Greytown Beautifying Society
The Greytown Beautifying Society (the Society) was formed in 1935. Initially members came from tree lovers in the Greytown Chamber of Commerce and the Greytown Ladies Committee. They began work as a section of the Horticulture Society. The aims of the Society became two-fold. The first was to maintain and preserve the historic trees of Greytown and secondly to beautify other areas in the town. The Society was a semi-formal organisation with an elected President, Secretary and Treasurer but did not develop a Constitution or become Incorporated. The Society existed on and off for about 60 years. Some members were long-serving. Membership numbers seemed to vary and depended on the intensity of activity at any one time. In 1987 it was noted that there were 34 paid up members. Subs collected amounted to $106.00.
The first noteworthy project carried out by the Society was the planting of mainly American Red and Scarlet Oaks on either side of Hospital Drive, leading from the Main Road to the Hospital gates. Other trees were also planted such as Fraxinus excelsiae. Sadly the hospital is no longer functioning but the oak tree avenue is magnificent in Autumn and is now seventy-three years old. Quercus palustris was the main species (see Historic and Notable trees) in the oak tree avenue with a few Quercus borealis. Twenty or more Society members did the planting assisted by a number of local dignataries including Dr. Hugh Berney, Superintendent of the Hospital.
The advent of the Second World War closed down the activities of the Society. It was only rejuvenated in 1962-63, when the Greytown Borough Council had decided that a sixty year old Elm tree in Main Street should be cut down because it was probably rotten and therefore a danger to the Public. The Council was also considering a similar fate for two Lime trees of similar age which were close to the bank of New Zealand building (Now the "old BNZ building"). The Society lost the fight for the old Elm tree (Ulmus campestris) and it was felled on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. 22nd November, 1963. According to Burstall it was the largest English Elm tree in New Zealand. It was also found to be "sound as a bell". The Society did mamage to save the BNZ Lime trees (Tilea europaea) and they still stand today. (See Historic and Notable trees).
By their efforts the Society also saved both the 1860 and 1895 English Oaks (Quercus robur) on West Street when that road was widened and power line siting was thought to be more important than historic trees at that time (1970's). In the mid 1980's the Greytown Borough Council passed a resolution "to inform the Greytown Beautifying Society when any trimming or cutting of historic trees was contemplated. The Borough Council were reminded of this following the very careless and unsatisfactory cuttingof old Elm trees at 21 Wood Street (Borough Council road verge). In 1982 the Society produced the first list of notable trees which the Society considered should be protected under the District Plan for the Greytown Borough. Twenty-four tree sites were named. Some sites contained single trees, others a number of trees. For Soldiers' Memorial Park it was recommended that "all trees be protected". In 1986 a more comprehensive list of trees worthy of protection was compiled. Trees were graded into three classifications - Class 1 being the most valuable trees. The Society was aided by D Duthie of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. Success for the Society came in 1988 when the trees were included in the District Plan and most remain so today.
Arbor Days in Greytown over the years often received impetus from the Society whether by organisation or the planting of trees by members. The centenary of the first Arbor Day in New Zealand (1890 - 1990) was one of the most important. This involved the planting of trees at the old Greytown Railway Terminal and provision of a cairn with a plaque commemorating the event. It is now called Tate's Park. The Society has therefore left its mark on Greytown but perhaps the most lasting will be the "Stella Bull Park" named after the late Mrs Stella Bull, a long-serving and effective member of the Greytown Beautifying Society. Many thanks to Jan Eagle who provided copies of old newspaper cuttings together with other information on the work of the Society. However, this note is a bare outline of the Society's work. There is very much more which could be written about the members themselves and their individual achievements.
Return to Main Page