Choosing what to plant in Central Otago can be tricky as it is a vast area with a variety of landscape, climate and elevation.

The Otago Regional Council has launched an online tool to help find the best native plants for each area. Users enter their address and find a list of plants specific for that spot. As well as a list of native plants the list also describes whether the plants are attractive to birds or insects, how fast it grows and what it needs to grow best.

The tool would help restore native vegetation and habitats by providing native plant species lists that reflected the natural ecology of Otago, ORC environmental implementation manager Libby Caldwell said.

The idea came from previous Eco Fund applicants and community members who were keen to know which plants were likely to survive where they were planting.

‘‘Plants which naturally occur in the area will have a higher chance of surviving as they’re adapted to growing in that local environment. The native animals in those areas will also rely on specific plant species for food and habitat,’’ she said.

‘‘In many places, our native birds have also disappeared. By planting the right species, in the right place, we hope to bring our native fauna back, as well as improving water quality and helping towards climate change responses,’’ Mrs Caldwell said.

Wildland Consultants started developing the tool for ORC in mid-2022 and used work done by the ORC science team over many years.

The differences in suggested planting were stark and illustrated why sometimes it could be difficult to grow plants.

For Millers Flat, 60km south of Alexandra and about 69m above sea level, with an average of 696mm of rain each year, the tool offered four pages of planting options including trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns.

Rimu, kanuka and cabbage trees were all recommended trees with a multitude of Coprosma and the horopito shrub. The native herb piripiri was recommended for ground cover and six varieties of fern were listed.

In Alexandra, at about 150m above sea level, with an average rainfall of 359mm, the list was much shorter. Kanuka was one of the trees along with mountain celery pine and Hall’s totora. One Coprosma and horopito were the only shrubs, shield fern the sole offering and no native herbs made the list.

The Eco Fund, established in 2018, supported community-led projects that protected, enhanced or promoted Otago’s environment. ORC contributed $290,000 to the Eco Fund each year. Recipients could be working on projects on private or community land including biodiversity, rabbit control, planting to improve waterway quality or replanting after pests, such as wilding pines, had been removed.