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About Us

Trees for Canterbury is a well-established community organisation created to meet the Green Effect Trust’s  objectives of…

Employ; establishing a sense of involvement in the community for disadvantaged people (physically, intellectually, socially and long term unemployed) and providing an environment of acceptance as well as support and training for self-development – installing self esteem and work habit.

Educate; working with educational institutions, providing assistance in the teaching of environmental awareness.

Regenerate; cultivating native plants for community planting’s and our own revegetation projects using plant material eco-sourced from local areas.

The Beginnings of Trees For Canterbury

Tim Jenkins (The present chairperson of The Green Effect Trust) was on student radio talking about the importance of trees for the environment.  At the end of his talk he invited anyone who was interested in increasing tree planting in Canterbury to phone him up.  One of the people who phoned had the name of Harmony Aquarian.  Tim met with Harmony (an aptly named musician) and Cathryn Freebairn and discussed the fact that there were many people keen to see more trees and willing to plant them but the limiting factor was the supply of trees.

The solution was conceived – to create small nurseries that could supply community groups and organisations with the trees that they required.  The main initial sites of the Trees For Canterbury project were Cathryn’s back yard and Nicho Greig’s back yard. Back yard nurseries were set up in various other places around Christchurch and eventually all this was focussed on a site in Opawa Road.

From the start there was a strong Trust (The Green Effect Trust) with people of widely varying experience and expertise to spearhead the cause of Trees For Canterbury.  What made the difference between a good idea and a successfully accomplished good idea was the commitment of the people working at Trees For Canterbury.  These people were mostly on employment work schemes at first, and community support in general – seeing to it that Trees For Canterbury grew from a small operation in back yards to the fully operational nursery that it is today.

One of the interesting features of Trees For Canterbury has been the use of recycled materials.  This has included old greenhouses, hessian pretending to be shade cloth – all features of a shoestring budget in combination with a recycling ethic.  The fully professional nursery facilities now present disguise this past somewhat. In the past the buildings were old recycled car cases mixed with materials collected from demolition sites.  The use of recycled articles including cleaned old planter bags, plant pots, two litre soft drink bottles and re-used root trainers, led to the conclusion that the 1 litre milk carton was just right for the vast bulk of Trees For Canterbury’s production needs.  The milk carton allowed good, healthy vigorous root growth, encouraging roots down more than around to achieve a more drought resistant seedling.  The square shape also helped with space economy.  Nowadays, many of the sale plants are grown on in planter bags to satisfy customer expectations and to allow larger grades of plants to be sold.

At first it was intended that the nursery would grow both native trees and multipurpose trees such as nut crops and high quality timber trees.  Trees For Canterbury soon focussed on native plants since these were the ones of most interest to community groups and T4C wanted to support revegetation programmes in the region.

The original idea was for the nursery to survive on the generosity of donations and volunteer labour.  Soon it was conceded that the sale of a portion of the plants grown was the most effective and sustainable means of financial support.

The nursery is now set up on 1.5 hectares of land situated at 42 Charlesworth St, Christchurch adjoining the Charlesworth Reserve. The reserve is under development and we at Trees for Canterbury will continue to assist with the ongoing revegation of this important environmental site.

When entering the nursery you find plenty of carparks set amongst gardens. The display area is laid out opposite the office.  The big difference between T4C and a commercial garden centre is the lack of signs,  no high pressure sales techniques and no staff hiding behind stands waiting to jump out and force you to open your wallet.  You will find staff there to answer any questions that you have and to assist you.

The sales area is on an a raised island that is surrounded by native plants to protect everything from prevailing winds.  The nursery is built around natural swailes (waterways) that connect to the reserve and slowly make their way to the avon-heathcote estuary.  These swailes are all planted out and they attract ducks, water fowl, and other wading species.  The rest of the nursery is laid out for the production and storage of plants.  Both for sale and for the many community plantings and giveaways that are the essential core of the Trees for Canterbury project.

T4C have approximately 150,000 trees at various stages of growth within the nursery.    The majority of trees have been grown from seed collected by TFC in the Canterbury Plains, and Banks Peninsula areas. These areas are the main focus of the community-planting program. This ensures that the genetic purity of the native plant population is kept in each area.  We continue to utilize the recycled 1L milk carton as the main growing container.

Although a large number of our native plants are utilized in community  and revegetation projects, we do sell direct from the nursery to provide a degree of self-funding.   The income from sales is used towards our day to day expenses but does not cover any capital works or special project costs.  This additional support comes from the community, business and funding agencies.  We have three full-time and three part-time staff, experienced in nursery work and also in working with a diverse range of clients and volunteers.

We are strongly linked to the local community, providing environmental education, trees and undertaking planting’s with community organizations and schools throughout Canterbury. The planting of native trees have been primarily on public land for the appreciation of everyone. The emphasis on planting community land will be continued in the future.