'Te Pahū's girl' — Helen Clark — was back in her hometown for a whirlwind visit last weekend.
The former Prime Minister of New Zealand was guest of honour at Pirongia Forest Park Lodge's 30th anniversary.
The lodge, at the foothills of Mt Pirongia, is a community facility on Grey Rd used by schools, families, churches and community groups.
As patron of the lodge, Clark has supported the premises since it opened 30 years ago. At the time she was a Conservation Minister.
For Clark, it was a visit to her old stomping ground.
"It's lovely to be back on the slopes of Mt Pirongia," she said.
"The Clarks go back a long way in Te Pahū — back somewhere to the turn of the previous century when my great-grandfather bought many acres of bush and conscientiously cleared it all — which we wouldn't like today but that's the way it was."
Clark attended Te Pahū Primary School and grew up on a farm that bordered the Pirongia Forest Park.
"What I was always mindful of as a child was how relatively silent our forest was — and how much damage stoats, rats, other predators had done to bird life and our parks."
She acknowledged the conservation work of the Pirongia Te Aro Aro o Kahu Restoration Society.
"It's wonderful to hear that the kōkako is back, and that the bush is singing again, because it has been quiet for a very long time."
Clark praised the lodge for its service to the community and school groups.
"How wonderful to have a place like this. I see other facilities which have been there for schools to use, closing for one reason or another.
"Thirty years since it opened and I'm really blown away at how beautiful the grounds look and how you've added to the facilities.
"I am so excited to see the diverse range of communities using the lodge and building skills and confidence in the outdoors. With strong community support, I'm sure this will continue to be a success. I'm very proud to be a patron and keep the link with the area.
"Congratulations to all who support the lodge. We need facilities like this and may it have a long and happy future."
Clark was taken on a tour of the lodge grounds, joined by lodge vice patron and Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest, lodge trustee and Waikato Regional Council chair Alan Livingston, Te Pahū school principal Andrew Chesswas and members of Clark's family.
They were hosted by lodge warden Kate Parr who showed them outdoor activities including abseiling, a flying fox and a confidence course.
Entertainment was by Te Pahū band Sylvia's Toaster.
Lodge trustee Alan Livingston said the lodge was in good heart and under efficient management.
"In the last year the lodge had been used by 52 groups and 3255 people."
Mayor Jim Mylchreest said Waipā District Council was pleased to support a facility that provided educational and recreational benefits to local children.
Te Pahū School principal Andrew Chesswas said the lodge filled a need for the school's outdoor curriculum which had been developed by Te Pahū and Pirongia schools.
Lodge warden Kate Parr thanked those who attended and supported the event.
"We were so happy to have so many past and present lodge supporters here on the day — thank you for making the time to visit."