NaturesVision Nursery playing an important role in restoring wetlands in our area

The Forest Bridge Trust has taken great joy in championing the Australasian Bittern for the past two years in the NZ Bird of the Year Competition. During this time, we discovered that one of the primary reasons the Matuku-hūrepo is on the critically endangered list is the loss of its natural habitat, wetlands. Eager to learn more about wetland restoration, Karen from our Community Liaison Team reached out to Pat and Sue MacDonald, who operate NaturesVision, a local nursery specializing in wetland planting. We’ve been fortunate to have Pat participate in several of our events, generously sharing his passion and knowledge for wetlands with the community. Pat and Sue took the time to tell us more about NaturesVision and the vital role they play in the preservation and restoration of wetlands.

NaturesVision was established in 2019. So too was the motto – Plan, Plant, Protect. Helping clients plan their wetland planting is key to Pat and Sue’s operation. “Having an input into the work decisions prior to enhancing or creating a wetland, riparian area, or bush block can save a lot of time and effort, not to mention the cost savings for the client. A stitch in time really does save nine,” says Sue. Pat & Sue McDonald, who own and run NatureVision, along with their team of five staff, are passionate about wetlands and riparian planting, and they need to be, as New Zealand has only 3% of wetlands left untouched by humans.

Wetlands and riparian areas play a vital role in soil conservation and reducing nutrient runoff into our waterways. With increasingly severe weather events, Pat and Sue feel that we all need to be more mindful of the role wetlands play in soil conservation.

After biking the Central Otago Rail Trail in 2016, Pat and Sue caught the train back to Dunedin through the Taieri Gorge. While everyone else was commenting on the picturesque scenery of the hillsides, on the lupins & broom, and the willows that graced the riverbanks, Pat was thinking, “That’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen.” He was right! In Nov 2018, a massive flood came through the valley. The lupins and broom gave way and slipped, the willows clogged the waterway, and tons of water backed up. The willows eventually cracked and broke, and all the debris that thundered through the valley scoured out thousands of cubic meters of farmland. A planted wetland won’t stop a flood, but sedges and reeds will lie flat as the water passes over them, and then a few days later will pop back up again, retaining the soil. “Within reason, a native eco-sourced planting on the hills would’ve retained the soil,” says Pat. “With extreme weather events becoming more and more common, protecting our wetlands, waterways, and riparian margins is more crucial than ever”.

These wetland areas also filter nutrients before they get to the water; they store vast amounts of carbon, much more efficiently than a forest. This purification process is vital to the ecosystem of riparian areas.


“Another important aspect of wetlands and one close to home is wildlife habitat,” says Pat. “40% of New Zealand’s bird species rely on wetlands to survive and thrive. The Australasian Bittern is a case in point. There are roughly only 700 of these magnificent birds left in New Zealand. Wetland habitat loss is the prime reason for their demise.”

Whitebait are another species that rely on healthy wetlands; they need native sedges along the river edge to attach their eggs to. “When a rain event happens, the whitebait hatch and you can guess the rest,” exasperates Pat. “Having healthy wetlands leads to an abundance of all that is needed for the native flora and fauna to thrive, not just exist.”

Pat and the team have helped many landowners restore their wetlands. More and more people are starting to understand the importance of healthy wetlands and are reaping the benefits. On a project, Pat started four years ago, the brief from the landowners/farmer was to fulfil two goals for his planting project. Firstly, he wanted to leave the waterways in better condition than when he’d started, and secondly, he didn’t want anyone to drive a quad bike or tractor in the steeper areas. The farmer, after three years, came to Pat and said that because the hillsides had been planted in native revegetation, the increased shelter from the buffering winds had resulted in better grass growth, and the stock had been more comfortable, meaning that there had been no need to reduce their numbers. Wetland, riparian, and native revegetation areas look amazing and enhance and benefit farms considerably. There are challenges to establishing these areas. That’s why planning is vital.

“There is still unfortunately a trend to bomb a wetland area with Roundup and plant from scratch,” says Pat. In Pat’s opinion, this is the worst thing you can do. “If you use a combination of the right chemicals, you can save the underlying native plants and still effectively eradicate the persistent weed species. If you bomb everything, the first thing to come back is the weeds. Our native sedges don’t have to be hit by Roundup. It’s the glyphosate salt residue that causes the problem,” Pat has seen this all too often. “Before planting commences, you have control of the area. This is when you can establish what you can plant. There’s a good selection of Carex sedges and reeds for most wetland areas. Usually, the margin is fringed by swamp flax. It’s best not to get too expansive with variety on the reveg or ‘buffer ‘slope. A combination of manuka, kanuka, and karamu with clusters of cabbage trees is a good start”. “A program for looking after your plantings is essential to the success of your project,’ explains Pat, “as is the establishment of a pest control schedule. After three years, you will make holes in the manuka and plant secondary species like karaka, kowhai, rimu, and kauri. They establish better when the leaf matter from the manuka is on the ground in abundance.” If you’d like to implement a planting schedule this year, check out NatureVision’s website or Facebook page or contact them at or phone Pat on 021 216 1655.