Last Thursday the reserve shade house that protects native plants was set on fire. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE
Pupils main suspects
Millennium Reserve has become a target for vandals, with a deliberately lit fire on Tuesday afternoon, the third incident in a month.
Fire and police were called to the reserve at 3.30pm to attend a fire that had got into trees.
Last Thursday the reserve shade house that protects native plants was set on fire.
Vandalism in the nursery over the month includes all the plants pulled out of the shade house, some dumped into the creek and others set out in the shape of a swastika.
Other plants, just planted out, have been deliberately uprooted.
Over the past month multiple incidents have been reported to police and fire services.
Masterton Station duty fire officer Kevin Smith said Thursday’s fire was also deliberately lit.
“It was just at the end of the school day and due to the location off the track, it is pretty clear – fires don’t light themselves,” Smith said.
“There is still a lot of grass around because of the wet spring but when that dries up fires can spread more easily.”
Volunteer nurserywoman Christine McDonald said thousands of dollars of damage had been done.
She propagates native plants on site for the reserve and supplies other planting projects around Masterton with the overflow.
“It’s really disheartening and frustrating and we are now having to look into putting in security cameras because we have to catch the vandals doing it,” McDonald said.
“Students are loitering and smoking in the reserve, the fires have been going on for months and it is way out of hand.
“The whole point is to create and provide a community resource for everyone for the future.”
Another volunteer Kevin Worsley said it was difficult to catch people vandalising, but said they were almost certain school pupils who were the culprits.
“We have been told by the local schools, pupils are not to be out of school grounds during school hours, yet they are in the reserve,” Worsley said.
“There is plenty of vandalism going on. We had a chair ripped off and chucked into the lake and if a fire gets away down there it will be off.”
Worsely is calling for everyone at the park to keep an eye out and help the small numbers of volunteers to look after the reserve.
The reserve began as a joint Rotary-Forest and Bird-QEII-Masterton Trust Lands Trust project to convert vacant land into a native forest reserve to mark the new millennium.
All the work creating and maintaining the reserve since has been completed by volunteers.
The fledgling forest was opened to the public in 2008 but since then has matured significantly.
Around a thousand plants are planted in the reserve each year so the forest is gradually developing and diversifying.