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So long . . . Gore Parks and Reserves manager Ian Soper (centre back) is farewelled by members of the Gore Garden Club and the Southland Rho dodendron Society in Gore before he left for his new position at the Ashburton District Coun cil. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

His title and his location have changed, but Ian Soper is doing the same job for the Ashburton District Council as he was in Gore.

The former Gore District Council parks and reserves manager started his new role in Mid-Canterbury on April 12.

He was employed at the council for 16 years.

Mr Soper said it was a hard decision for him and his wife Sue to leave Gore, but they left for personal reasons.

”We have children off our hands and we have grandchildren at both ends of the South Island so the opportunity for leading an in-house operation of high standing within the horticulture community in the middle of the South Island was attractive,” Mr Soper said.

It was also the aspect of the parks and reserves being taken care of in-house rather than contracted out which appealed to Mr Soper.

”I tend to look a little deeper under the leaves, and you can see far more gap between the quality of service delivered in an in-house operating model versus a contracted-out model.

”I am very happy to come to another in-house model that’s got good quality standards, great assets, a good team with knowledge, with depth and with absolute passion to provide communities high-quality open spaces.”

The highlight of his time in Gore would be leading the parks and reserves team and ”enabling them to lift the bar on the local parks and reserves from where I found it”.

Apart from Bannerman Park, where there were new plantings of rhododendrons and hellebores, most of the work Mr Soper was involved in was developing the landscape that was already there.

”The landscape outlives all of us.

”It is about settling the scene for the future and having that strategic outlook to view what the future communities will also get to benefit from.”

In some ways the landscape was like a painting.

”It’s adding  to that canvas . . . you can keep adding a layer and a layer a bit here and a bit there, and you can never say categorically this is finished.”

Prior to Mr Soper leaving, the Gore Garden Club and the Southland Rhododendron Club hosted a farewell afternoon tea for him.

Rhododendron club president Noeline Smith paid tribute to Mr Soper’s achievements building on the work of his predecessors and making the parks, reserves and gardens the envy of the country.

“He has been a good friend to both organisations and will be greatly missed,” Mrs Smith said.

Gore Garden Club member Alan Ritchie said the cricket players of the town appreciated Mr Soper’s work to improve the quality of the Hamilton Park pitch.

“[He was] the kind of fella who rolled up his sleeves and got things done,” Mr Ritchie said.