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Outstanding Parks Leader

Parks Leaders Forum


At the Parks Leaders Forum AGM last year we awarded the PLF’s supreme award, The Outstanding Parks Leaders Award, to Michael Ayrton, Parks Director of Cornwall Park.

But we had a presentation of the Award to do, and Auckland was in Covid-19 lockdown…and then it was Christmas and so on. So we took the award and the presentation to Michael. Upon hearing our plight, PLF Associate Member Bridge It New Zealand, offered to take the Award to Michael and a plan was hatched. On 27 December, Bridge It New Zealand provided a transport option and Papatūānuku, the carved award, flew. Michael provided bubbles and Crayfish, and we enjoyed a very special presentation with Michael and his family at the beach. This is that video. Thank you Pat Seuren of Bridge It New Zealand for making this happen. We also looked out for some of their cool Bridge It New Zealand council bridges on the way.

Bridge It New Zealand and PLF mitigated our flight’s carbon impact by donating 300 flax plants from GCC’s holding area of transport mitigating plants to PLF member Tauranga City Council’s hapu planting project in the Kopurererua valley.

Michael’s nomination cited a full career as a parks leader, including 30 years as Parks Director at Cornwall Park, a career where Michael has over a long period of time collaborated and developed strategic relationships with many parks agencies in Australasia and the United Kingdom. This has provided many benefits to parks organisations in NZ (e.g. seeking out and disseminating technical innovations, best practices, industry standards, staff study trips and development). Michael has contributed much to the Institute, to horticultural education and to New Zealand horticulture in general. Michael has managed significant volcanic landscapes in an integrated and inclusive way that has generally been acknowledged as pragmatic, best practice by a range of stakeholders.

Michael has played an active role in many industry-related organisations, including:

  • Membership of the New Zealand Recreation Association, serving as chair of the Auckland Branch and then on the regional executive for eight years. Re-joined the branch 2014-2017

  • Membership of the Parks Forum, being appointed a Board Member in 2008; Deputy Chair of Parks Forum

  • Board member, Parks Leaders Forum

  • Active membership of the New Zealand Arboriculture Association

  • Membership of the Unitec Institute of Technology Horticultural Advisory Committee for three years

  • Trustee of Highbrook Park, Manukau City

  • New Zealand Michael Ayrton joined the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH) (The Institute) in 1993 and since then has contributed much to this organisation. For nine years (1998 to 2007), he was a member of the National Executive and represented the Institute on the Board of the New Zealand Horticultural Training Organisation from 2001 to 2007. In 2000, he helped to organise a meeting of garden owners at Eden Gardens, Auckland, and this was an important step in the formation of what is now the RNZIH New Zealand Gardens Trust

  • NZRA National Conference Organising committee, Auckland conference(s)

  • During his time on the HITO board, and largely thanks to his input, a relationship developed between RNZIH and HITO which led, in 2004, to the formation of the RNZIH Education Trust with the aim of the Institute having an active role in promoting excellence in horticultural training. He was one of the founding board members of the Education Trust and played an active role in its management, including the establishment and extensive involvement in the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, until standing down in 2007 in order to have more time to organise a parks conference

  • Michael secured HITO funding to contribute to the NZRA salary in order to fund the Parks Coordinator role, leading to the appointment of Jude Rawcliffe.

Author: Geoff Canham



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