Crisis in native plant industry

Wednesday 13 Feb 2019

‘Crisis’ in native plant industry - Taxpayers are funding prison and community nurseries while commercial nurseries go bust. Those left in the industry are competing for huge tenders in an environment where undercutting is common and delivering to timelines requires “magic”.

Nurseries have gone into receivership, and quality control has slipped to the point where 21,000 plants had to be ripped out after an Australian weed was planted instead of the specified New Zealand native. This comes at a time when two-thirds of a $240 million Provincial Growth Fund boost to the One Billion Trees Programme is earmarked for native tree planting.

“Just when the demand has gone up, the suppliers are going broke. Now that’s a crisis in my opinion.” said landscape architect Di Lucas.

A December workshop discussed the need for an industry code of practice to tackle the current chaos in the market. Lucas has been a long-time advocate of native planting and her conservation work was recognised in the New Year’s Honour list when she received an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

She’s thrilled there’s a concerted effort to plant more native trees being made by government agencies and councils but has serious concerns about how procurement is being managed. She was so worried about the situation, she got 20 people into a room during the lead- up to Christmas in the hope to solve some of the issues.

Suggestions discussed included tighter rules around tendering, an accord agreed to by plant buyers, set standards of plant quality, verifiable eco-sourcing of seeds and a workforce strategy. Government attendees included representatives Ministry for Primary Industry, Department of Conservation and Department of Corrections staff. Growers, ecologists, botanists and landscape architects were also represented.

Despite the range of people in the room Lucas said the conversations were constructive.

“People, whatever side they were on, they recognised a problem. What’s happening is not sustainable.”

A troubled industry - New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated (NZPPI) chief executive Matt Dolan has spoken in the past about how he hears about a closing or struggling plant nursery every other week. He said there needs to be better processes for managing projects and purchasing native trees.

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Source: Newsroom

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