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New Lawrie Cooke Reserve and playground pays homage to local orcharding history

Lawrie Cooke Playground Opening

Several generations of the Cooke family along with industry friends and neighbours gathered last weekend for the official opening of the Lawrie Cooke Reserve – the new green space and playground in the residential development of Lyndhurst.

The new reserve, which fronts onto Matariki Avenue, is named after noted Hastings nurseryman Lawrence (Lawrie) Cooke.

The growth of the residential development in Lyndhurst had necessitated the new reserve for the area; a space where neighbours could relax and children play.

Mr Cooke, along with his wife Jan grew trees for the orcharding industry for nearly 60 years in Hastings and that legacy lives on today with son Marty and daughter-in-law Kelli now running L.E. Cooke Nurseryman Ltd – one of the longest surviving fruit tree nurseries still operating in New Zealand.

On October 15 2022, Lawrie Cooke passed away at Hawke's Bay Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital, aged 91 years in the presence of his family.

Mr Cooke’s daughter Margot said it was bittersweet that while Lawrie had seen some progress on the playground he was not there to see it opened.

“We are delighted and very proud that this reserve bears his name – I’m sure he would have been pleased with how it looks – it’s a great tribute to a true plantsman.”

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it was very special to have family members, as well as a number of past nurserymen and community members, attend the playground’s opening.

“When the plans started being made for this green space it was an obvious and easy decision to name this reserve and playground after Lawrie to recognise his contribution to the fruit-growing industry.

“Through the design of this playground, we wanted to create something that would give a new generation a reminder of the past.”

This includes play equipment that is fruit-inspired – ‘fruit bin’ climbing frame and slide, play tractor, fruit colour scheme and surfacing.

In time it will also include a mini orchard with trees kindly donated by L.E. Cooke Nurseryman.

Find out more on this playground page.

29 November 2022

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