The Jean Malpas Community Nursery is part of community efforts to reintroduce native plants to Central Otago. Meet passionate conservationists Neill and Barb Simpson and learn more about their work with their community, local schools and early childcare centres.
At the end of 2015, the Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, announced that a Queenstown couple were the recipients of this country’s oldest conservation award, the Loder Cup.
For decades, Barbara and Neill Simpson have worked in conservation and education, and 2 years ago, they established a native plant nursery.
In addition to fundraising, the nursery and building were the result of hundreds of hours of volunteer work carried out by locals. Barbara explains.
We were heavily involved, and we still are to a lesser degree, in the Wakatipu Islands, up the lake. There were big fires up there, and we were doing replanting up there. And then we realised we really need to look at our own space in the Wakatipu. It’s maybe 5% native, if that, in the rural landscape. So we thought it’s time we started doing some planting here.
So we thought, yeah, we’ll have a nursery. Vanessa van Uden, our mayor, was very wonderful at saying, yes, you could have this piece of recreational ground. Then we went from there saying, well, we need some money. And our first fundraiser was Maggie Barry. We got our first $1,200 because Maggie spoke at the golf club. So that was really great. And then we started looking, well, we need more, because the potting shed facility is obviously costing more than $1,200. And we came across the legacy of a lady who died of cancer who had been really heavily involved with this area. Her photo is actually in the nursery on the wall over there.
When you put it in, you’ve got to have just enough stuff at the bottom, so this is just below the top surface. It’s got to stick up like that.
I’ve come out of education. I’ve been at the high school teaching for years and years, and I’m still involved with outdoor education with them. And I just think that the best way to educate the future is to take the small kids, and we have a wonderful – two preschools in Arrowtown who just love their kids to get out and play and be out in the weather and everything else. And so they came to us first to see whether they could bring the children here. So I decided if we could have a programme where Susie at DOC, who is their education person, could visit them in schools, they could come here and pot up, and then they go and plant on a site, then they visit the site later. I mean, that’s just awesome for me.
OK, welcome, and thanks for coming along to the planting day today. My name is Susie from the Department of Conservation, and I think I’ve met most of you before.
Neill and Barb have been part of conservation in the Queenstown area forever. I mean, what they do in the district is incredible. They’ve done so much planting. They’ve got so much passion and the people that they bring along with them – because they do everything, you know, they’re real doers. They’ll get involved, they’ll bring people with them. So yeah, I don’t think we could do without them, basically.
Neill worked for DOC in a previous life, so I’ve always known of their work, and when they set up the trust, there was a new fund come out from the Department – the Community Fund – and we saw a great opportunity to help fund them to grow revegetation of the district. So we work with them very closely on the conservation co-ordinator. So Ange, she’s the lovely lady who has helped organise today, we work together with them for planting days. They’re just a great group of people that we really want to support.
It’s financial in as much as we employ Ange on their behalf. We do supply plants for the Project Gold sites that we manage in the district. So there’s places like Lake Hayes, which is our flagship site for Project Gold, and we supply all the plants for that. And we also supply –through the Department, the Community Conservation Fund funds Ange’s role basically.
We’re in Peninsula Road on the Frankton Arm. When we came onto this site, we saw all this wonderful rock, and we thought, this is a place for us. So that’s where we started, and we’ve planted it up from scratch.
So these trees – 33 years old, which shows beech don’t grow that slowly. And we’re mainly native, although we started off with all sorts of plants, we’ve gradually moved into natives only. The garden is not big enough for anything else. And we’ve got a lot of rare and endangered plants here as well.
We’ve always been interested in nature. Both of us been long-time trampers out in the back country. In Wanganui, I was honorary botanist for the Wanganui Museum and did quite a bit of work around there. I started the Wanganui Museum Botanical Society, and from there, I seemed to have a bit more knowledge than other people at that time, and it’s grown. We joined the Wellington Botanical Society, and that was a major step forward.
We’d been planting around the district and advising people about native plants from a couple of nurseries. And Pukerau Nursery we knew were sourcing plants from this district, seeds and cutting material. So that’s where we’ve been getting our plants from – eco-sourced as much as possible.
We’ve probably got a core of people left over from the Pigeon Island days where we got a lot of volunteers out on that. Going to Pigeon Island was something special. Here, perhaps it’s not quite as special, but we’ve still got a core of people, and we’re gradually bringing more in.
Certainly seeing an increase of interest in planting natives, and there’s some big properties being planted around Queenstown area. Through the Arrow Basin, there’s virtually no natives at all, and we thought we’d like to get patches planted through the area to bring the native birds back, particularly with native birds that we’re interested in. We have a lot of tūīs and bellbirds around here.
And we’re both fairly fit, and this seemed like another great project to get started on. I think I’ve still got a few years left, and certainly Barbara has.
The Science Learning Hub thanks Showdown Productions for the use of this Rural Delivery video clip.