Nature and Environment in Suburban Karori, Wellington[1]

Amy Davis


Tho’ for Europe’s bold races there are plenty of places

Adapted as homes for the great and the small,

Yet for onward progressing and beautiful blessing

There is one whose position is far beyond all –

So haste where kind Nature’s arrayed in her glory

To pleasant, romantic, suburban Karori. [2]


Selected images of the built environment were central to the presentation of suburbs as modern living spaces, with the ‘natural’ environment providing ways for suburban residents to understand and take pride in the space they lived in. This paper explores the extent to which ideas of native landscape were interlinked (and came into conflict) with ideas of the suburban landscape within the Wellington suburb of Karori during the 1930s.

As the poem above suggests, the idea of the suburb as a progressive, modern, and beautiful space where ‘Nature’ lives is one that dominated descriptions of Karori. This article will examine how the landforms of suburbs – vegetation, housing, and streets – are intertwined with the social, political, economic, and environmental values and ideals that have driven the continued representation of suburban environments as ideal living spaces. Beginning with an introduction to the historiography of suburban environments, and a brief history of the Karori area, this article will examine the environmental images that helped to determine the shape and character of suburban Karori.

Suburban historiography

The history of the suburbs is generally viewed as a subfield of urban history. Most historiography is concerned with the origins, growth, and politics of suburbs, as well as the social structures they represent, particularly the gendered and family-oriented nature of suburban spaces.[3] In 1994 however, Christine M. Rosen and Joel A. Tarr argued for an alternative urban perspective in environmental history, suggesting that urban environmental history should encompass ‘the effects of cities on the natural environment; … the impact of the natural environment on cities; … societal response to these impacts and efforts to alleviate environmental problems; and … the built environment and its role and place in human life as part of the physical context in which society evolves.’[4] Although predominately discussing the need for environmental histories of the city, this argument can be easily extended to the suburb. For early suburban developers and residents, the suburbs provided an escape from the noise and evils of the city, where the advantages of country living were brought together with the advantages of city employment.[5] As historical geographer Eric Pawson notes, the suburb represents a creative compromise between the unruliness of nature and the hazardous character of town.[6]

Suburbs provide unique examples of planned, relatively recent, and dominant human landscapes. The 2002 New Zealand Official Yearbook recorded New Zealand as one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world, with 85.7 per cent of its population living in urban areas.[7] While the suburb has been somewhat neglected as a site for New Zealand environmental history, a wealth of primary sources exist at both official archival repositories and within community and local history libraries. These often record local events, environmental issues, everyday interactions with the environment, and community-focused movements.

As Anselm Strauss has suggested, individuals’ representations of, and responses to, their environment are highly complex constructions.[8] As more and more people live in urban and suburban environments, exploring the construction of a suburban image becomes especially important. Those who live in suburbs relate to and construct ‘place’ in important ways. As an integration of elements from more general environmental conceptualisations, as well as a reflection of individual experiences, and ‘history’ (actual and perceived), the constructed suburban environment provides an opportunity to examine how the ideals of community- and suburban-living were reproduced in New Zealand suburbs.[9] Drawing on Rosen and Tarr’s perspective, this article takes a broad view of the New Zealand suburban environment, illustrating suburbs as contested natural environments through introductions of new flora and fauna, the maintenance of gardens and pasture, or through the re-creation of lakes and waterways. Secondly, this article also recognises suburbs as contested places of meaning, embodied by a sense of the past or what ‘was’ there, but also a progressive notion of what ‘can’ or ‘will’ be there in the future. Thirdly, like other places where humans choose to live, suburbs contain strong personal images and associations with the environment.

The growth of suburban Karori

Karori, ‘the beautiful suburb’ as it was called by early land agents, is a particularly good example of how natural features and images were incorporated into the image of a modern and progressive suburb.[10] Around four kilometres west of the city centre, Karori is located at the physical edge of the Wellington urban area. Established in 1840 by the New Zealand Company, the first permanent occupants of the valley were farming settlers who bought land within the 2,500 acres surveyed by the Company.[11] With no permanent Māori settlement in the area, the New Zealand Company was able to release sections to intending settlers fairly quickly, dividing the land up into 25 one hundred-acre blocks. [12] Both Wellington and Karori expanded towards each other, with the two urban areas becoming gradually connected (aided by the construction of the Karori tunnel in 1901), and the Borough of Karori was finally amalgamated into the City of Wellington in 1920.[13]

By the 1930s, Karori had experienced rapid expansion growing from a small country suburb to a major commuter hub. At the time of its amalgamation with Wellington City in 1920, Karori was still largely a rural community of fewer than 2,000 people, with only part of the valley developed. Increased demand for family homes, and rapid subdivision of the large New Zealand Company blocks, meant that by 1939 however, around 6,500 people had made the Karori suburb their home.[14] This development continued at a steady pace up to the early 2000s. Karori has reached near City status.[15] As an important shift in the purpose of the Karori Valley, the 1930s provides a convenient period in which to view the origins of Karori’s modern suburban landscape. Although particularly focusing on Karori around the 1930s, this paper will also consider how images of the environment are shaped over time, especially in regards to large subdivisions, where developments span larger time periods, and undergo many transformations.

