The Southland Community Nursery in Otatara grows locally-sourced native plants best suited for Southland conditions.
Brian and Chris Rance started the nursery about 20 years ago after they purchased a block of swampy farmland near the New River Estuary. They wanted to restore a paddock into bush but they couldn’t afford to buy lots of native plants so they set about doing it themselves and it’s grown for there.
“In the 1980’s the paddock was cleared of bush and we’re taking a lifetime to put it back up again...” Chris says.
About 8000 plants were grown at the nursery this year and many are allotted to volunteers who plant them on their properties.
“The idea is we’re a charitable trust, the nursery, and people come and help out and can take plants for free if they volunteer.”
They also supply plants to the Southland Multicultural Council in Invercargill who give them away to new citizens who settle in the area.
“More recently we’ve been selecting kōwhai because they attract tui and bellbirds and they’re a very significant plant for New Zealand and Southland, so that’s often the plant we give away now.”
A recent addition to the nursery is an education centre that is used regularly by school groups.
"It means that school groups can come, they are not discouraged by the weather, but we always want to get them outside so it’s just a means to and end really."