An off hand comment made 20 odd years ago by Shirley Parks, a founding member of the Te Puna Quarry Park Society, was what planted the seed for the eventual transformation of an abandoned rock quarry into what is now a spectacular amphitheatre for the local community to use and enjoy. After many years of discussion, planning and design, a lot of hard work and the inclusion of the star of the show, Firth’s Keystone Country Manor® retaining blocks, the Te Puna Quarry Park Amphitheatre in the Bay of Plenty hosted its first event and opened on the 13th of December 2019.
Te Puna Quarry Park started life as a rock quarry in the early 1900s, continuing to operate through until 1979. Ten years later Tauranga District Council planted a number of pine trees at the site and by 1993 the Te Puna Quarry Park Society had been formed. Consisting on average of 30 - 40 volunteers they began work on transforming the 32-hectare piece of Crown Land, which they have under a management agreement with the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
“It’s more than 20 years since we started developing this park into a local and national treasure and we’ve come a long way,” says Dulcie Artus, retired secretary and weed puller for the Te Puna Quarry Park Society. “I was in a garden club with Shirley and she took a group of us up to this dirty, scruffy place which was full of rubbish that used to be a quarry. We walked up a track and she said “now I can see an amphitheatre here”.
Dulcie says the group was hooked and immediately bought in to the vision of turning this unwanted piece of dirt into a place to treasure.
“It was always in the back of our minds that we wanted to create the amphitheatre but it would take a lot of money,” adds Dulcie. “At some point we did push some dirt around to create a bank for people to sit on. But it was like that for a long time. Although it was nice it was quite steep and it was hard to put chairs on and be comfortable for any length of time for a show or performance. There was always a vision to get some seating into it. I tried a few times to get it off the ground but without a design and money of course I didn't get far.”
Dulcie says that she had been talking (yet again) to daughter Wendy about the park when she said, “ok lets draw this up.”
“Mum had been heavily involved in the Te Puna Park Quarry Society for years as Secretary and often talked about the amphitheatre,” says Wendy Artus King, Designer for Landmark Homes. “She had struggled to gain interest from anyone. So I decided that if we could get a design together then that might be a good place to start. Once we managed to get the design on paper it made it easier for people to see the Society’s vision of the amphitheatre. This started the ball rolling.”
With a design finalised Dulcie began to research materials to use. “I always wanted it to look like the ancient Greek amphitheatres with terraces. It meant either using stone - which was far too expensive and hard to get to the site - or use concrete. I spotted the Keystone Country Manor® retaining block from Firth in one of their brochures, which has a lovely rustic look, and would be perfect. Wendy knows Firth through Landmark Homes and was able to get samples.”
“Then it was time to get the whole project properly funded. We were able to get Hamish Goodeve from APC Landscapes to quote a reasonable price for the landscaping work and with that I was able to get funding. In the end Lotto, Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust and Bay Trust contributed. We had managed to get everyone up there one day and after a meeting on site they decided between them how they would go about funding it. It was marvellous that they came on board. Lotto in particularly were very excited about it.”
Once construction was completed Dulcie says they needed to allow time for the grass to establish properly on the terraces. She emphasises the fact that they didn't use artificial turf. “We decided not to use it much over the summer to let everything settle down, however we did have an official opening for the amphitheatre on December 13th alongside Carols at the Quarry. It was great to see the new seating with heaps of room for people and their picnics.”
“It’s been such a shame it hasn't been used very much yet because anything we had booked for this year had to be canceled because of COVID-19 and the uncertainly around alert levels,” adds Dulcie. “But it is an amazing venue and was worth all the hard work. Thanks to Shirley’s vision all those years ago, my daughter’s help, funding by Lotto and our other sponsors, and the lovely Keystone Country Manor® blocks from Firth we now have this lovely place to enjoy.”
Any money raised from holding events at the amphitheatre goes toward the continuing development of Te Puna Quarry Park. “It's a magical place and people love it,” says Dulcie.