The Road Gang
Michael McBryde, Paul Kitteridge, Ian Appleton and Alan Perry call themselves the ‘road gang’. They are members of ZEALANDIA’s Wednesday working group – a group that meets every Wednesday morning to carry out a wide range of maintenance tasks. I met with them recently while they were on their morning tea break (they were celebrating Paul’s birthday with tea and cake), to find out more about what they do.
Some of the working group members are based in ZEALANDIA’s workshop, but, Michael, Paul, Ian and Alan all work outdoors. As Michael explains, they enjoy being outdoors, “close to nature” where they can listen to the birds and “have a chat”. Their chats seem to cover a very wide range of topics from the habits of dioecious plants, to philosophy, solving Wellington’s transport problems and the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books by Arthur Ransome. And if the conversation lags and the birds are quiet, Paul may “burst into song” with snatches of opera in different languages. They also enjoy interacting with visitors who often ask them questions when they are out working. They all agree that Alan is the road gang expert on flora and fauna in the valley.
Every week, they clear out the gutter that runs along Lake Road – as well as keeping Lake Road tidy, this also stops flooding after heavy rain. They finish doing this by “smoko time”, and after that they usually head up to one of the tracks where they clear debris from culverts, rake paths, and pull out broom – “all highly skilled tasks”. They also undertake any other jobs that might be needed – in the past this has included clearing up quite a substantial rockfall across the Lake Road.
The road gang are all long-serving volunteers at ZEALANDIA. Their commitment earned Michael, Paul and Ian ‘kaka outstanding volunteer’ awards in 2016, and Alan earned the same award in 2013. The four of them wanted to acknowledge a former member, Peter Lapsley, a very long-serving volunteer who sadly died a couple of years ago.
Some of the road gang carry out other tasks at ZEALANDIA such as kaka feeding, and helping with the annual kiwi count and other research projects. Alan and Ian have both taken part in volunteering activities at night in ZEALANDIA, and highlights for them included seeing a giant weta when these had just been introduced into ZEALANDIA, and getting to hold a kiwi when taking part in a kiwi research project. All of them really enjoy the experience of being in ZEALANDIA on a regular basis and getting to know the different plants and wildlife. A particular thrill is seeing birds that you might not see every day such as the kārearea - and noticing over the years how the birdsong has increased as birdlife continues to return to the valley.
Pictured: Paul Kitteridge on the far left, Alan Perry, Michael McBryde and Ian Appleton on the right. In between are Richard, Alan R, Bob, and Peter H, all from the "indoor" Wednesday group.