While Karori is only one example among many suburban experiences in Wellington and New Zealand, the ideas and images that inform the building of Karori connect many of the themes raised in wider studies. Urban historian Ben Schrader has suggested that the ideals of nuclear family life, and an emphasis on community responsibility and integration were integral to the establishment of the state housing suburb of Naenae in Wellington’s Hutt Valley.[16] Although Karori planning was not based on either the application of the English ‘new town’ or ‘garden city’ model, deterministic understandings of the Karori environment appear to have been quite prevalent.[17] Linking suburbs to the values and health of the people who inhabited them, the planning ideology held that the Karori suburb would produce heightened moral and ethical values in its citizens.[18] Advertising for suburban Estate sections in the late nineteenth century drew heavily on the perceived health benefits of living away from the city and in the country air. Publicity for the ‘Bannatyne Estate’ in 1904 confirmed earlier impressions of Karori as an area where no doctor had ever been successful in maintaining a practice ‘for January-December no one wants a doctor’.[19]

Importantly, a focus on the Karori suburban environment suggests a dominant presentation of Karori as a modern, progressive suburb, with its environment and amenities reflecting its civic pride. The idea of the built environment creating a sense of ‘place’ in the suburb is an idea illustrated by ‘Looking for Betterment’, who wrote to the Northland Mail in February 1934, lamenting the lack of civic facilities in Karori:

When Karori had no drainage, no water, no gas, and no bitumen roads, the library and lecture room were in keeping with the general lack of civic facilities. Since then, the population has increased enormously and several hundred thousand pounds have been spent in providing all the amenities of a modern city, except those which most directly minister to its intellectual life. Is it not time that this beautiful suburb had something better than the community centre of a backblocks township?[20]

‘Looking for Betterment’ also illustrates the three broad themes that are interlinked and interwoven throughout the Karori suburban environment of the 1930s. The first theme argues that the native Karori environment is contested by human actions and interactions. Although there was a general community consensus on how the Karori area was to develop, the natural or native environment always provided challenges to these development assumptions. The second theme suggests that although a past environment was recognised, the importance of presenting and acting on future ambitions for the suburb was stressed. Modern suburban ideals emphasised how spaces were linked to the behaviour, values, health and experiences of the people who inhabited them. Thirdly, human ideas of how suburban spaces ought to look provided the ability for personal connections and associations with the Karori landscape.

Contested Karori

The most immediate way in which we can view the Karori suburban environment is through the contested origins of its establishment. Many of the natural features of the land, as well as the indigenous flora and fauna, informed at least one of the environmental images shaping the development of Karori. Karori Valley was covered in native forest and bush, making surveying and land-clearing difficult for farming.[21] The indigenous forest landscape proved valuable, albeit a significant inconvenience, for Karori surveyors and farming settlers. Large tracts of kahikatea, miro, matai, totara and rimu were recorded on Karori sections, and provided many dominant first impressions of the Karori landscape.[22] Timber from Karori was exported both to Australia and the United States, and was utilised as a building material for many of Wellington’s wooden houses.[23] Farming of cattle, sheep, and small amounts of wheat was rapidly begun, and by 1895 settlers had removed most of the native bush and trees.[24]

Access to Karori was a particular challenge for its early residents. The road to Karori followed a track that went from the top of Tinakori Road, over what was known as Baker’s Hill, down to the Kaiwharawhara Stream at the junction of what are today Chaytor Street and the Old Karori Road. [25] Until 1888, this relative isolation meant the Karori Valley was mainly a farming community.[26] Farmers and farming remained a key part of the Karori landscape well into the 1930s; however, this was gradually beginning to be overtaken by the building of houses for suburban residents. Although there had been European settlement in the area from 1840, Karori’s local residents were mostly farmers on small-landholdings, and it was not until the early 1900s, when advances in transport, particularly the building of the Karori Tunnel in 1901, allowed the first major push into the Karori Valley for housing.[27]

The conflict between rural and urban spaces also constrained suburb building. Although several property owners such as Judge Henry Samuel Chapman chose to live in the early Karori suburb, because of its closeness to town, and its isolation from Māori conflict, the area’s ‘rural beauty’ also attracted many of Wellington’s well-to-do early settlers. With naturally fertile soils, residents such as Samuel Chapman were able to maintain model English gardens to match their stately homes.[28] The country life, views, and isolation were also highly admired. The Harrison family, building a house on Messines Road in the late 1920s, found the view from their section to be spectacular: a panorama of several glimpses of the harbour and open sea, around to Wright’s Hill and across to Johnston’s Hill.[29] Although many section purchasers could expect to find cleared and ready-to-build sections, this was not always the case. An increasing number of new suburban residents had to undertake land-clearing techniques to enable them to build their homes. Joyce Harrison recalls that although her father was a keen tramper, he had not anticipated the hilltop expanse of chest-high gorse and broom that had to be cleared before work on their house could begin.[30]

