Cornwall Park 100 Year Master Plan



Auckland, New Zealand | Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Charlottesville, VA, New York, NY | Client: Cornwall Park Trust Board


The Landscape Architect has completed work on a 100-year master plan to guide the development of Cornwall Park, one of New Zealand’s most valued public urban spaces. The project offered a remarkable opportunity to think on a vast time scale as it designed towards achieving balance between three important elements: the Cultural Landscape of the Maori, early settlers and the founder’s vision, the Agricultural Landscape of New Zealand and the ecological assets of the site. The master plan balanced these layers along with the park’s programs and the supporting infrastructure. The resulting plan expands the park’s capacity to sustain healthy urban ecologies and will educate and delight visitors of all ages for the next 100 years.


The landscape architect was hired to envision the development of Cornwall Park in Auckland, New Zealand over the next century, continuing the legacy of long-term planning and visionary thinking established by the park’s founder, Sir John Logan Campbell, who sought to ensure a park that provides a world-class public space for recreation and enjoyment for its citizens

The 425-acre Cornwall Park is a jewel and beloved landscape in Auckland - New Zealand’s largest and most diverse city. Nearly half of Auckland’s population comes from overseas, with over 180 ethnicities represented. Gifted to the people of New Zealand by Sir John in 1903, the park has been surrounded by a landscape transformed over the last century from farmland to residential neighborhoods. The park has become a refuge for city residents as well as a unique ecological resource in the heart of the city. Sir John envisioned Cornwall Park as a public landscape to serve a rapidly growing populace, a vision that the master plan embraces and reinvigorates. Cornwall Park is set at the base of Maungakiekie, the most extensive former Pa, or Mauri hill fort, in the city. The Maori were the first human inhabitants of the landscape beginning a pattern of humans shaping the landscape and ecology. Within the park, visitors can experience geologic formations, Maori earth works, remnants of Sir John’s agricultural endeavors, active pasture land, open lawns, an extensive arboretum and incredible views over Auckland and the surrounding harbors. Visitor surveys have shown an appreciation for the activities and opportunities at Cornwall Park for the connection provided with nature and farming, family celebrations, and quiet contemplation, as well as a frustration with limited accessibility, inadequate facilities and vehicular traffic congesting the park’s core spaces.

The master plan illustrates how to build on the park’s distinctive characteristics and bring amenities, spaces and experience in line with a 21st century public park that serves a diverse and growing populace. It proposes that the next era of the park be characterized by an exemplary pedestrian experience, expanding the area and connectivity of park land by relocating automobile parking away from the core to the perimeter. This provides the opportunity to redesign the path network for greater pedestrian accessibility, connectivity and enjoyment while creating new spaces for gathering, sports and events. Existing park spaces are integrated and adapted within this updated framework, with suggestions for improvements to facilities, planting and programming. The master plan has been guided by a set of principles developed in collaboration with the Cornwall Park Trustees and staff, and a diverse consultant team including members of the Maori leadership, and local experts in transportation planning, ecology, archaeology, history, engineering and user services.

The landscape architect used the richly layered character of the park to provide the framework for articulating these principles, along with milestones and strategies for achieving them. Five distinct elements or layers were employed in this strategy: the Cultural Landscape, Ecology, Agriculture, User Experience, and Infrastructure.

The park has an excellent opportunity to help the public appreciate and celebrate the cultural history of the region. This begins with a deep respect for the land, for the stories that it holds and the remnants of culture embedded within. To encourage this appreciation, the plan proposes cultural walks, management of heritage structures within the park, and strategies for preserving historic forms in the landscape. The plan also acknowledges that the park will continue to evolve as a place for cultural expression and allows for continued adaptation.

For the first time, the park’s existing ecology has been studied along with its role in larger regional ecological networks. This has led to master plan initiatives that connect habitat within the park for the endangered copper skink; to commit to monitoring and assessment of its natural resources and to perform as an important regional refuge for wildlife.

The master plan looks at ways that the incredible beauty of the park can live on for generations. It identifies why these places are appealing, and how they can evolve to in the years to come. The plan looks at ways that users will enjoy the beautiful grounds, locally sourced food, exercise and sports opportunities, and ways to learn about the incredible history of the land.

