Although they have never been formally named, the beautiful hills on your right as you drive out of Helensville towards Kaukapakapa are known locally as the McKenzie Hills after a family who has farmed in the area for almost 70 years.
When Dr. Donald McKenzie, an Australian-born, Auckland-based neurologist decided to farm, he first bought an Awaroa Rd property, known as Te Pari, from the Sheffield family in 1948. He later added adjoining land closer to the river and donated a flat portion of it to be used as a racecourse. Over time people began calling the hills above the original racecourse, now the A&P Showgrounds, the McKenzie Hills. While Te Pari has now been sold, descendents of the McKenzies still farm the valleys behind the McKenzie hills.
The Helensville railway complex is one of the sites which looks out to the showgrounds and to the hills beyond, while in the foreground are railway cottages and the iconic Grand Hotel.
The hills have been painted by many artists, including prominent painter and print maker Stanley Palmer. Now, thanks to an invitation from the Helensville Railway Museum Trust, Ross Hughes’ working model of the Helensville railway tracks, which provides so much interest at the museum, has been enhanced by a skillfully painted backdrop of the McKenzie Hills and related buildings.
Art on Track members Lyn Chapman, Annabel Brechelt, Stella Owens and Marcia Barrowman, led by Audrey Jenkins, put in many hours to complete the backdrop. Care was taken to make sure the representation was authentic and there was a lot of discussion about things like colour, shading and the placement of buildings and trees.
Art on Track say it was a privileged to be asked to do the work and they all thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.
(Thanks to Don McKenzie, Brookside, Inland Rd, for information about the Mckenzie family).