Tauranga volunteers honoured for five decades of tree planting
A Bay of Plenty pensioner group that has spent more than five decades planting trees at McLaren Falls Park near Tauranga has been named as a finalist in the annual Gardena Gardener of the Year awards run by NZ Gardener.
On Monday afternoons there's always plenty of activity at the popular 190ha reserve, as Bay of Plenty Tree Society members get stuck in – but there's plenty of laughter too. The answer to, "What do you do here?" comes back as, "Dig holes", while another wit chimes in with, "Give advice on digging holes".
This light-hearted approach, together with a genuine sense of camaraderie, is what's driven the society for 52 years as it has quietly created one of the best collections of rare and unusual trees in the country. So far this year, 120 trees have gone in, with many raised from cuttings, some of which will be swapped for trees they'd like to add.
"As our inventory's grown, it gets harder to source new stock," says John Nicholls, who uses his contacts in the nursery industry to seek new plants.
Now the park is well-established, volunteers – from all walks of life including farming, forestry and horticulture – are turning to understorey planting, as well as adding colour and smaller trees, although there's the occasional major specimen to be replaced.
Originally farmland that was purchased as part of an early 20th century hydroelectric scheme (the power station was decommissioned in 1981), the park is owned by Tauranga City Council and attracts steadily growing numbers – 100,000 vehicles in the last year.
Visitors driving, walking or picnicking among the 1600 or so different Thetaxa of trees may be surprised to know that every one has been planted by members of the Bay of Plenty Tree Society, which for many years also purchased the trees. The council came on board with funding only about seven years ago.
As well as planting, volunteers also build and install protection for young trees, and have a programme for naming specimen trees.
Their reward? "The enjoyment every visitor, no matter what age, gets from being out here among the trees," says BOP Tree Society president Dave Kershaw. "It's so peaceful we can forget we're working."
Cue more laughter amid comments that, "it must be time for a lie down".
New volunteers are welcome too. Call the park's Info Centre or phone 07 577 7000 and ask for the McLaren Falls ranger.
Have you made up your mind? Vote for the Gardena Gardener of the Year 2017 now.
- NZ Gardener