Former Chinese market gardens now heritage park

Published: 27 February 2024

Mid Canterbury people are being invited to check out the new Ng King community heritage park, after a colourful celebration opening event at the weekend.

The park is the site of former Chinese market gardens started by the Ng King brothers in 1921 and remnants of the settlement were declared a heritage site in 2019. About 300 people, all connected to the former market gardens, attended the opening.

Invited guests included descendants of the Chinese families that ran the gardens until 1964, Heritage New Zealand officials and Ashburton District Council councillors and staff.

Deputy mayor Liz McMillan said Council had been working with the families over the past 16 years to find a way to preserve and restore the site.

“This has been a special heritage project for us all, and we’ve all learned a lot about how those Chinese families worked and established themselves in our district.

“They overcame many challenges and became part of the social and business fabric of Ashburton and the wider district.”

The heritage park on Allens Road, in Ashburton, includes the remnant buildings of the market gardens, a pig oven and surrounding grass spaces; a path winds through the area and connects to Hanrahan Street. Interpretive panels tell the story of the settlers.

The opening on Sunday included performances from the Qiao Yi Hong De Lion dance team, and the ribbon was cut by the oldest family descendant Arthur King.

Family members shared stories about life at the market gardens and how produce was once delivered around the district by horse and cart.

The group then moved to the Ashburton Art Gallery and Museum to see a new exhibition about the settlement and restoration. The exhibition will run until 12 May.

To celebrate the work, A New Era: Ng King Bros. Chinese Market Garden Settlement, the museum is also inviting people to a talk with heritage consultant Arlene Baird. She has been involved with the site since 2014, liaising with Council, Heritage New Zealand, the Ng King descendants and project managing the stabilisation of the buildings and refurbishment of the site.

The talk will take place on Sunday 17 March at 2pm; it is free and open to the public.

A full landscaping plan has been prepared for the 2.3 hectare site, with more pathways, planting and seating planned, and Council will continue to look after the site.

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