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Willows in Western Springs Park, looking east.
|Local authority||Auckland City|
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Western Springs is a residential suburb and park in the west of the city of Auckland in the north of New Zealand. It is located four kilometres to the west of the city centre, situated to the north of State Highway 16.
The suburb is dominated by the large park (featuring a lake with a variety of birdlife), within which are situated Auckland Zoo, Western Springs Stadium and M.O.T.A.T. (the Museum of Transport and Technology). The park is the location of the annual Pasifika Festival, one of Auckland's most popular public events.
Across the road from the Zoo is the school of Western Springs College, with a student population of around 1050. Some students attend Mount Albert Grammar School. Catholic students commute to St Paul's College or St Mary's College, Marist College or St Peter's College.
The Māori valued Waiorea (Western Springs) for the clean, clear spring water and the eels that lived in the stream. After colonisation, the area was part of a block of land farmed by a Scottish settler called William Motion.
The area was called Western Springs to differentiate it from the Springs in the Auckland Domain to the east of town. The main source of the water that feeds the Lake at Western Springs is rain falling on the slopes of the far off volcanoes of Three Kings, Mount Albert and Mount Eden. It then runs underground for several miles through the lava flows, and emerges from the ground at a constant rate that is well filtered from the miles of scoria rocks.
As the city of Auckland grew it found that well water was not sufficient. In the 1860s a pipe from the Domain Springs was constructed but in 1874 the city bought William Motions' mill and 120 acres (486,000 m²) of land including the spring. In 1875 the swampy ground was made into a 15 acre (6ha) artificial lake 6 feet in depth and capable of holding 22 million gallons of water. The scale of this back-breaking work is revealed by the fact that Mr. Blewdon and his men removed 20,000 cartloads of spoil from the site and used 7,850 cubic yards of earth to construct the embankment which was 40 feet wide at the base and 9 feet wide at the crest. They also excavated the 25 feet deep Engine Pond and dug a 60 foot long tunnel between the lake and the Engine House.
A pumphouse was designed by the City Engineer William Errington and built of brick. It was fitted with a steam engine, known as a beam engine which is still in working order having been recently restored. The engine pumped water up to the two new reservoirs; one on the corner of Ponsonby Road and Karangahape Road and the other in the block bordered by Khyber Pass, Symonds Street, Mount Eden Road and Burleigh Street from where the water was gravity fed down to the city.
The cost of maintaining the pump was high however and by the end of the 19th century, Auckland's growth required a much greater and more reliable source of fresh water. This coincided with pressure to safeguard the remaining native forests of the Waitakere Ranges to the west of the city. Auckland City purchased land for large reservoirs in this fairly secluded area thus safeguarding both the water quality and the flora & fauna of the area. The height of the reservoirs above sea level meant pumping was kept to a minimum as the water could be gravity fed down to town.
This left the Western Springs area with no specific use. The fairly rough and uneven land was unsuitable for housing as apart from the Lake itself it contained large stretches of boggy ground. Unable to divest itself of the land the Auckland City Council was at a loss what to do with it. Some light industry and market gardens were developed along Great North Road and Chinamans hill [so-called because of the Chinese market gardeners] and an attempt was made to convert the boggy land around the lake into a park. However over the next thirty years or so most of the land deteriorated as it became overgrown and used for illegal rubbish dumping.
From the early 1920s onwards various developments took place; The Auckland City Council Zoological Gardens were established to the north of the lake. To the west (around the corner of Motions Road and Great North Road) a camping ground was set up (During World War II it was converted into a transit camp for American servicemen). To the south of the lake was established a golf club (Chamberlain Park ) and to the west, land was set aside for Primary, Intermediate and Secondary Schools to service the growing suburbs of Westmere and Point Chevalier.
In 1953 a plan was put forward to use the area around the lake as an amusement park with a scenic railway, fairground and rollercoasters etc. but this was soon discovered to be beyond the financial capabilities of the Auckland City Council.
The council used some of the more usable land to construct council housing in the 1920s and in the 1930s sold much of the land previously used for market gardens to the government for state housing. To the north of the Zoo was an area of mangrove swamp where the Western Springs creek reached the sea just by the Meola Reef Lava outcrop. This was utilised as a landfill dump and hence reclaimed during the 1950s and 1960s and developed as playing fields and an additional area for the MOTAT Airfield; the Sir Keith Park Memorial Airfield (Motat 2) and is also the site of the Westpoint Performing Arts Center. In the 2000s the landfill was found to be emitting methane gas and was subsequently capped with clay.
After the war the population of the surrounding suburbs grew markedly and it became obvious that the untidy state of Western Springs was a definite embarrassment. As a wilderness of bogs full of rubbish, rats and mosquitoes, it was not only unattractive but a potential health hazard. In 1961 the Auckland City Council embarked on developing the park in earnest. The lake, which had become completely choked by introduced waterweed was reclaimed and the overgrown landscape was carefully cleared of weeds and rubbish.
By the 1980s major landscaping work had transformed the area from an eyesore to being one of Auckland's most attractive parks. New plantings were introduced to complement the mature trees from the 19th century and careful planting of the islands of the lake and the wetlands surrounding it have made it a successful breeding grounds for a large variety of waterfowl both native and exotic. Artworks by several New Zealand sculptors were sited in the park during 1980s & 1990s.
International music artists that have performed at Western Springs Stadium include Led Zeppelin, Slade, Status Quo, Elton John, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, KISS, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Dire Straits, AC/DC, Eurythmics, Pink Floyd, Jerry Lee Lewis, U2, Big Audio Dynamite, Mick Jagger, Guns N' Roses, Paul McCartney, The Eagles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams, The Police & The Black Eyed Peas, among others.
- "Auckland Parks". Jasons Travel Media.
- "Streets: Motions Road". Auckland Museum. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
- Decently And In Order, The Centennial History Of The Auckland City Council. G.W.A.Bush. Collins 1971
- The Beam Engine & Western Springs Pumping Station published by MOTAT 2008