News | 6 July 2023
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Dream job foraging for seeds in Pōneke

Valissa Williamson reckons she has found her dream job. She spends her days eco-sourcing seeds and propagating thousands of native plants that go on to be planted throughout Pōneke each year.

Valissa Williamson.

Wellington City Council’s only Plant Propagation Technician, Valissa loves the outdoors, so she is stoked that walking the tracks in reserves around the region is in her job description.

“I have the most rewarding job. I get to wander the hills in our native reserves and coastlines to eco-source native seeds. My role is to propagate over a hundred different native species.

"When I’m out on the trails I could be foraging for seed anywhere, from the back of Tawa to the south coast and over to Makara.

“It’s a real privilege to have such an amazing job and be able to contribute to our local environment, I absolutely love it.”

When she's not out and about collecting or scouting for seed, she's immersed in seed propagation back at her Berhampore Nursery base.

The sun rising over Berhampore Nursery.

Each year the nursery grows around 90,000 native plants, which are then distributed to community groups and the Wellington City Council parks and gardens team for planting.

They are planted in Council reserves, new housing developments, sites where it is no longer safe for the Council mowing team to mow, and also the nursery’s road reserve scheme.

Valissa’s busiest time of the year for collecting seed is December through to April.

Each year the challenge is to collect seed and propagate a range of native species, such as kawakawa, rangiora, mahoe and kowhai - just to name a few. The seeds are eco-sourced from the local Wellington reserves to preserve the ecological integrity of the region.

“Nature dictates how much seed I can collect and from what species. Some years, certain species might not produce seeds, so I try to collect more from other species to compensate for that.”

The success of Valissa’s seed collecting is all about understanding what is happening in our native reserves.

“I have a purpose-built app, created by Council's mapping team, on my phone to plot specific species and their location. I can map where the plants are, whether it’s in flower and if it has green or ripe seed. I can also document if I’ve collected seed from a particular plant before and record when I think I need to go back and revisit that site.”

It can take time to find and collect seed of certain species such as matai, totara or kahikatea.

Wellington City Council works with more than 100 volunteer groups, many of which have contributed significantly to the regeneration of Pōneke’s biodiversity through planting and trapping.

Valissa Williamson.

Valissa says she enjoys working with local community nursery groups by guiding them with seed collecting and other horticultural processes.

“The plants they produce go out to local schools and community groups in their area. It’s great to see all the amazing contributions they make towards improving our natural environment.”

Valissa is excited by the positive changes evident in Wellington’s landscape.

“I’m passionate about replanting and rebuilding our natural environment. I love giving back to an environment that I get so much pleasure from. I love tramping and cycling in amongst nature, so I want to be able to contribute to its sustainability.

“It’s also neat to hear and see an increase in birdlife in the Wellington area – and may that continue as we plant more natives.”

Ways to get involved in conservation in your community