Curator Chris says caring for Pukekura Park has been a privilege

20 January 2019

The job of keeping the international Green Flag flying over NPDC’s world-class Pukekura Park is changing hands.

 Curator Chris Connolly is retiring this month and passing the banner to newly-returned Kiwi expat Kristian Davies.


Mr Connolly says he’s had a “fantastic” 12 years at the helm of the jewel in New Plymouth’s crown.


“Managing NPDC’s Pukekura Park has been an absolute privilege.  New Plymouth’s founders had great foresight to create such a fantastic and lasting asset back in 1876. It’s nationally significant,” says Mr Connolly. 


Among his achievements, he has built on Pukekura’s reputation by helping to establish WOMAD as an annual fixture at Brooklands Park and supporting the development and success of the TSB Festival of Lights.

For the last six years, Pukekura Park has earned a Green Flag, the international award for the world’s best parks and green spaces.


The keen surfer now plans to spend more time with his family, including two young grandchildren, and at some of his favourite breaks, such as Waiwhakaiho, the Kumara Patch, Back Beach and Graveyards.


“NPDC would like to thank Chris for his hard work and the great job he has done looking after and improving Pukekura Park,” says NPDC Chief Operating Officer Kelvin Wright. “We wish him all the best in the future and a happy retirement.”

Mr Davies, 42, takes over the reins after spending 15 years in London, where he ran his own landscaping business. 


He was keen to get back to a lifestyle that embraced his love of surfing, fishing and hiking – and New Plymouth ticked all the boxes.


He previously worked at the Auckland regional botanic gardens, where he developed an expertise in camellias, magnolias and Asiatic plants.


“I love the history of Pukekura Park. It has a great team it’s a fantastic conservation asset and seed bank.  I’ll be looking to carry on the vision and keep the Green Flag flying,” said Mr Davies.

 Chris Connolly fast facts

  • Born in Christchurch in 1953.
  • Family: Married, three sons, two grandchildren.
  • Education: trained first as a teacher before travelling and working overseas and studying horticultural science at Lincoln University.
  • Work history: teacher in Auckland, horticulture worker in Canterbury, Parks worker at Gore Borough Council, Parks supervisor at Manukau City Council, Parkscape Services Manager at NPDC, Curator at Pukekura Park.
  • Developments at Pukekura Park under his management include:
    • New main playground plus shade sails
    • Queen Elizabeth II Fountain upgrade
    • New lookout platform over the Main Lake
    • Pest management programme resulting in more native birds
    • Upgrade of the Fernery and Display Houses.
Chris Connelly at Pukekura Park with one of the 6 Green Flags that was awarded to the park during his term as curator