News and Events

Eco-Fun Sunday 4 November 2018

We did have doubts about holding the Eco-Fun day on the morning we were setting up. But, a lot of work and publicity goes into the organising so we went ahead regardless of the awful weather forecast! Setting up in the morning saw Geoff and Cathy get caught in squally rain but after that things improved. A hardy group of 11 children, their 12 adults and our 9 helpers made for a happy fun-filled afternoon. Activities included identifying animal pests and insects (in the Education Centre!), pond dipping (for critters), boat-building from natural materials, scavenger hunt and plant bingo, planting and measuring a native tree (some previous plants are now over 2 metres tall!) and generally enjoying being outside on a day of very wild weather! Thanks to all who helped and all who came along.

Chris and Bronwyn

St John’s Girls School 31 October 2018

Fifty-eight students from St Johns Girls School, two teachers and ten parents came to the Community Nursery on Tuesday 30th October 2018.

The brief from the school was “the food that we eat” – so we devised three different activities to divide the large group into three manageable activity groups. The activities were

  • Foraging for wild food (with Chris and Maggie)
  • Maori traditional uses for native plants (with Bronwyn)
  • Growing vegetables, herbs and companion planting (with Lesley and Lidia)

Each group of children did each of the activities led by our nursery volunteers. Lesley and Lidia led groups around the vegetable garden seeing which vegetables grow well in Southland. They also went into the tunnelhouse where we can grow tomatoes, courgettes and chilly peppers and basil as they need more heat than a Southland summer! Another activity was potting up seedlings of the herb lovage and companion plant French marigold and sowing runner bean seeds – all to take back to school to grow. Maggie and Chris went into the orchard to do some foraging – where some children (with prior permission) tasted some of the plants. The key to foraging is never to eat something you don’t know so the catchphrase “If in doubt, leave it out” was used to reinforce that message. Some of the foraged plants included miner’s lettuce, marigold flowers, rocket flowers and a range of other herbs found growing wild. The nut trees, fruit trees and berry bushes were also talked about as we went past.

Bronwyn’s group walked around the pond track and talked about the importance of identifying anything you eat from the bush - if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it. We did identify and taste some NZ natives :

  • sucking the nectar out of the kotukutuku (tree fuchsia) and talking about the berries. We identified this through its flower, bark and distinctive two coloured leaf.
  • Horopito or pepper tree, slowly licking then chewing to get hot tips of tongues and lips!
  • makomako (or wineberry) looking at the distinctive shark toothed edged leaf and how the berries can be eaten
  • the tangly divaricating mingimingi tree and a picture of their little blue berries that can be eaten
  • the cabbage tree and how the shoots can be eaten.

    We also talked about how to treat fungi in the bush and that there are a number of poisonous berries and parts of plants that we should not eat.

It was a pleasure having such an enthusiastic group at the Nursery.

Chris and Bronwyn

Bronwyn nominated for an Environment Award

Bronwyn Graham has been nominated. You can see Bronwyn’s video at

Bronwyn has helped with every school group attending the Nursery and Education Centre over the past 5 years – that’s over 5000 children. As well as this she has run the Forest and Bird Kiwi Conservation Club events. If she doesn’t win an award tonight she is still an absolute legend!

The next event is the Eco-Fun Family day on 4th November starting at the Education Centre and taking in Bushy Point. Event starts at 1pm - pick up your passport from the Community Nursery Education Centre - park at 183 Grant Road, Otatara carpark.

Bird Identification Workshop - 16-17 October 2018

On Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 October an enthusiastic group were welcomed to the Education Centre by tutor Peter Handford. Environment Southland’s Ali Meade had arranged for Peter to come down from Nelson to tutor this national course about 5 Minute Bird Counts. It was a combination of learning in the education centre – presentations and computer bird calls and identification modules and then putting the learning into practice in the field. I think at the end we all appreciated the skill involved in the bird counts, the rigor with which the technique is applied, the skill involved in identifying the calls and the accurate recording of the data. When in the bush it is the calls rather than the sighting of the birds which is most important. Five minutes is quite a long time when you are concentrating hard on identifying through sight and sound (calls and flight noise) from different directions and trying to establish the number of birds calling from each direction. Thanks Peter for your information, encouragement and good humour!

Nursery open for volunteers and sale of plants

The nursery volunteers are busy each Friday morning with lots of spring tasks. Seedlings are sprouting, weeds are growing and potting is going on apace, we have even had to water the nursery (very early in the season). Volunteers on a Friday can take away some plants for free for their efforts and we are selling plants at $5 each PB3 size pots. We have had some big sales for spring planting so be in soon if you want plants that are ready now. Amongst all this activity there has been the Bushy Point planting day where the 29000th native plant has been planted. All plants grown in the Community Nursery by Linda and Ray – a massive effort.