12 December 2023

Tucked behind the hustle and bustle of one of Tauranga’s busiest roads is stunning park with a quaint little lake. Over the last 35 years it has been transformed from a dairy farm where offal was discarded across the property, to one of Tauranga’s best kept secrets.

Preston Park founder and caretaker Graham Preston first earmarked the 2.5-hectare valley three decades ago for transformation, and it’s been a labour love since – thousands of native; deciduous and wetland plants have been lovingly planted by himself, students; staff, volunteers.

The Park, which sits behind Bethlehem College, is today abundant with more than 140 species of trees, animals, and birds. As you walk through it, song from tui kereru, and pīwakawaka echo from the towering native and deciduous trees which circle around the lake.

During the last four years Preston Park has been granted funding from Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Environmental Enhancement Fund to help achieve some of the bigger ground/excavation work needed to clear larger areas and create new tracks and paths.

The Environmental Enhancement Fund supports local environmental projects that aim to enhance, preserve or protect the region’s natural or historical character.

Each year the Regional Council has $300,000 to fund different projects across the region, with up to $25,000 per project each year.

“The extra help from the Regional Council has been a blessing, we have done so much over the years, we really needed a bigger boost to get some of the larger earth works done, and that’s what we have done.

“We are working towards ground zero, to have the park’s foundations re-established to show if off to its full potential,” Mr Preston said.

“Our purpose is to provide a place of recreation, beauty and restoration but in an educational setting - I think we are just about there.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council programme coordinator Ben Parker-Haar said the Environmental Enhancement fund was set up to provide seed funding for community-based projects which improve the environment, raise environmental awareness, and use the enthusiasm and skills of the community.

“It’s a wonderful way for the community to get together and to do something for the environment. Over the last four years we have been able to help some amazing groups and projects across the region,” he said.

Wetland restoration, native plantings, community gardens, removal of pest weeds and animals, monitoring of native birds and energy based solar projects have all been successful through the fund.

The fund opens on July 1 each year and runs on a first in, first serve basis until it is fully allocated.

For more information, please head to Environmental Enhancement Fund | Bay of Plenty Regional Council | Toi Moana (boprc.govt.nz)