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It’s on the site of the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, which opened in the 1880s, evolved over time then finally closed as a hospital in 1973.
Janet Frame was just a budding author during her stay as a patient. But she wrote so eloquently that when her first book received a national prize, an upcoming lobotomy was cancelled at the last minute. Today, a magnolia tree has a plaque quoting a piece she wrote while there.
It’s like an informal arboretum. You reach it by first passing large lawns, a sports field, specimen trees and the foundations of the asylum. The building footprint is clearly visible.
Follow your nose and guess how good the garden used to look. You keep coming across random remnants: a bridge here, a clearing there or a sudden change in vegetation. Huge trees add to the air of a heavy past. Locals have continued the historic kaupapa through recent tree planting.
- Clare Fraser