New names for two Ron Giorgi parks?
Three parks in Flaxmere all have the same name – Ron Giorgi Park; numbered I, II and III to tell them apart.
It has been very difficult to identify why all three have the same name, with no official records found on the matter (dating back to the 1970s). Now divided by Chatham Rd and Walton Way, the ‘best guess’ is that it was originally all one park named for the late mayor Ron Giorgi, later broken up by roads as housing development progressed. Ron Giorgi’s son Bruce, who lived in Flaxmere for 24 years and still lives in Hastings, confirms that, saying he remembers it as one park.
Over summer, the Flaxmere Planning Committee received many requests to investigate renaming two of them to reflect Flaxmere. Discussions with Hastings District Council’s park staff and Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst have been positive and so we are asking residents what the two names should be.
The call is going out for Flaxmere people to nominate a name(s) and explain, in 100 words or less, the reason for the name(s).
There will be a process to go through: Council’s parks team will need to run a short public consultation process in Flaxmere to help choose the names from those submitted, and a meeting of Council will need to officially accept the selected names.
You can submit your choice(s) and the reasons for them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can write them out and drop them in to a voting box in the Flaxmere Community Centre. Submissions close 1.30pm on June 30.
Who was Ron Giorgi?
There is no Wikipedia entry for Ron Giorgi and, given he died in 1997 so just missed the proliferation of social media, no Facebook footprint. Google him and the results are five pages of entries on the parks in Flaxmere named for him – but almost nothing on the man himself.
So who was this man for whom three parks are named in just one suburb? It is a question often asked in Flaxmere today.
Ronald Victor Giorgi, son of Arturo and Beatrice Giorgi, was born in Palmerston North in 1907 just a year after his father, with friend Maurice Millar, opened a second menswear shop in Hastings, after starting on
e foru years earlier in Palmerston North.
Ron attended Mahora School as a child and later Waitaki Boys' High School in Oamaru, as a boarder. As a teen he excelled at sports,
playing representative cricket for North Otago and Hawke’s Bay. He was a Hawke’s Bay junior rugby representative and a Mahora Swimming Club champion.
Ron would eventually take on the family’s menswear, including the business in Hastings, becoming the managing director. In 1934 he married Millicent Borrie, with whom he had four children: Madeline, Arthur, Elizabeth and Bruce.
Menswear was just one of Ron’s many occupations. After serving with the New Zealand Army in WWII from 1939 to 1945, he came home to Hastings and went on to become mayor, holding the position from 1959 to 1974.
Arguably, his most impactful contribution to Hastings was the development of Flaxmere.
During his tenure, Council purchased 184 hectares (455 acres) for a new township, named Flaxmere after the estate that it had been part of, and started to subdivide it for housing, a shopping centre and park.
Scouring the internet brings up a couple of snippets of his mayoral life – the opening of the Mayfair Hotel in 1960 amongst ‘much excitement and fanfare’, and welcoming Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Hastings War Memorial Library in 1964.
His interest in community was very broad; his list of positions including Hastings RSA president, Hastings Rotary president, Hawke’s Bay Retailers Association president, chief of Hastings Orphans Club, the chairman of the Hawke's Bay Crematorium Board, a member of the Underground Water Authority, the HHB Airport Authority and the Hastings Fire Board, among others.
He was awarded an OBE in 1970 and was a Justice of the Peace.