Our 2023 anniversary party turned into a three-day pARTy, thanks to Derek March’s ‘takeover’ of our barn and education center as part of the Waitakere Open Studios. Professional artist and conservationist Derek March has been a volunteer with Waitakere Rivercare, growing plants for revegetating stream sides in the Waitakere River valley, for over 25 years. Since the Waitakere Rivercare group moved their nursery to Matuku Link in 2017, he has been in the nursery every third week to look after the plants we’re growing for our wetland as well as to lead and educate all the volunteers who help us. Over the years, Derek has contributed many artworks – little pāteke signs for planting groups, birds and eels for Open Days and he even donated a huge matuku hūrepo (bittern) he sculpted! His latest creative donation however is the largest ever – in time, effort and size: he painted a 35 meter long mural on what was a very ugly fence.

After two postponements due to the weather, we finally were able to unveil the mural amidst many of Dereks’ friends, family and Matuku Link supporters. It even stopped raining during the speeches, and on Sunday afternoon the sun came out. A beautiful  full colour design on A3 by John Ringer gives some more info on the individual details of the artwork, called “Tuna heke – the migration of eels”, a journey to the sea from the the headwaters in the misty rainforest down through the land to the coast. The eels have been a consistent presence in the river, witnessing changes brought by humans through the currents of time, depicted here on the mural.

The eel was also the inspiration for Jenny MacDonald’s pebble artwork, installed last year but never officially unveiled due to Covid restrictions. The third artwork “opened” was our Window Wall – made from recycled, donated window frames by a team of dedicated volunteers Gary, Russell and Lew. They cleaned, scraped, sanded, primed, re-glazed and repainted all the frames to turn them into this funky upcycled wall to keep the outside area of the barn dry and ready for our Wetland Education participants. John Staniland, our MC for the night “opened” the Window Wall by “closing” it with a small yellow block naming the three men who made this happen.

Others celebrated were John Ringer for all his time donated as a graphic designer, Mark Bellingham as our wetland specialist and TDR expert, John Sumich – founding trustee – for his energy and vision, Chad Wilkie – chair of the trust, Dale Bainbridge – trustee and master builder and architect.

The weekend was a huge success and fulfills the last one of the four aims of our project – restoration, protection, education and inspiration – which we can focus on now we’ve got the first three items up and running!

Thank you for all of you who brought a plate to the party, who supported Derek while making his artwork or afterwards by visiting, having a chat or buying his works, for giving guided tours or supporting us with your purchases from our shop. But of course our main thanks goes to Derek – whos hundreds of hours of work created the mural, the heart of the pARTy.

Hope to see you again in the new year,

Ngā mihi mahana, Annalily van den Broeke – project manager Matuku Link


Images by our amazing volunteer photographer Stefan Marks