A new book examining the link between nature and wellbeing features a segment involving a little known greenspace gem as well as a couple who helped foster it.
Environmental historian Dr Catherine Knight's book, Nature and Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand, explores the benefits of nature experienced by everyday New Zealanders, and argues for more nature in the towns and cities where most people live.
One of her many interviews was with Phil and Viola Palmer who have had a lot of input into the Greendale Reserve, located in Otaihanga.
For many years the couple and others have restored the once neglected 3.5h area into a thriving green zone.
Knight said among busy, technology-oriented lives, people had never been more aware of the benefit of being out in nature.
"There are now countless scientific studies linking time spent in nature or urban green space to a range of wellbeing benefits: lower levels of stress, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improved cognition in children with attention deficits and individuals with depression.
"It is even linked to a boost in 'natural killer cells', a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in fighting infections and tumours."
But how much quality time does the 'average' New Zealander spend enjoying the outdoors?
While our national parks are places of spectacular wilderness, for many of us, these places are out of reach.
Knight argues for the restoration of 'neighbourhood nature' — places that all New Zealanders can freely access, irrespective of their social or economic situation.
"New Zealand's experience of the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how important these local oases of nature are, and how vital they are to our wellbeing."
This year had been a "tumultuous and difficult" for many New Zealanders.
"But for those of us fortunate to retain some stability in our lives, lockdown became an opportunity to spend time with family, to avoid long hours commuting on congested roads and work from home, to stay local and to enjoy neighbourhood nature.
"During April there was an upsurge in citizen science apps such as iNaturalist, indicating that people were getting out into nature in their neighbourhoods.
"The lockdown experience also led many of us to realise how important our neighbourhood green spaces are — for walking, cycling, or just getting some fresh, tree-filtered air.
"But it also accentuated inequities in our society.
"For those of us who live in the country or in the leafy suburbs, having more time to spend in local parks or walking along a river or coastal walkway would have felt more like a gift than an imposition.
"But for those living in neighbourhoods with few places to enjoy nature or those that did not have the luxury of working from home due to their jobs or circumstances, connecting with nature may not have been a high priority during lockdown.
"In the wake of the crisis, calls have strengthened for us to rethink the way we live.
"To spend less time commuting into cities to work and spend our money and, instead, to live, work and play locally, enriching our local communities so that, in turn, they better support our needs.
"We need to create more natural spaces in the cities and towns in which most of us live."