Botanical broadside hits city over closure of its nursery

The closure of Hastings District Council's nursery at Cornwall Park and the loss of its specialist staff will speed up a trend towards "a botanical monoculture" around the district's green spaces.

Cam Porter, who works in the horticultural industry, attended an auction on Wednesday for the liquidation of the nursery on Fitzroy Ave, which operated on 6178sq m of land adjoined to Cornwall Park.

The council first indicated the nursery's closure in 2009 and was advised the nursery land would not make a good addition to the park and it should be sold. Last year the council out-sourced nursery operations.

Mr Porter said his business directly benefited from the nursery's closure but still felt sad about its demise when he attended the auction this week.

There was a "small crowd of bargain hunters" at the auction and many left after purchasing items "no longer required by our council".

"I left feeling somewhat saddened by the decision to sell this asset and am of the opinion that we've lost more than just the physical nursery.

"Along with the infrastructure, we've lost valuable skills, particularly an in-depth knowledge about plants and their care." He said the decision to outsource plants and tree supplies for roundabouts, the CBD, parks, reserves and Cornwall Park's Holt House was probably economically prudent.

"But [it] will, I'm convinced, result in speeding along the trend towards a botanical monoculture. Ultimately we're going to end up with plants and trees that are commercially viable, and we'll lose out on variety and diversity."

Mr Porter said he wanted to acknowledge Roger Conn, the nursery manager, and the nursery team which had served the Hastings district for many years.

"The scope of horticultural and botanical work they have done is commendable, from eco-sourcing native seeds, mass producing a large variety of bedding plants, shrubs, and grasses, propagating hundreds of varieties for the Holt Begonia House and more, all from the Fitzroy property."

He said officials had a "civic responsibility when it comes to retaining skills and knowledge of this sort".

Hawke's Bay Today understands some staff have been retained but moved into different roles. The council did not respond to questions on the nursery yesterday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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