Plant Hawke's Bay

May 2020

Marie Taylor, a wholesale plant grower restoring native plantings in Hawke's Bay

Planting trees around New Zealand has become a major focus in recent times and emphasis has largely been on managed exotic plantings. But there are many people and organisations throughout the primary sector that have been working to re-populate and restore areas of native plantings for many years. Plant Hawke’s Bay is a wholesale and contract grower of native plants, eco-sourced from naturally occurring indigenous populations around the Hawke’s Bay region.

Marie Taylor of Plant Hawke’s Bay won the “Love of the Land” category and the Supreme Award in the NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards 2018. She was recently appointed to the board of New Zealand Plant Producers’ Incorporated (NZPPI). 

Marie employs a small team (of three full time equivalents, or FTEs), and outsources additional growing capability to produce around 150,000 plants each year. Seeds and cuttings are sourced from a variety of areas, cleaned and stored according to their species’ requirements, then grown on at the nursery, or sent to GOL (Growing-On-Line) Nurseries.  The bulk revegetation lines produced from this process are used for restoration, conservation and landscaping projects.

The aim at Plant Hawke’s Bay is to have plants ready for sale from May each year. A regional challenge for the company and its operations is the extreme climate, with droughts increasing in frequency and access to water becoming more difficult.

Marie says about 10% of her time is spent sourcing and collecting seeds and cuttings. They are gathered from wild populations, or from areas that have previously been planted with PHB-produced plants. This ensures local populations are kept distinct. Native plants tend to be erratic producers of seed, with some plants having highly irregular seed production across years. To add to the complexity of production, each species requires a different handling protocol.

Marie became involved in New Zealand Plant Producers’ Incorporated (NZPPI) because she says the more that people and businesses collaborate within industries, the stronger the sector becomes. It also reduces isolation and risk for smaller operators, as new information is accessed much faster, particularly around matters of biosecurity. As well, it provides an opportunity for input into policies and developments directly affecting the sector such as compliance, biosecurity and skills shortages.

A nursery industry scoping survey was recently undertaken by NZPPI, with help from a grant from MPI, to better understand the current situation for nurseries nationwide. The knowledge gathered will inform decisions to help build industry capability, through well targeted support for the existing industry and skills training for those looking to join the sector. 

Biosecurity concerns the NZPPI because plant producers are continuously exposed to threats, not only from already established pests and diseases within New Zealand, but from more recent incursions, such as myrtle rust. The Plant Production Biosecurity Scheme will help plant producers identify, control, manage or avoid pest and biosecurity hazards in nursery processes. Marie explains there are lots of pests and diseases which could cause havoc in our primary industries.  As well, there is an enormous amount of exchange of plant material between nurseries, so the findings from the pilot will be critical for plant producers in New Zealand. In 2019 NZPPI ran a pilot study for the scheme in 19 nurseries, and work is continuing on the scheme in 2020. 

Marie has some advice for those wanting to make the most from their plants: 

  • Decide on the project objective, and take a 100-year view of the landscape
  • Order early from nurseries (preferably the year before) and get the best advice about local species 
  • Organise quality planters or if planting yourself, make sure there is plenty of time to do the job well
  • Make sure the project is fenced (to exclude stock and animal pests)
  • The better the soil preparation, the better the survival of the plant 
  • Shoot all the rabbits and hares, then come back and shoot them again
  • Plant in places where the plants are likely to flourish and serve a variety of ecological and environment roles, i.e., along rivers, as buffers around reserves, for shade and shelter, for bees, for timber production
  • Plant at the best time: when the temperature drops below 20degC and the soil moistens, which can be late in April or sometimes into June. 
  • Shoot and control the rabbits and hares, again

There is opportunity for further growth of the business as a result of Marie’s raised profile, business knowledge and confidence following her recognition in the NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards. As well, new funding streams are now available for customers, particularly farmers, who can access funds such as the 1BT (One Billion Trees) programme to offset the cost of planting.

Farmers make up more than half of Marie’s customers. Some, like Mike Petersen (the outgoing New Zealand Special Agricultural envoy), have been planting farm gullies for more than a decade. Lifestylers and landscapers make up around 20% each, with corporates adding to the total customer mix.

While around 99% of her plants are native species, Marie is now looking at working with eucalypts, following the work of forester and researcher Paul Millen, of the Drylands Forest Initiative. Eucalypts are a promising species to use in drought-prone areas and their timber has characteristics that are well suited to industries, such as viticulture, in Hawke’s Bay.

Plant Hawke’s Bay is also involved in fund raising for plant conservation work through Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay. This year Marie worked with the Ballance East Coast Farm Environment Award winner for 2019, Nicky Dawson, who is a teacher at Mahora School in Hastings. Nicky worked with the Mahora students to paint local plant species for a fund-raising calendar, that Marie produces each year.


Showdown Productions Ltd – Rural Delivery Series 15 2020