‘Bug man’ delights garden crowd

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullalliedpress.co.nz

‘‘Bug man’’ Ruud Kleinpaste returned to Lawrence at the weekend to help mark a television first, 20 years on.

Lawrence Rural Health Centre held a public garden party in its grounds on Saturday, to celebrate 20 years since the cast and crew of Maggie’s Garden Show descended on the town.

Led by Maggie Barry, alongside Jim Mora and Mr Kleinpaste, the popular 1990s show was invited to the health centre by local woman Julene McCorkindale to give it what was, at the time, New Zealand’s first ever 24-hour garden makeover.

Although Mrs Barry could not attend the event, Mr Kleinpaste was present as guest of honour, and delighted acrowd of about 100 with what he described as a little ‘‘full frontal nerd-ity’’.

He said helping create a garden in 24 hours for the first time was an ‘‘extraordinary’’ experience.

‘‘We didn’t really know what we were doing. Nowadays it’s a fairly common TV idea, but then we were making it up as we went along.

‘‘It’s a credit to the Lawrence community then and now that everyone mucked in, and we were able to achieve this result that still looks amazing today.’’

Mr Kleinpaste, whose latest project is focused on training teachers to‘‘take the curriculum outdoors’’, described Lawrence as an ‘‘exemplar’’ for community action New Zealand-wide.

‘‘Lawrence is all about community, and it’s only through community we can help create nature-literate young Kiwis by getting them involved in outdoor projects like this.

‘‘It was this project, 20 years ago, that inspired me.’’

The gathering also doubled as an official sod-turning ceremony for the health centre’s first two independent living units, which community body Tuapeka Health Incorporated (THI) hopes to begin building before June.

THI chairman Mark Hay said the community spirit that led the makeover 20 years ago persisted today.

‘‘The makeover was a typical Lawrence ‘can-do, must-do’ deal, and it’s great to be moving forward with another of those projects today in the shape of our new independent living units here at the health centre.

‘‘We’re looking forward to producing another facility the town can be proud of.’’