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New Lyndhurst playground pays homage to Hastings orchardist Lawrie Cooke

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new playground in Lyndhurst has been named after a man whose surname is synonymous with growing fruit trees in Hastings, and the coming play equipment celebrates that history.

Lawrie Cooke grew trees for the orcharding industry for nearly 60 years on what now forms part of the Lyndhurst residential area.

The new playground, a result of the housing development, will be built in 2022. The theme is orcharding, from apple-red balancing balls and fruit-bin climbing and slide frame, to a play-tractor and mini-orchard, in recognition of the land's former use.

The playground, on Lawrie Cooke Reserve in Matariki Ave, will provide a local play area for residents of the Lyndhurst subdivision, as well as those in the wider Frimley area.

Lawrie established a number of nursery sites across Lyndhurst and the wider Frimley area, starting in the late 1950s, firstly growing asparagus plants and roses before specialising in fruit trees for the orchard industry.

Now retired, he was recognised for his contribution to the industry in 2004, being made a life member of Summerfruit NZ. In 2008 he was awarded life membership of the Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers Association.

His wife Jan joined him in the day-to-day running of the business, L.E Cook Nurseryman Ltd, from 1959.

The pair’s legacy lives on with their son and daughter-in-law Martin and Kelli Cooke now running the business, today one of the longest surviving fruit tree nurseries still operating in New Zealand. They grow up to 300,000 fruit trees of a wide variety each year, distributing them nationwide.

Although the area has changed a lot since those early days, the couple say the use of their name is a wonderful way to preserve their links to the area. "The grandchildren will be proud to think there’s a reserve and playground named after their grandad."

Hastings district councillor and chair of Council’s Great Communities subcommittee Eileen Lawson says the playground on Lawrie Cook Reserve is a wonderful way to reflect the heritage of the area. "Hastings is renowned for growing wonderful food and initiatives like this celebrate our horticultural success and the people who made it happen."

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