Hamilton's "urban island" long-term ecological restoration project, Waiwhakareke, will be open to the public from this Saturday, 16 November.
Waiwhakareke is owned and managed by Hamilton City Council, and its transformation is the result of more than a decade of planting and ecological restoration work by volunteers and key stakeholder organisations including University of Waikato, Wintec, Tūī 2000, Waiwhakareke Advisory Group, Friends of Waiwhakareke and Waikato Regional council.
In recent months, the council completed the 10-Year Plan project of basic development at Waiwhakareke, including development of a loop track, viewing platforms and a public toilet. Interpretive information panels have also been added to the park's barn, and they outline the history of the site and the flora and fauna species found there.
Access to Waiwhakareke has previously been by arrangement only, and Saturday's event also marks the start of a new era – with the park open to the public.
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Hamilton City Council's parks and recreation manager Maria Barrie, says Saturday's opening event commences at 1pm, and runs until 3pm. Visitors will be able to stroll through Waiwhakareke to take in the new assets and the result of more than a decade of planting, and there will also be a scavenger hunt and storytelling. Some of the volunteers will be available to guide and answer any questions.
It is a chance for the public to see the developments first-hand, and explore the park and its plantings – much of which is undertaken during the Arbor Day mass community planting held at Waiwhakareke every year in late May or early June.
"We've be fortunate to have some incredible support on this project," Ms Barrie says. "Our stakeholders and volunteers have been huge contributors to the planting and developments at Waiwhakareke, and it's great to be able to celebrate this milestone with them, and the wider community."
As part of the opening, the Bugman is flying in to help open Waiwhakareke to the public.
Dutch-born New Zealander Ruud Kleinpaste, arguably the country's most famous insect enthusiast, will be on hand for the Waiwhakareke open day on Saturday.
It'll be Mr Kleinpaste's first visit to the ecological restoration project.
Kleinpaste - who previously had his own television show and now teaches the nation's teachers to share the enthusiasm for insect life with their students - says he's excited to have been invited to Waiwhakareke by Waikato University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Bruce Clarkson.