by Ali Mackisack
There’s a satisfying symmetry to having a nursery take shape right next to a school that already sits at the heart of its community.
Growing alongside the minds and bodies of the 80-0r-so students at Wainuioru School, will be tens-of-thousands of seedlings, which will eventually be planted on the hillsides and river edges of the surrounding catchment.
The Wainuioru School and Community Nursery has been created to supply seedlings to the Wainuioru Community River Care Group (WCRCG), who are on track to plant 100,000 native seedlings each year for the next three years. When the WCRCG successfully applied for funding from the 1 Billion Trees programme to improve water quality in the catchment by retiring and planting farmland, some money was ear-marked to set up a nursery to supply the plants.
So far, a large shade house and a “learning shed” have been built on the edge of the school grounds, an irrigation system has been put in, and a new driveway built.
“We’ve been really lucky, as lots of our local businesses and contractors have put up their hand to help us out,” says Kelsey Jacobson who is secretary of the nursery committee. “Keiren Oliver Contracting put in the new road to the site and did the drainage and the metal pad for a fraction of the cost. Wairarapa Fencing built the shade house, donating their time and charging very little. The Wainuioru Water Scheme has donated water for irrigation. And when we couldn’t get the water tank into the right spot, Wairarapa Helicopters came and lifted it over the fence!”
“It’s a good model really, because when the community takes ownership of this kind of project, then we all have skin in the game. All of the people involved, including the core group of volunteers, are so invested in this that there’s no way we want it to all fall over, even once the funding has run out.”
The funding has enabled the setting up of the nursery and the group has bought and potted up eco-sourced seedlings to sell to the public. The money from this will go towards more seeds and seedlings which will then be sold to the WCRCG for its winter planting programme next year. Because the nursery has now been set up as a separate entity, it is able to sell these plants to the river care group.
The plants are also for sale to the community – once the WCRCG project is finished, the community will be the clients of the nursery. Local money will be paid to a local nursery with any profits being invested in the local school.
“It’s ideal really,” says committee member Andy Phillips. “We have a captive market in the river care group, and we can grow the right plants to the right specs in the right medium. We know what they want and how many plants they need, and we can work towards that.
“The river care group has targets to reach, and our target is to meet about 20–25 percent of their demand for next year’s planting season. The plants will be grown by locals and planted out on farms in our area. That’s about as good as it gets in terms of getting locals involved!”
Both the river care group and the nursery groups have had assistance from Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) from the start. The nursery doesn’t intend to be in direct competition with Akura nursery which is connected to the GWRC. The intention is to keep it local.
“Eventually, we’d also like to source the seeds from native blocks on our local farms,” says Kala Hunter, the committee’s chairperson. And the group has other aspirational plans also. While it’s currently run by volunteers, there’s hope that as capacity scales up, they will be able to create a part-time position to co-ordinate the running of the nursery. “There’s such a sense of ownership by our community,” Kala says, “that we won’t have a problem finding the right person when that time comes. In the meantime, we just want to make enough money to cover our costs and anything left over we plan to put back in to our school community.”
The community has offered to help out in various other ways when the work needs to be done, and the committee has a number of people who they know will turn up when it’s potting time. Kelsey sweeps her hand, from the direction of the school, out toward the hills. “We’ve got an amazing community out here, that’s for sure. We’re going to make this work.”
In the meantime, the group has 1500 individually potted kanuka, manuka, five-finger and cabbage tree seedlings to sell for “seed money.” These can be purchased by contacting Kelsey at email@example.com