Haehaeata Natural Heritage Trust patron Dr Roger Browne takes a look at the past 10 years of the community native plant nursery.

At a MAD4CO (Make A Difference For Central Otago) meeting in 2011, I raised the possibility of a community-led native plant nursery.

The first hurdle — where should it be located — was solved when the Department of Conservation offered the use of part of its plant propagation facilities at Clyde.

In addition, the Te Kakano Trust at Wanaka offered valuable advice based on its experience with its plant nursery by Lake Wanaka.

A public meeting showed sufficient community support for the nursery to proceed.

In 2013, I raised $2000 from the Ron and Edna Greenwood Environmental Trust, and that funded a storage shed at the nursery.

For the following few years I gathered native plant seeds from the Central Otago hills and raised them in my own plant nursery.

Each springtime I ran a potting-out day at the Clyde nursery.

I had great support for this, 10 or more people turning up to help.

In those first years, an erratic water supply provided a challenge and we lost a few plants.

However we were able to supply plants to community projects.

As a consequence of restructuring in 2013, Doc found in 2015 it no longer had the staff to run its plant nursery.

Doc stated that either our community nursery took over the full facilities or it would mothball them.

I commenced seeking sufficient community support to make this feasible.

The Te Kakano Trust proved invaluable, providing guidance and support.

One of Te Kakano’s objectives is to support communities wishing to set up their own plant nurseries.

I was also very grateful to those who stepped up from our local community.

In 2016 the task of rebuilding the operation was taken over by Bill Nagle and the newly minted plant nursery was rebranded as the Railhead Nursery.

In 2017 the Haehaeata Natural Heritage Trust was formed to provide governance, supported by a keen group of trustees.

Claire Becker took over the position of chairwoman on the trust (since replaced by Ollie Yeoman).

Following fundraising, local people and organisations contributed sufficient to employ a nursery manager (Dhana Pillai) and a project co›-ordinator (Rachael Baxter).

The nursery has now supplied more than 8000 native plants to the Central Otago landscape. In addition to restoring native vegetation the trust provides a valuable education role.