Fools and Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest
This film is a 30-minute documentary about Hinewai, a beautiful place located on New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula. In 1987 Hugh Wilson announced to the local community that he was planning to allow a weed to grow as a nurse canopy to regenerate farmland into native forest and restore the native biodiversity as much as possible. His announcement came in the form of an article published in the local newspaper in which he stated that his secret dream was that “one day a whole catchment… could be set aside for Nature to reassert her original covering.”
Needless to say, people were not only skeptical but angry. They were convinced that his plan was ridiculous. One farmer who lived in the next valley on a gorse-infested farm responded to the article saying “I’m all for saving patches of bush, but the thought of starting from scratch on land that is clear enough to be used productively appalls me… heaven help us from fools and dreamers.” Hugh took the comment as a compliment because he believed the world was in desperate need of more fools and dreamers.
When the first settlers arrived to New Zealand roughly 800 years ago, they had a huge ecological impact because they began to destroy the forest to build their homes. As more and more people groups continued settling in the area, their needs for space increased and by the 1700s less than 1% of the old-growth forest was left.
Hugh’s interest in nature began at a very early age. He wanted to grow plants from the Banks Peninsula in his backyard. He was completely fascinated by everything about plants. As an adult he spent years studying and writing about the plants in the Banks Peninsula. In September 1987 he and an investor bought some land and Hugh began his project.
Thirty-one years later, Hugh is considered a hero across the country. All the farmers are now backing his project and Hinewai is a nature reserve and wildlife sanctuary. Hugh is the manager and he oversees 1500 hectares of native forest, where many species of wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow, even in the driest years. Visitors are encouraged to visit the park freely and follow the tracks that have been set up for them. Hugh has proven without doubt that mother nature knows best.