Natural Habitats is proud to announce that we have won an impressive 11 Awards in the 2016 Placemakers Riccarton Landscaping New Zealand awards – more awards and in more categories than any other landscaping company.

/projects/Brickworksentrancesmall.JPGIncluding winning the prestigious PGG Wrightson SPECIAL FEATURE OF THE YEAR, our team won three Gold Awards and seven Silver Awards for Landscape Design, Construction, Horticulture and Maintenance. That each project won awards for both design and construction is recognition of the complete value our Design and Build service model provides to our clients.

We’ve profiled the award winning landscapes in a series of blogs and would like to thank all our team involved in these projects as well as our clients who gave us the opportunity to design and build such fabulous gardens. First up is Bricklane – Brickworks (Lynn Mall Shopping Centre) which won one of the top awards - the PGG Wrightson SPECIAL FEATURE OF THE YEAR 2016 AWARD, as well as a Gold award for Landscape Design, and a Silver award for Landscape Construction. Congratulations go to Landscape Designer Lloyd Atherfold, and our Build Team – Nick Blandford and Phil Komene.





Iwi support through training and employment

28 May 2016

Supporting iwi youth local to significant motorway projects has become a working policy for Natural Habitats. On the M2PP project building a motoray from McKay to Pekapeka on the Waikanae coast, we have just employed 10 staff from the local Iwi (Te Ati Awa), says our Wellington regional manager, Tim Broadbent.

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“They will initially be working for the maintenance part of the M2PP contract looking after the some 1.3 million plants we are putting in the ground,” says Tim. “We are also committing to training these new staff and some of them will start their progress towards a National certificate in Horticulture levels 2, 3 and 4.”

Meanwhile, on the Waikato Expressway project we have a partnership with both local Iwi, Ngaa Muka, and the Ministry of Social Development to help out with training of local Iwi, says our Waikato regional manager, Ken Moore.

“With support funding from the Ministry we have hired 2 staff from local Iwi,” says Ken. “For the 2016 season planting, we will build up to a total of hiring around 10 staff through our relationship with the Ngaa Muka cluster of marae.”

Now and then - Ngaruawahia Bypass

21 September 2015

Including training and employing local iwi members, at its peak, we had 14 staff working on this project to ensure the bypass would be open on time in December 2013.

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This project was the start of an initiative we have carried forward to train and employ iwi members local to our large-scale projects. 10 of our staff on the Rangiriri project were from the Turangawaewae and Taupiri marae which has formed the basis of a strong relationship with Waikato Tainui going forward.

As with all motorway projects, the volumes of materials used were impressive. We planted more than 215,000, used 40,000m2 coconut fibre matting, 10,000m3 of mulch, and 35,0000m2 of grassing and erosion control.

An ongoing part of the Ngaruawahia Bypass was the restoration of Simpsons Gully in Horotiu just off the motorway. The restoration started by clearing more than 5 hectares of willow and gorse. We then placed around 3500m3 of mulch on the Gully sides to plant around 70,000 plants over about 8 hectares of the gully.

New Christchurch motorway project!

21 September 2015

Natural Habitats’ ability to source skilled staff and resources in the tight Christchurch construction market has secured the contract to landscape The Western Belfast Bypass (WBB) motorway project in Christchurch.

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The WBB is a new four-lane, 5km, median separated motorway bypassing Belfast and running from the existing Northern Motorway to join Johns Road south of The Groynes entrance.

Work began in May and the project is due for completion in 2017/18, says our Business Development Manager, Laurie Wearmouth.

“We are working with Fulton and Hogan on this exciting project which is part of the NZTA Roads of National Significance motorways project in Christchurch,” says Laurie.

“The project is one of the largest motorway projects in Christchurch to date in terms of its landscaping.  Our involvement with the project will consist of sourcing and planting hundreds of thousands of plants as well as contouring thousands of cubic metres of mulch and topsoil.”

Natural Habitats anticipates that it will have 25 staff on the ground in the upcoming 12 months to handle various major projects in that region.

“It is exciting to see strong Civil Projects beginning to emerge and with projects such as Belfast - Natural Habitats will hit the ground running,” says Laurie.

“We are looking to be a major construction player offering our services to the Construction Sector in Canterbury and the South Island.”

On another note, Belfast has a close connection to our owner, Graham Cleary, whose family line of Cleary’s landed in Lyttelton when Captain William Cleary arrived in the mid-1800s.  Captain Cleary married and the members of the 5th generation still live in the region!

