2018 proved to be a most exceptional year for the Trust with two major asset contributions which hugely help us fulfil our mandate. In terms of environmental education and outdoor recreational enjoyment, they offer us opportunities that we previously did not have. One also overcomes some longer term challenges we were facing due to a limited area of flat land.
The first one was the availability of a house in Havelock North to illustrate how urban properties can be utilised for a more sustainable form of living and for environmental benefits. This property also has accommodation available for visiting speakers, researchers etc. We are currently evaluating with educators the best and most practical way for us to achieve this objective.
The second was a gift of approximately 30 hectares of neighbouring land to the north of our current property. The surveying of this property was initiated in December, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at 11.00am on the 11th November 2018 – exactly 100 years to the moment that the First World War ended. This area of property will be known as The Sanctuary. It offers extensive and magnificent views of Lake Tutira and ensures that almost the whole perimeter of the lake is now preserved in perpetuity, with the land on the Eastern side of the lake, Tutira Country Park, being owned by the HB Regional Council. We have the most wonderful opportunity to create a Centre to support environmental education and increase understanding and appreciation of the natural environment. It could be an iconic landmark for Hawkes Bay. The opportunity clearly requires extensive consultation with those having the relevant skills to help us develop a sound strategic plan and will take considerable time. This will ensure we make the most of an exceptional opportunity for the whole community and secure the necessary funding.
We record our extreme gratitude for these exceptionally generous forms of support. We and the community are extremely fortunate.
As reported last year, the Education Centre has once again remained at capacity for school groups and others are increasingly booking the Centre outside school demand. It is very pleasing to see the Education Centre operating so successfully. in conjunction with PanPac and the HB Regional Council, we again ran the schools Conservation Week programmes. The water quality issues associated with the lake have been of lesser concern for our schools activities this year and the Regional Council are continually gathering data from Lake Tutira and investigating the benefits of a bubbler system in neighbouring Lake Waikopiro to further determine how potential issues may be mitigated. A floating jetty featuring plants has been installed by the HB Regional Council on Lake Orakai for water research and is an interesting feature for all visitors to see.
The Cowman’s Cottage continues to operate with a high level of accommodation bookings and contributes well to our operating income.
In terms of improvements, a public barbecue with shelters and stock protection was established and is an excellent facility for visitors, with extensive views of the arboretum, lake and wider landscape. The Homestead was extensively carpeted to provide a warmer living space for our Curator and his family. Temporary signage in the Information Shelter was updated on permanent material including a new map. A new Climbing Wall facility, complete with substantial safety matting, to provide a wet weather activity for schools was established in an existing implement shed.
A new all-terrain vehicle was purchased to enable more efficient movement of volunteers and for less able visitors to be shown around the arboretum.
These improvements were only achievable through the support of generous benefactors and those mentioned were enabled by the Bernard Chambers Charitable Trust, the Joan Fernie Trust and the First Light Community Trust. We are most grateful to them.
We reviewed our accounting system with the objectives of improving the timing and availability of information, reducing cost and catering for identified likely future needs. We transferred to a Xero based system which has met these objectives successfully.
Following the cessation of our Friends subscription model, we held a Supporters Evening in Havelock North in April which proved to a be a popular move and has encouraged much support.
The arboretum. in response to a very favourable spring and early summer weather pattern, has reflected tremendous growth which has contributed to increasingly impressive vistas and canopies. The labelling and recording of all our trees is an ongoing challenge, especially as our GPS based recording programme was no longer being adequately supported. Thanks to some very generous time input, from David Napier of Skyvuw in particular, we are migrating to a completely new cloud based system which will enable anyone to download extensive and specific tree data, including its location within the arboretum, via their mobile phone. This will significantly improve visitor experiences and offer broader educational opportunities. We are currently stressing the need for reliable mobile coverage which would of course be very valuable for general Health and Safety reasons also.
We are currently recording the history relating to the establishment of the arboretum and the objectives behind the overall planting plan and within the regions.
The small stand of Redwoods beside the main track has been removed as it was now dominating other plantings and we plan to establish a dam which will provide good reflections of the surrounding plantings and especially in autumn of course.
We are being kindly supported by the local and national Tree Crops Association with a Pecan trial in the arboretum. The Association kindly donated a beautiful wooden seat made by Peter Maclean, which is situated in the Australian section overlooking the arboretum.
The support of various nurseries is gratefully acknowledged and with whom we will no doubt have increasing connections with – supplying them with seeds.
The property featured in the television programme, Rural Delivery during the year.
Aside from our Curator’s, and trustee Chris Ryan’s ongoing input we are indebted to Guy Nicholls and Quentin Roberts for their voluntary contributions – we could not achieve what we are without it.
Concerning Health and Safety, we met all our objectives for the year and successfully met all audit requirements. As we all know, this is a major focus for every organisation and trustee Terry Taaffe has been meticulous over the past few years to ensure we have sound procedures and a manual that is very much a “living tool” for us. The old Birch trees behind the Homestead were felled this year as they had been identified as dangerous.
Our website requires ongoing input and trustee Wendy Lawrence, together with our Administrator, Rachael Witheford, following some training, are now able to effect some of the ongoing changes necessary.
Financially, the Trust is maintaining its capital base and as reported last year is generating sufficient income to meet its typical operating costs. However, The Sanctuary property will not of course be generating any income for some considerable time and our Curator will need more support to cope with this additional activity. We are addressing the funding of this currently.
Stuart Riden will join our Board of Trustees with effect from the 1st January 2019 and we look forward to his future input and especially with the development of The Sanctuary.
The operations of the Trust continue to function and develop extremely well and a huge thank you must again go to George Christison, our Curator and his wife, Kirsty who is heavily involved with the Education Centre activities and the Cowman’s Cottage accommodation. Their commitment, vision and enthusiasm for the Trust’s activities is all we could wish for.
In conclusion and once again, I reiterate my thanks to all our trustees for they individual skills and their considerable voluntary time. We work together well as an enthusiastic team and I am extremely grateful to Mike Halliday, Deputy Chair, and them all for their personal support.