Similarly, although Karori was close to town, residents often had to deal with an unexpected rural isolation. Although the Harrison family had been assured that buses to town were soon to be passing by their door, it was many years before they appeared, and several more years before they were scheduled to run routes closer than the main road.[31] The Harrisons also found that the milkman’s horse came only as far as ten houses down the street. Mail was, however, delivered to the house.[32]

Past and future landscapes

The combining of past and future landscape images is a further theme which can be developed by examining the Karori suburban environment. This is particularly evident by the ways in which the Karori landscape was presented for suburban development and subdivision. The subdivision of large estates into housing blocks, and their subsequent advertisements, illustrates how future suburban images were presented to prospective buyers. The first major subdivision in Karori for housing was undertaken in 1888, and offered for sale sections within Block 34.[33] Demand for land suitable for housing had risen dramatically over this period, with land in the vicinity realising as much as £150 per acre.[34] Altogether, 141 sections were offered up for sale, with 16 including main road frontages. Although originally bush, the land was promoted as cleared and flat, and previously used as pasture.[35] As illustrated by Map 2, subdivision occurred at a steady pace in Karori through the 1900s, particularly focussed on the years between 1904-7, and 1926-30.

As is still evident today, effective advertising, names and slogans were adopted as place markers, and for many years, the subdivided Block 34 was known as ‘Beautiful Karori’.[36] It was quickly realised that land agents might profit from the means used to sell the sections, and a talented land agent burst forth into the verse which begins this article. Numerous advertisements appeared for this subdivision in Wellington newspapers which emphasised the important future role of Karori, urging people to ‘haste where kind Nature’s enthroned in her glory./To delightful, retired, and suburban Karori’.[37] These promotions were to inform many later impressions of the area, and were evoked for the Karori Borough’s emblem, a rose, and motto: ‘for beauty and health’.[38]

The natural landscape also lent its name to various built features, drawing on both past and future constructions of the landscape. The naming of these blocks and their surrounding roads provides us with an initial interpretation of the Karori environment. The romantic word ‘vale’ seems to have been favoured for property names in Karori, with examples found in Karori Vale, Campden Vale, Park Vale, and Eden Vale. F.W. Hurst, a foundation member of the Wellington Horticultural Society, was well-established at Campden Vale by 1851, selling fruit trees and other plants.[39] Eden Vale (also at various times known as Donald’s Tea Gardens and the Karori Pleasure Grounds) also served as a popular Saturday afternoon entertainment for Wellingtonians. The grounds held tennis courts, garden walks, a lake and several ponds. Deteriorating grounds led to the demolition of the original residence by 1930, and much of the land was subdivided and sold.[40] The image of the tea gardens remained part of the subsequent advertisements in auction notices, however, even if the physical site had disappeared. While not part of the original ‘Beautiful Karori’ subdivision, the block that later became the ‘Marsden De Luxe Estate’ drew on this comparison to advertise its sections. Estate companies, such as the Karori Gardens Estate Company, and Beautiful Karori Extension Limited also drew on these names to form their companies.[41]

Auction notices for the ‘Bannatyne Estate’ of 1904 provide particularly useful examples of how past and future images of the landscape were used to present the suburb as both city and rural. Also drawing on the idea of ‘Beautiful Karori’ – ‘The name conferred by the whole of the people of Wellington upon this CHARMING SYLVAN SUBURB OF THE EMPIRE CITY’ – the advertisement further recognised Karori’s extensive forestry origins with an excerpt from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.[42] Outlining Karori’s ‘woody theatre’, which contained the ‘loveliest hills and vales in New Zealand’; cedar, pine, fir, and palm trees were the chosen ‘scene’, rather than the indigenous matai and rata.[43]

As Map 2 illustrates, almost all of the subdivisions for suburban housing that took place between 1878 and 1945 in Karori took European names. Often named after developers, or their family members, names such as, ‘Bannatyne’, Bristow, Monaghan, Fairview, Lancaster Park, Evelyn, ‘Marsden De Luxe’, Seaforth, Donald Brae, and Manchester Park still remain a significant part of Karori today. Other names presented images of the suburban environment, ‘Beautiful Karori’, ‘Homewood’, ‘Sunshine’, and ‘Brightacres’ being significant examples. Many of these subdivision blocks were former farm blocks, and could often be on particularly steep land.[44] In 1930, part of the land that formed Scapa and Firth Terraces had a previous incarnation as a large poultry farm.[45] Located on south-facing hills, the 1929-1930 ‘Sunshine Estate’ seems particularly misnamed.[46] The use of ‘Estate’, rather than subdivision to promote these blocks of land, also suggests a further set of class-orientated, European ideals.

