Otari reserve wins international Green Flag Award

5 February 2015

Otari-Wilton’s Bush, New Zealand’s National Native Botanic Garden, has won an international Green Flag Award, given to only a small number of the world’s best parks.

The Green Flag judges singled out the reserve’s dramatic Canopy Walkway for praise, saying it gives visitors a unique experience walking through tree canopies and vines over the protected forest floor. “The Canopy Walkway could be further promoted as a unique and novel experience for tourists.”

The judges also praised the way Council staff and Otari volunteers work together to manage the collections, to control pests and host visitors.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the judges have recognised the importance of Otari to New Zealand’s biodiversity because of its work in propagating endangered plants and as an important resource.

“In our Capital, with our strong urban-nature connections, Otari-Wilton’s Bush is a jewel,” says Mayor Wade-Brown. “Otari contains some of Wellington’s oldest trees, including an 800-year-old rimu. We can get a rare glimpse of what our forest was like before humans came, and it inspires us to protect and restore our vegetation for the city and for New Zealand as a whole.

“Otari staff are experts in conserving native plants,” she says. “Many threatened species are grown here and some are returned to the wild in recovery programmes. Otari-Wilton’s Bush is a national showcase for Aotearoa’s extraordinary endemic biodiversity and is well worth a visit.

The Council's Natural Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Helene Ritchie, was delighted with the news of the award.  “Otari is not just vitally important from a historical perspective – its plant conservation work is very much about protecting our future. 

“We can be proud of the excellent working relationship between the Council and Otari volunteers, which has put Otari on the world stage.”  

The Green Flag Award was launched in England in 1996 to reward the best parks and green spaces and today is flown at over 1,400 sites across the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. 

Otari-Wilton’s Bush – New Zealand’s national native botanic garden is on Wilton Road. Here, staff maintain five hectares of plant collections and 95 hectares of forest and regenerating bush.  It contains about 1,400 species, hybrids and cultivars, and includes plants from New Zealand's mainland and offshore islands. The reserve plays an important role in plant conservation, research and education. Otari is classified as a Garden of National Significance by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture.

Otari is the second park in Wellington to receive a Green Flag. Our first flag, in 2013, went to Oruaiti Reserve, between Seatoun and Breaker Bay.  

Green Flags are awarded for excellent management of the environment, historical features, safety and as great places to play and relax. 

The Green Flag judges said the new Leonard Cockayne Centre, which opened last year, will help visitors understand the role of the reserve. The meeting and education centre is named after leading New Zealand botanist Dr Cockayne, who started the collections in 1926 and directed the development of Otari-Wilton’s Bush.  

The award was administered in Australia and New Zealand by Parks Forum 2014, representing park management organisations.