Centuries from now, when Northlanders look out over a Bay of Islands dotted with thriving native forest and raucous with bird calls, one of the people they will have to thank is Rod Brown.
The former Navy commander, 76, is the driving force behind The Shadehouse, a volunteer-run nursery which has so far supplied a quarter of a million native plants and trees for replanting projects around Northland.
That effort, and his many other community and environmental roles, has seen him nominated for a Pride of New Zealand Award.
Mr Brown retired to Kerikeri after careers as a navigation specialist with the Navy - one of the ships he commanded, Tui, now rests on the sea floor off Tutukaka as a dive attraction - and as a planner in charge of building Starship Children's Hospital.
His epiphany came in 2000 when he was helping DoC rid an island in Kerikeri Inlet of weeds and discovered, smothered under moth plant vines, a half-finished replanting project.
He resolved to complete it, but first he needed several thousand seedlings. He set about restoring an abandoned plant nursery behind DoC's Kerikeri headquarters, learnt how to propagate plants, and gathered a team of volunteers.
Once replanting of Motupapa (Cocked Hat Island) was complete he started on Motukawanui in the Cavalli Islands; now his main focus is the Bay of Islands, where replanting of Waewaetorea Island was completed in 2012 and the volunteers are hard at work this winter on Urupukapuka and Moturua islands.
As well as growing the seedlings, Mr Brown organises regular planting days in which up to 100 volunteers head out to the islands to lend a hand.
The Shadehouse produces about 25,000 shrubs and trees a year for 35 different restoration projects from Leigh to Cape Reinga. The number grown to date is just under 250,000.
Mr Brown is also deputy chairman of Guardians of the Bay of Islands, a group which, along with DoC and Rawhiti iwi, is restoring the islands sprinkled between Russell and Cape Brett. Called Project Island Song, the ambitious community-driven project aims to bring back the islands' original plants, birds and insects.
DoC rid the islands of rats in 2009 and the Shadehouse team have planted tens of thousands of trees, paving the way for last year's re-introduction of the toutouwai (North Island robin) and the return just last month of the tieke (saddleback).
If that was not enough Mr Brown also chairs the community planning group Vision Kerikeri. That group's projects include creating a public walkway to a spectacular but currently inaccessible waterfall a short distance from the town centre, and creating a wildlife corridor further up the same stream.
Mr Brown said it was his firm belief that people should not sit back and wait for an under-resourced DoC or councils to act when something needed doing.
He also believed the best thing councils and government agencies could do was to support initiatives that came from the community.
"The best outcomes are achieved when the community organises itself - and if you're willing to help yourselves, you will get support," he said.
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Nominations for the 2015 awards have now closed.
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