Meeting people from all over the world has been the highlight of eight summers of volunteering at the Whangārei Falls carpark for a Tikipunga husband and wife duo.

John, 82, and Helen, 78, McGregor who belong to the Tikipunga Community Trust, known as TikiPride, have faithfully donned hi vis vests and worked as Summer Safe Carpark ambassadors every summer since December 2011.

"We average normally in the summer months, around about 25 nationalities each day. The peak to my knowledge, was 37 nationalities in one day. Basically we cover the world here at Whangārei Falls," John said.

He said it's the interactions with these people that has kept them coming back. This summer they have been there 46 of the 50 days ambassadors have been on duty.


But the four days over Easter Weekend will be their last, as team leaders anyway. They don't like the word "retiring" but said they're "stepping down" as leaders.

"We're happy to go on the roster from time to time help out," Helen said.

TikiPride has 16 volunteers involved in the ambassador programme.

John and Helen McGregor are
John and Helen McGregor are "stepping down" after eight summers volunteering at the Whangārei Falls. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Last weekend it was just the couple on duty and Helen said it was quiet and they had a chance to reminisce.

"We said we're going to miss this place, you know it's been part of us for so long. It was a little bit sad really. On the other hand, we're going to enjoy having a bit of summertime."

The couple really have been committed to their patch - John volunteered some of his time on his 80th birthday while Helen bakes two or three dozen muffins each day they are on patrol and brings them along to give away.

As for the flavour of choice?

"Mostly it's the double chocolate, but I also make banana and white chocolate, orange and white chocolate and blueberry and white chocolate. This weekend we've got Easter eggs."


The couple said they can see 200 to 300 vehicles through the carpark in a day, but over the busiest periods - New Year, Anniversary Weekend and Easter it could go over 500.

"In the busy weekends, providing it's dry, we now open up the grass for additional parking," John said.

The couple have plenty of stories to tell - from the family who came in about five cars, pitched a tent on the grass verge and had a picnic in the pouring rain, to the visitors who had caught a taxi from Auckland to Whangārei, seen the sign for the falls and asked their driver to stop on the way.

Whangārei District Council's Summer Safe Carpark programme has been running for nine summers.

It sees ambassadors patrol nine carparks and provide a range of information and practical things like sunscreen to visitors.

The ambassadors are on duty every weekend and statutory holiday from December until Easter Monday.

John and Helen were recipients of Civic Honours Awards in 2014.