News | 31 January 2022

Street Smart: Spotlight on Cockayne Road

We're highlighting Cockayne Road in Khandallah and its fascinating botanical history.

A black and white photo of Cockayne Road from intersection with Calcutta Street taken in the 1930s.
Cockayne Road from intersection with Calcutta Street in the 1930s. Wellington City Council Archives, 00138-2754

Cockayne Road was named after Dr. Leonard Cockayne (1855 - 1934), a New Zealand ecological botanist of worldwide reputation, who lived for some years in the suburb of Ngaio. 

His efforts and knowledge about the world of botany are present in Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush which he was deeply passionate about. The Ōtari-Wilton's Bush plant collections which contain about 1,200 species, hybrids and cultivars were started by Dr. Cockayne in 1926.

It was his aim to set up a collections of solely New Zealand native plants, displayed in family groups or as re-created ecosystems representing different areas of New Zealand. Almost all the plants there have been grown from cuttings or seeds collected from their original habitats.

He is fittingly interred within the reserve, among the plants he knew and understood so well. 

The grandaughter of Dr Leonard Cockayne placing flowers on memorial.
Dr. Cockayne's granddaughter placing flowers on his memorial in 1952. Wellington City Council Archives, 00340-1618

Dr. Cockayne was described by other renowned plant experts like Lord Bledisloe as "the greatest of the Empire's botanists". 

"Unrecognised and unlabelled at first, Cockayne in New Zealand was already an ecologist waiting for the term to be adopted by botanists, and fully trained to lead the way, not in New Zealand only, but in the world." - Sir Arthur Hill, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

The street came to be known as Cockayne Road in 1935. Prior to this it was known as a portion of  Old Porirua Road.

A green background with a white ball on legs walking with

Wellington City Council looks after more than 700km of streets across the capital, and each one has its own unique story. Check out Our Wellington and our social media channels for more articles, videos and interesting snippets.