Southland's Ann Irving to receive Walking Access Award for wetlands work

Southland resident Ann Irving is to receive a national Walking Access Award in recognition of her efforts towards obtaining public access to one of the few remaining flax wetlands in Southland.

The wetland is located in Rural Women New Zealand's forestry block in Dipton, and Mrs Irving has been working with Environment Southland, landowner Alan Maxwell and the Walking Access Commission to create a legally enduring 150 metre track giving access to it.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission regional field advisor for Queenstown Lakes and Southland, Ange van der Laan, says Mrs Irving has been working tirelessly to make the walkway a reality.

“The possibility of the wetland being opened for public access is now there, and that is largely due to Ann's tenacity, patience and commitment,” Ms van der Laan says.

Mrs Irving, who is secretary of the Rural Women New Zealand Southland Forestry Committee, says she has always been interested in conservation and is humbled by the award. She stresses that the credit should also go to her colleagues at Rural Women New Zealand and to others in the community.

“The award recognises the efforts of everyone involved. It's been quite a big job,” she says.

Mrs Irving acknowledged Mr Maxwell, the landowner who has agreed to the walkway going over his paddock and Environment Southland which had agreed to become the Controlling Authority of the walkway. Dipton Landcare Group and Dipton School had also played a major role and would soon roll out a weeding and planting programme for the walkway.

New Zealand Walking Access Commission chief executive Mark Neeson says the Walking Access Awards recognise those who have made significant and lasting contributions to public access to the outdoors in New Zealand. These contributions can be through securing new legal access, championing public rights of access, trail building, or contributing to understanding of access rights and responsibilities.

“The annual awards are an opportunity to acknowledge people in the community who are investing a great deal of time and effort to making walking easier, which in turn allows people to enjoy the outdoors,” Mr Neeson says.

Mrs Irving will receive the award on Monday 16 November, during an informal event at the Dipton Golf Club. MP Todd Barclay will be attending the event, as well as New Zealand Walking Access Commission operations manager Ric Cullinane.

Last month, Waitomo resident Peter Chandler was announced as the first 2015 recipient of a Walking Access Award. Mr Chandler was recognised for the work he's done to develop new tracks and trails in his region. Other award recipients will be announced over the coming weeks and months.

Award nominees can include individuals, community organisations and government.