NZPPI held the very first SHED meeting in the Wellington region on Thursday 26 November, hosted by the Wellington City Council Botanic Gardens at the Treehouse Visitor centre. A city of desk jockeys and home gardeners, we obviously focused on the ornamental and retail sectors relevant to this part of the country.
The focus of the session was on the escalating demand for plants, which is growing at a rate not seen in over 40 years. COVID lockdowns in 2020 has driven the demand for plants for the home and public spaces. The group explored the factors driving this demand and how to future-proof our industry to ensure our success.
This SHED meeting was for anyone involved in horticulture in the Wellington region, and was attended by plant producers, retailers, educators and policy makers.
Recent NZPPI plant producer members Strik’s, Maryflower, Berhampore Nursery, and Just Plants all made time in their busy schedules to attend. Representatives from MPI’s Plant Imports team were a valuable addition, and we also had educators present in the form of Wellington College’s Gateway Programme leader and Wellington High School’s Horticulture teacher.
A key theme that emerged was the need to encourage young people into the industry. This is vital for the longevity and success of plant production in New Zealand. Workforce and labour issues were also the number one concern across the board in NZPPI’s recent Member Survey. The jobs are there, and there is interest from the younger generation, but we have so far failed to connect the two.
In order to compete with other well-marketed apprenticeship industries we must provide clear career pathways and overcome the perception of nursery production as a low value, low paid job. Around the room it was acknowledged that there is not enough value placed on the skills and expertise involved in plant production.
There was a call for strong messaging to increase the values and importance of plants, particularly ornamentals. Marketing is often one of the last things that nurseries invest in.
There is significant unmet demand, not just for the quantity of plants, but the public is also demanding access to new plant varieties. NZPPI is continuing to communicate this to officials and is working with MPI to improve the plant imports system for ornamentals.
After such engaging debate, The Wellington Botanic Gardens took us on a tour of their greenhouses. Filled with stunning examples of ornamental plants from around the world it was a rare treat.
We look forward to seeing you at our next SHED meeting at Tharfield Nursery in Katikati on 18th February, for another session of discussion, planning and networking.
For more information about plant imports, workforce and education or any other topics discussed here, please contact the NZPPI office (firstname.lastname@example.org)