The Karori suburban environment can be viewed through the different ‘progressive’ ideals of decision-makers and residents. Although the physical features of the land were critical to Karori’s suburban development, a number of organisations and individuals also played key roles. As argued by Max Neutze, in any study of the broad processes of urban development there are a number of ‘major decision-makers’ who ‘influence the shape of development’ of a city or suburb.[47] Four groups of Karori residents provide interesting avenues for this comparison: The Karori Borough Council, The Karori Progressive Association, land-holding farmers, and suburban residents. While recognising that these are often an overlapping set of actors, and do not represent all possible views of the Karori environment, grouping actors this way allows for a broader look at the differences between attitudes, and actions towards the Karori environment. Generally, the Karori narratives present a broad community consensus on the suburb’s future development, informed by images of previous developments, and progressive modern landscapes.[48]

The Karori Borough Council had a short but vocal life as the dominant advocate for, and actor in, local issues. Active from 1891, the Council consisted of a variety of important local residents.[49] As a consequence of the amalgamation with Wellington City in 1920, an organised group of residents and ratepayers formed the Karori Progressive Association, providing and advocating local views on a wide range of issues related to the Karori community. Membership of the Karori Progressive Association remained reasonably high across the 1930s Depression; the paid membership of the Karori Progressive Association grew steadily from 387 members in 1933-34 to 504 members in 1934-35.[50] Many members were representative of a household group, with estimates suggesting the Association reflected around a third of the Karori population by 1935.[51] As a community organisation funded by private subscriptions, their views provided a limited range of opinions and were perhaps not entirely representative of the majority of the community. Additionally, the views of the Progressive Association came from the most vocal members of the community, and those who were able and willing to directly lobby the Council for ‘progressive’ change. However, the records of the Association provide a good indicator of the issues and challenges involved with suburban development.

From the Karori Borough Council’s establishment in 1891, natural beauty was a continually stressed aspect of the Karori environment. The Council’s motto for the borough ‘For beauty and health’, and emblem of the rose invoked particular images of their own.[52] While there is no further reference in the minutes to the choice of these motifs, the appearance and upkeep of the general Karori area often appeared as a serious cause for community concern. The language used in the Progressive Associations’ 1933-1934 Annual Report re-evoked the image of ‘beautiful Karori’:

We note with much pleasure the efforts of those who have undertaken the upkeep of grass plots on the street sides. There is no more effective method than this of making Karori beautiful. Some of our streets have a park like aspect. There are instances, unfortunately, where residents, after a brief period of energy, have allowed their plots to slip back to rough grass, and we appeal to them to make renewed efforts and assist the Association in the beautification of Karori. Let us assure them that civic pride, which should commence at home, is a paying proposition.[53]

The appearance and upkeep of local Karori school grounds was also similarly recognised in the Progressive Association Annual Reports.[54] Efforts to beautify the grounds of Marsden, Karori, and Karori West schools were undertaken by members of local school committees. The Karori West committee was singled out for particular praise, having completed a great deal of work in a short space of time.[55] Re-inventions of English country gardens, orchards, and parks in the large Karori family estates of Homewood and the Donald Tea Gardens, combined native trees with European, North American, Japanese, and Australian plant species, reflecting both a colonial sense of order, nostalgia, and familiarity, and contemporary gardening trends.[56]

Making Karori the ‘best’ suburb was a significant part of the Progressive Association’s goals and ambitions, and the establishment of amenities was regarded as vitally important.[57] A community sundial and birdbath were also erected as part of attempts to create a more aesthetically pleasing suburban environment. The resurfacing of roads and the provision of footpaths were also a cause for concern and much tension towards the City Council.[58] Similarly, the aim of ‘progress’ in Karori Progressive Association also gave its members an important advocacy role. In 1933, it noted with much pleasure, the building of many new homes in Karori during that year.[59] For the Association, it was gratifying to note that Karori continued to be the choice of so many home builders. As a reasonably small city, Wellington’s suburbs provided ample opportunity for a good-hearted rivalry and competition, similar to that which has been noted between other small New Zealand cities.[60] Swimming baths, parks and other civic facilities, as well the growing size of the population within the suburb, were often evoked as a source of suburban pride. For the Progressive Association, the amenities of Lower Hutt provided an appropriate point of comparison.[61] Images of Karori as a future population centre were often presented in an advantageous light. In recommending the construction of a civic centre and play area, the Progressive Association suggests favourably that Karori ‘is destined to become one of Wellington’s most densely populated suburbs.’[62]

Although the image of ‘beautiful Karori’ is no longer a dominant presence, a romantic attachment to its ideal is often re-engaged. As Doreen Massey demonstrates, places are often articulated as an amalgamation of ideas and images from the ‘past’, present, and potential future.[63] ‘The past’, in particular, is often seen in some sense to embody the real character of a place.[64] Similarly, Karori Progressive Society members, concerned about the owners’ proposed subdivision of Johnston’s Hill, offered to purchase the area for use as a reserve of bush and open space in 1938. The owner agreed to sell for £2,500, well-under valuation. The Wellington City Council paid most of this amount, and local residents the balance.[65] Today, Johnston’s Hill Scenic Reserve and its regenerating bush remains a local attraction.[66]  Similarly, a small plant museum on the site of the old Donald Tea Gardens was opened in 1976, encouraged by the owner. The Wellington City Council designated the area ‘a place of scenic beauty’ and placed it on the regional plan for future protection.[67]

