Drive beauty comes from hearts of town
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.