Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Two Auckland heritage buildings face uncertain future

St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Ponsonby, c1898. Ref 4-3540, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

News just in from the suburban newspapers that St Stephen's Church in Ponsonby is facing closure. 

It has stood for more than 130 years, but this Christmas may be the last for St Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby. Dwindling worshippers and large bills to make the building earthquake-proof may force the place of worship to close its doors as the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ assesses its buildings. Churchgoers were told earlier this month that paying to safeguard the building would cost in excess of $500,000, something the parish can't feasibly afford to pay for as it only has 30-40 members. "We are a small congregation, we certainly don't have half a million dollars," St Stephen's session clerk Ross Prestidge said. A recent evaluation showed the church, which opened in 1879, only scored 29 per cent of the current earthquake standard for new buildings. The Building Act 2004 requires them to be no less than 34 per cent. As it stands the church would be 10-25 times more at risk during an earthquake than a new building. It is considered to be legally earthquake-prone. 
 And the Mt Eden tea kiosk from 1926-1927 has also been found to be an at-risk building.

The kiosk, on the northern slopes of Mt Eden, was closed following a structural assessment in February which found the building did not meet building standards. Strengthening work began earlier this month and is expected to be completed by March. The kiosk was built in 1926 and has in the past been used as tea rooms and restaurant. Richard Hollier, Auckland Council's acting regional and specialist parks manager, said the work would maintain the historical integrity of the kiosk and ensure it could be reopened to the public. But its future use has not been determined.

Relic from a lost safari park

I bought this old pin badge last Sunday at the Avondale Market. It's seen better days, bent probably due to bad care and being left in the heat of a glass display case in the sun too long (the seller, unfortunately, wouldn't reduce the price based on that).

There's not a lot left from the Auckland Lion Safari Park at Red Hills Road, Massey, in operation from 1981 until sometime in the mid 1990s (the company files, which I intend looking at as soon as the silly season passes over, go down to 1995).

The park seems to have originated as an offshoot of the Bullens operations in Australia. (See also this Facebook page) Exactly why the Auckland park closed I don't yet know, but the Old Friends memories online speak of hi-jinks among the staff like cycling through the lions compound, playing around with tractors and mud slides, yet also note fond memories of the lions, tigers, and Clyde the Camel.

If game parks are a modern development from the acclimatisation societies and their peculiarities, safari parks are a close relative. But safari parks deal exclusively in the visitor animals—none of their stock have ever been liberated, or are ever likely to be. The Auckland Lion Safari Park is the newest of these, opened at the end of 1981. Other entrepreneurs have tried the venture, the earliest being the Orana Lion Park outside Christchurch. Until recently there were two others—one at Paraparaumu and another outside Hamilton—but these failed. The new park at Auckland has the backing of a circus organisation—the Bullen organisation, which is involved in six safari parks in Australia—so it has its roots in the exotic animal-keeping business that is the oldest of them all.

To visit a safari park, one does not leave one's car (although if you are a politician you can get a free ticket to travel through on a pushbike). Windows must be kept closed at all times, as you drive slowly and gaze at lions. It is the ultimate step in transferring alien animals to our environment.
I'd really appreciate any further leads or information from readers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Google Maps changes a church

There's been a few local snippet stories in the papers of late about Google Maps, a very useful tool, having a bit of a nervous breakdown when it comes to the labels it puts on geographic landmarks. This morning, doing a bit of research into public transport stops on the Auckland Transport site, I found this.

Our Avondale St Judes Anglican Church, there at the corner of Donegal and St Jude Street (guess what the latter street is named after) since 1884 -- now dubbed the Romanian Orthodox Church of St Ignatius of Antioch.

There's possibly been a mix-up between the actual local Orthodox church of St Ignatius -- at Alford Street, in Waterview -- and the fact that "St Jude" is mentioned on the Orthodox Church's website.

Ah, well. Back to looking up timetables ...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

At the Zoo 90 years after it opened

Sunday 16th December (today) is the 90th anniversary of the official opening of Auckland Zoo back in 1922. 