Personal connections with the suburban environment

As the photograph in Figure 1 illustrates, houses, fenced gardens, power lines, paved roads, tram wires and tracks give the impression of a growing suburb in 1930s Karori. However, farms and farming still provided a rural attraction for Karori residents in this decade. Although by then suburban development of Karori was well underway, farm land, parks, and reserves provided many local children with unsanctioned interactions with their neighbourhood environments. Farms are frequently remembered by Karori residents as local playgrounds for children. The position of the Welling and Beavis farms, close to newly-built suburban houses, attracted many local children.[68] Gwen Beavis recounts that ‘Mr. Catanach, the local policeman, always said if ever a child was reported missing, the [Beavis] farm would be the first place he would look’.[69] Another favourite playground was the Wellings’ farm. Joyce Harrison remembers that, as a child, she and her siblings ‘would wander over the grassy hillside…There my mother played golf and we flew kites, and collected mushrooms’.[70] Although living in a newly-constructed suburban Californian bungalow, for Harrison, the undeveloped land of the farms was a site for exploration and interaction with nature. An attempted capture of freshwater crawlies to keep as pets is remembered less successfully. ‘These were easily found in the boggy stream at the foot of Campbell’s Hill, and we planned to keep them in a bucket of water. They managed to crawl out, however, and, in death turned a nasty shade of orange.’[71]

Cows being herded along Karori Road, Karori, Wellington

Figure 1: Cows being herded along Karori Road, Karori, Wellington, ca. 1930s. Reproduced with permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. PAColl-7081-23, Reference Number F- 61936-1/2.

Parks and reserves were also quickly established in Karori as housing developed, with many recorded on the site plans and auction notices, and used as selling points within advertisements. However, undeveloped land was often favoured by children as playgrounds. The long grass, broom, and gorse of the waterworks reserve were remembered as particular favourites.[72] The lower dam, at what is now the wildlife sanctuary ‘Zealandia’, was also a favourite spot for swimming. As Joyce Harrison recalls, ‘the return home back up those 250-odd steps was hard work’, but fond memories of the spot were retained, and she was sad when the area was closed to the public, around 1933.[73]

Predictably, the need for a safe, local swimming pool was frequently raised in Karori discussion groups. The lack of suitable swimming baths in suburban areas in which to teach children to swim was recognised as a broad Wellington problem.[74] Several pools seem to have been considered and erected in various locations. The controlled, and human constructed, aspects of these ‘natural’ environments are particularly notable. A natural pool at the top of Parkvale Street was expanded by locals for the summer of 1924-25.[75] After prolonged discussions with the Council for a more permanent solution, the Karori community also took it upon themselves to fundraise for the Karori Baths in 1930. One very public spirited resident offered the required land to the Council at a price below the rating value, and gave a generous donation of £300 (the entire cost) towards the project.[76] A third, publically-funded, baths were located in the ‘splendid location’ of the Karori School grounds. These baths were to be ‘set in good solid ground with valuable terraces and will be sheltered and sunny’.[77]

Although a growing historiography has focused on the role of gardening in the suburbs as a site of personal relationship with the suburban environment, little evidence of this in the civic sphere is evident in the Karori archives.[78] While more concerned with national social problems of the time, the ladies of the Karori Women’s Social Progressive Movement of the 1930s also shared an interest in gardening trends.[79] Reporting on her trip abroad, member Mrs. McVicar loved visiting the different cities, singling out as Perth as a favourite for its ‘wonderful gardens’.[80] Although gardening undoubtedly did occur in many of the new subdivisions in Karori (most having a fairly substantial allotment of land), civic focus was directed at the upkeep of lawns and kerbs, rather than criticism of personal gardens.


The Wellington suburb of Karori provides an insight into the modern and progressive ideals that were engaged with suburb-building. Although often positioned as a third sphere of living space – an alternative to the evils of the city or the distance of the country – the suburb can also be seen as a compromised space. By the 1920s the necessity of town planning and the ideal of suburban living were widely accepted by New Zealanders, although it was the grid, rather than the garden suburb ideal that found favour in Karori. An examination of the ways in which Karori residents discuss and engage with their environment (and advocate for change to it), provides an illustration of the ways in which the suburban environment is a contested living space, constrained by native landscapes, and the imagined future environment. The constructed suburban landscape also provides a place for personal connections and associations with the land, especially by children. Various residents and decision-makers presented the Karori suburban environment of the 1930s as an idealised space in which European ideals of modern living could be carried out through the naming of places, advertisements and community-building activities.

