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Christchurch South Rotary: John Taylor Walkway

Christchurch South Rotary and the John Taylor Walkway Project

Lew Brown & Sara McKenzie, Christchurch South Rotary —

Christchurch South Rotary came together to carry out maintenance work on the John Taylor Walkway at the Halswell Quarry Park.

The John Taylor Walkway was in desperate need of clearing up and cutting down. Working alongside the three Park Rangers, much was accomplished. Rotary fellowship was very much in evidence working together followed by a BBQ and finishing with a biography of John Taylor’s life and contribution to Christchurch. Christchurch South Rotary will return to the site in May/June to carry out tree planting. 

Christchurch South Rotary: John Taylor Walkway

In 2005, our club’s centennial project to mark the founding of Rotary on 23 February 1905, was for the members to construct a walkway at the Halswell Quarry Park. With agreement from the Christchurch City Council, it was named ‘The John Taylor Walkway’. So far, it is the only project undertaken in our club’s 65 year history to be named after one of its members. 

Christchurch South Rotary: John Taylor Walkway

John Taylor's biography follows:

John Osborne Taylor, MBE

John Taylor joined the Rotary Club of Christchurch South 14th August 1963. He was elected President for the year 1973-74. And was made a Paul Harris Fellow 21st April 1995. He passed as an active member 16th July 2005.  

John commenced his horticultural career as a trainee/student at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens in January 1941.
He was an Officer-Cadet in the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve and Royal Navy 1944-45. He was demobbed in London where he was accepted as a student at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, during which time he was awarded the Kew certificate and the C.P.Raffill prize for the best paper presented by a student. Returning to Christchurch in 1948, he was appointed foreman of the City Council’s plant nursery and later senior foreman at the Botanic Gardens. During this period he gained the National Diploma in Horticulture with honours and was awarded the Cockayne Gold Medal as the top New Zealand student that year.

In 1950 he was granted a fellowship to study at the Harvard University, the New York Botanic Gardens and the University of California Berkeley Botanic Gardens. He completed these studies with distinction. Two years later upon returning to New Zealand he was appointed assistant curator, Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

In 1954 John entered the commercial sector establishing successful horticultural businesses; J O Taylor Plant Hire, and he was joint founder of the Gardenways Garden Centre operation. While in business he was appointed a visiting lecturer at Lincoln University (then Lincoln College) for various periods between 1955 and 1969. In 1972 he was appointed senior lecturer, Department of Horticulture, Landscape and Parks, initially to establish the first course in park and recreation administration in New Zealand.

In 1979, in recognition of his outstanding contribution in the fields of parks and horticulture and to the community, he was awarded an MBE.

For many years John was an executive member of the N.Z. Institute of Park and Recreation Administration and his services to training and research were recognized by him being made an Honorary Life Fellow of the Institute in 1985. He was further honoured by the Institute in 1991 when he received the Ian Galloway Memorial Award for ‘Outstanding services, achievement and professionalism’.

Another of his major contributions was to the Royal N.Z. Institute of Horticulture. His first official involvement began in 1951, serving in various roles and later for six years as chairman of the Executive Committee. He was elected an Associate of Honour in 1973 and President in 1991. For over 25 years he was a member of the Institute’s examining board and for eight years National Moderator for the oral and practical examinations.

Of special interest to John was the Canterbury Horticultural Society. Elected to the Society’s Management Committee in 1956, he served on the committee and numerous sub committees, including a term as president, over a period of some 40 years.

In 1989 he was appointed coordinator for Christchurch’s and New Zealand’s participation in the 1990 International Garden and Greenery Expo being held in Osaka, Japan, a six month long event involving 80 countries and some 23 million visitors.

In 1994 he became the first New Zealander to be elected to the prestigious Kew Guild. The Guild had just celebrated its first centenary, which meant that John Taylor also became the first president of the Guild’s second century. This was an honour of which he was particularly proud.

As the new millennium approached, the Christchurch City Council was seeking ideas as to how best celebrate this momentous occasion. John soon found himself chairman of the ‘garden city’ committee whose role was to come up with a project that would celebrate the city’s garden image. His suggestion of an international park including gardens representing Christchurch’s six Sister City’s won the day. John’s vision eventually became a reality and the Halswell Quarry Park with its Sister City gardens is now attracting increasing numbers of visitors locally and beyond. John’s commitment to this project has been an inspiration to many of us, and perhaps for him his most satisfying achievement, providing as it does, an enduring legacy for future generations. He also initiated and played a leading role in establishing the Friends of Halswell Quarry Park, and was its president at the time of his passing.

John’s other commitments have included the Christchurch Garden City Trust, the Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and other special interest groups. He truly was a great influence in all he undertook professionally and in his personal life

‘Perhaps his greatest legacy, is the kind of person he was. His sense of commitment, duty and willingness to serve, to lead rather than be led, to act rather than leave it to others, have no doubt been an example and inspiration to many. Whether as teacher, practitioner, businessman, employer, chairman, horticulturist, garden judge, television presenter, writer, researcher, plant breeder, visionary or whatever, he invariably left his mark. He was such a great person to know – a true friend on whom one could rely through thick and thin. It could in fact be said, he was everybody’s friend. His strength of character, integrity, wise counsel, respect for others, compassion, generosity, cheerfulness and sense of humour endeared him to all" Mr Neiel Drain (Retired Head of Parks and Reserves - Christchurch City Council)

Today as we work on the John Taylor Walkway we acknowledge and acclaim John Osborne Taylor, MBE a past president of our Rotary Club a man who we remember with love and affection.