News | 5 December 2023
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Not all heroes wear capes – some wear gardening gloves

Local legend Campbell Maclean has been hard at work for four decades, planting over 2,500 native plants in the Town Belt section behind his home in Mount Cook - all on his own initiative.

Man wearing a green tshirt standing in native bush.

His story began in the mid-1980s when he noticed periodic detention gangs clearing the slopes of the long grass in the Town Belt above his home, to plant native trees and shrubs. Often the plants were tossed aside, leaving Campbell to rescue the plants and replant them when they all left.

After some years, the gangs eventually moved on, but Campbell had become invested in the area.

He was determined to create a sanctuary and single-handedly cleared all noxious weeds from the area bordering the Town Belt, getting rid of weeds like Old Man’s Beard, gorse, and Wandering Willy.

He began growing seedlings, purchasing plants, and using cuttings to bring life to the area behind his home – fully funding his own work and volunteering his own time.

Beautiful native garden with a variety of trees.
A section of the forest behind Campbell's house.

In 2012, a chance encounter caused Campbell’s wife to stumble across the Berhampore Nursery, where she met Wellington City Council Biodiversity Specialist Anita Benbrook.

They began chatting about the space, and Anita and a park ranger visited the space to provide advice on the best plants to include.

When they arrived, the two were amazed by the work and offered to provide plants from the nursery which Campbell believes made his work possible.

“Everything changed from that meeting. We started off getting around 90 plants a year, and then have built up to 500 a year.

Without that support, we wouldn’t have been able to plant as much as we have,” says Campbell.

Over the years, people on his cul-de-sac became interested in the area after seeing him out day after day, and he was often joined by neighbours, his own family, and volunteers from community groups in the Mount Cook area.

Man and woman standing side by side in a garden.
Campbell and his number one supporter, his wife Fiona.

While people often came and went, Campbell says he was a “one-man band” dedicated to the cause. He often spent hours after work and on the weekends working, until he retired and started working there every single day.

What was once an unruly weed-ridden section of the Town Belt is now a haven for native plants to thrive, with Campbell planting 20 kauri, 10 rimu and 10 matai.

Birds are flourishing, with an increase of kākā, kererū and tūī in the area. While he’s estimated planting around 2,500 plants, it’s likely to be more and he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“This space is so special because it’s in the heart of the city. I will be here every day to keep it going.”