Approximate Boundaries of New Zealand Company Estate Blocks

Map 1: Approximate Boundaries of New Zealand Company Estate Blocks (no. 32-46), 1840. Compiled from: ‘Lands and Survey 5<sup>th</sup> Floor Dpt. Bldg, Pt. Sheet 2 Map 11132’, 1951, Subject – Subdivisions – Access to Karori, KL; ‘From Roll Plan 120 (on micro), Crown Grants, New Surveys, Port Nicholson, 1860s 1870s, Map 10243’, Subject – Subdivisions – Access to Karori, KL; Paul Lenihan, ‘Map, Karori Streets’, Subject – Subdivisions – Sections 32, 33, 35, KL.

Approximate Boundaries of Significant Karori Subdivisions

Map 2: Approximate Boundaries of Significant Karori Subdivisions (1878-1969).



Notes on Map 2:

Taken from Auction Notices in the Karori Historical Society Archives, this Map illustrates a significant proportion of the Estate developments in Karori between 1878 and 1969.

The Map suggests that over time, Estate developments moved outwards from the main (Karori) road, in a broadly liner pattern, following established Block boundaries. Roads established by these Estates mostly follow straight lines, with only subdivisions in the late 1940s and 1960s following curvilinear patterns.

Some overlapping of Estates has occurred when land was not sold as proposed in original Auction notices, or was bought in large blocks and later re-sold.

Auction notices also illustrated that green areas were established and planned along with housing.

Compiled from (in date order):

‘Plan of Part of Sec. No. 39 Karori District ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka’, 1878, Subject – Subdivisions – Section 36, 1852, Karori Library (KL).

‘Magnificent Building Sections at Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/1888/acc. 2913’, 1888, Subject – Subdivisions – Suburban Villa Sites 1879 (Douglas Aitkin St), KL.

‘Plan of the Karori Gardens Estate’, acc. 2941, 1901, Subject – Subdivisions – Karori Gardens Estate, KL.

‘Bannatyne Estate Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ca. 1904’, 1904, Subject – Subdivisions – Brightacres (Campbell extension) 1935, KL .

Seaton & Hadden, ‘Subdivisional Plan of Monaghan Estate, Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/1904/acc. 2962’, 1904, Subject – Subdivisions – Monaghan Estate 1904, KL.

‘Plan of the Famous Fairview Estate Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/1905/acc. 2968’, 1905, Subject – Subdivisions – Donald Brae Estate 1939, KL.

‘Map Stirling Terrace/Paisley Terrace, J. W. Henderson Subdivision’, 1906, Subject – Subdivisions – Sections 32, 33, 35, KL.

‘Plan of Thirty-Eight Magnificent Villa Building Sections ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka’, 1906, Subject – Subdivisions – Karori 1906 (Bella Victoria Herman St), KL.

‘Karori 50 Desirable Building Sites ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka’, 1907, Subject – Subdivisions – Karori 1907 (Huia Campbell Russell St), KL.

‘Plan of Lancaster Park Estate Karori’, 1907, Subject – Subdivisions – Homewood Estate 1907, KL.

‘Evelyn Estate ATL 832.47799/gbbd/ka’, 1910, Subject – Subdivisions – Donald Brae Estate 1939, KL.

S. George Nathan & Co., ‘Plan of Homewood Estate Subdivision’, 1926, Subject – Subdivisions – Homewood Estate 1926, KL.

‘Beautiful Karori: Marsden De Luxe Estate ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka’, 1928, Subject – Subdivisions – Section 36, 1852, KL.

Martin & Dyett, ‘Karori – 24 Most Attractive Building Sites’, 1928/1930, Subject – Subdivisions – Sclater Subdivision 1928, KL.

‘Port Nicholson Survey District ATL 832.4799/bje/1929?/acc. 10489’, Subject – Subdivisions – Sections 32, 33, 35, KL.

‘Seaforth Estate ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka’, 1929, Subject – Subdivisions – Section 36, 1852, KL.

‘The Sunshine Estate ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka’, 1930, Subject – Subdivisions – Sunshine Estate 1929, 1930, KL.

‘Brightacres Estate Karori Locality Plan ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/c. 1935/acc. 10303’, 1935, Subject – Subdivisions – Brightacres (Campbell Extension) 1935, KL.

‘Donald Brae Estate ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/1939/acc. 12635’, Subject – Subdivisions – Donald Brae Estate 1939, KL.

Martin & Dyett, ‘Sale Plan Karori, ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/1940/acc. 10296’, 1940, Subject – Subdivisions – Bristow Subdivision 1940, KL.

Martin & Dyett, ‘Plan of Manchester Park Estate Campbell Street Karori Wellington ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/ca. 1943/acc. 11680’, 1943, Subject – Subdivisions – Manchester Park Estate 1943, KL.

Martin & Dyett, ‘Plan of Subdivision of Lot 18 D. P. 1223 being Part Sec. 36, Karori Regr. District’, 1945, Subject – Subdivisions – Section 36 Donald St 1935, 1945, KL.

