Planting native trees and plants at Halswell Quarry Park makes Owen Wright feel more alive and helps him forget his troubles.
The 68-year-old, who has health issues and is currently living in a rest home, has been a regular at volunteer community planting days for about five years.
He says taking part and being in the outdoors helps him feel better and he wishes he could help out more often.
“The air there is more fresh and clean and I feel more alive out there, and happier. I just love it, I forget everything and I’m just there really enjoying myself. My body is aching at times but I just keep at it and my mind is quite happy.”
When he was in his 20s Mr Wright worked for the New Zealand Forest Service and he has a large collection of books about botany, particularly native plants and trees.
“They’re a really good crew to work with so I like volunteering at Halswell. I do have horticultural knowledge and skills and I like to listen to horticultural programmes on the radio. Some of the other people there like to ask me questions about this and that. Sometimes we have a nice barbecue and they’re very tasty, I enjoy that.”
Christchurch City Council Park Ranger Nigel Morritt says it’s great to have Mr Wright along.
“He just loves it and it does him so much good to come and help out. He’s really keen to be there so I let him know when the planting days are coming up and sometimes take a chair in case he needs a break.
“Everybody knows him and he’s such a likeable guy. We really appreciate his help because he’s very dedicated and he’s got a lot of botany knowledge.
“From a City Council perspective he inspires other volunteers and for him personally, I know it does him a lot of good and we do our best to keep him involved.”
Council Parks Programmes and Partnerships Manager Kate Russell says Mr Wright’s experience shows how volunteering can keep people engaged and contributing to their community.
“This goes to the heart of why we do what we do. His well being is enhanced by being involved and at the same time he is doing great work for a green asset in our city.”
• There will be a Community Planting Day at Halswell Quarry Park this Saturday 25 July (in association with Trees for Canterbury) from 10am until 12pm. The aim of the planting days is to create a more diverse wetland environment and a healthy habitat for wildlife.