Forest at the Heart of Wellington

A restoration project to celebrate the centenary of the Rotary Club of Wellington

In 2016, the Rotary Club of Wellington partnered with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ)  to help Rotary realise the visionary project of planting a Forest at the Heart of Wellington.

By partnering to grow a native forest alongside some of our city’s most populated suburbs, the Rotary Club of Wellington and CVNZ will leave a legacy for the people of the Wellington Region.  Through engaging the community in meaningful volunteer opportunities to restore indigenous biodiversity across the Wellington Town Belt, we will create a greener healthier environment within Wellington City, and show-case to the nation how humans and nature can thrive in the same place.


The planting of a “Forest at the Heart of Wellington” is a community-led restoration project to celebrate the Rotary Club of Wellington’s Centenary in 2021. This project will involve volunteers from schools, communities and corporations in the planting of 65,000 native trees in the central Wellington Town Belt, bringing the total number of trees planted by Wellington Rotary to more than 100,000.  Planting has been carried out annually since 1967 when the then Rotary president, businessman Roy McKenzie persuaded Wellington City Council to beautify Lambton Quay with plants which are now fully grown trees.  Since then Rotary has planted 35,000 trees, including 12,000 during the past five years on Mt Victoria through a project with Wellington City Council.

The new forest will be centred on a prominent part of the town belt near Government House which is currently dominated by gorse and blackberry. Plantings will accelerate the restoration of native bush to the town belt of Mt Victoria and Newtown, where fires had largely removed bush before European settlers arrived in 1840 and pines now dominate.  Through this project the Rotary Club of Wellington will transform the Central Wellington Town Belt into a vibrant native forest and a valuable community resource.  The project will also create a substantial new habitat for native birds which are increasingly venturing beyond the protective fence of Zealandia and making our city a colourful and diverse place to live.

In order to achieve the substantial increase in annual plantings required to meet the goal of planting and maintaining at least 100,000 trees, the Rotary Club of Wellington have partnered with CVNZ who will act as the project manager, ensuring that the project’s momentum is maintained, goals are achieved, and volunteers are managed in a safe and productive manner.

CVNZ Vision

Conservation Volunteer New Zealand's vision is to “inspire change by connecting people to nature to sustain life”.  For us, a ‘Forest at the Heart of Wellington’ is the complete embodiment of that vision. 

Underpinning our approach to this project is our goal to inspire and empower people to become involved in the management, protection, and restoration of Wellington’s indigenous biodiversity.  By providing meaningful volunteer opportunities in seed collection, plant propagation, planting, plant care, and pest control to the local community, we will facilitate an ethic of kaitiakitanga among all of those we reach.  As we engage with schools, communities, and corporations in the propagation and planting of a new forest in central Wellington the community will become increasingly aware of the role that they play in protecting all living things, and the interdependency of this role with community wellbeing.

Environmentally we envision Wellington as a city interspersed with a near-contiguous network of vibrant native forest ecosystems teeming with healthy self-sustaining populations of New Zealand’s most rare and endangered species.  While to an outsider this may seem an unrealistic proposition, to anyone who has witnessed the passion with which the Wellington community is creating that very vision in areas such as Polhill Reserve and Makara Peak, it is a stark possibility which is fast becoming a reality. 

A Forest at the Heart of Wellington will be a critical step in realising this vision across the entire city.  By replacing significant areas of introduced weeds with native forest, we will increase ecosystem connectivity within Wellington’s green spaces, and facilitate the spread of indigenous biodiversity, including threatened species, from Zealandia throughout the areas in which we work.

We expect that this project will act as a catalyst, engendering the local community to action, and helping to make Wellington an international example of a “Natural Capital” in which humans and indigenous biodiversity can prosper not only side-by-side, but in the same place.

Project Objectives

In order to achieve the project’s goals and take a step towards realising our vision of a “Natural Capital” we have broken the project down into six key steps or objectives.

Objective 1 – construct a community nursery which can be operated by Rotary members and volunteers of the community under the management and guidance of CVNZ to produce locally eco-sourced native plants for the project

Objective 2 – remove 120,000 m2 (12 ha) of noxious weeds from the project site.  Currently the project site is in a severely degraded state and is heavily infested with a wide array of weed species

Objective 3 – establish a planting programme to plant at least 5,000 native plants in 2017 and at least 10,000 native plants per annum from 2018 until; the target of 100,000 is reached.

Objective 4 – establish a pest control programme to address any areas which are currently not being controlled for pests.  As there are currently existing community-led pest control programmes operating in the project area, we will liaise with these groups and lend support where we can

Objective 5 – establish a regular volunteer programme to deliver all seed collection, nursery work, planting, follow-up plant care, and pest control.  This volunteer programme will include at least 100 managed volunteer events per annum.  The volunteer programme will include regular weekly seed collection and nursery working bees, community planting events and corporate employee volunteer days. A regular weed-busters programme will maintain the forest and keep the trees healthy until they can outgrow any weed species, and a community run pest control programme will make our forest a safe habitat for native fauna.

Achieving the objectives

 To fulfil the Rotary Club of Wellington’s vision of planting 65,000 native trees in Central Wellington and maintaining the forest through to maturity a substantial amount of on and off-ground work will be required.  To obtain sufficient resources to realise this project, CVNZ and Rotary are now seeking corporate partners who share our vision for a greener, healthier Wellington, and an engaged community.

Partnering with CVNZ

CVNZ seeks to develop long-term partnerships that have a strong identity and focus on involving the community in priority environmental issues. We have established relationships with all levels of corporate, government and community groups.

Through growing a forest at the heart of Wellington we will involve schools, corporations, and the community in a wide range of practical conservation activities including seed collection and propagation, nursery work, tree planting, plant care, and pest control.  Not only will the project result in a greener and overall healthier Wellington, but it will also involve the creation of a number of flag-ship sites which will be recognised within the community as the centre of our new forest.

We are an organisation with national coverage across New Zealand, as well as Australia, that works within multiple local communities on a day-to-day basis. Therefore we can coordinate a national or international partnership that has multiple touchpoints in communities that are important to your business across Australasia.

For more information about how your organisation can become a partner in this exciting project, or in other Conversation Volunteer work,  please contact Ed Tregidga on 0800 878 185, or email

Forest at the Heart of Wellington

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