Good progress in improving and maintaining the quality and standard of our principal assets (arboretum and buildings) was achieved in 2016 and importantly without diminishing the value of our investment portfolio.
The Education Centre operated more cost effectively thanks to the ongoing commitment and energy of our Curator George Christison and his wife Kirsty who are now qualified and able to instruct many of the outdoor activity options. Ten hand held GPS based units, for the use of students through the arboretum, were purchased following an Education Action Group recommendation. This initiative ensures that the arboretum can be an integral part of outdoor educational activities and still be fun.
The woolshed flat area was successfully contoured, to improve drainage, and resown. Aside from a visual improvement associated with the entrance to the property this is now an area suitable for a multitude of potential uses.
The major renovations to the Cowman’s Cottage were completed successfully and we receive very favourable comments from those who stay there. Once again our thanks to Kirsty and David Belcher for all their input. The investment to establish a book-a-bach basis of renting has proved to be a most successful move which is generating a significantly better yield from this cottage. This will be fully reflected in the coming year following 12 months of operation.
The trustees are ever mindful of the importance of Health and Safety. Compliance costs are now a major cost item however it is pleasing to report that total commitment to our various safety procedures associated with so many different outdoor activities involving young students has served us well.
Financially, as has been the case for many years, our developments resulted in a cash deficit. Nevertheless and importantly, our equity has still increased.
The arboretum continues to develop and gain more stature and emphasis this year has been on “trees for bees” with plantings beside and above the woolshed flat area. The overall planting programme is reducing now in terms of numbers of trees. Once again we record our thanks to Chris Ryan for his guidance and input to the arboretum throughout the year.
The Hanger (the hill face behind the Homestead retired for over 120 years) has been protected by way of a QE11 Trust covenant and we are very grateful for their support and the provision this year of an appropriate sign for the Information Shelter.
We have to be mindful of the water quality of Lake Tutira in terms of the water based activities for visiting students. We are communicating regularly with and supporting, Maungaharuru Tangitu Trust and the HB Regional Council in all endeavours to significantly improve the water quality.
The Trust is a signatory to the Hawkes Bay Biodiversity Strategy and has been regularly involved with the Implementation Planning Group. “Tutira” represents a very wide spectrum of bio-diversity and the property and our facilities are an excellent base for educational purposes in support of the strategy.
Apart from the Education Centre and the Cowman’s Cottage visitors, the number of Sunday visitors remains low. Greater awareness and fundraising for facilities that will encourage more visitors is a current focus. If fundraising is successful we aim also be able to open more widely to the public.
We have always been reliant on the generous support of philanthropic organisations, charitable trusts, sponsors and friends. To them all we record our most sincere thanks for their support and assure them that the money is prudently spent in the development of such a unique place for all ages to enjoy and learn.
Trustee David Belcher resigned at the end of the year and we are extremely grateful for his most diligent attention to building matters and his extensive photographic record of many aspects relating to the establishment and features of the arboretum over several years.
The trustees are of course mindful of succession planning and the composition of the Board and this year we advertised for those interested. We were pleased to appoint Wendy Lawrence who together with her husband operates Green Scene Arboriculture. The trustee role is voluntary and it is a challenge with the pressures of current life to secure younger people able to give the time for no reward. Action Groups, without the responsibility associated with being a trustee, for specific projects or events are a potential solution. An education action group served us well and such groups can meet as desirable to support us.
The constant improvement of the experiences the property is delivering for everyone, and particularly primary and intermediate students, is due to the total commitment and energy of George and Kirsty Christison. It is difficult to adequately convey just how very fortunate and extremely grateful we are to them both.
As always, in conclusion and on behalf of the Trust I wish to thank my fellow trustees and our administration team for their respective expertise, commitment, teamwork and guidance and especially for their personal support.