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Parks are for People

The influence of Ian Galloway on New Zealand’s Parks Management System


Authors: Geoff Canham and Lucia Caves

Ian Galloway’s legacy was one of the most influential leader and manager in New Zealand’s parks and recreation sector. Ian was responsible for establishing best practice precedents through the management and implementation of the Wellington parks network, including developing new inner-city parks, and as a leader of best practice parks creation and parks agency standards.  Ian provided the basis for  public horticulture and parks advocacy at all levels’ Long before ‘nature in cities’, ‘nature-based solutions’ and biophilic principles were coined to rationalise the value of public spaces and urban vegetation Ian realised that such schemes were critical for our personal wellbeing and economic development. His legacies endure to this day and continue to serve as a masterclass to us all.

Born in Oamaru, Ian Galloway’s passion for native plants began as a schoolboy when he moved to Hokitika, a small town on the West Coast of the South Island. Little did the young Galloway know that this interest would shape the course of his future career, and that of the country’s parks management systems. Despite facing another move while still a young schoolboy, this time to Wellington, Ian Galloway’s affiliation for the outdoors and the art of gardening remained throughout his childhood, where this same passion led him to obtaining an apprenticeship in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. This was followed by travel to England with an additional two years successful study for a Diploma in Horticulture at the prestigious Kew Gardens.

Ian Galloway’s achievements were undoubtedly influenced by his training in England. His knowledge and passion for horticulture, and for the development of the industry within New Zealand, saw the humble achiever serve for many years on the board of the New Zealand Industry Parks and Recreation Association (NZIPRA, which amalgamated with the New Zealand Recreation Association).  He was awarded an MBE in 1974 for services to horticulture.

Later in life he would note to a newspaper reporter that, “at Bournemouth, on the English south coast … I saw many of our native plants on the cliff above the beach, [it was then that] I realised we did not appreciate these plants in our landscaping”. This realisation, and the strong belief that “parks are for people” caused Ian to devote the majority of his time to the establishment and stewardship of what was then known as the Wellington City Parks Department where he became Parks Director. 

Ian was tireless and devoted to his passion and life’s work: public horticulture and the provision of parks for people. He influenced Wellington City’s urban form, and when directing the City’s Parks Department, he led dramatic change in processes and management, along with staff increases and building community and political support. In this period of growth and development, Ian focused on what he believed held the most value: strengthening the city’s park network through the enhancement and beautification of existing open spaces and creating public inner city greenspaces. Sometimes these new spaces were from areas deemed available for other development and in direct challenge to the default positions of the day for urban land use.

This shift in management structure and the activities for parks and recreation set precedents for parks management throughout the rest of the country, as other parks teams saw the possibilities for acquisition and improvement. Other parks departments were able to reference examples of best practice, an industry benchmark and the widespread benefits of implementing such administrative and management methods for improving parks network planning and the execution of larger scale landscape renewal than had ever been seen before.

Frank Boffa, director of the national landscape planning consultancy Boffa Miskell, noted in 2007 that, “It was due to his determination and passion for open park spaces that such a popular space created a benchmark for inner city parks in New Zealand”.

One particular example of Director Galloway’s influence on urban park development was exercised in the initial vision and background logistics of the boldly created and enduring Midland Park. The establishment of the public parks entertainment programme ‘Summer City‘ – the first freely available event of its kind in New Zealand – is also evidence of Ian Galloway’s “parks are for people” outlook – and his staff recall one of his maxims: "Parks are needed where the people are". The list of his many achievements echoed a keen public interest in the parks department and the public horticulture sector of Wellington City.  Ian and a dedicated team of parks leaders moved from success to success, assisted by an environment where direct relationships with public partners and decision makers flourished.

Ian’s staff recall a leader who made them feel confident in going about their duties with the public.   New staff recall being inducted by being put through every aspect of parks and recreation delivery, including, but not limited to, swimming pools, the zoo, playing fields, cemeteries, the landscape crew, botanic gardens and community work. Staff remember a high degree of trust, and a united professional purpose in new areas of development for Wellington, including the Northern Walkway, forming volunteer groups, liaising with the developing environmental movement and “big projects” like the Bolton Street Cemetery restoration, and expanding the legacy foreshore parks with the harbour board of the time. The move to developing the outer town belt saw Ian work closely with the town planner Ken Clarke, and he engaged prominent professionals like Di Menzies and Mary Buckland as landscape architects. Ian also engaged the first recreational officers to expand the role of parks and he championed multiple new initiatives for the growing parks sector. At that time, other parks agencies looked to key agencies such as Wellington City, Auckland Region and Cornwall Park as exemplars for standards, leadership, structured professionalism, planning and future thinking.

