Tia Ormsby van Selm from Ngāti Apakura guides Rotary International president Gordon McInally through the Rotopiko Reserve. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Gordon and Heather McInally were so impressed with the Urban Miners recycling operation in Cambridge that they intend to take the concept home to Scotland.

Last week, the couple visited the Cambridge Rotary Club’s star performer, Urban Miners.

Gordon – formerly a dentist in Edinburgh, Scotland – is the first Rotary International president to visit New Zealand and the couple’s five day trip included four Waipā visits.

The first was at Hamilton Airport where they saw a Life Flight plane, a partnership between Rotary District 9940 and the Life Flight Trust, which runs three nationwide Air Ambulance planes.

They attended district governor Bill Robinson’s Rotary Club in Cambridge, Lake Rotopiko wetlands near Ōhaupō and Urban Miners in Cambridge which runs an e-waste reuse, repair, and recycling service for the Waipā district.

The McInallys live in Yetholm – population 600 – in the Scottish Borders. Kelso, the nearest town has 8000 people.

“This is fantastic. We take anything like this… to our local dump, and I don’t think we pay attention to where it goes when we go to the dump,” said Heather.

“We’re going to go back and try and find out a bit more about what happens to the waste – the computers, microwaves, etc. We just take it down to the local tip, it goes in a separate corner, but I realise we have no idea what happens to it.”

Earlier Gordon unveiled a macrocarpa bench at Rotopiko made by Allan Johnston, the husband of Te Awamutu Rotary Club president Gill Johnston.

During the ceremony, he was told that just after sunrise every day, millions of sparrows, starlings and pigeons leave their roosting spot in the reserve having created carnage behind them.

National Wetland Trust co-chair Don Scarlet explained how important the partnership between Te Awamutu Rotary Club, Ngāti Apakura, Waipā District Council and the Conservation Department is to eradicate the wicked birds.

“All they do is to come here and roost, and sleep. Before that, they undertake the final bodily function, which is to excrete, and sadly that brings a lot of nutrients into this pristine, very low-nutrient peat lake environment.

“That’s our wicked problem and we are still on a journey to mitigate that.”

Waipā’s wetland maintenance contractor Murray Davies explained the latest plan to control the birds involved pruning off the bottom foliage to allow the wind and sun in.

“They leave 100mls thick in the bottom of the forest every night. It’s filthy and disgusting.

“We’ve got to find a way to make it uncomfortable for them to return and roost.”

Birds hate the wind, he said.

“We cannot do things working in isolation and working alone and it’s only when we truly come together as one that we can achieve great things such as you are achieving here,” Gordon said.

“As one, we are better. This is the most beautiful spot,” he said.

“We recognise and understand the importance of wetlands in terms of our environment and the sustainability of our environment.”

He apologised on behalf of his forebears for introducing starlings, sparrows and pigeons.

“Hopefully you will find a solution to that this year and this very special place will be preserved and will play its part in the harmony of the environment. Thank you for allowing us to be on your land.”