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‘It’s destroying us’

Alan Wilde, of Greytown. PHOTO/FILE

Locals stand up to council over nursery decisions
GWRC open to contract change

Greytown man Alan Wilde has been involved in conservation work for more than 50 years.

He always thought the native plants bought from Greater Wellington Regional Council’s nursery on Akura Rd had been grown locally.

So, it came as a bit of shock when he learned that, for the past 30 years, the Wairarapa-sourced seeds were sent to a nursery in Blenheim where they were grown before being sent back to Wairarapa.

“I can appreciate it can be challenging to obtain large numbers of trees eco-sourced and ready for planting as and when they are wanted, but this has been going on for 30 years.”

He felt that was sufficient time for GWRC to have made arrangements with nurseries within the Wellington region.

Evan Hooper, of Norfolk Rd Nursery in Carterton, agreed it was “frustrating”, and has now started looking at selling his business.

“There’s lots of development going on with Akura, and they don’t work with us; it’s destroying us,” Hooper said.

“We’ve been operating here for about 30 years, about the same time they started doing that.”

The nursery produces more than 250,000 plants, most of which are eco-sourced native varieties like those sold at Akura Rd.

Hooper thought it was unfair that Akura was subsidised by the government in operational costs but were directly competing with locally owned and operated businesses.

Eco-sourced plant seeds are those collected near the place that they will be planted – this is beneficial due to higher survival rates and adaptions specific to the local climate and ecosystem.

Hooper has been doing this for just as long as he’s run the business and said: “it’s a lot of work and bugger all money”.

He said he felt “cut out” by not having the opportunity to supply Akura Rd with plants.

“There’s no reason we couldn’t supply even some of it.

“It seems silly to send the seeds all the way to Marlborough.”

With a growing demand for native species, Hooper thought there would be the opportunity to create three or four more jobs for Wairarapa residents if he was offered a contract to supply Akura Rd.

A spokesperson for GWRC said that no direct rates funding was applied to Akura Plant Nursery. Still, plants were bought from the centre for multiple operational programmes supported by the council.

The costs associated with these programmes were often split between the council and the landowner, going towards biodiversity and water quality improvement projects.

“Akura Plant Nursery is a cost-recovery business unit which means we manage the budget to break even,” a GWRC spokesperson said.

They said while the seeds were eco-sourced locally, they were grown at the Blenheim nursery as it was better suited to handle the number of plants needed.

“There is potential for native tree propagation in Wairarapa.

“However, in the past, the nursery’s quality and quantity needs have not been possible to fill from the local market of nursery services.

“If local markets and nursery services could fulfil its business needs Akura Plant Nursery would consider any appropriate changes to its operational model that would lead to greater efficiencies for Akura Plant Nursery operations and local investment of Greater Wellington expenditure.”

Featherston’s Pae Tu Mokai O Tauira group has also opened a nursery at the town’s old golf club.

The project has been backed by funds from district and regional councils.

– Additional reporting Gianina Schwanecke

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