‘Paparata Subdivision’, 1969, Subject – Subdivisions – Paparata Subdivision 1969, KL.

[1] Motto of the Karori Borough Council, ‘The Karori Borough Council’, The Stockade, no. 14, vol. 9, October 1981, p. 5.

[2] Auction Notice (1888) for land within Block 34, an Estate known as ‘Beautiful Karori’. Many advertisements were placed, poems (including this example) written in encouragement, and an open air concert held with free buses to and from central Wellington to entice prospective buyers. Margaret Patrick, ‘Beautiful Karori’, The Stockade, vol. 2, no. 2, spring 1974, p. 6; ‘Karori’, The Evening Post, vol. XXXV, issue 58, 10 March 1888, p. 3, col. 5.

[3] Tanis Hinchcliffe, ‘Review Essay: Elusive Suburbs, Endless Variation’, Journal of Urban History, vol. 31, 2005, p. 899; Ruth McManus and Philip J. Ethington, ‘Suburbs in Transition: New Approaches to Suburban History’, Urban History, vol. 34, no. 2, 2007, p. 317.

[4] Christine M. Rosen and Joel A. Tarr, ‘The Importance of an Urban Perspective in Environmental History,’ Journal of Urban History, vol. 20, 1994, p. 301 cited in Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud and Peter Thorsheim, ‘Cities, Environments, and European History’, Journal of Urban History, vol. 33, 2007, p. 691.

[5] Andrea Gaynor, Harvest of the Suburbs: An Environmental History of Growing Food in Australian Cities, Crawley, 2006, p. 6.

[6] Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking, ‘Introduction’ in Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking (eds.), Environmental Histories of New Zealand, Auckland, 2002, p. 11.

[7] Statistics New Zealand, ‘Historical Context’ available from; last accessed 18 August 2010.

[8] Anselm Strauss, ‘Identity, Biography, History, and Symbolic Representations’, Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 1, March 1995, p. 10.

[9] Strauss, p. 10; Caryl Bosman, ‘Building a Golden Grove “community”: A Study of Suburban Production Processes in South Australia, 1970s–1980s’, Planning Perspectives, vol. 24, no. 2, April 2009, p. 220.

[10] Patrick, ‘Beautiful Karori’, The Stockade, p. 6.

[11] Winsome Shepherd, Wellington’s Heritage: Plants, Gardens and Landscape, Wellington, 2000, p. 61.

[12] ibid. Illustrated by Map 1.

[13] Margaret G. Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, Wellington, 1990, p. 52.

[14] Although the population of Karori remained fairly constant (between 1,000 and 2,000 people) in the twenty years between 1901 and 1921, rapid subdivision in the early 1920s led to a significant population expansion by the end of the second world war. See C. Hodder, ‘The Growth of Karori 1844-2006’, The Stockade, no. 42, 2009, p. 37.

[15] Joseph M. Kenneally, ‘Introduction’, in Joseph Kenneally and Betty Kenneally, Karori, Then: Past Images and Recollection from a Wellington Suburb, Wellington, 1980, p. 3.

[16] Ben Schrader, ‘Planning Happy Families: A History of the Naenae Idea’, MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1993, p. 141.

[17] Bee Dawson, A History of Gardening in New Zealand, Auckland, 2010, p. 218; Schrader, pp. 43-44.

[18] Sarah Brown, ‘Surveying Our Past and Building Our Future: An Environmental History of an Australian Suburb’, Limina, vol. 13, 2007, p. 27.

[19] ‘Bannatyne Estate Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ca. 1904’, 1904, Subject – Subdivisions – Brightacres (Campbell extension) 1935, Karori Library (hereafter KL).

[20] ‘Baths or Public Hall, Which? – Letter to Editor’, Northland Mail, 23 February 1934.

[21] Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, p. 12.

[22] ibid., pp. 12, 17; Judith Burch, The Karori Reservoir Area: A Brief History, Wellington, 1997, pp. 10-12.

[23] Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, p. 12.

[24] Shepherd, p. 61; Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, p. 13.

[25] Shepherd, p. 60.

[26] ibid., pp. 62, 64, 66.

[27] Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, pp. 38-39.

[28] Shepherd, pp. 62, 64, 66.

[29] Joyce Harrison, ‘Growing up in Karori in the 1930s’, The Stockade, 2005, no. 38, p. 5.

[30] ibid.

[31] ibid., p. 6.

[32] ibid.

[33]‘Magnificent Building Sections at Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ka/1888/acc. 2913’, 1888, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Subdivisions – Suburban Villa Sites 1879 (Douglas Aitkin St), KL; ‘Karori’, The Evening Post, vol. XXXV, issue 58, 10 March 1888, p. 3. Illustrated by Map 2.

[34] ibid.

[35] ibid.

[36] ‘Advertisements’, The Evening Post, vol. CXXIX, issue 72, 26 March 1940, p. 3, col. 5; ‘Advertisements’, The Evening Post, vol. CXXVI, issue 129, 28 November 1938, p. 3, col. 6.

