Whizzing over the wonders of the Waikato region in a small plane was something 85-year-old Marion Lewin never thought she’d do.
But the Ngutunui resident got the chance recently after winning a flight over the region in Environment Waikato’s One Waikato Seven Wonders competition.
It was a dream opportunity to see the landscape from a whole new perspective for Marion, a retired school teacher who has a lifelong interest in the environment.
Waikato Aero Club charter pilot and Environment Waikato resource information group manager Tony Petch provided an expert commentary for Marion and her son Peter, who accompanied her on the flight.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” Marion said.
“I didn’t know there was a prize, I just entered to have my say and winning was the icing on the cake. If I was a bit younger I would go back to the aero club and learn to fly the plane myself because it was so amazing being able to see the landscape that way.”
One highlight was flying over her farm on the eastern slopes of Pirongia, where she has lived for more than 40 years. While there she got a bird’s eye view of a wetland she has recently spent $5000 restoring.
It was also a chance to see the west side of Mt Pirongia.
“I’ve done lots of walks over it and always meant to go to the summit but it never worked out, so I never thought I’d see the other side with my own eyes,” she said.
“It was quite intriguing. I had the impression that it went almost into the sea but it doesn’t, there’s a huge plain out there.”
Marion was also impressed with the pristine bush on Maungatautari – “it must have been the sort of vegetation Cook saw when he first arrived in New Zealand” – and the Horomatangi Reef, a geothermal area in Lake Taupo where the lake bed rises close to the surface.
Dr Petch said it had been a pleasure taking Marion on the “wonder flight”.
“She was so interested in the landscape and it was great being able to give her a unique view of all the amazing natural features we have in our region,” he said.
Marion sponsors a hectare of native bush on Pirongia through the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, which is helping to rid the mountain of pests so trees and birds can flourish. She said she was thrilled Environment Waikato is planting 10 native trees on the mountain to offset the flight’s carbon emissions, in conjunction with the Department of Conservation.
Marion’s favourite Waikato wonder, Mt Pirongia, came fifth in Environment Waikato’s One Waikato Seven Wonders competition, behind the Waikato River, Mt Maungatautari, Raglan and Waitomo Caves. Karangahake and Lake Taupo were sixth and seventh.
Marion’s flight was sponsored by Waikato Aero Club.