Keeping on growing in Manawatu

27th October 2020

Keith Young outside the nursery

In early October, Silvia Purdie had the opportunity to catch up with Manawatu local group leader Keith Young in Palmerston North. They visited the Manawatu local group’s plant propagation nursery at Longburn where Keith shared with Silvia about the group’s work:

Silvia: What have you been doing this COVID year?

Keith: We have been focusing on keeping our little nursery propagation area growing here. As well as growing from seed, this year we have received seedlings of native plants from people’s gardens in Palmerston North. These have been collected and potted on. We have also struck up a new relationship with a chap who has a land area near Bulls where he is restoration planting. He has supplied us with some good manuka and kowhai seedlings which we are growing on for him.

There are probably over 4000 plants here that we can see in front of us. A big chunk of them belong to Pit Park, which is an old quarry area in Palmerston North city where there is a community planting. We have been involved with them for the whole 13 years.

Is that a community trust for Pit Park, or have you been working with the City Council? Who has the partnership been with?

The Council is very much involved, but there is a Pit Park restoration organization that receives funding.

Yes, I remember them having working bees. That environment has transformed from a very barren grassy scruffy wasteland into a beautiful public place.

It was an incredible wasteland but it had its values. I used to teach at Freyberg High School and we used it as our wasteland environmental study area. It was full of skinks that survived in the blackberry and gorse and piles of waste.

Not very human friendly!

It was not friendly to cats and magpies either, which meant that the skinks survived. Now we have got better plant diversity but we not so many skinks. That’s the complexity of the natural world.

What have you seen as the benefits of that community project?

It has been outstanding in the way that it’s brought native birds into there, and got incredible buy-in from the community surrounding it.

When I was there it didn’t seem to have been graffitied or damaged. People were walking it and obviously appreciating it as a community space.

Definitely. So that’s ongoing. We have been able to provide this environment here in Longburn with watering available through summer. Members of the Pit Park trust have brought plants that they want looked after through the summer dry. The plants come out here and when they have grown, they get planted up in the park. The main advantage here is our automated watering system, so that through the summer dry it all looks after itself.

We have our little group meetings here on the second and fourth Sunday of every month.

The structure here is nearly 30 years old and had been really well constructed. We got a grant from the Palmerston North City Environmental Trust about three years old to replace the shade cloth on the top. You can hear the Norwester blow! The shade cloth had lasted for a long time, and the cloth on the side walls is still the original.

Inside the plant propagation nursery

It’s amazing that it has withstood the wind! You were saying the current problems are the weeds and little snails eating the tops off your baby plants.

Yes. That’s what we keep going at. We are a small low-key group, but we keep on keeping on. Our estimation is that over the 13 years we have been operating we have pumped out something over 30,000 locally grown seedlings planted back in the environment.

Well done. That is excellent!


The Manawatu local group meets at 1.30pm every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month at their nursery at Longburn for planting and general maintenance. They also sometimes go out locally to source native seedlings. Anyone wishing to visit or help out, please contact Keith on 021 1030823 to confirm details.

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