'Big picture' excites planner

Personal achievement: Dr Frank Boffa in the section he and his wife developed from an overgrown paddock.
Personal achievement: Dr Frank Boffa in the section he and his wife developed from an overgrown paddock.

Landscape planner Dr Frank Boffa has worked on major projects around the world, but his park-like Waikanae property is among his most treasured.

A New Zealand pioneer of landscape architecture, Boffa, 72, was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his services over four decades. He was one of five Kapiti residents to receive awards.

As a youngster growing up in Island Bay, Boffa wanted to be a market gardener, inspired by his summers working at his grandparent's tomato garden in Nelson.

But after high school, he took an apprentice gardener job with the Wellington City Council and a year and a half later started a Diploma in Horticulture at Lincoln College in Christchurch. That sparked his interest in landscape design, and he headed to the United States, where he studied landscape architecture for five years at the University of Georgia, and met his future wife, Vicki.

While working in the US, Boffa was invited to help set up New Zealand's first fulltime landscape architecture course, at Lincoln University in 1969.

"I did that for about 3 years and then decided I wanted to put into practise what I was preaching and what I had learnt . . . so I set up practice in Christchurch and from that it just grew."

Boffa said it was landscape design that first appealed to him, but that developed into a bent for site planning. "Identifying a site and deciding what its potential was, to me that was the exciting thing."

He started one of New Zealand's first landscape architecture consultancies, Frank Boffa and Associates in 1972, which became Boffa Miskell in 1985. The business began engaging planners and ecologists as work grew.

"It was about the time of Manapouri and some of the big environmental issues in New Zealand. People started taking notice of their wider environment rather than just their immediate landscape and gardens.

"And the Resource Management Act came in 1991, so we got caught up in that whole wave of . . . environmental consciousness.

"I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, doing the right sort of thing really."

Boffa Miskell grew to 150 staff and established offices in four New Zealand cities, and in China. Boffa served as board chairman and managing director for 35 years, before retiring in 2012.

He referred to himself as more of a landscape planner, than architect.

"I moved from that detailed design, very quickly, into the bigger picture stuff which interested me more from a professional sense."

He still works as a consultant and a resource management hearing commissioner.

And there was also the time spent maintaining his 1.3 hectare property.

The couple moved the family to Kapiti from Wellington for the lifestyle in the late 70s, and after 15-years in Paraparaumu Beach bought their Manu Gr property in 1991 following a long hunt for the right section.

The property had been subdivided from a farm and was a blackberry-covered paddock, but was on the edge of native bush and had dozens of mature natives, including kohekohe, tawa and rewarewa.

Over about five years he and his wife transformed the section before building the house. A digger was used to create an about 1000 square metre pond, formed around mature trees which now stand out impressively on islands.

The pond is home to eels, other fish, and ducks, while the section is alive with a variety of native birds.

The property had hosted many tours and had been on about six Waikanae Lions garden trails, he said.

"It's all about the house and the landscape and the way it relates to the bush and the water, and the mixture of natives and exotics."

There had been many professional highlights for Boffa, including being part of the winning design team that came up with Wellington's Lambton Harbour development.

He was also part of a team that worked on a management plan for the 500 square mile World Heritage Park at Angkor in Cambodia.

Boffa had also worked on many of New Zealand's "Think Big projects", and in the Pacific Islands and China.

Frank Kitts Park in Wellington and Cornwall Park in Auckland are other projects.

Locally, he worked on the first management plan for Queen Elizabeth Park in the early 80s, and several times since.

He had worked on, and opposed, many subdivisions in Kapiti, supporting the likes of Kapiti Environmental Action in the Environment Court.

One of his first jobs in Kapiti was helping engineers get approval to build the Waikanae sewage treatment ponds. "And about four years ago I was engaged by the Kapiti Coast District Council to do the decommissioning plan."

Unlike an architect, he said his work was often part of a larger collaborative effort, "and some of it takes a long time before you see the results".

"I've had a wonderful life from the sense of the places I've been to and the people I've worked with." He said it was "hugely satisfying" to be recognised, and credited the support of family and colleagues.

Boffa's other awards, include being made a life member New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects; a Distinguished Alumni Award, from the University of Georgia, an Honorary Doctorate of Natural Resources, Lincoln University, and the Alfred O Glasse Award, New Zealand Planning Institute.


Four other Kapiti residents received awards in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Waikanae’s Bryan Jackson has contributed to business and the community in the Wellington region for more than 50 years.

His roles include president of the Motor Trade Association’s Wellington branch and chair ntsGof Transit fornteof Transit New Zealand for three years until its merger with Land Transport New Zealand.

companion of the Queen’s Service Order

Paraparaumu Beach’s Dr Graham Stoop stepped down in 2013 after six years as chief executive of the Education Review Office to assume a deputy secretary role at the Ministry of Education.

Under his leadership the Office was recognised by the 2013 OECD review of evaluation and assessment methods for schools as a leader in international practice.

Queen’s Service Medal

Waikanae’s James Lower has been involved with the New Zealand Cadet Forces for 23 years.

He has been a patroller and committee member of the Waikanae town patrol and a volunteer office assistant at Waikanae police base since 2004.

Waikanae’s Jane Yoong is a Positive Ageing Ambassador for the Office for Senior Citizens.

Yoong was the chief executive officer of Age Concern New Zealand and has worked for the Office for Senior Citizens.

Kapiti Observer