Thank you, Harry Ell.
Without your dedicated work over many years, the residents and tourists in Christchurch wouldn’t have the wonderful reserves of the Port Hills to walk, cycle and play in.
Henry George Ell was a husband, father, soldier, stationer, politician, prohibitionist, conservationist, and was the driving force behind the establishment of the reserves on the Port Hills, and the building of the Summit Road. By the time of his death in 1934, some 500 acres of reserves had been created, with the help of his “Ell’s Angels”. His Summit Road scheme was a very important employer in the time of the Depression, although he himself was a known as a tough taskmaster.
His vision was to have a series of resthouses along the Summit Road for use and enjoyment of people walking – hence the Sign of the Takahe (built last, and finished in 1949 after his death), Sign of the Bellbird, Sign of the Kiwi and Sign of the Packhorse. The resthouses were designed by Samuel Hurst Seager.
Along with his work on the Port Hills, Harry Ell served as a Christchurch City Councillor (1903, 1917-19), and a Member Parliament (1899-1919) where he worked to improve schooling, the banking system, access to Old Age Pensions, and was instrumental in the passing of the Scenery Preservation Act. He is really remembered for his work as conservationist: he wanted to preserve forests to conserve soil and water, and create reserves and afforestation programmes to ensure adequate timber supplies and to provide better training for scientific foresters.