Original homestead cost $1000 to build seventy years ago
The Keirunga Gardens homestead was built in 1906 at a total cost of $1000.
The homestead was originally built by Mr and Mrs Reginald Gardiner and named “Satadacona” possibly the name of a Red Indian Chief who lived near the Gardiner’s former home in Quebec, Canada.
The boundaries of the property extended to the centre of the Mangarau stream and Valley Rd, following the course of the stream which led to a quarry which is now Glenpark Place.
All the timber and materials needed for the homestead were dragged in by bullock dray up a track which is now known as Joll Rd, across the Mangarau stream and entered the property somewhere near Plassey St. The bullock track is still in existence along the western scarp near Tanner St.
The home was completed in 1907 and in 1910 the property was sold to Mr Charles Ord Tanner who changed the name of the property to “Keirunga,” which apparently means ‘an elevated site’.
In 1929 the property was bought by the late Mr George Nelson, the son of William Nelson who founded the Tomoana freezing works.
Mr George Nelson lived in England for a number of years and completed his engineering degree. On his return to New Zealand he became involved in planning flood-control schemes in Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay and was a founder of the Hawke’s Bay Herald which later became the Herald-Tribune. Mr Nelson was also a shareholder and managing-director of J.J. Niven and Co.
While in England Mr Nelson was a frequent visitor to Kew Gardens and his involvement in flood control schemes gave him a great knowledge of trees and plants.
When he bought Keirunga at the age of 57, he immediately began to landscape the gardens surrounding the homestead. He propogated many of the seedlings himself and others, such as the Te Aute oak and Oregon pines, he brought from the homes of friends.
Some of the original trees planted were lost in fires and Mr Nelson installed many large bored taps throughout the property to protect it from further fires.
Many trees were lost in a great gale on February 2, 1936 and the Tauroa plantations as well as big red gum trees were severely damaged.
Mr Nelson was influenced by Kew Gardens when landscaping the gardens and he was assisted by five men, including the former Havelock North superintendent of parks and reserves Mr Les Jardine to help lay out the paths and rock gardens. He named paths and walks after the men.
GIFT TO HAVELOCK
In 1956 Mr Nelson first offered Keirunga as a gift to the borough and people of Havelock North and in 1957 gave the 16½ next to the homestead to the borough council.
The council asked Mr Nelson to outline his plans for Keirunga and details of his plantings as a guideline to the development of the gardens. Mr Nelson was then aged 87.
He worked on the project of developing the property as a recreational area for Havelock North up until the time of his death in October 1964. He was 93.
In his will Mr Nelson offered the council the homestead and the 2½ acres surrounding the homestead at a nominal fee.
In May, 1965, the council bought the homestead for $3000.
Photo caption – Part of the original homestead at Keirunga Gardens, Havelock North. It was formerly the home of the late Mr George Nelson who in 1957 gave the 16½ acres next to the homestead to the Havelock North Borough Council. The council bought the old home and the 2½ acres on which it stood in 1965.