National recognition for volunteer

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An Alexandra volunteer has received national recognition by Keep New Zealand Beautiful for her tireless efforts in conservation.

Bev Thomson was awarded Volunteer of the Month after she was nominated by the Keep Alexandra Clyde Beautiful branch. Along with being a committee member of the branch, she is also a trustee for the Clyde Railhead Community Eco-Nursery and on committees for the Thyme Festival, MaD4Co and the Alexandra Garden Club.

Bev moved to Alexandra four years ago, where she joined as many clubs as possible during her retirement. But her passion for conservation began about 20 years earlier.

“I took the opportunity to get some career counselling. What that showed was I loved what I do but I regret not being outside.”

Around that time, two of her neighbours began discussing plans to establish the Zealandia ecosanctuary in Karori.

“I became a member of the sanctuary when it got set up and a foundation voluntary guide. That meant once a month at least I was guiding people through the sanctuary.

“To me, the whole thing was a huge learning experience.”

The training she received as a guide taught her about vegetation types in the southern North Island, but it was the knowledge of environmental destruction that hit home.

Bev says she learned a “hell of a lot about the huge losses we’re having about native birds and everything else – the whole flora and fauna, butterflies, moths, skinks – and what it takes to revegetate, which is enormous effort.”

The loss of species was what drove her to get involved in so many conservation efforts around Alexandra, she said.

“In my lifetime we’ve lost so many native birds and plants.

“I think it’s a concern that we’re losing our bird species and insects species and skinks and stuff.

“I knew I wanted to do something to revegetate here because, to me, revegetation is the key to saving all those species.

“It’s really difficult here because the climate is so different and the destruction of the environment is so much more advanced.”

Bev is now one of the key drivers behind the rehabilitation site at Lookout Reserve, and helped develop a 20-year plan for the area and secure an irrigation scheme.

She also organises busy bee days, where schoolchildren help with planting as part of the Enviroschools programme.

“Often it’ll be the kids helping parents understand that a whole lot of stuff they used to believe in isn’t necessarily true, or it’s having consequences that are bad for the local environment.”

She said she learned a huge amount from former KACB chairwoman Maureen Davies and Bill Nagle from the eco-nursery.

“Hundreds of people volunteer amazing things around Alex. It’s a really strong environment that way.”