A dinner in Hamilton recently celebrated the contribution made by volunteers to Pukemokemoke Reserve. Alan Leadley, former manager of the Friends of Pukemokemoke, came in for a special honour, writes Warwick Silvester.
THE PUKEMOKEMOKE BUSH reserve at Tauhei continues to attract picnickers, joggers, dog exercisers, nature lovers, bat watchers, kindy kids, school groups, university researchers, and bird watchers but only a few people understand the full significance and history of the bush.
It was donated as a public reserve by the late David Johnstone, former owner of Orini Downs station. It is a private reserve, open to all, administered by a trust and maintained by a bunch of loyal volunteers. Prior to hand over, the bush had been frequented by cattle, was infested with possums, rats and stoats and was becoming overrun by pampas, gorse, honeysuckle and the ubiquitous privet. Much of the undergrowth had been browsed by cattle and its restoration presented a rather daunting task but contained enormous potential.
The resuscitation of Pukemokemoke has taken 20 years and this process has been greatly accelerated over the last seven years by Alan Leadley who took on the role of manager/coordinator in 2007 and who was tasked with raising funds and developing and promoting the reserve.
Alan put his heart and soul into the task. He formed the Friends of Pukemokemoke and managed endless working bees which have transformed the bush into what must be the district’s best and most well managed piece of bush.
Alan recently retired from the position due to poor health and on Thursday 19 February a dinner was held at ‘Just Food’ at Te Ara Hou to thank the Friends for all their good work but primarily to honour the selfless work that Alan has put in over the years. On the night mention was made of the progress of facilities at the bush, the enormous inroads into weed control, the now predator-free status but above all about Alan’s personal input into the whole ethos of the bush.
Alan’s energy, commitment and stimulation of good will amongst the Friends has been quite exceptional and the lasting memory of many will be his nurturing of a group of Pukemokemoke people, who while being friends of the bush and friends of his, have also developed friendships within the group that never would have chanced without his example and camaraderie.
To end a most enjoyable evening Alan was declared Pukemokemoke Volunteer of the Year and awarded the newly minted Order of The Sickle, an engraved sickle with all the names of past volunteers of the year, a tradition initiated by Alan.
As can be seen in the picture Alan was surrounded by friends with sickles, the sickle being the most used tool in the bush. The Pukemokemoke bush as we enjoy it today, is a tribute to a large number of loyal Friends and above all, to the leadership and example of Alan.
Warwick Silvester is the chairman of the David Johnstone Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve Trust. To find out more about the Friends, phone new coordinator Keith Holborow on 853 9377 or email Warwick here.