Olympic Park in New Lynn isn’t really hidden (it is fully visible from a major arterial route) but I’ve called it that because I have driven past it for 3 decades without realising that there is more to it than a children’s playground and a sports stadium. Recently I had to fill in time while I was waiting for my car to be ready nearby so I took a walk to explore it – and was very pleasantly surprised.
Winding through the middle of the park between the playground and the stadium is the Wai Tihurangi/Avondale Stream that feeds into the Whau River. There is a 1.4 km walkway with tracks on both sides of the stream, with side tracks into the native bush, that links a series of local artworks commemorating the history of the area. Olympic Park is also the site of environmental restoration projects and is a designated Avondale spider sanctuary.
Olympic Park sits at the mid-point of the historic portage route used by Māori to travel between the Manukau and Waitematā harbours. One of the artworks is a pou (post) sculpture by Te Kawerau a Maki artists John Collins and Sunnah Thompson. There is also a wire sculpture of a Hinaki or eel/fish trap along with some bronze tuna (eels) and a waka (canoe).
The park was given its name in honour of the New Zealand athletes who competed in the 1948 Olympic Games. There is a large mural on the side of the stadium celebrating the various sports, and on a nearby building there is a mural of various musical activities.
At the northern end of the park by the rail bridge there is a sculpture by Peter Nicholl, that uses timber from the original bridge. The first official train took passengers from Auckland to the Henderson Mill Races in 1881. Originally the trains ran all the way up to the timber mills at Helensville on the Kaipara Harbour.
There is an art bridge designed by Steve Woodward crossing the stream with views of the native bush in both directions. There is also a Louise Purvis sculpture of ceramics, Homage to Crown Lynn. The Crown Lynn potteries/ceramics operated in New Lynn from 1925 through to its closure in 1989.
The state-of-the-art playground, sandpit, and climbing nets “have something for the whole family£, there are basketball courts, a concrete cycling velodrome, and sports fields, and a covered stage is used for events. Olympic Park was awarded The Outstanding Park Award by the New Zealand Recreation Association in 2017.