About Us

Chris and Brian Rance by their pond.Chris and Brian Rance by their pond.Chris and Brian Rance have been restoring native forest on their land in Otatara since 1996. We also created two ponds, which have been planted with native wetland species. Our vision for habitat restoration did not stop at the boundary fence. We established a ‘Community Nursery’ on our property where you can come and learn how to grow your own native plants for free. We also have a passion for growing our own food and have established extensive vegetable gardens and a ‘food forest’ on our land by grafting and growing fruit, nut and berry trees.

Find out more about our restoration project, what we have planted and how you can get involved. You can also learn more about growing your own food at our nursery.

What we do

Brian is a professional botanist and Chris is a full time volunteer after a career as a computer mapping analyst for the Department of Conservation.

We are both passionate about protecting, restoring and enjoying natural areas and are involved with voluntary conservation groups such as Southland Forest and Bird, Otatara Landcare Group, Southland Natural History Society, Southland Ecological Restoration Network, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network and the New Zealand Ecological Society.

2024 - Stuff https://www.stuff.co.nz/rural/350166755/southland-couple-growing-their-communitys-love-plants

2021 – Otago Daily Times https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/growing-and-education-nursery

Read the Southland Community Nursery and Education Centre Project Document 2020

Read our feature in the Otago Daily Times January 2020 - https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/growing-and-education-nursery

Read articles in the April 2016 QEII Magazine “Open Space” and in June 2016 “Kiwi Gardener”

Listen to our interview with Cosmo KentishBarnes on Radio New Zealand Country Life 24 June 2016 - http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/countrylife/20160624#audio-201805798

2012 – Our Changing World, Allison Ballance - https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ourchangingworld/audio/2515028/southland-community-nursery

Restoring our place

Restoration area and kahikatea forest at Rance’s property.Restoration area and kahikatea forest at Rance’s property.

On our 14 acres of land we have about 5 acres of mature kahikatea forest. Since 1996 we have been restoring a paddock back into native bush and have created two ponds.

We also have native shelterbelts and riparian plantings on our property and focus on native plants to attract native birds. Birds such as native pigeon, tui and bellbird are common and the ponds have attracted kingfishers, shags, fernbirds, herons, mallard ducks and paradise ducks.

Find out more about the rare fernbird that now make our ponds home.

Also on our property we have a native Threatened Plant Garden, which is open to the public, as well as extensive native and exotic plantings. We also have extensive vegetable, soft fruit and fruit tree and nut tree orchards.

View the location map to see where we are.

Choosing the right plants

On the edge of the forest we have planted fast growing colonising species such as cabbage tree, wineberry, Pittosporum, fuchsia and mingimingi. Around the ponds we have concentrated on native species that are well adapted to very wet conditions, such as flax, cabbage tree, toe toe, Carex secta and mingimingi.

Find out more about how forests work, habitat types (such as forest, wetland or shrubland) and see our plant lists for each to see what grows best where.

Local is best

We use native plants grown from seed sourced on our property and propagated in the Community Nursery. Find out about ecosourcing and why it is important to use locally sourced plants.

Protecting our patch

Our forest and restoration plantings are protected in perpetuity by a QEII National Trust Covenant. Our neighbours have also protected their forest with a covenant and have created a walk which is boardwalked through tall forest and estuary edge.

Find out more about protecting your place.

How you can help

Nursery volunteers in the shadehouse.Nursery volunteers in the shadehouse.

Find out about growing your own plants by stopping in for a visit. The nursery is open on Fridays (except public holidays). Chris is available during this time to assist with enquiries, offer advice with projects or to point you in the direction of a task at the nursery you can help out with. Learn how to grow your own plants using the nursery facilities.

Voluntary conservation work is also available at our place from October to June. We welcome people to come and stay in self-contained accommodation within our house and food will be provided (help with cooking always appreciated!). Projects you can help with include:

  • Seed collection, preparation and sowing – February, March, April
  • Propagating from cuttings – May, June
  • Potting up native plant seedlings – November - April
  • Nursery maintenance – weeding, fertilising, moving plants, watering etc – October - June

Find out more about volunteering at our place, what’s involved and other projects you could get involved with in Southland.

Help with the Education Centre

Donations are welcome to keep our Nursery and Education Centre going. We are a Charitable Trust and the Centre and Nursery are funded through donations and sales of plants. If you would like to make a donation to the Nursery and Nature Centre the Southland Community Nursery account for direct credits is SBS Bank Account Number 031355 0645582 00

Stop in for a visit

Our property is open for visits by prior arrangement and volunteers are welcome to come and help with this project.

More about Otatara

Otatara is a suburb of Invercargill, which contains many native bush remnants.

Otarara has its own bush reserves, is near to the beach and near a large recreation reserve called Sandy Point.

You’ll find Otatara 7km west of Invercargill, 4km from Invercargill Airport and 3km from Oreti Beach.

Contact Us

Contact us here