Village News

Worth his weight in gold

06 March 2024

John Staniland in front of a track named after him

From a young age, Orion Point resident, John Staniland has always felt at one with nature.

“I’m happy in lots of places, but the place where I feel most at rest is a tall, deep forest. It’s always fascinated me”, says John.

And so, in between teaching Latin, English, and Classical Studies at Kelston Boys for 41 years, John prioritised his love of nature. In the late 1970s he became the founding Chair of the Waitakere Branch of Forest & Bird helping lead the restoration of an expansive greenspace into a thriving ecosystem. With the help of some volunteers of course.

The area, nestled in the Waitākere Ranges, now known as the Matuku Reserve and Matuku Link, is a labour of love that John and many other members of the community have proudly been involved in, enhancing the forest through animal pest control in the Reserve, and transforming the Link from bare paddocks to a wonderful wetland.

“I’m constantly in awe of it all, the towering trees and the creatures that call it home”, says John.

But John’s conservation work doesn’t stop there. As a founding member of ‘Ark in the Park’, Forest & Bird ’s volunteer pest control project, John helped transform 2,200 hectares of land in the Cascades Kauri Park and Waitākere Ranges Regional Park into a safe haven for native species.

“We wanted to reintroduce special native species that were extinct from the area, and we’ve managed to bring back robin and kokako.”

With a lifetime of conservation work up his sleeve, it was no surprise that John was the recipient of the ASB Good As Gold award. But he’s quick to acknowledge all those who give up their own time to work alongside him.

“It’s a huge amount of work from the volunteers. From bait stations to trap lines there are many dedicated people in our community with the same vision – protect this land for future generations.”

With so much time, love and attention poured into these projects, it’s not surprising John and wife, Karen were a little apprehensive about leaving their home of 50 years in the bush to move into a retirement village.

“It wasn’t just about leaving the house, it was also about the environment”, says John.

“We were trying to decide on where we would go, and on my way to the reserve one day, I asked for divine guidance. A short time later on Matuku Link I heard a roar in the sky and saw an Orion flying over – it was the sign I’d been looking for!”

“From that moment on, I’ve never had any doubt about moving into Orion Point.”

With everything, from mangroves to manuka, Orion Point’s expansive vistas were a real draw card for the couple.

“I was sad to leave, but happy to arrive. I really enjoy being here, I feel at peace and at home”, says John.

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