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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Acclimatization Gardens

Acclimatization Gardens.

The Canterbury Acclimatization Society has now been established and in working order for twenty years. In January, 1864, Mr. F. A. Weld, now Governor of South Australia, and a few other gentlemen met in Christchurch and decided to form a Society. The idea once mooted met with general acceptance. Meetings, public and private, were held on the subject, and Mr. W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., delivered a lecture, urging its claims, on the 31st March the same year. On the 21st April following, a public meeting was held in the Town Hall, His Honor the Superintendent in the chair, when a resolution was unanimously passed, "That a Society be formed, to be called the 'Canterbury Horticultural and Acclimatization Society,'" and another, that the Provincial Government be requested to place at the disposal of the Society such portion of Hagley Park near the Hospital as might be necessary for the objects of the Society.

Five days afterwards another public meeting was held, when His Honor the Superintendent was ex officio elected patron of the Society; Mr. F. A. Weld was elected President; the page 80Ven. Archdeacon of Akaroa, Messrs J. C. Wilson, Julius Haast, W T. L. Travers, M. Stoddart, and T. H. Potts, were elected vice-Presidents; and an influential Committee was formed, with Mr. G. Gould as Treasurer, and Col. Packe as Hon. Secretary.

Subsequently the Provincial Government gave the land—a portion of Hagley Park adjoining the Hospital—that was asked for to the Society, together with a grant of £1000; and subscriptions to the amount of £600 from the public having been received, the Society, in July, 1864, commenced operations with £1600 in hand; and the fencing and laying out of the grounds, together with the importation of birds, was proceeded with energetically.

The introduction of trout has been an important object of the Society since its very early years. In 1866 fish ponds were formed in their grounds, first supplied with water from a stream running through the south of Hagley Park; but subsequently artesian wells were sunk, which yield an abundant supply of pure water at a low and even temperature, i.e., 53° Fahrenheit, which is a great desideratum in breeding fish. The necessary shelter and shade were provided by planting various trees, thorn, broom, &c.

In June, 1867, the ponds being ready for the reception of fish, the curator was sent to Hobart, at the Society's expense, to bring down any ova that might be presented by the Royal Society, in accordance with a promise made the year previously: 800 ova were presented by the Commissioners, who attended most carefully to the supply of all requirements, and the necessary arrangements; but only three fish were hatched in the gardens, and they were lost, so that this first attempt to introduce the fish was a failure, the money spent on it by the Society had been thrown away, and the season lost.

In 1868 the first substantial success with trout was made, when a number of ova were obtained from Tasmania, through the Otago Government, a large proportion of which were hatched, and 433 young trout turned out as follows:—164 in the river Avon; 12 in the Heathcote; 25 in the Purau stream; 40 in the river Irwell; 20 in Lake Coleridge; 20 in the Cam; 20 in the Little Rakaia; 10 in Mr. Jenning's ponds at Rangiora; 10 in Mr. Peacock's ponds at St. Albans; and 112 retained in the Society's ponds in the gardens as a reserve for breeding.

In 1869 a second lot of trout ova was obtained from Tasmania with a moderate success, and some fish were distributed. Since then each year the breeding and distribution has been continued, till the Society can now point to the distribution page 81of about 250,000 trout in New Zealand, but principally throughout Canterbury, as one most beneficial and successful work it has accomplished.

At first sales of fish to private individuals were made at the rate of forty shillings per dozen, but as the trout became more numerous the price has been reduced, till now they are sold at ten shillings per hundred for young ones just old enough for removal. The number sold, it should be remembered, bears but a small proportion to that distributed free for stocking streams, &c.

Some description of the modus operandi in trout breeding, as carried on in the gardens, may be interesting to our readers. In the hatching house the ova are laid on the hatching boxes (about sixty in number), which are shallow, with the bottoms covered with fine shingle. The boxes are so arranged that the water runs in tiny waterfalls from one to another, one great object being to aërate it as much as possible.

The stripping of the fish of their ova commences in June and July, when the ova, after being cleaned, are placed in the hatching boxes. They hatch in about a month, but it is fully six weeks longer before they are fit for removal to the reservoirs. When about three months old they are ready for distribution.

There are three ponds in that portion of the gardens open to the public, containing mixed male and female trout; two ponds of gold fish; and one pond in which are perch. In the private part of the gardens there are nine ponds devoted to the breeding of gold fish, trout, perch, tench, and West Coast grayling. In this part also are some ornamental races, principally used for young fish, and for putting old fish in during the stripping season.

New ponds are being constructed near the river Avon, in which it is intended to put fish which, at the proper age, may be sold retail to householders who like their tables supplied with fresh trout, &c.

Besides fish there are in the gardens Ligurian bees that are thriving well; a monkey; three pairs of Paradise ducks; some Houdan, Spanish, black Bramah, bantam, and other fowls; two opossums, two native hawks; one owl (morepawk); some wekas; silver and other pheasants; Australian crested topknot, Wonga Wonga; and Bronze-wing pigeons; fallow deer; black swan; Chinese geese; rat kangaroos; peacocks and peahens, and blue mountain ducks.

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Altogether the visitor to Christchurch will find these gardens well worth inspection; while they are so tastefully laid out as to form a most pleasant and shady promenade. They are open to the public, without charge, daily (including Sundays) from early morning till sunset. Access to them can be gained either from the Domain or from the Riccarton-road a little beyond the Hospital.

The present curator of this portion of the gardens is Mr Starkiss, who has been in the Society's employment for thirteen years. Mr. S. C. Farr is their most enthusiastic and capable Secretary.