The Bugman is flying in to help open Waiwhakareke to the public.
Dutch-born New Zealander Ruud Kleinpaste, arguably the country’s most famous insect enthusiast, will be on hand for the Waiwhakareke Open Day this Saturday (16 November).
Saturday’s opening event starts from 1pm. It gives the public a chance to explore some of the recent developments at Waiwhakareke, including a new loop track and viewing platforms, plus information panels outlining the biodiversity of the site. Activities on the day include story-telling, guided walks and a scavenger hunt.
It’ll be Mr Kleinpaste’s first visit to the “urban island” ecological restoration project – a joint long-term project involving Hamilton City Council, University of Waikato, Wintec, Waikato Regional Council, Wintec and Tui 2000.
Kleinpaste – who previously had his own television show and now teaches the nations teachers to share the enthusiasm for insect life with their students – says he’s excited to have been invited to Waiwhakareke by Waikato University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Bruce Clarkson.
“If Bruce is involved, I’m involved,” says Kleinpaste. “I totally know what he’s doing, and I agree with what he’s doing, so I had no hesitation in answering his call and saying ‘yep, I’ll come up’.”
As for the search for bugs on the day, Kleinpaste is effusive and excited: “We’ll look under logs, we’ll look under stones, we’ll look in the soil, we’ll look in the air – we’ll look everywhere we can. I’ll take a net with me, and I’ll show them what biodiversity looks like.”
Prof Clarkson, a leading expert in ecological restoration, says: “We are honoured to have Ruud involved as an internationally renowned science communicator, and to hear some external commentary on the value of the Park as a biodiversity and educational resource.”
Prof Clarkson, who has had a long and close involvement with Waiwhakareke, says the project is unlike any other, bringing indigenous nature back into Hamilton on former farm land.
“We have had to build habitat on what was grazed pasture and now have about 35ha of developing forest in place after 15 years of hard work,” he says.
Prof Clarkson credited the 2003 Hamilton City Council for its “remarkable foresight in enabling the community driven partnership concept to go ahead on public land”.
Maria Barrie, the Council’s Parks and Recreation Manager, paid credit to Prof Clarkson for his commitment and drive on the Waiwhakareke project.
“Prof Clarkson has been a leader on this project for a long time, and it’s great he’s been able to bring in the Bugman, and his infectious energy.”