DESPITE, OR PERHAPS BECAUSE, there were nine of us sharing one bunk room we managed to get on the road by 7:30am, leaving Taupo after an injection of stagnant coffee from an un-named cafe (or petrol station/cafe (yeah ok, it was Cafe Zip)). Those of us that argued for a longer sleep-in were proved wrong as appalling weather meant that the trip to Wanganui took a mammoth five and a half hours.
The fair lady Knox proved her worth, battling through torrential rain the whole way and hanging on to her left-hand windscreen wiper by the barest of margins. After a stop in Rawahei, Connor’s improvisation with a spanner – leant by a friendly local mechanic – said windscreen wiper even performed its intended function, much to our long-suffering driver’s delight!
Our service activity in Wanganui, once we had finally arrived, was to help the Royal Forest & Bird Society in their want to build a predator fence around the remnants of lowland rainforest at Bushy Park Reserve.
We began with an informative tour of the historic homestead before our guide took us to the surrounds of the forest. There our task was to clear as much vegetation as possible from the track running between the fence and the forest.
Fortunately, in addition to secateurs and saw, the guides provided an array of raincoats and ponchos for the Young Labour activists who, in their sunny optimism, were woefully unprepared for the tropical downpour. As well as clearing forest, we were treated to the sight of New Zealand’s largest Rata tree and some rare North Island robbins.
The remainder of Jacinda’s brownies eased our soaked trip to our accommodation for the night where the lovely Kate, of Vic Uni Labour, welcomed us to her parents’ comfortable farmhouse. We were greeted at the gate by two friendly wombles which, as it happened, turned out to be eight week old border collie puppies. They had never heard of Wimbledon Common and had little environmental advice to share with the group – the only disappointment of the day.
We are now happily recuperating after a delicious roast and up to the strenuous task of labeling hundreds of condoms with “Stay safe with Labour” and “Don’t get screwed by National” to hand over to young New Year’s revelers tomorrow night in Wellington. – KATE