The Dolbel Reserve

To honour the Rotary Theme "Preserve Planet Earth", in 1991, Ron Ward suggested to members that the Club should take on a tree planting project. Kel Tremain suggested they might like to start with some of his land which was barren and so a group including Bob Knappstein, Club President at the time started. Shortly after they were approached by Don Bell, Parks and Reserves curator for the Napier City Council to see whether the group would like to apply their energies to the Dolbel Reserve. They completed the Tremain project and then turned their attention to the Dolbel Reserve.

During a 3 Minute Talk in 1998, John Burrell was reported in the Bulletin as follows;

"John gave a very concise and informative talk on the Dolbel name and its origins. Philip Dolbel was born in Jersey in 1827 and became a seafarer with a shipping business. Arrived in NZ in 1855 and eventually moved to HB and opened a general store in Clive with brother Richard. He brought Springfield Station in 1865 and later Redcliffe. The brothers farmed both properties, and this land included what is the Dolbel Reserve. Philip also farmed the Maungahararu Station at Tutira, but suffered property loss during the Hau Hau rebellion, and sold. By 1891 he had a flock of 25,000 sheep. He served his province in national government, and also represented Puketapu on the HB County and Harbour Board. He died in 1901- a bachelor."

Bill Beatons recollections of the early history of the block.

In 1974, the Dolbel family decided to sell the Redcliffe Station by auction. Bill attended the auction. The McDonalds purchase block 5 and Carter Holt purchased block 4 for housing development. The Beaton-McDonald family sold their share to Carters 12 years later. The Napier City Council required Carters to make a donation to their Parks and Reserves, so Carters made the area, now known as Dolbel Reserve, available as a recreational area.

Early Development

Initially a large scrubby area had to be cleared, and this was done with the help of various groups.

Dolbel Reserve 1995

Taradale High School pupils  got involved and they planted the first block at the bottom in autumn coloured trees.

Patricia Weston and Libby Cox, Taradale High School

Taradale Intermediate students help with planting 1991

Taradale High School plant trees on Kel Tremain's property 1991

Taradale Primary students, with Estelle Ward, help with planting 1995

Taradale Primary students help with daffodil planting, 1995

In 1992 2000 nurse trees, provided by the Dept of Conservation, were planted with the help of PD workers. Native trees were then sort through donation, many in memory of loved ones. The Club was asked to donate trees and Ron got these at discount prices.

"In the early days Ron ran the group on an ad hoc basis to start with with Bob Knappstein, Bob Twaddle, Greg Gear, and Arthur Stafford working when available. More recently a properly constituted committee has been established by the Club, and a yearly allowance is available. This group works very closely with the Napier City Council. Other groups such as Napier West Rotary and Pakeke Lions were active in earlier years and various school groups continued to help.


The ongoing development was directed by Taradale Rotary in co-operation with the Napier City Council. Groups such as Forest and Bird and Keep Napier Beautiful are now also actively supportive as was the Hawke's Bay Regional Council. A great deal of work continues to be done by the Club's weekly working bees. Memorial trees are often donated.

Ron Ward, Greg Gear and Ray Burney

Claire McGechan feeds the workers: Bob Knappstein, Selwyn Dyer, Greg Gear and Des Stephens

The Dolbel Memorial Gates

In 2003, the Reserve was greatly enhanced with the construction of a set of gates at the entrance to the lower flats. Planned by member Ian Kepka, the gates were funded by a range of donations, including the Dolbel Family. The Club was the major donor, with $20,000 from Auction Funds. The gates are called the Dolbel Memorial Gates and features a retaining wall along the northern side of the car park area. The mayor, Barbara Arnott, opened the gates in July 2003.

Project Donations


Taradale Rotary                   $20,000

Dolbel Family                     $10,000

Pub Charity                          $6,955

E&C Community Trust           $5000

Taradale Lions Club            $4,500

Napier City Council              $4,000

Donations                             $1,000

Project Cost                         $51,455

Barbara Arnott, Mayor, opens the Dolbel Memorial Gates

Ray Burney (Committee Chairman), Ian Kepka (Gates designer and builder),

Barbara Arnott (Mayor), Ron Ward (Committee), Allan Tuck (President)

The Dolbel Memorial Gates

Developments 2000-2010

  • In 2000 Ron Ward relinquished leadership of the Dolbel Group within the Club to Ray Burney. This job requires on going liaison with the City Councils Parks & Reserves Committee. Ray Burney took over as Chairman and served until 2006. Selwyn Dyet then assumed leadership and currently leads the group.

  • A major 5 year plan has been established and its implementation is well under way.

  • Greenmeadows Rotary Club is now associated with the Colenso Block.

  • In 2004 the Taradale Rotary Club's Planet Earth Project team were rewarded for their work with recognition by the Hawke's Bay Environmental Committee who awarded them the Community section of their Awards.

  • Following the road deaths of 4 Japanese students at the Chesterhope Bridge, a block was developed alongside the parking area near the gates. Paid for by the parents of the deceased students, with help from the Japanese government, Cherry trees have been planted and the area is known as Cherry Grove.

  • Many trees are memorial trees, paid for by the family of the deceased.

  • School children have continued to play a prominent role in tree planting. In 2008 the children of Reignier School planted a Kauri tree at the top of the Upper Native Block to commemorate the 55th Anniversary of Sir Edmunds conquest of Mt Everest.

Ron Ward shows one of the early plantings in Cherry Grove

Tom McDonald memorial tree on the Exotic Block

  • During this decade, the Napier City Council have paid for about 10km of walking tracks being developed. These have proved very popular with local people.

Club's Historic Contributions to Dolbel Funding

1996             $1,030

1997                $132

1998                $784

1999                $551

2000            $2,214

2001            $1,000

2002          $26,000

2003            $3,000

2004            $3,000

2005               $341

2006           $2,018

2007           $2,000

Exotic Block development 1994



2010 Taradale High School Students sell papers and buy trees

During the July school holidays, Selwyn Dyet, Club President, and his team of Dolbel workers met with a group of 20 high school students from Taradale High School and their science teacher Parama Naidoo to plant 30 trees on the slopes of the Lower Native Block in Dolbel.

These students have been involved in a project whereby they collect newspaper and cardboard for recycling. The material is sent to Tauranga and the proceeds are then used to purchase young tree for planting. Taradale High School, along with Napier Boys' High School and Marewa Primary, make their trees available to be planted in the Dolbel Reserve.

Selwyn Dyet explains how its done

Students put it to practice


The involvement of Taradale High School students continues the long tradition of  students being involved in the development of Dolbel Reserve.

Taradale High School students listen to Selwyn

(L to R) Stephanie Atkins, Supriya Roy, Hannah Dixon and Emma Jones.

Autumn Colours


Selwyn Dyet, the Group Chairman, wrote-

Once again the Dolbel Reserve Group, consisting of six Taradale Rotary Club members and eleven non-Rotarians has had both a rewarding but somewhat frustrating year.

Over six hundred native and deciduous trees were planted, including several Memorial Trees on behalf of family groups and individuals. This larger than normal planting was carried out with the knowledge that the new extensive watering system would be up and running prior to the dry summer months. The installation of a storage facility at the summit of the park was extremely well received considering we had been promised a steel burglar proof container for at least five years.

Once again a member of the public has made a generous gesture in donating a further seat which is located on the upper reaches of the park.

The disappointment of the 2008/2009 year was the decision by Napier City Council to withdraw its consent to allow Taradale Rotary Club and the Dolbel Reserve Group to build a lookout as a 50th Anniversary Project. Reversal of this decision was difficult to accept considering the many hours and the major financial contribution made by both the Rotary Club and the group members since 1992.

And thanks also to Greenmeadows Rotary Club which is becoming more involved each year and a very special thank you to the seventeen members of our group for their loyalty and support.

In a talk to the Rotary Club of Taradale in 2016, Selwyn continued with the development story-

He took over the development group in 2004, determined to get more support from P&R, and Works and Assets. A visit to Tony Billing at P&R, cleared the way and things have been much better ever since. A gravel track to the top of the hill was the first essential. This was approved and Higgins, through PP Alan Tuck and past member Hans Hollis, were of great assistance. The relationship with the Council is the best it has ever been, and as a result, the development group has agreed to take on the Helliwell Block which was being grazed by sheep. Ross Ross-Taylor leads a group developing this area.

Selwyn then spoke about memorial trees. Ron Ward had permission from the City Council to plant memorial trees where families could plant trees with a memorial plaque. However, the Council then band all flowers and plaques other than in cemeteries. The exception is Dolbel where the practice can continue, provided ashes only are placed in the hole at the foot of the tree. Currently twelve applications for memorial trees and plaques are being processed but the Council is reconsidering this practise across all its parks and reserves.

Slips have been a problem over time, but the team has found that flaxes and cabbage trees are the best plants for stabilising the ground, so problems with slipping is now infrequent.

Since 1992, the Rotary Club of Taradale, along with other voluntary groups including our own dedicated volunteers, who carry out their duties every week, have contributed well in excess of $120,000 towards this very worthwhile project, along with many thousands that the Napier City Council Parks and Reserves have contributed as well. Over 12,000 native and deciduous trees have been planted throughout the Reserve in this time.

Club Meeting 12th April 2018

Selwyn Dyet covered the exciting future for Dolbel Reserve as it had been chosen for long term investigation on the native trees in a selected 10m x 20m plot by three New Zealand Universities, and one from USA, who will be monitoring these plots for many years. This confirms Dolbel Reserve’s high rating as few such Reserves were chosen.

Following his talk to the Club, Selwyn was presented with a Sapphire pin in recognition of his work in leading a group of willing workers who continue to develop and maintain the park to a very high standard. His team were present at the meeting and all received Certificates of Appreciation for there services to Dolbel.