Cambridge mother of three Emily Lee admits she was a tad nervous about taking her children to help haul logs out of Huihuitaha wetland with local volunteer service Act of Kindness (AOK) on Saturday.
“I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t enjoy it, but they’ve had a really great time,” she said after the working bee.
“The main aim was to teach them about the importance of helping in your community and we’ve been able to do that today while having heaps of fun.”
AOK was set up in June by Cambridge mother Rebecca Broadbent, who wanted to help local families find volunteer work that would be suitable – and enjoyable – for young children and their parents.
On Saturday the organisation teamed up with the Waikato River Trails Charitable Trust to clear pest vegetation from Huihuitaha wetland on Horahora Rd, about 20 minutes south of Cambridge.
Six families pitched in to haul sawn-up logs out of the wetland and carry them across a boardwalk, away from the track.
Six-year-olds Benjamin Lee and Darcy Jenkins said they liked carrying wood and throwing it onto big piles. They said helping other people had made them feel “happy”.
They also enjoyed playing with other children, having a picnic and building a hut in the bush.
Andrew Murdoch, who is part of the river trails trust’s full-time maintenance crew, said it was great to have help clearing away pest species like willow and privet.
“It’s a big plus for us, it makes our job a lot easier and it also keeps the wetland looking tidy,” he said.
“We want to put native trees back to attract birdlife and let the wetland regenerate itself, so it’ll grow back to grasses, flaxes and native trees, the way it was originally.”
The trust manages the Waikato River Trails, a walking and cycling track that stretches more than 100km from the southern end of Lake Karapiro to Atiamuri, showcasing stunning views of the Waikato River.
Andrew said it had planted about 88,000 trees over the past five years and was always keen to work with volunteer groups.
Rebecca, who organised Saturday’s working bee, said AOK’s first volunteer event couldn’t have gone better.
“Waikato River Trails are amazing to work with; they’ve been very patient with the kids and very supportive allowing younger kids to come,” she said.
“And the kids had a ball. I think everyone felt they’d achieved something and actually made a difference.”