Drive beauty comes from hearts of town

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By LAURA MCLEAY

Once a month a group of na­ture-lov­ing vol­un­teers get out their work boots and head to Cen­ten­nial Drive to take care of the gar­den­ing and tree trim­ming in or­der to pre­serve one of Mata­mata’s iconic walk­ways.

Cen­ten­nial Drive, which winds through the town from Broad­way to Tainui St, show­cases a num­ber of trees from around the world, has open pic­nic ar­eas, water fea­tures and in­for­ma­tion plaques.

A team has been vol­un­teer­ing on the third Tues­day of ev­ery month since 1956 and now the Cen­ten­nial Drive Com­mit­tee has more than 190 mem­bers help­ing out.

Vol­un­teer Heather Dud­ding said it was great to keep it look­ing clean for the res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.

‘‘ Just about ev­ery time I take a walk through the drive there are peo­ple sit­ting at one of the pic­nic ta­bles or on the seats hav­ing a cup of tea and en­joy­ing it,’’ she said.

The men tend to take care of chop­ping down trees and clear­ing the de­bris while the ladies get stuck into the gar­den­ing and look­ing af­ter the shrubs and flow­ers.

Raewynne Daw­son said be­ing in­volved was about more than just gar­den­ing though; it was about the com­pany and the laughs.

‘‘The drive is a very spe­cial part of Mata­mata and we see that as peo­ple use it. Just be­ing out­doors with all the vol­un­teers and help­ing out is great,’’ she said and Gabriella Rust agreed.

‘‘I just love Cen­ten­nial Drive so I wanted to give some­thing back to it.’’

The one kilo­me­tre drive was first formed in the early 1900s when the set­tle­ment of Mata­mata was di­vided in sec­tions, leav­ing a 40m wide plan­ta­tion re­serve.

In 1956, the coun­cil de­cided to di­vide the land and sell it as a res­i­den­tial area but Mata­mata Col­lege teacher El­iz­a­beth Vi­ola Bell started up the Mata­mata Cen­ten­nial Vol­un­teer Com­mit­tee in or­der to keep it as a re­serve. She was pres­i­dent for 27 years and is com­mem­o­rated in the Vi­ola Bell Mag­no­lia Grove in the drive.

Present or­gan­iser Dave Daw­son joined the team in 1993 and be­lieved be­ing in a vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion was in­cred­i­ble.

‘‘ Vol­un­tary things are just fan­tas­tic. There is no money in­volved – in­stead you get told a yarn from one of the mem­bers and have a great time do­ing what you en­joy – it is just bril­liant fun,’’ he said.

‘‘ We en­joy it more than play­ing bowls and by do­ing this we are giv­ing back to this won­der­ful town.’’

In 2003 the Jim Diprose Fam­ily Trust do­nated $5000 to the com­mit­tee which is used to bring in sur­veyor John Wake­l­ing ev­ery five years to as­sess the trees.

‘‘Jim knows the drive well and every­thing there is to know about these trees. He has trained ar­borists for many years so is just fan­tas­tic. He is a great tool and tells us how to man­age the trees,’’ Mr Daw­son said.

The Cen­ten­nial Drive com­mit­tee works on a bud­get of around $5000 a year which is made up of do­na­tions and money from the Mata­mata-Pi­ako District Coun­cil.

Each year the team takes a trip to an­other well-known gar­den or park in the North Is­land to talk to other plan­ners and gather ideas.

Gar­den­ing: From left, Heather Dud­ding, Raewynne Daw­son and Gabriella Rust weed in Cen­ten­nial Drive.

Clean up: From left, Jim Pa­ton and Merve King tidy up the Bed­ford Park gar­dens that the Cen­ten­nial Drive Com­mit­tee also main­tains.

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