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Transcript for 'A Green Oasis: Exploring Symonds Street Cemetery'

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[Instrumental music plays. Auckland Council pōhutukawa logo sits in the top left of the screen.]

[Video: Footage of the motorway with the central city in the background. This is followed by Lynda walking along Symonds Street and into Symonds Street Cemetery.]

Lynda: So, we're on one of the busiest intersections in Auckland at the moment, and yet this is one of the oldest parts of Auckland that we can go back here to the very original 1840s when Ngāti Whātua gifted 3000 acres of land to Governor Hobson.

[Video: Footage of Lynda walking along paths through the cemetery.]

Lynda: And this is some of the remnants of that area that is left in its original state.

[Screen title: A Green Oasis: Exploring Symonds Street Cemetery]

[Video: Footage of the motorway with Rangitoto Island in the background. This is followed by a historic photo of the area and Lynda talking.

[Video: Text reads: Lynda Lucas – Park Advisor in the bottom left of the screen. This is followed by footage of Lynda continuing her walk through the cemetery and showing some of the old gravestones and statues.]

Lynda: Most people don't realise that there are actually five denominational cemeteries here and how big it is.

Lynda: Lots of Aucklanders walk past every day and they look in and they think "Oh there's some trees and there's some grass", but actually, this is a really beautiful park and a really lovely heritage park that Aucklanders should be thankful for because this is the green lungs of our city.

[Video: Footage of people walking on Symonds Street. This is followed by historic photos of the area.]

Lynda: Symonds Street and Karangahape Road was always a very important travel route for Māori. They came from the Waitematā Harbour and went over to the Manukau Harbour via the pā at Mount Eden and out to Cornwallis.

Lynda: So, the site for the cemetery was on a hill. It was considered to be out of town at that stage. So although we feel as though we're in the heart of the city now, at that stage we were out of town. Bishop Selwyn, in 1840, requested some land from Governor Hobson because he realised that the population of Auckland was growing, lots of people were arriving on ships and that they needed somewhere to bury their dead.

[Video: Footage of graves in the cemetery and Lynda talking.]

Lynda: So, Governor Hobson is one of the people buried in the cemetery, and that happened very early on, within the first year of the cemetery being here. There used to be long funeral processions up Symonds Street. In fact, Symonds Street was gravelled over in order for Governor Hobson's funeral and for the cortege to get up to the cemetery.

Lynda: And as you look around, actually, there are lots of people with names of streets in Auckland, just over here we've got two crosses and that's the Pitts, so Pitt Street...umm Shortland. So, you can see how at that time the people that were quite important were buried here, but then they've also got streets named after them because they formed the city. They were responsible.

[Video: Footage of historic photos. This is followed by footage showing the location of the two cemeteries.]

Lynda: There was always two cemeteries on either side of the road, it was never split by the road. The Anglican section is on the Grafton Bridge side and that's on the east side of Symonds Street. That's the biggest section because that was the predominant religion at the time in Auckland, most of Aucklanders would have been Anglican.

[Video: Footage of Lynda walking through the cemetery and talking.]

Lynda: With about 2000 people in early Auckland, the church actually sat something like 1800 people, which was incredible. Could you imagine a church seating all of the Aucklanders now? It wouldn't do that. Also on the east side, under the bridge, if we go under the bridge, we've got the Wesleyan and General section. And it's 'general' because anybody could be buried there.

Lynda: On the other side, we have the Jewish section and that originally was where now there's a piece of park. Nobody was ever buried there and the council swapped over the piece of land so that the Jewish section is further over into the corner.

[Video: Footage of Lynda talking and gesturing towards the different cemeteries.]

Lynda: So here we are on the west side of Symonds Street, the Karangahape Road side. And here we've got the three cemeteries. In front of me we've got the Jewish cemetery at the front, in the middle here we've got the Presbyterian section, and that rolls into the Catholic section at the back and goes all the way to the Grafton Gully Cycleway.

[Video: Footage of statues, graves and the greenery within the cemetery.]

Lynda: And then further on from that and that originally went all the way across the motorway to St Benedict's Church was the Catholic section, with the people coming from Ireland. They lost a lot of their land when the motorway was put through and over two thirds of the Catholic cemetery was removed for the Southern Motorway when it came through in the 1960s.

[Video: Footage of traffic on the Southern Motorway. This is followed by a historic photo showing the layout of the cemeteries and sections of the cemeteries.]

Lynda: And also in the Anglican section they lost quite a bit of land and we can hear the trucks going past as they go on to the Southern Motorway and that divided some of the Anglican section as well. Over here we have a memorial wall and that's where the people of the Anglican section and the same over in the Catholic section, a Catholic memorial to show the people that were known at the time that were disinterred, and then they were buried under the memorial.

[Video: Footage of Grafton Bridge as it is today, the graves at the base of the bridge and Lynda talking.]

Lynda: So, the Grafton Bridge that we see today, or the amended version of it was built in 1910. And there was always a bridge across the gully, but at one stage it was just a rope and wooden walking bridge, and people would use that to get across to the hospital and across the gully.

Lynda: Well, of course we see it today with a motorway going down it, but in those days it would have been a stream and a good water source and a good food source for a lot of people as well. Amazingly, this Grafton Bridge was built and they went through and built it in the cemetery and only had to remove six headstones to be able to do so.

Lynda: And there are places where the bridge goes right up against some of the graves. So much so that if the bridge moves, you can see where it wears on a couple of gravestones. So, it was amazing engineering at the time.

[Video: Footage of a series of historic photos showing how the bridge was built.]

Lynda: And it's a concrete poured bridge. So, what they did at the time was they had to literally box up all of the struts with hardwoods. And then they built the concrete. The concrete company actually went broke while they were building it, because it was the first time they'd ever tried to do something like this in the world. So, it was quite world famous at the time and is still standing today.

[Instrumental music plays for the rest of the video.]

[Video: Footage of the bridge as it is today followed by Lynda demonstrating how to use the STQRY App]

Lynda: So there's lots to learn about the cemetery, the STQRY App you can pick up on your phone, you can download it before you leave home, if you like, or even print out some of the maps if you prefer to do that, or it's interactive and you can go around and see quite a lot of information about some of the graves, the paths, the trees and the flora and fauna that are here.

[Video: Footage of Lynda walking along the trails and paths inside the cemetery, and some of the directional signs.]

Lynda: And there’s signs all the way around the cemetery to help you around the paths. So, there are four trails here and the Hobson Walk starts right here and is the easiest one to do and you can do that in about 30 minutes and it's all tarmac path, so quite simple.

Lynda: On the other side, we've got the Rose Trail and down the bottom we've got the Bishop Selwyn Path and the Waiparuru Trail.

Lynda: So that's all on the east side and then on the west side we just have one trail, which is the Rose Trail, and that is a combination of looking at the history as well as the roses and all of the trees have got their own signs here so you can work out what's what.

[Video: Footage of the heritage rose gardens and signs, and Lynda talking.]

Lynda: And on this side, over the years, there were either roses planted here by the ancestors of the people buried here or the Heritage Rose Society from Auckland have also planted some here, so these are often once-flowering roses, they’re heritage roses, and they smell gorgeous.

Lynda: I’d really encourage you to come here and see this beautiful place and explore a bit of Auckland that you didn't know was here.

Lynda: This beautiful green oasis, the beating heart and lungs of our city, come and visit Symonds Street Cemetery.

[Text on screen shows a long list of image credits.]

[Text on screen reads: For resources and information about Symonds Street Cemetery:

  • Download the STQRY app.
  • Visit Friends of Symonds Street Cemetery -]

[Auckland Council logo]

[Video ends]

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