Mt Lees Reserve

Mt Lees Reserve is a favourite of Manawatū locals. A place that is special in the memories of many people who have visited here over the years, and a place of significance given it's history.

Prior to it being a reserve it was a farm that belonged to the late Ormond Wilson, a former Labour Party politician.  Ormond inherited the farm from his  grandfather Sir James Wilson (also a former MP) in 1930.  Whilst initially he had very little interest in farming, he soon became a passionate bush gardener and set about creating the gardens that people enjoy today.

Who Was Ormond Wilson?

Watch the video below to find out more about Ormond Wilson from his children, Frank Wilson and Cecilia Johnson.

A President Comes to Visit Mt Lees

In 1966, President Lyndon B Johnson visited Mt Lees as part of a fly in visit to New Zealand to shore up support for the Vietnam War. Here more from Frank and Cecilia about their experiences of that visit.

How did we end up with the reserve?

Ormond bequeathed the farm to the Department of Conservation in 1972, and through various means it is now managed by us, Manawatū District Council. Our Parks and Property Team have been implementing a plan to make enhancements to the reserve since 2020, which includes improvements to the bush walks, an adventure play area, and a StoryWalk. 

The history of Mt Lees has been captured in many different publications over the years, including a brochure that Ormond produced himself, detailing his own story with Mt Lees, and the strategies he took to create the garden that he envisaged.

The Walled Garden by Scott Eastham was partly funded through Manawatū District Council's Creative Communities Scheme. Scott wrote the book as a tribute to Ormond and the garden that he created. Scott passed away in 2013, but his wife Mary knew of a book that he had written about his own love for Mt Lees and set about getting it published, which eventually she was able to do in 2018. You can read more about Scott and Mary's story here.

The Grizzled Grist Does Not Exist StoryWalk

Manawatū District Libraries worked with Gecko Press, author Juliette McIvor and our Park and Property Team to bring Juliette 's children's book The Grizzled Grist Does Not Exist to Mt Lees as a StoryWalk.  Find out more by checking out the video below: