Early champion of Woodlands, Fieldays dies, aged 94

Photo of Ken Holmes
Ken Holmes, from Between the River and the Hills, David More, 1976. Thanks to Alan Sharp for sourcing this photo.

Ken Holmes, active in the formation of NZ National Fieldays and the Woodlands Trust, has died, aged 94.

Local historian Alan Sharp says both Ken and his later brother Walton, were active as farming representitives in a large number of organisations.

Woodlands Estate manager Kirstie Alley says it was sad to hear about the passing of Ken Holmes.

“I’m not sure I actually got to meet him, but Rod Wise certainly talked well of him. One of his comments was that he was instrumental in the council being involved with Woodlands.”

Alan continues:


Walton and Ken (twins) grew up Cambridge way, and first mentions of him regarding Waikato District Council show him as a newish Cambridge member, along with Dave McGuire(Puketaha) our local member.

In the early 1970s he went farming at Whangamarino and was soon a Waikato County Council Deputy Chairman (now Te Kauwhata riding) and a reserve delegate of theirs to the Waikato Valley Authority. About that time he was also a trust board member on the trust that was responsible for Southwell School in Hamilton.

In the early 1970’s as the local council riding member for TeKauwhata he put his weight behind a Womans’ Division of Federated Farmers initiative to instigate a retirement village at Te Kauwhata…  He became the founding chairman of the Aparangi Retirement Home project.

Along with his brother, who remained active in Waipa farming politics, he strongly supported the establishment of the Waikato Town and & Country Society, now known as the New Zealand National Fieldays.

It was Ken Holmes’ support for the set up of the Woodlands Trust that saw the outgoing Waikato County Council and its replacement Waikato District Council take over the former Riddell Woodlands Homestead title, that was surveyed off the D S and I Riddell farm, which was then under the management of Presbyterian Support Services.

The dairy farm portion was offered to the extended Riddell clan, and was eventually sold to one of the families therein.  Both Ken and Walton became Woodlands Trust supporters.


The photo, below, shows one of the early the agricultural committee meetings at Waikato University.  Ken Holmes is first on the left, then Bryan Pleasants, Doug Baldwin, John Davison, Fraser Graham, Peter Craff, Vaughan Jones, Sir Don Llewellyn, Gordon Edgar, Dave Saunders, Peter Berry, Walton Homes (Ken’s brother), Graeme Howard, Laurie Atherfold, John Scott, John Webb.

Photo of early Fieldays committee
From the book Having a Fielday, by Linda Thompson



Fountain Woodlands

Kirstie Alley says the enthusiasm and vision of the original board and volunteers was key to what Woodlands is today.

“The original board and volunteers did such a great job of of  restoring of the Homestead and redeveloping the gardens, most of which is still in great condition today.    The money raised, the amount of people who volunteered their time or resources was massive.”

  • Ken Holmes was born in 1926 in Opotiki and passed away 6 May 2020 at Hilda Ross Hospital, Hamilton.
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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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