S Percy Smith: Board Member 1902 – 1918

In 1849 as a nine-year-old, Smith arrived in New Zealand with his family. His mother’s brother was Charles Hursthouse who had persuaded the family to emigrate. He was an adventurous young man and in 1857  with five friends  including Arthur Standish and Wilson Hursthouse  did an ascent of Mount Egmont taking them five days.  In 1858, again with Standish and Hursthouse a party of five friends embarked on a two month trek of over 500 miles via Mokau to Taupo region and back via Wanganui. They used canoes and horses but the majority was on foot.

His career as a surveyor started in 1855 as a cadet with Octavius Carrington. In 1866 while on a field trip with Carrington they were ambushed and fired upon. Fortunately they all managed to escape unharmed. During his illustrious career Smith had many notable achievements around the country but locally he was responsible for developing the road from Opunake to Kaupokonui. By 1889 he worked his way up to surveyor general of New Zealand. On his retirement in 1900 he returned to New Plymouth.

He was also an amateur ethnologist and wrote several important books on Maori history including Hawaiki. He co-founded the Polynesian Society and when he returned to New Plymouth after his retirement the headquarters of the society moved with him. When the Taranaki Museum was opened in 1902 Smith was a major contributor and gave the opening address. Smith also headed a Scenery Preservation Commission set up by the government in 1904. The commission identified scenic and historic sites to be made into reserves. They identified 416 sites of which 61 were gazetted by 1906 when the commission was disbanded. Some notable reserves created were: Otari–Wilton’s Bush, Kennedy’s Bush, Motukaraka Island, Te Kawau pa, Turuturumokai pa and Ship Cove in the Marlborough Sounds.

In 1920 Smith was awarded the prestigious Hector Memorial Medal.

One of his most notable pieces of work during his time at the Recreation Ground was the development of the Serpentine which extended the main lake down to the southern boundary. He also came up with the name of Pukekura Park and felt strongly that the name should have Maori roots.