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By SHELLEY TOPP

A memorial plaque to the late Peter Allen was unveiled at Tuhaitara Coastal Park at Woodend Beach last Sunday (May 20).

The plaque marking the Rotary Club of Rangiora Peter Allen biota node (a mini-ecosystem established around a permanent waterhole surrounded by native plants), was unveiled by Peter’s widow, Helen Allen, and Rangiora Rotary president Dan Gordon.

More planting was done at the site after the plaque unveiling and there are plans to establish a boardwalk in the area.

“Peter was a “very special member of our club,” Dan said. “We are very pleased to have been able to partner with Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust, and in particular park manager Greg Byrnes, who cleared the permanent water hole behind here of weeds and pests.

“Following this, the area has been planted out with natives by club members.

“The club became involved in the project at Peter’s suggestion and because of his initial involvement in the project the club thought it appropriate to name the biota node in his memory.”

Helen thanked the Rotary members for supporting her family through difficult times since Peter’s death last year.

“Thank you especially to Paddy Quinlan who, along with his team, particularly David Cain, took up Peter’s idea for this Rotary project and turned it into reality,” she said.

“What first inspired Peter to take an interest in what Greg Byrnes and the Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust had in mind was that it was a 200-year plan to rehabilitate the 10.5km coastal strip closest to where we live and, in an on-going way, manage it back to being an indigenous ecosystem.”

The Tuhaitara Coastal Park is a freshwater network, made up of a series of wetlands, the Tutaepatu lagoon and streams which connect the Waimakariri and the Rakahuri braided rivers, she said.

“Peter was involved from early on in several of Greg Byrnes’ public planting sessions inland from the pine plantations and we have enjoyed many bike rides along the trail from where we have been able to note lively growth and progress,” she said.

“Then, a few years ago, with the help of schools and local groups, the trust started to establish a series of biota nodes along the coastal park, at about 250-metre intervals, each consisting of a freshwater pond surrounded by native plantings, such as manuka, harakeke, ti kouka, tarata, akeake, kahikatea and totara. The idea is that these will attract birds and thus aid seed transfer. The trust has also started releasing kowaro (Canterbury mudfish) into the ponds and these have been growing well, she said.

“Not long before he fell ill, Peter decided that Rangiora Rotary should become involved by planting and looking after one of these biota nodes.

“Paddy, as Rotary’s president at the time, took up the challenge.

“Our family members came down from Wellington and Auckland to take part in the first planting around our biota nodes pond last November and, when I have come back since then, most recently with our son who lives in Japan, it’s been great to see how well the plants are growing.

“Peter would have been thrilled.

“We are all very grateful that this biota node will remain and flourish as an enduring memorial to one of Peters passions, our environment,” she said.