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Environmentalist of the Year Named

29 February 2008

Strictly embargoed till 7.00pm Friday 29 February

Keep New Zealand Beautiful and Fonterra name Environmentalist of the Year.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful and Fonterra have named Mosgiel’s Lester Harvey as their Environmentalist of the Year.

Lester was chosen from nominations from each of the society’s 50 programmes, which cover New Zealand. His efforts to beautify 10 kilometres of rail track at Mosgiel, just south of Dunedin, have turned a transport corridor into virtual parkland, the independent judge decided.

Keep New Zealand beautiful chief executive office, Barry Lucinsky, says Lester, well into his seventies, spent not hundreds but thousands of hours at his voluntary work.

“Lester shows that one person can make a difference to a suburb. All it takes is a desire to be unhappy about the way things are and the energy to get out and set it right,” he says.

“Lester’s work would have been so daunting at the begin but he’s toiled away for years, not seeking public applause or money till he made what’s a utility corridor look as good as a good gardener’s quarter acre. Except his garden stretches for 10 kilometres! All because he thought someone should set to and fix an eyesore.”

Mr. Lucinsky says the Environmentalist of the Year Award brought out inspiring stories about volunteers making a difference to their communities, from all Keep New Zealand Beautiful programmes. Each nominee receives the Chairman’s Excellence Award while the Environmentalist of the Year is chosen from amongst the successful nominees.

“Global pollution’s a big, scary story tackled at government levels. But there’s a local angle too. We just start out like Lester, cleaning up the neighbourhood. If we all did it, we’d be able to hang onto the clean, green country for generations to come.”

The Fonterra-sponsored award was presented at Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s function at the Beehive on Friday, 29 February.

High-res. image of the trophy is available here: www.knzb.org.nz/images/environmentHi.jpg


Lester Harvey - Mosgiel Rail Corridor Trust

The concept of tidying up the railway embankment from Wingatui to Riccarton Road was first floated at a Mosgiel Taieri Community Board meeting, held in June 1996 as a beautification project for the Board, at that time by Board member Brian Miller.

Brian's argument was that it was not a good entrance for MosgieL the 5.5 km stretch was nothing but long grass, weeds and other people's dumping area for rubbish. The Community Board established a working party of four Board members, a representative from Keep Dunedin Beautiful and a staff member from the DCC Community and Recreation Planning Department to look at the project.

A start was made in October 1996 on the project using Task Force Green workers with-a full-time Task Force Green supervisor with up to ten Task Force Green workers being found on site at anyone time. A total of 43 Task Force Green workers have participated in the project over the years, extending their work skills and increasing their opportunities for employment. A number have moved on to paid employment.

In February 2000 a public meeting was called by the Community Board where it was decided to form a Trust to continue the project with The Trust comprising five members; three from the community at large, one from the Community Board and one from Keep Dunedin Beautiful with the Secretary/Treasurer appointed by the Trust.

In May 2000 the Trust had its first meeting with Lester elected as Chairperson. Since that time Lester has driven the project supervising workers and doing 25 hours plus a week. That's a lot of community hours over a 10 year period.

In that time approximately 200 cubic metres of soil has been trucked in to flatten areas out to make it easy to mow and 18,000 plants, donated by nurseries and private gardeners, have been planted on the embankment. This includes the 324 Buxtus plants grown by Lester for the word "Wingatui" , which can be seen from the Excursion train as it heads out of Wingatui on the preserved bit of the Old Central Otago line.

The Corridor project is what it is today because of Lester's hard work and being the driving force to finish it and maintain what we see today.

© Scoop Media

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