Harrogate’s is twinned with Wellington in New Zealand and has a well established link, recognising the association between the two towns/cities from the Second World War.
New Zealand air force crew were based in and around Harrogate and flew bomging raids over Germany from local airfield such as Linton-on-Ouse and Disforth. Sadly, many lost their lives and twenty-three are laid to rest in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Stonefall in Harrogate, four of whom are from Wellington.
Harrogate Borough Council gifted a mace to Wellington City Council in 1953 which was made by James R Ogden & Sons of Harrogate and bears the coat of arms from both Councils. A formal ‘sister-city’ twinning relationship was established in 1978. Harrogate is New Zealand’s only twin town in the UK.
There is also a New Zealand garden within the Valley Gardens which celebrates the friendship and also commemorates those who gave their lives during the war. This was formally opened on 21 June 1954 in the presence of the Deputy Mayor of the City of Wellington, and included plants supplied from New Zealand. In 2010, the New Zealand garden was refurbished by the Friends of Valley Gardens, again with plants donated by New Zealand, and the splendid Maori Pou Fennua carving was brought from New Zealand and blessed in a Maori service with a local choir.
In 2023, the New Zealand garden has again been refurbished, with a newly commissioned sculpture supported by generous donors, and a locally crafted bench donated by Wellington, as well as new planting.
New Zealand History
The ‘Beehive’ is the popular name for the Executive Wing of the Parliamentary complex in Wellington because of the building’s shape. This is where the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minsters have offices, and where the Cabinet meets
Sir Basil Spence, a British architect, designed a concept for the Beehive during a visit to Wellington in 1964. In his concept, rooms and offices radiated from a central core. This concept was developed by the Government Architect of the Ministry of Works. The Beehive was built in stages between 1969 and 1979, when the first parliamentary offices moved in.
The Beehive is 72 metres tall, it has ten floors above ground and four floors below. It is connected to Bowen House, where many members of Parliament and Ministers have offices, by an underground walkway that runs underneath Bowen Street.
Manuka honey has a long and fascinating history that dates back centuries in New Zealand. The word ‘Mānuka’ comes from the Maori language, which is the indigenous language of New Zealand. It is the name given to a small tree or shrub that is native to New Zealand. The Mānuka plant has cultural and medicinal significance in Maori tradition, and its nectar is used to produce the famous Manuka honey tree, one of which is located in the New Zealand garden within the Valley Gardens.
Kiwi are a significant national icon, equally cherished by all cultures in New Zealand. Kiwi are a symbol for the uniqueness of New Zealand wildlife and the value of their natural heritage. There are about 7,000 Kiwi left, New Zealand are losing 2% of their unmanaged Kiwi every year, which is around 20 per week.
The bird itself is a taonga (treasure) to Maori, who have a strong cultural, spiritual and historic associations with Kiwi. Its feathers are valued in weaving kahukiwi (Kiwi feather coat) for people of high rank.
In the early 1900s, cartoonists started to use images of the Kiwi bird to represent New Zealand as a country. During the First World War, New Zealand soldiers were referred to as ‘Kiwi’s’ and the nickname stuck. Eventually, the term Kiwi was attributed to all New Zealanders, who proudly embraced the moniker.
Ferns – the national plant of New Zealand
The silver fern was once proudly embraced by Pakeha (New Zealanders who are of European descent) as a symbol of their new-found home in New Zealand. The fern once anchored new Kiwi’s to the landscape. The fern’s appearance as a national symbol dates back to the 1880s, when Pakeha decided that they wanted to be New Zealanders, after all. Census figures in 1886 showed that native-born Pakeha now exceeded ‘Europeans’ living here but born overseas.
This new feeling of ‘belonging’ gave rise to the Native Associations, which formed after a success inaugural meeting of settlers in Westport in 1890 (inspired by similar movements in Australia and Canada). Branches soon sprang up all over New Zealand, giving rise to an outpouring of nationalist literature, poetry, songs and landscape paintings as Pakeha searched amongst the figurative undergrowth for an organic foothold.
By 1898, there were 2,500 members, with branches all over New Zealand, in centres like Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland, Westport, Thames, New Plymouth and Hawera. Politicians and professionals, as well as ordinary folk, flocked to join, eager to solidify their sense of being a ‘New Zealander’ (a term once directed only at Maori).
Most tellingly, though, the associations adopted the silver fern as their emblem, taking price in its natural simplicity. Its acceptance amongst Pakeha grew rapidly. Everyone was soon wearing the silver fern badge. A fern emblem was also worn by our troops in South Africa after 1899; our first Boer War commander, Major Robin, was farewelled in Dunedin by a huge Natives Association gathering. In Europe, after 1914, the fern was used to adorn Kiwi headstones on the Western Front.
Pakeha New Zealanders had found a symbol of home they could live with – the silver fern.