Hip-hop, Irish dancing and crosscountry running came together yesterday in a multicultural opening celebration for one of the country's largest new urban parks.

Several thousand Manukau residents formed "DiverzCity" for the day in a grassy amphitheatre where they saw 15 acts, from Korean breakdancers Gambler Crew to the Doyle Academy of Irish Dance.

Opening the 94ha park which bears his name, former mayor Sir Barry Curtis said he hoped "the Manukau sun will continue to shine on this idyllic place".

He recalled that it was a valley of dairy farms when it came into the sights of the city council, which had a policy of buying strategic land for parks well ahead of development.

"We bought it for a fair and reasonable price from the Anglican Church Trust Board - $2.9 million for 290 acres."

Sir Barry said he hoped construction would start soon on the Flat Bush Town Centre, which will be partly surrounded by the park.

Flat Bush is planned to become a town of more than 40,000 people but work on civic facilities has been put off for at least three years because of the economic downturn.

But at the park yesterday, the talk was of creating jobs and opportunities.

Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff strolled among the crowd, Mr Key stopping to chat to rap artists SmashProof, whose members are from Manukau and have a No 1 hit single Brother.

Away from the stage, many people sought the breeze in a twisting walkway through a planted wetland.

The playground was an instant hit.

Half Moon Bay couple Elizabeth and Darron Gedge said they came out of curiosity.

Mrs Gedge said "parks are important when you are a mum because you spend a lot of time visiting them and kids love them".

She was enjoying the new park. "There's a good sense of community out in the city's eastern suburbs."

The city council says the park, which is still being developed, will be bigger than the Auckland Domain and a cross-country fun run tested its gullies and hills as a future venue for national events.

From yesterday, most of the northern section is open to the public.

In addition to the festival lawn for events, the park includes a promenade known as the cultural axis, a number of areas for picnics, walkways, a walking and running route that will eventually go round the whole park, wetlands, and native trees planted along streams.