Plant Hawke's Bay founder Marie Taylor recently scooped the title of Supreme Winner at the NZI Rural Women Business Awards. She tells Mark Story habitat is everything.

What, as you phrased it, is your "native plant story?"
I started my wholesale nursery to achieve three things: to create a business that is sustainable and profitable, to be the preferred supplier of native plants in Hawke's Bay, and to help save rare plant species. Many native plant species are in a very parlous state in Hawke's Bay, and for me it's imperative to try and help save some. One good example of our work is increasing the numbers of the pimelea which is only found on Te Mata Peak.
What's the point of going to all the trouble of building a nursery business and investing in infrastructure, if you are not going to also help achieve larger goals? We have a responsibility to care for our natural landscapes, and if I can help do some of that work I will. That's why I donate time into Biodiversity Hawke's Bay as deputy chair of the Biodiversity Guardians.

If there's a quintessential native tree to Hawke's Bay, what is it?
Totara would have to be the most important species for the Bay; it is found throughout the Bay and it's a very important canopy species. Sadly, in Hawke's Bay (compared to many places around New Zealand) it is still legal to cut down native trees, and nationally there's a loophole in the law allowing people to cut native trees for firewood. If all the local councils could tighten up their legislation to give native trees much more protection, that would be great. Next to the Canterbury Plains, Hawke's Bay has the least amount of native vegetation left, and I don't think we treasure it enough yet.

Farmers are still copping it from environmentalists - to you is this a fair indication of what you've seen in terms of the local rural sector's planting and ecosystem development?
If only every person who described themselves as an environmentalist would think of solutions and ways to help solve problems instead of blaming farmers, then we would be much further towards resolving environmental problems.
We should all be helping rural landowners, because it's on their properties that the last remnants of high ecological value vegetation remain. These areas define our Hawke's Bay landscapes – think of totara at Tikokino and gullies filled with kanuka on the way to the Kawekas. Caring for these forest and shrub remnants is expensive, and farmers can't do it all on their own.
Most of my clients are rural people spending their own money and investing in their landscapes. I am in awe of farm foresters particularly who lead the way in wise land use, covenant important natural landscapes, and put the right tree in the right place.
They are decades ahead of the average farmer, and they are the best role models to learn from now.

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What does eco-sourcing mean to you?
My definition of eco-sourcing is collecting seed from natural populations of indigenous plants, and using that seed to grow plants to put back into that local landscape. Growing local plants increases the likelihood of success and also retains and respects the integrity of local landscapes.

It's the year 2099. Paint us a picture of Marie Taylor's dream Hawke's Bay treescape.
Garth Eyles, who used to be the land management manager at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, taught me a valuable lesson.
He has always asked the question, what do you want Hawke's Bay to look like in 100 years.
I would like everyone who is looking after a landscape to think with that 100-year view.
If we did that, instead of thinking about the very short term – the next 12 months say – then we would have a much more resilient landscape.
I would like to see more respect for our natural landscapes, and to see them treasured.
And I would like to see all the reserves and covenants and high ecological value areas protected particularly from browsing animals like deer, goats, pigs and rabbits, so they can fully function.
When I worked as a journalist I once interviewed Sir David Bellamy, the famous ecologist. His message was: "Without habitat we have nothing."
If we don't start properly protecting our forested landscapes in Hawke's Bay from browsers, we won't have any habitat left for birds and other fauna to live in.

* Want to help save Hawke's Bay's biodiversity? Sign up as a Guardian at www.biodiversityhb.org.nz