Sometimes we are so connected to our screens and work that we can forget to connect to those around us which is why Rotary activities such as planting days like those held at Waitarua Reserve by Ellerslie Sunrise Rotary are so important.
Waiatarua Reserve is NZ’s largest urban wetland covering approximately 20 hectares of complex geological, historical and ecological value that also provides a wonderful sanctuary for a variety of bird life along with the extensive tracks to enjoy this green space. 
The Waiatarua Reserve Protection Society is a community group working towards enhancing the Waiatarua Reserve by planting native trees and shrubs to provide year-round food for birds and insects and carrying out volunteer pest control supported by Auckland Council Parks dept to control rats and possums which decimate the bird life and new tree growth.  It is this group that Ellerslie Sunrise Rotary supports with their regular planting days as organised by member Bob Macky.
The club first became involved from about 2017 and working closely with the Waiatarua Reserve Protection Society the club selects bird-friendly native young plants for planting, contributing $2,000 towards the cost of these.  The planting days typically attract at least 15 Rotarian, family and friends and are held in conjunction with the Auckland Council planting day that often has 150 people volunteering.  The Rotary presence is very visible as members generally wear Rotary shirts or caps and the club banners are quite prominent. One advantage is that once the club trees have been planted the team can move on to assist the wider Council planting that usually is completed in 2 to 3 hours.  In addition to the planting days some members get together to help with plant maintenance a couple of times a year just to clear weeds from around the young plants.
Taking part in such plantings has been described as their “Zen moment” where the worries of the world are for the moment forgotten and instead it is possible to tune into the experience of the task at hand and the contact with others.
Just the act of getting out to these planting days enjoying much needed physical exercise, the fresh air, and the purposeful achievement of planting promotes a sense of physical and emotional well-being we all need. As Auckland becomes more crowded, green open spaces like Waiatarua are an increasingly important contribution to an active lifestyle and personal well-being of Aucklanders, plus these plantings grow the beauty of the park including the noticeable increase in birdlife.
Any person can join in the Council-organised planting days of their own volition, but one of the huge benefits of the Rotarians, their family and friends getting together for what is a great time in the outdoors is being alongside people with a connection to each other rather than just being one among many strangers.  The strong social connection that comes from being a part of the Rotary team is characterised by camaraderie and friendly conversions.  Many times these few hours feeling good, doing good, end with an informal “wind-down” and the Council provides drinks and snacks at the end which is a great time to chat and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
Occasionally the Ellerslie Sunrise Rotary team is joined by other clubs with Highbrook and Auckland South Rotary being frequent participants, so other clubs whether as club or as individuals are always welcome.  Hopefully, all clubs are thinking of ways to make participation in their projects by others possible as well given the huge benefits of doing so. There is no better way to get to know like-mind others.
Open to all Rotarians, family and friends to join in, the next planting is Sunday 24 July 2021, meeting at 1pm: