Digging In - QE Park Trust Chair John Lancashire
In our Jubilee year it is important to briefly look back to realise that we have come a long way in 60 years.
In 1953 Queen Elizabeth Park was not a pretty sight – a few open paddocks, degraded dunes and wrecked bush remnants. A few hardy souls such as June Rowland and Daphne Steele and others started to nag the then Regional Council, suggesting that a special effort was needed to develop the Park into a wonderful green space for local community recreation. Eventually the Council started to come on board and started to support the local volunteers. But there were always threats. It was suggested that the Park should house not one but two golf courses. 10 years ago a local pressure group with support from parts of KCDC pushed very hard for a motor racing track in the Park. The Community said NO. As a result GW established the Friends as a link with the community and the track proposal died.
After this the Friends together with GW started to fund raise and gained $200,000 in competitive grants for a big programme of planting and restoration (200,000 plants in 10 years ). Streams were protected; a rare dune forest remnant was protected and extended; wetlands were established and the rare dunes restored and protected. The work extended beyond plantings, with a successful campaign to save the 100 year old barn with a huge in-kind effort by local vol-unteers. In December 2012 the Friends won the Community Partnerships Encore award with a citation that read "The Friends have been protecting and restoring the Park's valuable ecosystems for nearly a decade. Their strong leadership and advocacy has contributed to Queen Elizabeth Park's environmental, conservation and recreational values".
In our Jubilee year a special Arbor Day event was held. The Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae was our guest speaker and he said "that by planting trees it shows our willingness to consider the environment and to continue improving it for future generations". Pupils from Raumati South, Te Ra and Paekakariki schools planted 1000 native trees.
A plaque was unveiled and blessed by Ngati Toa Rangatira to commemorate the planting of 60 Kahikatea and 6 Totara trees (one for each decade).
Another project is the Jubilee Bird Hide situated in the wetlands which will be formally opened on January 18. We are very grateful to all our sponsors (listed on the Hide) for their support and to Wayne Boness of Greater Wellington for his considerable assistance.
AS to the future we are working with NZTA and GW to finally develop our concept of a Family Friendly bike track from Paekakariki to Raumati. This will provide a facility that hundreds of bikers have been asking for.
With the development of the Wellington region along the coast it is essential that our green space is protected. There is a tremendous demand for land for local development and the equivalent area of the Park of around 640 hectares could be gone in 10 years. We must remain vigilant or there may never be another Park Jubilee.