News and Events

The Wonder of Looking – Donovan - 13 November 2019

A class of years 1 &2s from Donovan School spent the day at the Southland Community Nursery engaging their senses in the natural world. In the orchard and edible gardens areas we used touch to feel the different textures of leaves, bark and flowers of different plants, and the icky food waste being recycled by the worms; smelling the different flowers and leaves, and the worm farm; listening to the birds, wind and fellow classmates; and seeing all that was around us.

The pest traps started questions galore and we were impressed by the curiosity communicated. In the plant nursery the number of plants produced every year was guessed very quickly and where all these plants go to was thoughtfully pondered. Both the pond and bush tracks were explored while searching for native tree leaves and flowers, and we learnt the names of many trees. Damsel fly larva and water boatmen were netted from the pond.

After refuelling with lunch and a run in the paddock maze we looked even closer at our collection of leaves and other plant parts from the ngahere, becoming botanists (scientists that study plants) drawing and writing about the plants, and potting up seedlings ready to grow. Puzzle fun and books, a look at the pests we trap for and singing “oh no Mr Possum” completed a fantastic day with a great class of learners. Donovan - you rocked!!

Bronwyn and Chris

Eco-Fun Day at the Nursery and Bushy Point

Again the weather looked dubious for this years’ Eco Fun Day, but in the end the rain stayed away and we had 19 children and their family members having a blast of a time at the Southland Community Nursery and at the Bushy Point Restoration Area. We identified animal pests and looked at what pest control is happening through the Otatara Pestbusters. Insects from the forest and ponds, along with tadpoles were observed, leaves were matched, unnatural things were spotted in the ngahere, and NZ native plants were planted and measured adding to the “Forest in the Making” at Bushy Point. Measuring some of the trees first planted back in 2015 at our first Eco Fun Day is getting difficult – as the trees are so high up! We enjoyed being outside on a lovely day. Big thanks to all who helped.

Eco-Fun day is organised by Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC, Otatara Landcare Group ( and the Southland Community Nursery (

Bushy Point Restoration Area is a great place to visit. Public access is off Bryson Road. Check out


QEII Open Day for Southland Covenantors and friends 3 November 2019

On Sunday 3rd November 2019 we hosted a get-together of Southland QEII Covenantors at our property. The afternoon was organised by one of Southland’s two QEII Reps Jesse Bythell and assisted by Mark Sutton. New CEO Dan Coup and staff from QEII Office in Wellington were here as well as Board Members - Chair James Guild and Donna Field. Southland put on a gorgeous sunny day and the Education Centre provided a much welcome shady place for sitting, chatting and eating!

After short speeches from Jesse, Dan and Chris and Brian there were a number of activities arranged as well as lots of mingling and networking over food. Bronwyn showed people the Education Centre and talked about the types of activities we do with schools, Chris and Linda showed people the Nursery – and discussed eco-sourcing, seed collecting and growing native plants, Brian and Jesse led a walk around the covenant, ponds and bush, Dallas (Otatara Pestbusters) had an animal pestbuster table, Rachel (Environment Southland) had a weeds information table. National Office staff were on hand to help out and talk to people about their roles at the QEII National Trust and learn about covenantors stories.

For those reading who don’t know anything about the QEII National Trust, it is a non-governmental organisation where private landowners have a legal mechanism for protecting their special natural area, in perpetuity, whilst still retaining ownership of it. You can read all about the Trust at

Covenants are registered right across New Zealand (at last count 5304 of them) and are very varied in vegetation type and of different sizes – some in farmland, some rural and some urban. Some are open to the public permanently and some, like our own, open by prior arrangement. All have their own important stories. Our own covenant protecting kahikatea swamp forest and restoration area was registered in 1999 and some background around the why, and what has happened since, is contained in a recent article

Thanks to Jesse for all her organisation and enthusiasm and to all who attended.

Chris Rance

Jason Hosking photographer

Thanks to a very generous donation we have had photographer Jason Hosking down from Auckland for a month to do some wildlife filming for us. The intention is to have amazing movie snippets of local birds, plants, insects and other wildlife to show schoolchildren and then to be able to tell the stories about the amazing wildlife we have in our own backyards. Thanks also to Ian and Jenny Gamble for their hospitailty and for the opportunity for Jason to film on their wonderful property as well as ours.

Jason is well known for his still photography, he was named Grand Prize Winner at the 2015 NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year Awards. Random House has this to say about Jason – “World renowned Kiwi photographer Jason Hosking has won the landscape category of the New Zealand Photographer of the Year Award with his stunning photograph of an ice cave. Jason is also the photographer of the stunning book Wild About New Zealand by Gus Roxburgh”. See more of Jasons work at

More recently Jason has turned his attention to movie making and he recently presented the film “Fools and Dreamers” to a Southland audience at Centre Stage. Jason took the drone footage for the film.

We are incredibly lucky to be able to have Jason here filming and I was privileged to accompany him as he showed his immense patience and got some incredible footage in some of Southland’s worst weather! Now Jason is back home in Auckland and the laborious task of editing the footage begins! We look forward to seeing the results – no pressure Jason!


Fernworth - The Process of Growing Plants - 23 & 24 October 2019

Over two days around 80 new entrant to Year 2 students from Fernworth Primary school enjoyed the outdoors of the Southland Community Nursery. After looking with wonder at the flowers on the orchard apple trees, discovering traps for pests and following the track looking at all the different types of plants, we outlined what we do to grow plants at the Southland Community Nursery. The classes were very interested as we followed the nursery process from seed to plants ready to be planted. First we looked at flowers introducing some of our amazing NZ native plants. Then we looked at different seeds (different shapes, sizes and colours), what seed pods can look like, talked about how seeds are prepared, and how these are sown so they can sprout leaves or shoots up, and roots down to grow. Curling into seeds we then grew like a plant with shoots (or leaves) growing up and roots growing down. We looked at some baby mānuka and cabbage tree seedlings, and bigger plants of these same species, noting how different in colour baby cabbage trees are from the older plants.

A ”hands on” session followed, potting up some cabbage tree seedlings taking particular care of the roots and making sure they were potted well.

Meanwhile Chris’ groups dodged the rain, and then hail, going around the ponds and bush. Looking for and collecting flowers, old seed pods and seeds, doing leaf bingo to identify the various native plants. Also looking at and talking about the layers of bush from the newly planted plants with their “rabbit guards”, to the 400 year old kahikatea forest trees, and noticing the pest traps all along the way.

The children got to see all that is involved in growing plants. It was great to share our learning, and then we looked again at how seeds are sown, and gave the Fernworth classes the Community Nursery Native Seed Growing Challenge and Seed Packet Design Challenge.

While one day the sun shone, on the other we utilised the education centre well sheltering from the rain (though on one outing a group took shelter from the hammering hail in the shelter of the native trees!). We look forward to hearing back from Fernworth and how well their seeds and the plants they were given are growing.

Bronwyn and Chris