Native tree nursery set to occupy prominent roadside site

Anyone driving from Matakana to Leigh, Omaha Flats or the Tawharanui Peninsula in the last few months can’t fail to have noticed that there is a major development happening on land at the corner of Leigh and Takatu Roads.

Tonnes of earth have been shifted to form large earth bunds and a sizeable pond created on the block, which lies just to the east of Matakana Oysters.

It’s not houses or buildings going into this former olive grove, however, but trees and plenty of them, as the 6.5ha site is to be the new home of native tree specialist Takana Trees.

The nursery was founded on nearby Omaha Flats Road a decade ago and specialises in growing and supplying mature versions of every single native tree that can be grown in the north of New Zealand.

That currently amounts to some 90 different species and 14,000 individual trees, so founder Don Turner says it’s now time to expand, and potentially double their capacity.

“We felt that we were restricting the business,” he says. “We don’t really have enough room, and we also like to think we can do things better – improve our systems and irrigation.”

Establishing the new site is proving to be quite a drawn-out process, mainly due to delays in consents, but earthworks are due to restart soon to continue levelling the site and establish roading, irrigation systems and frost protection. Extensive drainage and run-off systems are being installed to counter the site’s clay soils and previous tendency to retain water.

“It has been damp in the past because it hasn’t drained properly, so any water has just sat there,” Don says. “We need to drain it correctly and re-centre the slope, so water gradually falls off into the irrigation pond. The whole site will become drier and it will be much more workable.”

There will be seven or eight blocks of trees planted, plus a small garden centre for retail customers, just off the main entrance on Takatu Road.

“We’re going to have a little shop and it would be nice to have that operating by the end of next year, but I don’t want to put any pressure on. We’re basically saying 2020 for the retail and wholesale operation,” Don says.

Don probably wouldn’t have got into native trees at all if it weren’t for fruit. As one of the Turners of the former Turners and Growers and a produce auctioneer, he was aware of the high quality of produce from the peat soils on Omaha Flats. When he saw the block behind Matakana Fire Station was up for sale in 2008, he bought it and decided to give native trees a try there. Since then, he’s never looked back and Takana is now a significant national tree supplier to projects ranging from national motorways and new housing developments to individual garden landscapes and private customers. Its mature trees are available in various sizes, from two to five metres high and in carry bags ranging from 45 to 450 litres, with prices from $55 to $500-plus, depending on size and species.

“There truly is a native tree for every situation – we no longer need to resort to planting exotics,” Don says. “Kiwis need to understand the story of their native trees better – we deserve and need more than just the best known species if we are to do justice to New Zealand’s rich biodiversity.”