Pukeiti was founded by William Douglas Cook, who had a vision to create a vast natural garden of rhododendrons. With help from Russell Matthews, original owner and developer of Tūpare in New Plymouth, he found a bush block on Upper Carrington Road for sale in March 1950.
As Douglas walked through the 153.5-acre (65ha) block of bush, he was blown away by the filmy ferns and luscious landscape, as well as the views which included the surfbound coast, North Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu. He was also attracted to the clean and healthy looking rhododendrons which were still thriving despite being in an old and neglected garden. “One walk through is enough,” he said, and that night he located the owner and bought the property.
Cook donated the block to the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust and work soon started on developing the property. The official opening took place on Thursday 1 November 1951, when the gates were opened to visitors who walked from the shack right through to the summit along the bush track and partly formed road.
The physical ‘gut-busting’ work that people endured in Pukeiti’s early days were tempered by a ‘bush’ camaraderie, topped up with gallons of tea. Everyone shared the understanding that each task that was completed was one step further towards the realisation of a collective dream.
Today, thanks to hard work through the decades, Cook’s vision is a reality. This work set a strong foundation for efforts that continued through decades, resulting in a unique property known all over the world as a unique temperate rainforest garden.