The Waterview Connection – NZ’s largest roading project

21 September 2015

Described as having the biggest impact on Auckland since the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959, the Waterview Connection will complete the Western Ring Route by connecting the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways.

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Natural Habitats has been contracted to handle the large scale landscape construction by the Well-Connected Alliance comprising the NZ Transport Agency, Fletcher Construction, McConnell Dowell Constructors, Beca Infrastructure, Tonkin & Taylor, Parsons Brinkerhoff and Obayashi Corporation.

Natural Habitats’ history of working with Fletcher Construction on large and complex projects was a key attribute in winning the landscaping contract, says Natural Habitats project manager Barry Locke.

“The ability to work closely with a number of large construction companies on so many projects within the contract requires accurate and integrated planning, delivering with quality construction, problem solving and working within stringent health and safety protocols,” says Barry.

“Having the ability to source the enormous quantities of landscaping materials required, and being cost effective so the project can stay within budget was also a key factor.”

“With regular meetings between the Well-connected Alliance partners, the designers Boffa Miskell, the site engineers from Fletchers and also the site ecologist, the Alliance is extremely happy we are achieving our milestones.”

Creating reserves, sports grounds and even a children’s playground has been included in the project. About one kilometre of the Oakley Creek had to be redirected which meant the recreation of a natural bush-like habitat called Waterview Glades.

“The Glades has had input from the “Friends of Oakley creek” as we carefully locate 5000 plants into this habitat,” says Barry.

“In the South location of the project around Valonia Street we are replanting of a few Species of native geraniums carefully watched by the Site Ecologist. For me personally,  working together with a whole lot of good people to successfully deliver New Zealand’s largest ever civil infrastructure project is something I am proud to be a part of!”

M2PP - 1.3 million plants and counting

21 September 2015

Being contracted to handle New Zealand’s largest landscape project requires Natural Habitats’ expert project management to programme, budget and deliver working alongside a very large project team.

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Project managed by Tim Broadbent from our Wellington office, the giant 18km, four lane M2PP motorway in Wellington running from McKay to Pekapeka will require the propagation of 1.3 million locally sourced, primarily native plants to be planted in 140 hectares of landscaping.

To date we have planted about 200,000 plants this winter and we still have to plant another 150,000 mostly into swales and storm water ponds, says Tim.

“The project is also increasing the wetland habitats on the Coast as every hectare of wetland that is lost or moved due to construction is being replaced with five hectares of new wetland habitat,” explains Tim.

“Further environment mitigation work is taking place at the M2PP Kapiti Quarry where we are planting a further 53,000 plants this winter to the rear of the quarry creating a further Hectare of native bush and wetland habitat.”

“Our locally sourced team is growing and includes some young Te Ati Awa cadets. This is part of our ongoing commitment to rural iwi skills training.”

Natural Habitats wins NZ’s Largest Civil Landscaping Project

02 April 2014

Natural Habitats is pleased to announce their success in winning the MacKays to Peka Peka (M2PP) four-lane expressway contract, which will consist of approximately 140ha of planting over the next three years.

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The M2PP alliance, including Beca Planning and Infrastructure, Fletcher Construction, Higgins Group and New Zealand Transport Agency, awarded Natural Habitats the contract.

‘It is exciting for Natural Habitats to be part of New Zealand’s largest civil landscaping project ever,’ said Graham Cleary, Chief Rake of Natural Habitats. ‘This is really ‘Gardening on a Grand Scale.’ 

The project is part of the Wellington Northern Corridor and will use in excess of 100,000 cubic metres of mulch and an estimated 1.5 million plants, of which the majority of seeds will be locally sourced & cultivated from the Kapiti Coast.

The plan incorporates a very diverse selection of plants to reflect the native species of the Kapiti Coast region and will leave a long-term corridor which actually improves ecological connections with other forest and wetland remnants on the coast.

“The plan includes cycleways, bridleways, paths and even ‘skink habitat areas’ to ensure the lizards, which currently inhabit the area are unaffected,” says Laurie Wearmouth, Natural Habitats’ Senior Estimator.

Natural Habitats aims to hire close to 60 staff locally and wants to ensure local iwi derive as much benefit as possible from the project by inducting and training young rangatahi into the project teams. This has worked successfully in previous projects, such as the Ngaruawahia Expressway, where those employed not only learnt on-the–job skills, but also credits towards NZQA qualifications.

