At the point where the Rewarewa Stream from New Lynn flows into the Whau River, lies the 5.9ha Ken Maunder Park, home to innumerable local sporting moments for over 60 years. Like so many of our city’s green swathes and reserves, though, this one has a story beyond the kick of a goal, or the scoring of four runs.
New Lynn, like most of the Whau area back in the mid-19th century, was sparsely-settled, and used mainly for the grazing of stock. Farmer Henry Hayr had a cattle run there in 1852, buying the original 84 acres from the Crown for his own farm in 1854. “Hayr’s Grant” went through a number of ownership changes and subdivisions, until in 1887 brothers Henry and James Binsted purchased nearly 19 acres of Hayr’s former ground, closest to the river.
The Binsted brothers were butchers, starting up their first shop in Victoria Street West in 1881. They ran a small slaughtering operation to stock their Freemans Bay shop, but then saw an opportunity in New Lynn for a site to continue running their own slaughterhouse, clear of restrictive Auckland City Council regulations. In 1886, they took over the £5 Waitemata County license from a Mr Frost, and in 1887 purchased the New Lynn property Frost may well have already been using for his own business.
It was a perfect spot for something like a slaughterhouse, close to main roads leading from the cattle ranges to the west and east, and where all the resulting effluent from their processing plant simply washed away on the tide down the river to the harbour. Their New Lynn slaughterhouse supplied not only their Freeman’s Bay store, but also the Avondale shop they took over at the St Judes Street corner by c.1890. That same year a road to the slaughterhouse was laid out, the future Binsted Road, ending right at the water’s edge.
From 1893, the brothers ran their “Avondale Styes” farm there as well, breeding and selling pedigree Berkshire and Yorkshire pigs. By then, their complex at New Lynn included (beside the pigs) a feeding room, scalding shed, “boiling down place” and the slaughterhouse.
In 1907, James Binsted stated that a bullock at his works could be killed and dressed in three-quarters of an hour, and the same time would see eight to ten sheep slaughtered. Men were paid £2 15s per week wages, and did other work as well as slaughtering. The Binsted slaughterhouse was one of New Lynn’s main sources of employment, rivalled only by the brickyards beside the railway line.
The Binsted land had a brief part to play in the story of the Sandford-Miller bi-plane which was being trialled at Avondale Racecourse during 1913. The plane achieved the first cross-country flight in New Zealand on 31 August that year, taking off with Sandford at the controls from Avondale, heading west. Sandford turned back to make for the racecourse again, but the engine failed, and he made a forced landing on a glide in Binsted’s paddock against the slaughterhouse. Two weeks later, after repairs by Miller, the plane returned across the Whau River to Avondale.
By the First World War, James’ son John Claude Binsted managed several country butcher shops, supplied by the family’s New Lynn operation. One thing the Binsteds couldn’t do was sell their meat within the bounds of Auckland City at the time, as they were of course not using a Council-approved or owned facility.
A fire at the slaughterhouse in 1916 did some damage, and probably heralded the end of the complex’s use. After James Binsted died in 1920 (his brother Henry had died in 1895), the Avondale shop was sold to Hellabys, and the sheds at New Lynn were dismantled in 1921.
Streets were planned across the property by 1939, including an esplanade along the coastline. Perhaps the family intended to subdivide the property for industrial use; only a small portion right at the tip was marked on the 1939 town plan as future reserve. Instead, from the late 1920s, the Binsteds’ land became a rubbish tip, so much so, that neighbours on Binsted Road complained to the town board about the nuisance.
The Binsted family retained ownership of the property through to 1951, when it was transferred to the last surviving trustee Harold Bollard. At that time, approaches were made to the New Lynn Borough Council to buy the land as a recreational reserve, along with a plea contained in the transfer deed for the preferred name of “Binsted Park”, recognising the many decades of the family’s ownership. The land title was formally conveyed in 1955 – but the Borough Council decided instead to call the new reserve “Rewa Park”.
Part of the land was sold to commercial interests, leaving only around two-thirds of the Binsted land as reserve. By 1956 football fields had been formed, and a mangrove swamp reclaimed by dumping still more municipal rubbish. The New Lynn Cricket Club established clubrooms there in 1961. By 1963, a bridge had been built linking the park with Queen Mary Avenue, ensuring that Rewa Park became a popular recreation area for locals. In 1967 though, it nearly became the site of a heliport, but local opposition to the idea proved too great.
In 1970, it was decided to rename Rewa Park; the name chosen was Ken Maunder Park. Maunder had been a member of the New Lynn Borough Council from 1955-1962, and later for a period until his death in 1969, including service as deputy mayor of the borough 1959-1962. He was widely active in the local sporting community, including as president of the New Lynn Bowling Club. So, despite the wishes of the Binsted family, their name remained connected only with the road that once led to their ancestors’ property.
In the mid to late 1970s, the Rata Street extension cut across the southern edge of the park. In 2007-2008, the original 1960s bridge link to Queen Mary Avenue was replaced. From 2011, Ken Maunder Park has featured prominently as part of the route for the Te Whau Pathway, which will provide a walking and cycling linkage between the North-Western Motorway and New Lynn.
Any inkling of the old slaughterhouse complex that was once there, and of the Binsted prize pedigree pigs, has long since faded from the community’s memory.