Supporting communities  |  7 Feb 2020

Dodge making awkward small talk in a noisy restaurant and try a Valentine’s Day “spade-date” on the peaceful Port Hills instead.

Organised by Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ) and Christchurch City Council Parks staff, Christchurch’s second spade-dating evening is being held from 5.45pm on Friday 14 February.

The idea behind the event is that singles can meet like-minded people in the outdoors while helping to care for Arbor Day plantings, followed by a relaxed picnic.

With spectacular views over the city and the Canterbury plains, the Port Hills are the perfect setting for a budding romance, or a new friendship.

Spade-dating, which aims to encourage conservation and conversation, is the brainchild of CVNZ Regional Coordinator Hamish Fairbairn and Council Parks Visitor Experience Team member Sarah Mankelow. It was held for the first time last year.

“For a lot of people the conventional idea of Valentine's Day makes them want to head for the hills, so we thought we could harness that for the good of our environment,” Mr Fairbairn says.

“Victoria Park is a beautiful place to spend some time in the evening and we do our best to make it a friendly, social atmosphere for everyone.

"Last year we found it worked really well for people to have something worthwhile to do while they chatted. Even if they don’t make a friend or someone they would like to spend more time with, they’ve achieved something positive and had a lot of fun.”

Participants will weed around native trees previously planted by local school children for Arbor Day. Clearing areas around native plants is essential for their survival.

They’ll be working in small groups and team leaders will throw out some conversation starters and teasers to help people get to know each other.

Following the picnic, the group has the option of heading to The Fermentist for a free refreshment. The local microbrewery is supporting the event.

What spade-daters need to know:

  • Wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather.
  • Gloves and tools will be provided.
  • A suggested $5 koha towards costs is welcome.
  • This is an R18 event and places are limited with registrations required.
  • Spade-daters meet in the small car park behind the Victoria Park Information Centre at 5.45pm. The working site is a short 10-minute walk away.
  • If the weather is poor the event will be postponed until Saturday 15 February – notified by text.