The anniversary of the revitalised Karituwhenua Stream reserve was celebrated yesterday, with guests being given a tour by the man who has led its revival for the past 20 years.
The reserve, off Te Mata Rd in Havelock North, had been under-valued, overgrown with gorse and was a local dumping ground in 1992, but the tour given by the Landcare Group convenor Dougal French showcased an area lush with native and exotic plants.
Yesterday's event was attended by members of the group, local residents, and staff from Hastings District and Hawke's Bay Regional councils.
A live band entertained guests as they enjoyed a barbecue and witnessed the group's progress through timeline photo boards.
The community-driven revitalisation had begun when Mr French and other Havelock North residents became worried about the erosion of the stream's banks.
Mr French said: "The answer was just to do something, and the upshot of it was that the group was formed."
After dealing with the erosion, the group continued to enhance the area by planting trees, creating pathways, and encouraging birdlife to return - mostly in their own stead.
It grew from an informal group to become an incorporated, registered charity, and the first urban landcare group recognised in New Zealand.
Secretary Bob Harris said they were now held as an example of what a local group could accomplish in their neighbourhood.
He had been part of the group and their weekly working bees for the past six years, although he said the original members had done all the hard work, which they were now just maintaining.
The revitalisation has also been helped by the Hastings District and Hawke's Bay Regional councils, who leave upkeep to the group but help with "the big stuff". This included removing fallen trees and installing seven bridges along the track.
The group also had multiple sponsors, and Mr French said they also could not get by without the help of the public: "They're very good, if we put out a request for funds they respond ... it costs about $1500 a year."
The annual barbecue would be Mr French's last as convenor, as he planned to step down in February: "I'm 87 ... I feel it's time for the young ones to step in and take over."