The remarkable qualities of the landscape of Cornwall Park have been treasured since the foundation of the park. Austin Strong, the landscape architect of the original master plan for the park in 1903 remarked that the park “...cannot be surpassed for the magnificence and beauty of its natural situation.” This plan recognizes the beauty in all aspects of the parks character, providing a vision for integrating the park ecology, agricultural practice and cultural heritage into a singular park experience, preserving and strengthening these distinctive qualities so the park may continue to be a treasured place of recreation, enjoyment and learning for the next generations.

Agriculture is a significant layer in the legacy of Cornwall Park. The master plan recognizes the thriving agricultural program of the park and offers methods for bringing it to the attention of visitors, offering access to a greater diversity of products, and celebrating the land’s rich gardening history. A proposed agriculture center helps organize these initiatives, provides moments of interface between agricultural activities and the public as well as opportunities to experience the unique terroir and holistic approach to farming.

A major opportunity for the park involves a transformation of its road system. The large expanses of carpark will be gradually relocated on the perimeter, increasing space for pedestrians and other park users within the park’s core. A new shuttle service can provide continued access and connectivity. The roadways become graceful, generous and safe pedestrian walks, increasing the enjoyment of the park by all. A major new connection over Green Lane Road is provided by a land bridge that rejoins the park in a dramatic way and recalls a historic approach to the summit, beginning at Campbell Crescent. The maintenance yards and staff hub is relocated in a redesigned Operations hub along with the Farm Center. This central location improves access and possibilities for shared resources.

The plan imagines a Cornwall Park that remains the treasure of Auckland and a favorite destination for its citizens. Amidst a dynamic future, the plan exemplifies a commitment to the founder’s principle of providing public places for recreation, exercise, learning, cultural expression, connection to the land and to nature, and strengthening the bonds of community. As an institution promoting the common good, Cornwall Park will be at the vanguard for demonstrating ways to protect its sacred ground, for celebrating its heritage, and expressing New Zealand’s agricultural roots. The plan provides a vision away from the automobile-centric past century towards a pedestrian, accessible and engaging space. The master plan champions a contemporary discourse of how public spaces can restore regional ecological systems. Inspired by the spirit and example of Sir John Logan Campbell, the park’s founder, this master plan endeavors to chart a course to achieve and sustain this vision for the coming century.

"Our ability to read and comprehend this project quickly during adjudication was a mark in its favor. Very clear and accessible for non-professional audiences thanks to the graphics and organization."

- 2015 Awards Jury


NBW Design Team

Thomas L. Woltz, FASLA - Principal
Breck Gastinger, ASLA - Senior Associate, Project Manager
Chloe Hawkins, ASLA - Designer, Project Manager
Jeremy Jordan - Associate
Evan Grimm - Associate
Kezia Ofiesh - Designer
Daniel Irving, ASLA - Designer
David Lepage - Graphics
Tim Popa - Contract Manager, Documents

Consultants / Partners

Boffa Miskell, Limited
Rachel de Lambert, Director, Design
John Potter, Associate Director
Sam Bourne, Associate Principal
Simon Chapman, Ecologist
Sarah Flynn, Ecologist
Rachel Turner, Ecologist
Georgia Cummings, Ecologist
Eynon Delamere, Strategic Advisor - Maori
Jennifer Parlane, Designer
Harrison Greirson Engineering
John Tik, Engineering Director
Daniel Scott, Senior Engineer

Flow Transportation Specialists

Bronwyn Coomer-Smit, Senior Transportation Planner
Sandy Mills, Senior Transportation Planner

Tamaki Collective

Paul Majury, Chairmain

Auckland Council

Mace Ward, Auckland Council

Ngati Whatua Orakei

Malcolm Paterson
Hana Maihi
Eru Wilton


Mark Vinall, Planner

Clough and Associates Archaeologists

Rod Clough, Archaeologists
Simon Bickler, Archaeologist

Geoff Canham Parks and Recreation Consultants

Geoff Canham


Eddie Chingnell, Arborist
Martin Herbert, Arborist
Russell Stone, Historian
Lucy Mackintosh, Historian
Bruce Hayward, Geomorphology
Steve Gray, Architect
Mike Wilcox, Trees/Forestry
Ewan Cameron, Botany