Helping to fight Wellington weeds

Matt Barnett —  09/09/2009

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a slice of wild New Zealand in your own backyard? 

But where to start?

Well you could start by replacing your weeds with native plants.  With a bit of careful planning, consideration and patience…who knows…you could also attract a range of native birds, lizards and invertebrates.  I’m organising Wellington City’s 5th Weed Swap on September 19th and hope that once again Wellingtonians will turn out in numbers clutching their garden nasties to swap for free native plants.  Since the first Weed Swap in 2005 thousands of native plants have been handed out and tonnes of weeds collected and disposed of.

What is a weed?

In a nutshell it’s an unwanted plant with the potential to cause damage to our native ecosystems.  So, for example, you may not think of your agapanthus as a weed but once it escapes into the wild it can become a serious problem, forming tough, dense clusters at the expense of native plants- and they’re very hard to eradicate. In any case, why plant agapanthus when you could plant native rengarenga lilies?  Why have a sycamore when you could have a totara?  Why let birds disperse holly seeds when they could be dispersing the native tarata or pigeonwood?

Woody Weed

Woody Weed- Weedbusters mascot

75% of the weeds that are invading our bush and replacing our native plants originated in peoples’ gardens usually as popular garden plants.  At Weed Swaps people can get involved in learning how to identify, eradicate and dispose of these weeds and kick start their own native garden with a free plant!

For those who want to continue creating their native havens the DOC publication Plant me instead offers suggestions on garden alternatives to weeds.  Most, but not all the alternatives are natives but if you are going to concentrate on natives then try to get eco-sourced plants (plants propagated from local areas).  For a start, they’ll adapt more easily to your garden and if you plant a range of shrubs, climbers, and ground covers that provide shelter and all-year- round fruit, seeds and nectar you’ll have a higher chance of attracting native birds, lizards and insects! 

Weed Swap 2008

Weed Swap 2008- Civic Square

So how does the Weed Swap work?

Simply bring in your weed, we’ll help you identify it and then you choose from a range of native plants- one weed and one free plant per person.  There are spot prizes for particularly ‘nasty’ weeds and information and displays on gardening to attract native animals.  It’s at Wellington’s Civic Square, 1-4pm, Saturday 19 September.

Hope to see you there!

Matt Barnett


I've been community relations ranger in Wellington for 3 years. I'm an honorary Kiwi (married to a Kiwi with 2 Kiwi kids), came over from England in 1998, managed a wine shop, did a psychology degree and taught English before joining DOC. There's thousands of people wanting to get out and about and involved in conservation in Wellington and I enjoy helping them to do just that!