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Outdoor office... Dolamore Park caretaker Vic Herring thinks it's time to retire. PHOTO: MARGARET PHILLIPS

Vic Herring has magnificent views of beautiful forest and neatly manicured lawns, and can see native bird life from his office door.

The 71-year-old has been Dolamore Park’s caretaker for 14 years but he has decided to leave the tranquil work setting behind and retire.

“At 71, I think it’s time. I’ve enjoyed it,” Mr Herring said.

One of the tasks he enjoyed the most was mowing. Neither of the tractors used for it had cabs and he quoted the John Denver song Sunshine on My Shoulders when talking about it.

Mr Herring was a carpenter before he took up his present position, and also an enthusiastic gardener.

He had also worked on farms and overseas.

“So all these skills have fitted in with what I’m doing here,” he said.

Being caretaker of the 95ha park is a varied task.

He put toilet paper replenishment at the top of his job list.

“If you have no toilet paper, the whole park is rubbish,” Mr Herring said.

Then comes the tasks of cleaning the toilets, weeding and taking care of the trees and shrubs.

There were about 1000 rhododendrons at the park, he said, and the bird life was spectacular.

“In the spring, up to 40 wood pigeons fly past the shed [which is also the office].”

Carpentry skills came in handy when fixing playground equipment and seats.

there was the responsibility of looking after the street furniture in the Gore district. There are 26 playgrounds in the district, which includes Pukerau, Waikaka and Mataura.

“Then I look after rubbish tins in Mataura and Gore,” he said.

But his responsibilities did not end there.

“On my job description it says ‘and anything else Ian can think of’.”

Parks and reserves manager Ian Soper was his boss and he had told Mr Herring he was the best magpie the council had.

“If I can get something for nothing, I’ll get it.”

He treated the park as if it was his own, so was very prudent with spending, he said.

The park was busy at Christmastime, when campers swarmed on to the site.

Visitors came not only from Southland but from throughout the world, from countries such as Europe, Australia and Canada.

“You can’t manoeuvre here at Christmas.”

Mr Herring had worked for the former Southland County Council and then Gore District Council for about 30 years.

He headed an employment skills scheme and enjoyed working with young people.

“There was some really good guys among them, that really struggled to get jobs.”

Some of them now had very good jobs, he said.

Although Mr Herring had enjoyed his work life, it was not where his biggest achievement lay; that was in his children’s successes.

He said he had a close-knit family that gave him immense pride and joy.