January 19, 2023

Our People: Phil, Vern and Terry Wearmouth – Kauri Park – Kaiwaka

The team at Kauri Park have a very unique mantra and one which is working perfectly as they continue to grow their business.

The saying goes everyone at Kauri Park are on a mission from Mother Nature herself.

That’s because brothers Phil, Vern and Terry Wearmouth – self-described environmentalists – believe Kauri Park has only one client – Mother Nature.

It is a belief which resonates strongly with their drive for sustainability while also underpinning their fast expanding native plant nursery, a great synergy with the work they are doing as a preferred supplier of native plants to the Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme.

They also believe plants have personalities and that their plants are on a mission!

The Wearmouth brothers have deep roots in the Kaipara going back four generations of family members who have always worked the land. As youngsters they were encouraged and helped by their father John to grow sizeable plots of vegetables. They had dirt in their fingernails from a young age and learnt what it took to bring plants to life. Growing is in their blood.

John loved oysters and flounder so as children they were always being dragged to the Kaipara Harbour. But in the space of 30 years they went from jumping off Hardy’s Bridge into the water to being unable to due to mangroves and siltation taking over.

That’s why they are so driven to making a difference to improving the environmental outcomes through the mahi of the KMR Programme.

And having already grown and planted 200,000 native plants for KMR, success for the team is the successful outcome of your plantings, arresting erosion and improving water quality down-stream – a perfect fit for their partnership with KMR.

They also see water as the abundance of life which we can’t take for granted anymore – and need to value – which is why they are so passionate about it because without water there are no plants.

The brothers are continuing to build on the legacy of their father and have taken Kauri Park (established in the mid-1990s) to impressive levels of growth and productivity, especially after suffering the devastation of their warehouse being burnt to the ground in 2010.

They believe Kaipara as a whole is a nursery – a nursery for the land, the harbour and for all the whānau and children living in the catchment.

”It’s okay to make money out of the environment so you can feed people but we want to get trees planted to preserve life because if the land is grieving so are the people. So in that sense KMR shares the same vision as us in that we are in this for the good of the environment. We are passionate about the environment,” say the eco-vitalists.

Vern believes we should think like plants because if we study nature we learn from it.

The brothers sure know their plants. They are growing up to 14 million every year (of which their crews planted 1.8 million the past year – 2022) and plan to ramp that figure up to meet growing demand while also keeping their focus firmly on carbon.

Kauri Park is already the largest supplier of native plants in New Zealand, employing 100 locals. The Wearmouth brothers are committed to looking after their staff and doing their bit giving back to the region because in their business, people and timing is everything.

They pride themselves on growing the strongest and best quality native plants they can.

“We spend six months growing and six months putting plants into the eco-system. Because we have really sort windows we get things done properly and without losing the quality in the plants.

Over half of New Zealand’s waterways need restoration. That’s 212,000km of streams, rivers, estuaries and wetlands, on public and private land, that are in urgent need of regenerative planting if we are to protect and reinvigorate our country’s ecosystems.

“We say you should plant every stream, river, waterway and piece of marginal land with natives, so that native flora and fauna can thrive and New Zealand itself is teeming with vital life.”

The Kauri Park mission is to help New Zealand become an ecology economy, with ecology leading the economy.

As for planting crews, Terry describes them as artists while Vern says they almost paint the landscape.

With nine more years of KMR work to be done, the team at Kauri Park are looking forward to playing their part in colouring that Kaipara canvas.

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