“Natural Habitats engaged Tainui and provided job opportunities along with extensive training in health and safety, work ethics and best horticultural planting practices. In turn these skills helped build towards NZQA credits,” said Tūrangawaewae Board of Trustees Environment representative, Dennis Ngataki. 

Rod James, Wellington Highway Manager for NZ Transport Agency said, “This planting contract is just the tip of the iceberg and demonstrates there’s a wide range of skills and opportunities being sought for the project. We’ve engaged actively with local businesses and residents to ensure the region is ready and willing to take advantage of this four year programme of works that will provide a massive boost to the local economy.”

Green-thumbed locals interested in working with Natural Habitats are encouraged to contact them at 

Natural Habitats’ other recent motorway projects include:

  • Manukau Harbour Crossing, Auckland
  • Ngaruawahia Expressway, Waikato
  • Auckland Motorway Alliance
  • Victoria Park Tunnel, Auckland
  • Northern Busway, Auckland

For a visual fly-through of M2PP check out the video here

Landscape Success on Auckland Motorways

01 October 2013

As both motorists and landscape professionals we have a keen interest in understanding the facts that lead to some motorway landscape projects thriving, while others fail miserably. Those that have failed represent lost opportunities to improve motorway user experience, as well as millions of dollars of wasted tax payer money.

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After running a case study based on seven newer-style Auckland motorway projects we found three of the seven investigated projects failed (42%), due to insufficient coverage. Success was judged on canopy closure and therefore the sustainability of the plantings. Canopy closure minimises weed invasion, lowers maintenance need & cost and allows the planting, rather than weeds, to thrive.

When studying the seven sites we compared:

1. Date completed
2. Planting type
3. Health of planting
4. Soil type
5. Mulch
6. Weed invasion
7. Whether the landscape met with the NZTA base criteria for achieving practical completion, i.e. at least 80% cover

And we considered various contributing factors that may impact on project’s success:

1. Landscape designer / architect (all were ‘Landscape Architects”) and their plant selection
2. Plant supplier / grower
3. Soil / media placed on the job for plants to be planted into
4. Head contractor for the project
5. Landscape contractor

To our surprise, soil did not seem to be a factor of success or failure, as on all sites it was well below what a horticultural or NZTA spec requires. Only one project had the specified topsoil (and the plants are thriving). When topsoil is excluded, our study suggests the two variables that were common in the failures are: Head Contractor and their Installation Landscape Contractor.

The same landscape architects were involved in both successful and failed installations and the bulk of the plants came from the same major supplier.

We cannot comment on project management skills or corporate project philosophy, but do wonder if Head Contractors are forced, or force themselves, into only counting the immediate cost in a tender, rather than the whole life cost. Is this fixation on ‘cheapest is best’ helping to produce the cost of failure we all, as taxpayers, must now bear?

Head Contractors play a role in the success or failure. Their view on value and selection standards controls this, as does their landscape contractor selection and the finished planting standard of acceptance, (often against the NZTA standard).

The Landscape Contractor who installs the landscape seems to be the major variable in success / failure. The recent recession has certainly exaggerated the flight to cheap and the cheapest price cannot include adequate planting practices or maintenance.

Natural Habitats other observation is that NZTA standards are not followed or applied on the of failed projects by the Head Contractor or NZTA. For example, topsoil is not up to standard on most jobs and we suspect it is handled exactly like road aggregates, rather than a living thing. At least for roading aggregates, they have strict standards for supply, placement and performance and it’s tested. Topsoil is usually not. While most plants can survive this, better soil would allow them to flourish.

The 80% cover is often not attained yet this has been accepted. The failure of this standard allows shoddy practices to be accepted and places an unfair burden on the AMA or whoever must take it over, let alone the taxpayer who suffers the waste of money.

Even the ones that get to 80% cover – evolve. The initial “pioneer” plants are exactly that, pioneers. They establish, grow and die. In nature they would be replaced by the next stage of a forest’s development. In the highly modified, usually urban environment, the wild seed source is not available. Secondary planting is not planned or budgeted for, which allows weeds to establish.

Landscape is only ever a mere few percentage points of the total budget, yet it is the most visual experience on any motorway trip. Auckland is one of the world’s “weediest” cities and the result will be eventual loss to weed invasion.

At this point the older projects are almost assisted by less than optimal maintenance. “A stitch in time WILL save nine” in this case and must be programmed to be done, or a high monetary loss faced.

We suggest that given the laudable aspirations of NZTA for their projects and the need to consistently achieve even the basic landscape standards, there needs to be thought given to what is driving a 42% failure rate in this study. It represents millions of dollars of wasted money and countless more in lost opportunity.

