Historic foundations uncovered at former market gardens

Published: 6 December 2023

Contractors working at the Ng King community heritage park on Allens Road have uncovered foundations of an historic building at the former Chinese market garden settlement.

The brick floor of a space thought to have been used for hay storage and kennels was discovered by a GDC digger driver removing a layer of grass and topsoil to create an all-weather surface for visitors to the park, which will officially open to the public in February next year.

A collection of buildings has already been preserved on the site, which was declared archaeologically significant in 2019 after Council and the Ng King families had been working together to restore parts of it.

Council’s heritage consultant Arlene Baird said the brick floor was a fantastic find this week.

“We knew from historic aerial images that there used to be a building in the area but we thought it had a dirt floor like many of the other buildings, so finding the pad intact is amazing.”

An edging will be built around the brick floor and the discovery able to be seen by all visitors. The story of the market gardens run by the Ng King Brothers partnership in Ashburton from the early 1920s will be told in interpretive panels that will also be erected around the wider site.

“We want to keep the floor exposed so it helps to tell the story of what was here before,” Ms Baird said.

“The panels tell a bigger story about not just the Ng King partnership, but also of Chinese immigration to New Zealand and the market garden business.”

Landscaping work to be completed before the official opening in February includes creating a shingle path in the form of the figure eight around the park, as well as an entrance from Turton Green. The 2.5 hectare site will also be planted out and the security fencing eventually removed.

Ms Baird said there would be places to sit and places to play, and she hoped visitors would take the opportunity to learn about the importance of the site, which was regarded as the last intact example of a 20th century Chinese market garden settlement in New Zealand.

“This restoration project has been 16 years in the making and wonderful acknowledgement of the contribution early Chinese settlers made to our history.”

The official opening is a private event at 11am on Sunday 25 February involving Council, Heritage New Zealand and the descendants of the Ng King settlers. The park will be open to the community after that.

Restoration work has been funded by Council, Heritage New Zealand and a grant from the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust.

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