followers. Their choirs were heard regularly on Radio 1ZB. The pool was 60ft long and 20ft wide. It was extended another 40ft in 1958 and a filtration plant was installed which made for much safer swimming. Further extensions were done in 1964 when an intermediate and babys pool was built. This made Redwood Park extremely popular and each year approximately 500,000 people visited for either day trips, or for camping holidays. 10 acres of property next door was purchased in 1952 to provide more room, as at times space was so short it was hard to find room to park just one more car. The picnic grounds were made up of 10 separate sites, some being larger than others to accommodate the various groups hiring them.

Special Railway trains were numerous, at times three trains being in Swanson on a Saturday and the same number on a Sunday - all hired by groups and always full. The Railways issued special tickets which included train fare and admission to the park. Redwood Park was unique in being the only private grounds of its size in the Southern Hemisphere. Arney Robertson, as he was known, died in 1957 leaving a lifetimes work to his family. Keith the youngest took over the reins of management and he, Gloria and family worked very hard and long hours in keeping this huge park up to standard and in excellent condition.


The park finally left the Robertsons hands when it was sold in 1971 and it is now known as the Redwood Park Golf Club Inc. During its life the park was home grounds to the Waitemata Football Club from 1932-1937, and also the Swanson Soccer Club from 1929-1932 approx. New Zealands first 24 hour pop concert "Redwood 1970" was held there over the Anniversary Weekend and approx 40,000 people attended.