Previous zoo visit posts:

Other Auckland Zoo posts:

So, I set out to visit the zoo, and wish it a happy birthday by taking my final set of photos for this year. The admission fee for an adult has gone up, from $22 to $25 -- but now the map, which cost $2, is free. Still not a bad deal.

At just after 9.30 am, heat was starting to bite, and the tigers were snoozing. Still, I'd rather see a sleeping tiger than a dead one.

Darwin's is, I suppose, the successor to the zoo kiosk which was a feature of the zoo from c.1923. The Moodabes, later of Amalgamated Cinemas fame here in Auckland, briefly had a concession at the zoo kiosk in the early 1920s. Today, though, Darwin's puts me off because of price. I know, captive economy and all that ... but, when looking for an ice cream later on, I didn't have much luck, despite the variety on offer. Instead, I got a small tub of very creamy and very nice vanilla ice cream from the small kiosk just at the entrance.

Some months ago, I bought this 1970s postcard of the zoo's dragon. Going back to the zoo to photograph the dragon now was part of the reason why I trekked there today.

And ... here it is.

Now, sorry to be a grizzler here, but -- the 2012 dragon doesn't look as look as the 1970s one to me. It looks ... plastic. Like some child's toy bought at a $2 shop. In the 1970s, it looked like a proper dragon. But then again, I hear kids love it anyway ...

Glad to see the tuatara hasn't changed much, though -- and it's still there.

Brunch for this lioness.

The rhinos were stars today. Normally stationary, with their backsides to our cameras, today they were on the move. Here, they've just completed a thorough sniff inspection of the communal dung pile, watched one of their team have a very long-lasting wee, and are now proceeding at an amble to sort out what the rest of the morning had to offer.

Flamingos -- my camera can't quite seem to pick up just how pink they are. But I don't mind this shot.

Another reason for today's visit -- the cheetahs Anubis and Osiris. The cheetah encounter consists of the zookeepers lecturing us, and we watched them get fed bits of rabbit and unidentifiable meat.

The serval remains an elusive creature for me to photograph well. Poor thing just kept pacing from the far corner, round the back, then to the far corner again. Over and over and over.

Couldn't capture the seals properly either -- but I still had fun watching them swim by. Always in the same direction, though. I did wonder what was stopping them from changing pattern and going the other way.

Without an albatross, the zoo have installed the next best thing: a model of an albatross.

Burma in her enclosure, around 11 am, an hour to go before the elephant encounter session. She stayed at that spot near her pool for ages, lifting and lowering her left foreleg, and swaying slightly.

Lots of free range chooks around the place. And some particularly loud roosters.

Briefly back to the rhinos ... sleeping in the heat ...

11.15 am, the giraffe feeding encounter. Said subject giraffe keen as mustard, loitering close to Platform 2.

While all that was going on, one of the zebras paused within range of the camera for a bit of a neck scratch.

On the way back towards Burma's enclosure, the rhinos yet again ...

Just before her encounter session, Burma was given a bit of a scrub-up by her keepers ...

Then around to the rear of her enclosure, for dusting, and teeth inspection (one of her four teeth is loose, so they later told us).

Then, back to the front for her admiring fans.

Another bath ...

Checking all of her feet for sores, stones etc ...

Dust to replace the dust washed off ...

Then a demonstration with a log, rolling it across the enclosure.

Then, a bit of circus. I was surprised they did this with her. Is balancing on top of something exercise for an elephant, or just performance?

The keepers reassured the crowd that, while Burma is by herself (as elephants shouldn't be, being highly intelligent and social animals), and they haven't so their intended young elephants yet (from which, going by what was said, they hope will breed a number of young elephants in turn), she is still contented. If she showed signs of not being contented, they'd send her to Australia, where other Asian elephants are -- but she is contented (they said) so she's staying. I still think they should consider her welfare needs and send her to a park in Australia where she can socialise again.

Off to Te Wao Nui, and this is an Otago skink.

Best of a lot of blurred shots of a kea ...

Today I finally got to see kiwi at the zoo, after years of trying to peer into the dark of the old Kiwi House (today, in the nocturnal display, I saw two) -- and also got to see a red panda, again instead of peering unsuccessfully looking for one in the enclosure.

And through it all, as 1pm came and went, the tigers still snoozed in Auckland's summer heat.