News and Events

Nursery reopening on Friday 17 January 2020

The Community Nursery will reopen for volunteers on the morning of Friday 17 January 2020. There will be plenty to do, if the plants survive the recent weather! We should have some very wind tolerant natives to sell!!

The Jo Ogier print raffle at out break-up do raised around $200 for the Nursery, and the winner was fittingly Maggie Elford (Maggie not in photo!). Thanks Jo for giving us the artwork to raffle. We have some exciting workshops planned early in the new year so keep a lookout on the website to book your place. See you on the 17th January 2020! We have a new bird scaring device - clearly it didnt work!! (well not in the stong winds we have been having anyway!!).


Community Nursery Christmas Break-up Friday 20 December 2019

Bronwyn and I have just finished a very busy year with school and other groups visiting the Nursery. This calendar year so far we have had 1649 visitors (excluding Friday volunteers) – nearly twice as many as the previous year! Most of these visitors have been school groups culminating in the whole of Otatara School visiting last week – 300 students over two days doing a mini-bioblitz! You can read all about it at as well as all the other exciting events we have held this year.

As well as holding our Break- up event on Friday with various activities (and maybe a little work) we will have a few exciting potential Christmas gifts on offer so bring CASH (like a Caveman!) so you can purchase some of Honorlea’s natural body products and maybe a native plant for your “hard to buy for friends”, and for a special raffle – Jo Ogier has very kindly donated a limited edition artwork – tickets $2 each – proceeds to the Community Nursery. We will be drawing it on the day.

A big thanks from me to everyone who has helped out at the Community Nursery and Education Centre this year, particularly Bronwyn who has done such a fantastic job with school groups and a big thanks to a Lotteries for making this possible.


Otatara School Bioblitz – Day 2

Day 2 of the Otatara School Bioblitz at the Community Nursery was held on Thursday 12 December 2019. Another 150 students came in groups of 50 to find as many plants and animals as possible in their allotted two hours. The weather was hot and dry (for a change)!

As with the Monday, students were divided into groups doing pond studies with Pat Hoffman (ES), Bush studies with Mark Oster and Walter (ES), Restoration planting area studies with Jesse Bythell (QEII) and Paddock studies with Lloyd Esler. Bronwyn, Linda and Chris were at Base Camp (The Education Centre) for identification of all the plants and critters found. There was lots of excitement as students searched high and low to find plants and animals and put them into their pottles to study at Base Camp. The glee and excitiement of finding something in your net or under logs was infectious!

Some interesting finds were

Bush – we learned all about “Loopy Nachos” from Mark Oster (a tale about Looper and Notcher caterpillars on flax leaves). Lots more ferns and shade loving plants were collected and identified and Kotukutuku Fuchsia flowers looked at closely under magnifying glasses. Ground beetles and spiders were collected. There were some chew marks on the possum chew cards but rumour has it that they belonged to Mark Oster!!

Paddock – because of the hot weather lots of flying insects were chased down by children with nets and lots of insects were found. The paddock is a great place for chasing down insects as well as looking in and under the trees around the paddock.

Restoration Area – the pitfall traps were emptied with a large black ground beetle and a weta in one, the weta hotels around the restoration area also had weta inside them, the Artificial Cover Devices (ACD’s) – brown corrugated covers were lifted up carefully but not much was found underneath this time. On Monday a skink lizard had been seen (fleetingly!).

At the pond, blue damselflies were flying and landing on the pondside rushes. Their freshwater stage larvae were also observed under the water, wirlygig beetles were found zooming around but the most exciting find of the day were two very tiny koura babies – see photo with a pencil for scale.

Thanks to our amazing helpers Mark, Walter, Pat, Jesse, Lloyd and Linda and to the teachers and parents and the students themselves. What a fantastic end to the year.

Chris and Bronwyn

Beach Litter Intelligence Programme Workshop held at the Nursery – 7 December 2019

Sustainable Coastlines came south and held a litter data collection workshops/training – showing those participating what they are offering to community groups, school and volunteers to enable them to take part in a long term beach litter monitoring effort. We found out about the project (see attached) and how it contributes to an accurate picture of the beach litter problem in New Zealand being built. A minimum of 108 beach sites across Aotearoa will be monitored at least four times per year for the next three years, and Sustainable Coastlines provide the training and tools required for volunteers to take part in this project as Citizen Scientists. As part of the day we set up a monitoring site at Oreti Beach, learning the methodology and loading the litter data (from our comprehensive sorting effort) into a nationwide beach litter Citizen Science Platform/App Sustainable Coastlines have developed specifically for the project. It was a great day. If you’re interested in being involved in this programme and future workshops get in touch with Sustainable Coastlines - Ben Knight / Programmes Coordinator Enable JavaScript to view protected content. / +64 22 1974100.


Otatara School Bioblitz – Day 1

Six classes from Otatara School visited the Community Nursery on Monday 9th December, to do a Bioblitz!

The aim of a bioblitz is to find as many different species as possible of animal, plant and fungi in an area. Students searched three different areas of the Rances property – the Kahikatea forest, the pond and restoration area and the paddock.

Bronwyn Graham had organised the event, getting experts to help – Pat Hoffman (pond), Jesse Bythell (Restoration Area), Mark Oster and Walter (Bush) and Lloyd Esler (Paddock). Bronwyn and Chris based themselves in the Education Centre at “Base Camp” – where students could bring back any specimens they wanted to look at in more detail with magnifying glasses and using the resources in the Centre. Specimens of living creatures were identified, classified (put into groups), recorded and displayed. We discussed what lives where in what environment.

The day was a flurry of excitement and activity – students used lots of ways to explore the different habitats with nets (for flying insects), spades for soil organisms, pond nets, tracking tunnels and pitfall traps set up overnight, and using their senses – looking, listening and touching.

Some of the finds were as follows: Pond – koura (freshwater crayfish), tadpole, damselfly nymph, freshwater mites, back-swimmers. Restoration Area – lots of different plants, spiders, cockroach, unidentified caterpillars. One tracking tunnel had large scratchmarks (but no footprints) and the peanut butter bait had gone! A tui was drinking sugarwater from a flax flower at the pond and small ducklings were on the pond.

In the bush lots of ferns were found including hounds tongue fern, prickly shield fern and hen and chicken fern with its “baby” ferns attached. Some fungi, spiders and hoppers were found. The bush tracking tunnels didn’t have any tracks in them meaning the Rances are doing a good job on their pest control! One mammal was found though - a mouse in a pitfall trap! Piwakawaka (fantails) followed some groups and tui and bellbirds could be heard singing in the treetops.

In the paddock, as the day dried out more flying insects were observed and some caught – moths, flies and other winged insects, different grasses were collected including “Yorkshire fog” and a kereru and kahu (Harrier) was seen flying over. Soil organisms included flatworms, grubs, centipedes and beetles and ants. The top find in the paddock alongside Lloyd Esler was a false scorpion. They are very common but pretty secretive so it was great to find one. They go around ripping mites to pieces.

Some of the insects were hard to identify so students were encouraged to use the internet resource I-Naturalist - back at school and to send photos of the creatures they find so that experts around New Zealand could help to identify them.

A very busy and exciting day, thanks to all the helpers, teachers, parents and students.

Chris and Bronwyn