Natural Habitats is New Zealand’s largest and leading integrated landscape company. They have been trusted to design, deliver and care for some of Australasia’s most iconic landscapes. In New Zealand, Natural Habitats are at the forefront of the movement towards green technology in architecture.

To find out more visit

Note: The seven projects included in the study were:

1. Manukau Harbour Crossing (successful)
2. Northern Busway (successful)
3. Victoria Park Tunnel (successful)
4. Central Motorway Junction (successful)
5. Grafton Gully to Stanley St (now failing)
6. SH 16 (much failing)
7. SH 1-20 (failing)

Author: Graham Cleary, Director of Natural Habitats

Food for Thought

02 February 2012

As our world's population continues to grow, so too does the amount of land required to produce food. Landscape Architect Sam Parkes discusses the viability of urban farming in creating a sustainable future as space limitations in today's hectic urban environment becomes an ever-increasing reality.

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You can feed 22 people for a year from growing one hectare of potatoes, 19 people per year from a hectare of rice and just 1 or 2 people per year growing beef from the product of the same area (estimates by WHO and FAO)

As the population rises, the requirement of the landscape becomes increasingly demanding.  Where is this land going to come from?  What ecosystems, previous uses, or other potential operations might be sacrificed to meet this demand?

With lack of space becoming an increasingly relevant issue, it’s a good idea to explore what existing urban areas can offer.  Many designers have explored this notion with elaborate urban farms towering skywards, successful community gardens, or the simple and effective backyard vege patch.

A company called BrightFarms are carving a sustainable path for urban farming through their pioneering methods of operating greenhouses on supermarket rooftops. In return, the supermarket agrees to a long-term contract to sell the food that is produced and harvested. As well as providing the customer with visably fresher produce, this method of urban farming dramatically reduces carbon emissions through the elimination of shipping and storage, as well as requiring a fraction of the land or water generally associated with food production. With plenty of rooftops but limited ground space, this form of urban farming could be a way of the future for our crowded cities.

Natural Habitats green walls have been used in areas where space is at a premium and where creation of a sense of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic urban environment is, well, a breath of fresh air. With technological developments in our wall technology we will be looking to adapt our green walls further in the coming years; as personal vertical kitchen gardens for those without the backyard space and with a bit of creative flair.  

Affordable and edible - now that is sustaining.

Suggested reading:
Doig, W. (2012). Urban Gardens: The Future of Food? Retrieved from

By Sam Parkes
Project Landscape Architect
Natural Habitats 

Green Space Benefitting Infrastructure

01 November 2011

How can we make the most of our urban environment? Graham Cleary explores the benefits of green space..

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Politicians from all parties are telling us what most of us all ready know; that we need better infrastructure to support and improve our standard of living. To be fair, some of this is now being delivered including some of the roads of national significance and the fibre rollout for fast broadband.

These are big dollar projects; NZTA's Waterview alone is some $2 billion. The cost of broad band fibre rollout, another...billion.

We also see some 'low hanging fruit', projects that would deliver benefits far above their cost that are not as yet being widely considered, namely investing in green space.

Auckland is currently set on becoming "The World’s Most Liveable City”. Consider a city of similar population, Copenhagen. Did you know Copenhagen has more than double the green open space of Auckland, yet is arguably far more space constrained and considered "greener" by most!

 Copenhagen's urban plan demonstrates their city's green fingers

If we actively fostered a similar scale of green space, we could achieve a number of far reaching and needed infrastructure goals through simple and effective green technology. Take for instance water quality, which as a city and a country we have been internationally embarrassed by in recent years, and rightly so.

Green space allows for detention and treatment of the "first flush" of storm water at a fraction of the cost of underground detention tanks or the cost of overwhelming our waste water systems. Imagine our beaches free from sewage pollution again? A vision cheaply achievable using green space and existing technology.

Then there are the added or “free” benefits of added habitat diversity for our flora and fauna, including bees and the pure joy of green space in the city. This would support New Zealand’s powerful but fading Clean Green brand. Studies from the US in particular show that neighbourhood parks support and enhance the value of the real estate around them; in New Zealand greener infrastructure would support the development and maintenance costs.

Not all infrastructure needs to cost the earth, but some can certainly play more than its part in helping to save it.
By Graham Cleary
Chief Rake
Natural Habitats


02 November, 2011

Well said Graham, New Zealand also has a fixation with drains and draining water away from land rather than allowing water to enter the soil - weird.