Ian was closely involved in legislation concerned with parks and parks planning.  When submissions were being made on the Reserves Act in the mid-1970s, Ian was a strong advocate for management plans and a simpler approach to public land administration, with reduced central government bureaucracy. Ian’s emphasis was for a recognised park profession that administered parks at a local level in partnership with local communities.

Ian Galloway’s enthusiasm never faltered. Despite the growing demands of his career, he encouraged high levels of training and often took on an advisory and teaching role with the department’s more junior staff, including ensuring the many apprentices were getting all the opportunities and experiences they needed. Additionally, a Parks Director was expected to serve on the various horticultural and garden societies of the day, or at least attend their multiple meetings. Ian also volunteered as an industry mentor and supporter of the developing parks and recreation qualifications framework, and his efforts are recalled by students of the time that still serve in our industry today.

Through to the late 1980s, there was a particular status, importance and a reverence for parks, gardens and recreation. Later we entered a phase influenced by various economic theories, political partisanship and social service corporatisation, as well as the dismantling of traditional training structures, including public horticulture apprenticeships and latterly any focused Parks Management degree. However, the public still demand and expect these services, and Ian’s efforts have withstood the test of time and it is worth contemplating what would be involved now to reach the same outcomes.  His former staff note that to this day that they still hold true to the ideals and standards gained from their time with Ian.

In May 1986, Ian Galloway suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 57. The Wellington City Council named Ian Galloway Park in memory of this modest man at a time when park names were commonly bestowed only to prominent councillors. This speaks to the high esteem in which Ian was held by the decisionmakers of the time, the community, his colleagues and the Wellington City as a whole. Wellington City Council continued to honour Ian’s legacy by gifting the Ian Galloway Memorial Cup to the organisation that followed NZIPRA, the New Zealand Recreation Association as it was known (now Recreation Aotearoa). This cup continues to be awarded annually, “In Recognition of Excellence and Outstanding Personal Contribution to the Wider Parks Industry”. 

Ian is remembered by fellow parks managers and staff as a ‘no-fuss’ caring leader who operated a rigorously practical approach with prudence, while achieving difficult outcomes in political environments. Ian was not averse to ‘talking truth to power’, a rare commodity in these times where there is a structured prevalence to defer or delay, simply by the virtue of there being more steps involved, diluted responsibility, and layered decision-making.

Despite his seniority, Ian was still a plantsman that sourced, grew and gave plants. Plants Ian once gave as gifts are still propagated, and seedlings are given as an acknowledgement to recipients of the Ian Galloway Memorial Cup. 

It is safe to say that without the influence and earnestness of Ian Galloway, New Zealand’s parks and recreation management systems would have developed in a far different manner. Ian had the foresight to ensure the increasingly diverse functions of the parks management system could continually improve through the integration and development of a professional administrative infrastructure. His methods can still be applied at network scales far larger existed in the 1980s.

People’s recollections and archival material repeatedly identify that Ian worked well with politicians and had a very pragmatic approach, where the respect and welfare of people was at the heart of parks management and the public service.

He said to a former staff member, Kit Howden, when he started working with Ian, "Parks are a great career for life and it's all about service.  You won't get paid much but from your service you'll get great rewards". 


Geoff Canham was awarded the Ian Galloway Memorial Cup in 2013.

Thanks to the contributions from Bruce Stokell, Kit Howden, Richard Nanson, Glenn McGovern, Dianne Paton, Rob Greenaway, Neil Tonkin and Mike Oates, and assistance from Deb Hurdle, the Wellington City Council Library and Wellington City Council Democracy Services. (+Photos and archival material available).  

 For archival information please contact Geoff  Canham


Ian Galloway photo.jpg

Director Ian Galloway.
Source: Deb Hurdle.

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The memorial plaque on the front of the Ian Galloway memorial chair.  Previous recipients of the Ian Galloway memorial cup used to accept the award on stage while seated in the chair.
Source: Karri Franklin, Wellington City Council.


One of Ian Galloways office chairs has been memorialised.
Source: Karri Franklin, Wellington City Council.

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