Weekend Sun   

Santa gets a lunch pass to the Elms

Santa Claus (grounds custodian Troy Edgecombe) is excited about Christmas and the summer lunch passes. Photo: John Borren.

Santa Claus was spotted this week on the grassy lawn in front of Tauranga’s Mission House.

It’s no surprise, as he’s heard about The Elms’ new garden lunch passes. The rumour is he’s planning a reindeer stopover on Christmas Eve.

It’s not just any garden – it’s received a prestigious honour that’s even caught the attention of St Nick himself.

In 2018, the New Zealand Gardens Trust registered the garden as a ‘Garden of National Significance’ with a 5-star rating.

“What makes this achievement so special is the illustrious company with whom we share our rating,” says The Elms Foundation manager Andrew Gregg.

“Including the Kerikeri and Pompallier Missions, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Olveston Historic Home and Government House in Auckland and Wellington.”

The Elms is one of the oldest New Zealand European gardens south of the Bay of Islands, originally created by the Church Missionary Society, along with The Treaty House gardens at Waitangi.

“At the beginning of November we started our summer hours, opening from 10am until 4pm daily,” says Andrew. “For locals we are offering a lunchtime pass for $15. This allows you to come into the grounds unlimited times over the summer lunchtime period, Monday to Friday from 11.30am – 1.30pm from November to March.”

A large wooden table under the tall trees offers a shady spot, as well as plenty of places to sit across the lawn to soak up the tranquility of Tauranga’s piece of paradise. The lunch pass card excludes entry to the house and library.

New duty manager Cherryl Thompson has previously worked as the education officer at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

“It is a privilege and a joy to work with the staff and volunteers in such a ‘rich in history’ beautiful setting,” says Cherryl.

On weekends Cherryl will be leading the large team of visitor hosts and volunteer guides who will be welcoming passengers during the busy summer cruise ship season.

This year The Elms was also awarded NZ Trust of the Year for 2018 and received the 2019 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor.

A major project completed over the winter has been the upgrade to The Elms front entrance with a bus bay, footpath upgrade and new carparks, all completed on time for the first cruise tour bus in October.

The team at The Elms is excited that the new TECT Heritage Garden near the south-western end of the property is close to completion. Master carver Whare Thompson is putting the finishing touches on the carvings and graphic designer Sonia Frimmel is developing the interpretation boards for installing around the site. Once both elements are ready there will be a formal opening.

Santa, aka grounds custodian Troy Edgecombe, is hoping that everyone in the Bay will pack a lunch and come many times over summer to visit Tauranga’s most treasured category one listed heritage site.

If you would like to become a Guide at The Elms, please get in touch with them. Their next training programme commences in February and spaces are limited.

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