This week’s Good Sort noticed a problem at the end of her street nearly two decades ago.

Living on the shores of Lake Taupō, Shirley Potter noticed that something was stealing her walnuts.

Initially, she thought it was rats, but it turned out to be something else.

“At the DOC reserve at the end of the road, there were hundreds and hundreds of possums,” she said.

So naturally, she turned them into neck warmers. But she was not finished – getting the community involved.

“We started a war on the weeds once we had started on the pests.”

Her greatest satisfaction is rediscovering native trees that they planted, and the birds that returned with the trees.

“The collective noun for tui is an ‘ecstasy’ and a friend and I counted what would have been 100 in one group.”

She has enlisted even those on the fringes in her project. Seedlings are grown at the local prison, then planted by school kids.

The weeds are pulled by volunteers.

“You get people working side by side who in their normal lives would never work side by side,” she said.

“Lots of people are happy to come and plant a tree, but not many people are happy to come and do this.”

One volunteer said that Shirley has become “like family to me.”

Another said that they never thought they could be so enthusiastic about pulling weeds.

“You just feel buzzy when you go home… like I’ve had an affair or something.”

Since 2014, 30,000 trees have been planted at the Oruatua Reserve located alongside the Tauranga-Taupo River.

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