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Tabitha Becroft: Following in Mum’s boots

Flagstaff Team

Many hats… Tabitha Becroft has many roles working for the environment, but restoring Lyford Reserve is what she does for fun

An early memory of sailing out to protest the arrival of a nuclear-powered US warship planted a seed of environmental activism for Sunnynook’s Tabitha Becroft.

“We were a tiny sailing dinghy among the massive fleet of boats,” Becroft says.

“The US wouldn’t confirm or deny whether they had nuclear arms.”

The expedition was led by Becroft’s mother, Genevieve Becroft, who waswell-known in Takapuna for community leadership and arts patronage, and also a keen gardener.

“She was always gardening and an environmental activist,” says her daughter, who has been the driving force behind the restoration of Sunnynook’s Lyford bush reserve, the largest expanse of bush in the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board area.

Not that Becroft approves of the board’s name.

“It’s a mouthful, but there isn’t an easy way to name the area. I prefer ‘Sunnynook South’,” she jokes, adding it’s not an original idea.

Earlier this year, Lyford Reserve’s path was officially opened, making it much easier for the community to both enjoy and maintain the “native haven”, as Becroft calls it.

The path was completed in collaboration with Auckland Council and supported by a local board grant, but there was still a big contribution from the community.

Becroft has dragged her family into helping, with her husband’s Takapuna engineering firm, Stellar Projects, contributing above and beyond the time paid for from the local board funding, and her children doing everything from tree-planting to making weta hotels from bamboo.

The secret to getting a project like this going is just to start, Becroft says. Then people contribute.

Becroft wears many hats professionally, but leading the Lyford Reserve project, on behalf of the Sunnynook Community Association, is what she does “for fun”.

She leads working bees on the third Saturday of the month, and has been doing trapping mainly on her own.

Becroft plans to work with the new environmental coordinator Fiona Martin to expand pest control in the reserve. (See Green Page 23, for more on Martin.)

Pollution of a stream in Lyford Reserve is another concern. The council tests it four times a year, but Becroft is dismayed residents dump shells and garden waste into it.

Becroft is positive the estuary can become cleaner, if work is coordinated and looks forward to Martin’s role in facilitating that. Sadly, once the valley was a large wetland, but now streams have been replaced with concrete channels.

“If you look at the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board area, water is our point of difference. We have beautiful beaches, an amazing estuary – Shoal Bay is internationally renowned for its wading birds, and Lake Pupuke is the most amazing volcanic lake.”

Growing up in the house her mother still lives in beside the lake played a part in that passion, she says.

Becroft’s children, now aged 12 to 16, all attended Sunnynook Primary, where Becroft is now employed for three hours a week teaching the children gardening skills. After the children grow the food, a teacher helps them cook it.

She also takes beginners’ trapping workshops for community groups, on contract to Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation, with one coming up in Milford, as part of the Birdsong Project, working towards a pest-free area.

The secret to getting a project like this going is just to start, Becroft says. Then people contribute.

A new ‘hat’ is a two-day-a-week job for Auckland Council as a biodiversity adviser, which Becroft is still scoping out with the council.

Becroft is full of praise for the Sunnynook Primary School and groups in the Sunnynook community for helping out with environmental projects.

Another commitment for Becroft, 47, is caring for her mother – now unwell – who has been her inspiration in giving generously to the community and the planet.

This article originally appeared in the November 22 edition of the Rangitoto Observer.