[37] And so on for two more verses. M. Patrick, ‘Beautiful Karori’, The Stockade, vol. 2, no. 2 spring 1974, p. 6.

[38] ‘The Karori Borough Council’, The Stockade, no. 14, vol. 9, October 1981, p. 5.

[39] Shepherd, p. 66.

[40] ibid., p. 195.

[41] Company Records – The Karori Garden Estate Company Ltd, CO-W W3445 309* 1926/56, Archives New Zealand (hereafter ANZ); Company Records – Beautiful Karori Extension Ltd, CO-W W3445 362* 1929/92, ANZ.

[42] ‘Bannatyne Estate Karori ATL 832.4799/gbbd/ca. 1904’, 1904, Subject – Subdivisions – Brightacres (Campbell extension) 1935, KL; John Milton, Paradise Lost, Philadelphia and New York, 1851, p. 197.

[43] ibid.

[44] Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, p. 53.

[45] ibid., p. 57.

[46] William G. Chapman and Katherine M. Wood, Karori Streets, 1841-1991, Wellington, 1991, p. 87.

[47] Max Neutze, Urban Development in Australia: A Descriptive Analysis, revised ed., Sydney, 1981, pp.228-229, in Brown, p. 25.

[48] ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1933-34’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[49] ‘The Karori Borough Council’, The Stockade, no. 14 vol. 9, October 1981, p. 3; ‘Borough of Karori’, The Cyclopedia of New Zealand – Wellington Provincial District, Wellington, 1897, available from; last accessed 28 November 2010.

[50] ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1933-34’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[51] If one member is representative of four people per household. Population Karori ≈ 6,000 in 1935; 504 members of Association 1934-35.

[52] ‘The Karori Borough Council’, The Stockade, no. 14, vol. 9, October 1981, p. 5.

[53] ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1933-34’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[54] ibid.; ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1929-30’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[55] ibid.

[56] Glenn H. Stewart, Maria E. Ignatieva, Colin D. Meurk, and Richard D. Earl, ‘The Re-emergence of Indigenous Forest in an Urban Environment, Christchurch, New Zealand’, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, vol. 2, no. 3, 2004, p. 150; James Beattie, Jasper M. Heinzen and John P. Adam, ‘Japanese Gardens in New Zealand, 1850-1950: Transculturalation and Transmission’, Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, vol. 28, no. 2, 2008, p. 228; Shepherd, p. 140-142.

[57] Stewart, Ignatieva, Meurk, and Earl, p. 150.

[58] ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1929-30’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[59] ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1933-34’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[60] David Hamer, ‘The Making of Urban New Zealand’, Journal of Urban History, vol. 22, no. 1, 1995, p. 7.

[61] Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1929-30’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[62] ibid.

[63] Doreen Massey, ‘Places and their Pasts’, History Workshop Journal, issue 39, 1995, p. 183.

[64] ibid.

[65] Beryl Smedley, Homewood and its Families: A Story of Wellington, Wellington, 1980, p. 108-109.

[66] Shepherd, p. 139.

[67] ibid.

[68] illustrated by Map 2.

[69] Gwen Beavis, ‘Karori’s Last Dairyman – Ernest Beavis’, The Stockade, vol. 19, no. 9, October 1981, p. 19.

[70] Harrison, p. 6.

[71] ibid.

[72] ibid.

[73] ibid, p. 7.

[74] W. F. Ingram, ‘Panorama of the Playground: Physical Fitness and the “Daily Dozen”’, The New Zealand Railways Magazine, vol. 11, issue 10, January 1, 1937, p. 54.

[75] Patrick, From Bush to Suburb: Karori, 1840-1980: The Text of Four Talks, p. 54.

[76] Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1929-30’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[77] ‘Karori Progressive Association Annual Meeting and Annual Report, 1933-34’, Local History Collection Karori Library, Subject – Community Organisations – Karori Progressive Association, KL.

[78] Gaynor, Harvest of the Suburbs: An Environmental History of Growing Food in Australian Cities; Andrea Gaynor, ‘Animal Husbandry and House Wifery? Gender and Suburban Household Food Production in Perth and Melbourne, 1890-1950’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 36, issue 124, 2004, pp. 238-254; Robyn Longhurst, ‘Plots, Plants and Paradoxes: Contemporary Domestic Gardens in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Social & Cultural Geography, 2006, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 581-593.

[79] Karori Women’s Social Progressive Movement Meeting Karori, 8 July 1931, Minute book – Women’s Social Progressive Movement – Karori Discussion Group, 1931-1937, MS-Papers-1335-13, Alexander Turnbull Library (hereafter ATL), p. 7.

[80] Karori Women’s Social Progressive Movement Meeting Karori, 12 November 1931, Minute book – Women’s Social Progressive Movement – Karori Discussion Group, 1931-1937, MS-Papers-1335-13, ATL, p. 13.