Park volunteers stumped their efforts often wasted

Friends of Wainui Bush Park say they are frustrated Waikato District Council work in the idyllic reserve is often leaving them out on a limb.

But the Friends – a volunteer group who have tended the 10-hectare park now for a quarter of a century – insist all that’s really needed in most cases is better communication to ensure neither party barks up the wrong tree.

The weed-spraying of native vegetation around a mound of slowly mulching bamboo and the felling of a tree the Friends had just pruned are two recent incidents cited in an exchange of emails with council staff.

The Friends say the incidents occurred despite their repeated emails to the council asking for consultation before any action was taken in the park.

“How can liaison be strengthened to allow us to improve the park without wasting our effort?” longtime group member John Lawson asked of parks and facilities team leader Duncan MacDougall in an email late last year.

He complained  the spraying of the poroporo – which was shading out the mulching bamboo – “has wasted that effort and set us back two years”. “Will the native vegetation be sprayed again if we try to encourage it to take over from the bamboo?” he asked.

The felling of a large tree occurred just weeks after the Friends had removed a broken branch. “Had we known the whole tree was to be felled, we could have saved ourselves that wasted work,” the Friends emailed the council.

They’d decided earlier the tree overall looked safe, and John said the logs left over from the chainsawing backed up that assessment as they were free from rot.

In another case, John said he got a call from a contractor who’d been asked by council to strengthen a bridge rail but could not find it. None of the bridges John described to the contractor fitted with what he’d been asked to do.

“If the instruction had been copied to us (the Friends) we could’ve saved some time by identifying the bridge,” John pointed out to the council.

On the plus side, the Friends are pleased the council has for some time now taken responsibility for organising the mowing of the park, as this frees them up for other gardening projects.

And they believe council staff are trying to be a little more communicative.

They’re also chuffed at the results of a major upgrade by the council last winter of two stream bridges and several bush tracks. They say the paths and bridges are now wider and more user-friendly, with no more “slipping and sliding in winter mud”.

Nonagenarian and founding Friends’ member Betty Rawley, whose property borders the park, walks the tracks daily and says they’re “beautifully drained all-weather paths now and much more accessible”.

However the Friends were less happy at the lack of notice over the timing of the upgrade. Twice they arrived at the park as usual every second Monday only to find the contractors had closed the reserve. They say the timing of the work also flew in the face of a council assurance any work would be done when the ground wasn’t so wet, so as to minimise damage.

The emails provided to the Chronicle reveal that while the council apologised for the inconvenience and conceded the Friends should’ve been informed, it explained the contractors had a “window of opportunity” so had not waited till spring as planned.

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of signage the Friends have requested to make clear overnight camping in the carpark is banned. And five years on, the Friends are still waiting on signs directing the public through the maze of tracks.

A list of “do’s and dont’s” for park users also seems on the slow burner, apparently waiting for council policy to be finalised.

“It’s all about to happen,” says John, “but hasn’t.”

Edith Symes

*Friends of Wainui Bush Reserve could do with a few more volunteers to help keep things ticking over. Go to their Facebook page for days and times of scheduled work.