The Duke has to be on the led in the Cambridge Domain. And walking around the gardens there is no evidence of the rubbish and brambles that faced the newly formed Cambridge Domain Board in 1880. There is also no evidence of a pre European Maori pa where the playground and Art Society are now.
There is a tribal saying among local Maori attributed to King Tawhiao:
Ko Arekahanara toku haona kaha Ko Kemureti toku oko horoi Ko Ngaruawhaia toku turangawaewae.
Alexandra is my stronghold Cambridge is my wash basin Ngaruawahia is my footstool.
The first reference to the lake being called Te Koutu, that I can find, is in 1875 when Rewi Maniapoto and party called at Cambridge and set up camp down on the flat near Lake Te Koutu. Charles W S Purdie (landscaper) lay down the structure to beautify the Domain and by 1885 he had laid paths and, with the Board’s help, planted out over 3000 trees.
Thomas Brown looked after the gardening for the next twenty five years. New years day 1886 they had swimming races and played water polo on the lake and later boats were allowed until they were set adrift and upset the bird life. As children we were told the lake was bottomless, and it worked, we never went in the water.
But The Duke – he loves it. He’s off his lead and checking out all the sights and sounds and smells. A lovely tranquil oasis.